Google products have changed the way we travel so much that it can be hard to remember how we managed without them, especially when travelling to an unknown place.
It seems like a lifetime ago when people kept a road atlas in the car or peered at tiny maps in a travel guide to find their way. In reality things only began to change 10 years ago. This article explores how Google has made travel easier throughout the years, to the point where it’s hard to imagine life without it.
It might seem quaint and outdated now, but when Google Maps was launched as a web application in 2005, it was a revolutionary idea. It took a little planning and a working printer back in ’05, but now Google Maps is a staple in many peoples day to day.
Google Maps has continued to add extra trip planning features to make travel even easier. Turn-by-turn directions, travel times and alternative routes are shown, based on real-time traffic conditions so it’s easy to choose the best route. It’s also possible to avoid toll roads, view bike paths, and even view upcoming public transport departures.
Along with viewing a maps it can be useful to take a ‘virtual tour’ of an unfamiliar destination so you know exactly what you’re looking for upon arrival, or check out any tricky one way roads and parking. Since Streetview, it’s been easier to feel a little familiar with a place before even stepping out of the front door.
Google Maps for mobile
With the rise of smart phone use, Google’s travel tools has really become a pocket sized navigator. Although you might need to keep an eye on data usage when travelling overseas.
Google’s Translate app offers a range of features that can help you be understood in other languages, making foreign travel easier. It supports dozens of languages and the speech interface means you can hear what the foreign translation should actually sound like if you’re trying to pick up a few handy phrases.
Some have even used the app to conduct full conversations with locals, with their English being translated into the local language for others to hear, and vice-versa for the response. The app was even used to help deliver a baby in Cork, Ireland, enabling paramedics to communicate with the expectant mother in Swahili at the side of the road!
The app can also make use of your phone’s camera, enabling you to see foreign language text instantly displayed as English on your screen. When travelling, this app can be extremely valuable; you can order confidently from a foreign language menu, decipher signage, or read instructions.
With Google Now You can ask questions about the local area, weather, and journey times, much like Siri from Apple. However, the real difference with this product is that it aims to offer useful information even before you know you need it, so in terms of travel it’s like a proactive personal travel agent and tour guide.
Travelling with Google Now
There are real-time flight status updates and prompts for when you should plan to leave for the airport to arrive on time. When you touch down, there’s one-touch navigation to your hotel.
It offers suggestions of bars, restaurants and places of interest on the go, wherever you are. You can receive alerts of nearby attractions, events and popular photo spots.
Google Flights is a nifty search engine that includes an easy interface and plenty of features to ensure you get the best deal. If you’re planning an impromptu trip, it’s possible to simply google “flights to Europe” (or any other area) and let Google Flights inspire you. It’s easy to compare destination fares, and filter options by airline, duration and cost.
Google Flights also makes it easy to compare options. Look out for the fare in green at the top of the results list- this is Googles recommended option based on all variables. Additionally, if you know your destination, you can look at the calendar view to see when the cheapest flights are. Another trick is to select multiple origins and destinations to see which offers the best combination.
The final flare from Google Flights is the price monitor. Using Google Now, you can track the pricing on any selected flights and Google will notify you of price changes.
By simply searching for accommodation in a city or region, Google lists hotels and their pricing, star rating and hotel class. Clicking any of the hotels listed on the right brings up more information, including a comparison of booking agents offering the accommodation, photos, reviews and other web results. If you’re looking for hotels in a hurry, or just want to take a look at what’s on offer in any city, the Google accommodation search engine is very useful.
There are so many things you can import into Google Calendar that makes travelling easier. The basics include a three day weather report based on your location, holidays, sporting events and even the time the sun will set.
Google calendar can also sync with TripIt, so you can upload your entire travel itinerary into your calendar.
Where will Google go from here?
One product that could make travel easier, cheaper and safer is the Google self-driving car. Imagine being able to hop into a vehicle at the airport, without the stresses of hiring a car and driving in an unfamiliar place. This could save travelers from stress, and potentially save lives.
Google products have played a large part in changing how people travel, putting unfamiliar transport, languages, places and people in the palm of your hands. How technology will continue to transform our travelling experience over the next ten years, we can only wonder. What do you think Google will do next? Join the discussion here.