A good summer vacation can be the highlight of your year… but planning it is often significantly less fun. Thankfully, with a few easy tricks on Google’s platforms, your trip’s logistics can come together easily and travel with minimal stress.
If you’ve found yourself digging out scraps of paper trying to find the meeting place for a tour group, or desperately searching for a confirmation number hidden somewhere in your inbox at the last minute, trust me — there’s a better way to do things.
Sure, sometimes Google’s omniscience verges on creepy. But when it comes to planning vacations, it’s actually pretty helpful. From services targeted at travelers (such as Google Flights) to creative uses for generic tools (like Google Docs), these tips and tricks may completely change how you plan your next trip.
There are some people who would prefer not to use Google due to privacy concerns. For many others, Google’s ease of use is worth the privacy trade-offs.
Google’s services are ideal for trip planning because they are accessible from any device with a connection to the internet. This is ideal because:
- Multiple people can travel together and access the same apps and information via Google while using different operating systems.
- Google’s cloud-based nature allows you to access all your trip information if your main travel device is lost or stolen.
- It’s easy to share and integrate information between Google apps.
- Google’s services are free, so you don’t have to add anything into your budget.
- All the programs are generally easy to use — important for when you travel with people who aren’t as technologically savvy as yourself!
There are a lot of other great online travel resources and apps designed specifically for travel out there. If you have concerns, feel free to use those instead — Google will never know. But if you’re someone who is okay with embracing Google as your overlord for a few weeks give the following strategies a try.
After all, you travel plan could start with something as basic as a Google Search on the destination.
Plan Using Google Docs
One of the biggest benefits to keeping the plans for your trip on Google Docs is that you can access your detailed plans from anywhere with an internet connection. Worried about a lack of internet where you’re going? You can save and edit offline copies from any device with the Google Docs app!
Tips to Try
- Create a master list of all the attractions you want to see, complete with links to their websites for up-to-date hours and prices.
- Use Google Docs to make a detailed itinerary that can be shared via a single link with everyone you are travelling with and loved ones at home.
- Google Docs is incredible for collaboration. Add the people you are travelling with as collaborators to your planning doc. This allows them to add their own information and ideas to the doc. You can then use comments to discuss the specifics of each idea, or assign tasks to specific users.
Stay on Budget Using Google Sheets
Using a spreadsheet to budget your vacation is hardly revolutionary. But it’s hard to beat the benefits of having your spreadsheet at your fingertips — both in the planning stages and while on vacation.
Tips to Try
- Keep your spreadsheet active while you’re on vacation! This can be a great way to watch your running costs and prevent overspending.
- In group travel, add everyone to a shared spreadsheet to ensure that expenses are split evenly.
Book Using Google Flights
Google Flights is an incredible tool. This site allows you to search for flights by destination, date, or price, and then provides you with flight prices from most major airlines in an easy-to-navigate format.
Unlike many deals sites, Google Flights collects the best fares online and then directs you to the airline’s native checkout process, which helps to protect you when a flight is delayed or cancelled.
Tips to Try
- Nothing beats the “Explore” map for daydreaming. Simply enter your dates and your potential departure airports, and then explore flight prices all over the world.
- Still have time before you need to finalize your plans? Google Flights lets you track your flight prices for a few days to see if you can get a better deal. You can even opt-in to e-mail notifications letting you know every time there’s a change in price.
- You can enter up to five nearby departure and arrival airports, and Google Flights will search all these combinations for the best deals possible. Google Flights will also recommend changing your travel dates within three days if there is a better deal out there.
Find Things to Do Using Google Reviews
This part of trip planning has long been dominated by other online travel gurus like TripAdvisor and Yelp, but there’s a lot to be said for Google’s tool as well.
Tips to Try
- You can access Google Reviews for hotels, restaurants, and attractions through a simple Google search (e.g. “Things to do in Chicago”) or by searching on Google Maps while looking at a specific area.
- When searching for venues, Google Reviews often showcases upcoming events that may be of interest!
- Don’t just read the five-star reviews. The lower reviews can give you a lot of information about what NOT to do or eat!
- If you’re doing your research on a computer, use the “send to phone” feature for easy access to key locations on your phone.
- Google’s service acts as an intermediary to an attraction’s own websites and social media accounts. Check out these links, as there’s no better place to get accurate and up-to-date information than directly from the source!
Remember Every Detail Using Google Calendar
It might feel wrong to schedule a vacation, but it can be a huge help. The beauty of using Google Calendar while traveling is in the additional details that you can add to each “appointment” (even if that appointment is just lazing on a beach).
Tips to Try
- Try setting reminders throughout the planning process. This strategy lets you stay on top of important deadlines, payment plans, and bookings.
- Use your appointment reminders as sources of information. This will keep you from digging through your entire planning document for confirmation numbers. Simply add key information (like addresses, phone numbers, and important names) to each event you plan for your trip, or add key documents using the “add attachment” feature.
- When travelling with a group, add people to important entries that are time sensitive (such as flights, or key events). This ensures that everyone will know where to be without any nagging!
Navigate Like a Local With Google Maps
Nothing identifies a tourist faster than pulling out a paper map. At this point, using services like Google Maps is basically second nature to all of us, so why not use it when you’re travelling?
Tips to Try
- Before your departure, use Google Street View to look at key landmarks you will use for navigation. Getting an idea of what the hotel or restaurant looks like or how to walk from your hotel to public transit helps make new cities feel familiar. (Try this: Look inside international airports and shopping malls on Google Street View before you travel.)
- If you won’t have a data connection where you are travelling, download a local map as an “offline area”! When using an offline map, you can still see your GPS location and receive driving directions. For walking directions, save some of your key locations before your trip to avoid looking like an obvious tourist with a paper map.
- Check everything on Google Maps before you leave. How long does it take to walk between tourist attractions at a certain time of day? How long will your drive be from the airport at rush hour? Is there a good place to stop for breakfast on your way home? Having this information at the ready helps you to plan your days better.
- It’s a lot easier to add a spontaneous adventure without disrupting other plans if you can accurately anticipate the travel time!
Put It All Together Using Google Trips
Of course, there’s also a dedicated Google app for travelling. Google Trips pulls together all the pieces of the planning process into a single accessible location. There’s no need to go searching for your airplane tickets, your saved locations, or your saved maps. They’re all here waiting for you.
Tips to Try
- One of the most helpful features on the app is the ability to “Plan Your Day” — linking together all the activities and directions you need into a single file.
- Take advantage of the ability to download everything to your phone for a fully offline experience.
Share Your Memories Using Google Photos
Google Photos may or may not be the ideal photo service for you. But, the platform shines when it comes to photo sharing. Everyone on your trip can upload as many photos as they want (at a lower resolution) to a shared album. This service eliminates the need for everyone to awkwardly pass around a USB key or navigate an app with set storage limits.
All your vacation photos from everyone’s phones can be uploaded to Google Photos throughout your trip, and everyone can select only the photos they want to save.
Ready to Go?
There’s no denying it: vacations are complicated to plan. You may have visions of all the fun activities you want to do, the photographs you want to take, or the streets you want to explore. But the process of translating your daydreams into airplane tickets, hotel bookings, tour schedules and budgets can be overwhelming.
Hopefully these quick tips will make a huge difference when it comes to planning this year’s summer vacation. What are your favorite tips for planning vacations? I’d love to hear them in the comments!