Detours with locals.
Travel tips you can trust.

Google just debuted impressive new travel features. Here’s how they can make you a smarter planner.


(Washington Post illustration; Google; iStock)

The people who brought you the world’s biggest search engine are also working to make your travel planning more efficient. On Wednesday, Google rolled out new travel features that can help you find the best timing for your trips, determine where you should stay and figure out how much it’s really going to cost.

The features are some of many tweaks Google has been making to its travel services for years. In 2011, Google purchased travel-industry software and launched Google Flights. It created the app Google Trips in 2016 but closed the service in August 2019, opting instead to merge travel services with its other products (such as Google Maps) under the Google Travel umbrella.

The new tweaks are even better for avid Google users who already rely on Gmail or Google Maps, because the advice that the site provides improves as the system learns about your search history and preferences. Google now shows users information about upcoming trips (with a focus on things to do when you get there), potential trips (based on flights you’ve been searching), popular destinations in general and your past trips.

“I’d be hard-pressed to point to any [travel] aspect of Google that I wish they did better,” says Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, who has been using the tech giant’s travel services since launching his company in 2015. “Google continues to be the gold standard in any arena that they enter in — flights, hotels, travel included.”

These are the additions, and how they can help you get organized.

Plan the best trip time

You know you want to go to Rome, but you’re not sure when to go to Rome. Google now has a feature for people with flexible dates who want to time their vacation just right. The site now features tabs such as “When to visit” (under Explore) and “What you’ll pay” (under Hotels) to consult. Fill in your desired dates and see the weather forecast, what crowds will be like and how prices vary. The site shows whether prices seem high or typical.

You may be flying to your destination. Keyes thinks that one of the site’s best features is its powerful flight search engine that depicts options from up to seven origins and seven destinations. The tool is great for people who live in between major airports and want to compare different routes. Instead of doing repeat searches, or searching among a sea of tabs, users input their preferences upfront and receive all the information in one place.

“It’ll tell you instantly what is the cheapest fare on any of those 49 routes,” Keyes says. “Not only is it really powerful being able to scroll through a ton of different information at once, but it does so really, really quickly.”

Stay in the right neighborhood, for you

Where you stay can be a game-changer for your experience. Google’s new features treat choosing a hotel in the right location thoughtfully, showing users summaries of a city’s most appealing neighborhoods, including what the area is known for and the average cost of its hotels. Select a location, and Google will narrow down your options to a highlighted neighborhood.

Google will also show you hotels similar to places you’ve stayed before. If you loved a boutique hotel in San Francisco, Google will remember that and show you something similar. It’ll also keep in mind your search history in a given destination.

“For example, if you’ve been researching Tokyo Tower, we’ll highlight how far it is from hotels nearby,” Google explains.

Keyes appreciates the holistic nature of Google integrating all of your profiles to provide new information for travelers.

“They do such a good job of integrating so many different aspects of the things that you’re looking for in travel,” he says. Say you’ve "been poring through Google Maps and see some place and save it. And then next time I want to go to Hawaii, I’ll look and say, ‘Oh, there are these six places that I wanted to go to all around Waimea. So, I should maybe be looking at getting a hotel around there.’”

People who think the personalized results are too invasive: They can be disabled in account settings.

Know the real cost

One of the most frustrating parts of booking hotels online is seeing one price at the beginning of your research, and ending up with a higher one by the end. Google wants to combat that issue by giving users the opportunity to see the total cost of their whole stay, including taxes and fees, so there are no surprises.

You can now toggle between seeing the hotel’s nightly price without the taxes and fees, the nightly total that includes all of the costs, and the stay total that will tally up everything.

Stay one step ahead with trending destinations

As a bonus, Google’s debut of its new travel features also predicted trending destinations for 2020, based on the company’s search data from December 2019. Apparently, travelers are most interested in visiting Danang, Vietnam; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Seoul; Tokyo; Tel Aviv; Marseille, France; Vienna; Bangkok; Dubai; and Perth, Australia.

Read more:

Follow By The Way on Instagram for city highlights, travel tips and more

JetBlue plans to go completely carbon neutral on all U.S. flights

Map out your visits to national parks around their free-entry days