4 Changes Google Recently Made to Improve its Travel Search Tools
By Kristin Wong
If you want to plan a trip, you typically start at the same place you do for all other research: Google. But while the search engine was a good jumping-off point, travelers would usually quickly turn to tools like Hopper’s airfare predictions or Kayak’s Explore filters to take advantage of the deal-hunting features Google lacked. However, Google recently updated their flight and hotel search tools to make them even more robust. Here are four improvements to take advantage of.
1. THE GOOGLE TRIPS APP
In September, Google released Google Trips, a full service travel app that helps you plan and manage upcoming journeys. Once you download the app and connect it to your Gmail account, it scans your email for all relevant travel information—from your flight information to your hotel confirmation to your car reservation—to consolidate and store it in one place. You can also download this info so you can access it offline, which is useful if you’re en route and Wi-Fi is spotty or nonexistent.
You can also use it to create your own personal itinerary based on those recommendations you got from friends and pages you bookmarked in your travel guides. (Or, if you're in a time crunch, you can choose from one of the itineraries Google Trips proposes for you.) It also gives you relevant and important logistical information about your destination, like public transportation and tipping etiquette.
2. BETTER FLIGHT PRICE TRACKING
Price tracking is nothing new in Google Flights—if you want to monitor prices, just toggle the “track prices” button when you search for a specific flight. You can also elect to get email alerts when prices increase or decrease. Even better, though, Google will now tell you if the prices for that flight are likely to increase. If they are, a pop-up window will tell you how much more you can expect to pay if you book later.
Google Flights has also enhanced its "date tip" feature (which tells you how much you can save if you fly from a different airport or on a different day). Now, Google will also tell you if the specific route you’re researching has experienced any price jumps historically.
3. MORE FILTERS WHEN EXPLORING DESTINATIONS
Google’s Explore feature (which you access from the flight search page by clicking the sandwich menu next to "Flights" in the window's upper left corner) is also more robust now. Previously, you’ve been able to use its interactive map to explore prices to destinations around the world based on when you want to travel, which is useful if you're looking for an inexpensive getaway during a set period (like Spring Break). With its recent updates, you can now also filter and sort flights by number of stops, price, and airline. Its “Interests” filter lets you look for specific types of destinations: beaches, honeymoon spots, wildlife, and more.
4. INSIGHT ON HOTEL DISCOUNTS
Google’s hotel search has received an upgrade, too. When you search for hotels in a specific city, Google will now tell you what prices have looked like historically, depending on the hotel and your travel dates. This way, you can see if the current rate is standard or if it’s likely to drop in the near future.
Like the “tips” feature in Google flights, the hotel search will also show you how much you can save if you book on a different day. Google also highlights (with a lightbulb icon) whether the hotel you're considering is running any special deals or is top-rated in the area.