Google Trips—Do You Need This New Travel App?

The low-down on what’s hot and what’s not.  
Google Trips attempts to cover all your travel needs, from research to planning itineraries. Photo courtesy Google

Google’s latest travel product is a part-organiser part-guide that helps plan holidays. The mobile app, which launched in September 2016, has its charms, even if it seems a bit like a personal stalker sometimes. Here’s our take on Google Trips.

How does it work? It’s pretty simple. The app syncs with your Gmail account to pull ticket bookings and hotel reservations from your inbox. It then creates useful trip tabs like Reservations, Things to do, and Food & Drink. In addition, it also uses traveller reviews from the internet to suggest attractions to visit and restaurants and cafes to try out.

So it goes through my email? Yep. The only upside is that it saves the trouble of having to scroll through your inbox to find reservations when you’re checking in for a flight, or need to show a hotel booking at an immigration counter.

How do these sections work? Let’s break it down. Each destination has a number of sections. This is what you will find under each:
– Reservations: Planned a trip to Tokyo? Your flights and hotel reservations for the entire journey will be downloaded, complete with departure gates, booking numbers and hotel addresses, check-in and checkout dates, and Google Maps locations.

– Things to Do: If you haven’t had enough time to research your trip properly, use this tab. Destinations can be navigated via categories like Top Spots, Local Favourites, Indoors, Outdoors, and Kid-Friendly. In the case of certain cities, like Mumbai or Tokyo, there are specific interests, such as “Colonial Mumbai” and “Futuristic Tokyo”. Each listing has directions, contact information, timings, and a website link.

– Food & Drink: This works exactly like the Things to Do section, but with a focus on restaurants and cafes. Categories include Dive Bars, On A Budget, High-End Dining, and Family-Friendly. Again, bigger cities have an additional section that gives you an overview of the dining scene in a destination. There are tips on local specialities, and a general understanding of the city’s restaurant and nightlife scene, such as the usual hours of operation of a restaurant or club.

– Saved Places: This collects all the places you’ve marked with a star, so that you don’t miss out on things you want to see.

– Day Plans: These are itineraries based on specific themes in big cities, such as Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter or Old Delhi’s forts and masjids. A detailed plan is provided, including hours of operation and distance between each point of interest in the itinerary. A useful nugget of information is the average amount of time visitors spend at each place, which is handy for creating itineraries.

– Getting Around and Need To Know: These two sections are available only for the more popular tourist cities. Getting Around lays down the essentials of transport: how to get to a city centre from the airport, how to get around on public transport, or the price of a train ticket. The Need to Know section has handy details such as emergency contact numbers, hospital listings, tipping practices, and shopping districts.

What’s the coolest thing about the app? There’s a handy tool in the Day Plans section that is actually pretty cool. It creates customised itineraries based on the amount of time you have in a city and your interests. Say you’ve got only half a day in Barcelona, and you want to visit the Sagrada Familia church but don’t know where else to go.

Go to the Day Plans section, choose whether you’re free in the morning, afternoon or all day, and select a day of the week. On the map below, search for the site you want to visit, tap on it and then tap on the Magic Wand icon on the right side of the screen. Google Trips will throw up a mini-itinerary based on sites in the vicinity of your chosen attraction.

Do I have to pay for any of this? Nope, it’s all free.

But I need an internet connection to use the app, right? You do, initially, but once the destination tab is created, with your bookings pulled in, you can download the entire itinerary for offline use.

What works: Useful offline mode and custom itineraries, with all your travel reservations in one place.

What doesn’t: The trip suggestions are very clichéd, and not all of the information is updated. Some monuments didn’t have enough information, and in the case of some others, the places suggested were actually closed.

This video gives you a quick overview of how the app works:

Google Trips is available for iOS and Android devices.

  • Kamakshi Ayyar is a former member of NGT India's digital team. She is partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.

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