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Google launched a new mobile app this week, Google Trips, designed to organize your travel itineraries and help with personalized destination discovery. The app will pull together all the information in your Gmail account and combine your flight, hotel, car rental, and restaurant reservations in one place, along with suggestions on places to see, things to do, and retail and dining options, all in one place.
Available on iOS and Android, the app sources information from a combination of Google Maps, local weather and time, and crowdsourced data from Google’s Local Guides community and Google reviews to suggest points of interest and locations, even going so far as offering personalized 1-day itineraries for the top 200 cities around the world.
Google Trips uses the data sourced from your Google account to notify you of terminal and gate changes, as well as offering real-time updates on flight delays. Destination info is downloadable from each ‘City’ page, so you have access to the guides even when you are offline or on data-roaming.
Trip Planning with Google Trip
The home screen is dominated by current and past itineraries that Google has pulled from data in your Google account. Also displayed is your current location, and a search box asking ‘Where do you want to go?'
Trips are broken up by city, each city having a separate tab inside the trip, with the option to download the information for each destination on your trip. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t display the dates you’ll be in each city without clicking on the edit button at the top of the screen, only showing the full length of the itinerary.
Each city/tab is populated with a number of colored cards, how many depends on the size of the location with smaller destinations having fewer cards.
- Reservations – displays any reservations relevant to the city; for example, hotel and car rental bookings and flights.
- Things to do – local highlights and activities broken up into tabs such as ‘Top Spots,’ ‘Sports & Adventure,’ and ‘Kid Friendly.'
- Saved places – while browsing ’Things to do,’ ‘Day plans,’ or Food & Drink,’ just click the star on the top right and it will be saved in ’Saved places.'
- Day plans – the top 200 destinations around the world give you the option of pre-planned itineraries like ‘One Day in New York’ or ‘Seattle with Kids,’ itineraries are customizable, and you can choose to add/subtract different attractions. One of the coolest features is that due to the millions of Android phones sending anonymised data, Google can tell you how long people typically spend at each location, combined with the accuracy of Google Maps you can plan days out with a high degree of accuracy. The ‘magic wand’ button showing spots nearby is pretty nifty too.
- Food & Drink – broken up into ‘Overview,’ which provides general information on local dining and nightlife, and ‘Top Spots,’ which displays restaurants separated into different categories and displays their Google Reviews rating, directions, click-to-call, and website if available.
- Getting around – displays info on public transport, airport transfers, rules around driving, and walking & biking options
- Need to know – information on shopping, malls, and markets
The information that Google includes for each destination is based on historical data from travelers that have already been there, and this in itself creates a feedback loop similar to that of Tripadvisor. Google will only display points of interest that it has reviews or location data on, which takes a hammer to the idea of destination discovery in some senses.
The day-planning function is really the standout feature at present, with the rest of the app still feeling a touch like it’s in Beta mode.
While still pretty rough around the edges and lacking the functionality of its competition, Google Trips has the potential to be a huge game changer the travel app space. Why?
Data and market position. If you look at the way Google has used its leading travel search and discovery position to muscle its way into the airline and hotel booking industry with Google Flights and Google Maps, the future of Google Trips will be in monetizing the travel data collected sometime in the future.
If Google can build on the framework it has for Google Trips, perhaps adding functionality like shared trip planning between accounts, combining more than one trip together, and information outside of only the most popular attractions for more ‘off the beaten path' travel discovery, it will be a fantastic app. For now, there are better options out there.
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