“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”
– Anais Nin
The last few days have ushered in the pitter-patter of rain like cats nimbly playing on our roof, while the sun has chosen to haphazardly break through the clouds, reveling down onto our atmosphere and warming the land bits by bit. Yes, you guessed it – Spring is just around the corner and we just had some “real weather” in Southern California, providing a fresh layer of powder in the mountains and a stunning ‘Super Bloom’ out in the middle of Desert Valley. Over the last few days, we’ve been itching to plan another quick weekend getaway similar to the Sequoias and it’s gotten me all antsy with anticipation for another adventure in the great outdoors.
The more I travel, the more I realize that though we can all enjoy a vacation -between determining the destination, booking the room, exploring extracurricular activities in the area and finding some fabulous food options- planning them certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. With the assistance of any number of websites that coagulate travel data across the hotel and transportation markets like Travelocity, CheapTickets and Kayak, a host of easibly maliable and managable mobile apps, and my uncanny ability to have way too many tabs open and organized in my browser window, it’s gotten a wee bit easier. But let’s face it, it’s still not streamlined – so leave it to the geniuses at Google to revolutionize the online travel game.
Just yesterday morning, Google announced a new component to its mobile vertical – Google Destinations. It’s an easy, breezy one stop shop of a vacation application that’s sure to take the stress out of your search and get you into some fun on the double. As the worlds premiere online search engine, Google claims that in the last few years it’s seen a 50% increase in travel related questions and queries generating on the site. After putting their heads together, they coagulates the metadata from Google Flights and Hotel Search to provide instant travel relief in the form of easy to browse itineraries and quick buy bookings from reputable sites. If you haven’t taken Google Flights for a spin, I’ll be honest – you’re missing out. The algorithms they’ve developed do a wonderful job of forecasting the best times for flights, not to mention it’ll link you with any number of other travel providers.
Unlike many other large internet travel providers like Kayak, Air BnB and Cheaptickets which offer multiple ways to access their data, Google Destinations is only available on your mobile device. Though this move could be construed as an attempt to drive traffic to their mobile site, maybe it’s also a silent hint that we should be prepared for a mobile app from Google Labs. Either way, though, I’m into it -. If you want to take it for a spin yourself, grab that smart phone and let’s play along.
First, head to your native Google or Google Chrome app (and if you don’t have either, I would recommend downloading them immediately.) And now, let’s just dream a little and plan a hypothetical dream vacation. From tinkering around this morning, it looks like you can either use a State from the United States or a Country from around the world, paired with the word “destinations” – meaning queries like “California destinations”, “Canada destinations”, “Italy destinations” and the like. Now, the real fun begins!
Once you have your general location in mind, there are three ways to manipulate the data. First, you can filter by date – and if you don’t know the exact dates you want to travel, the ‘Flexible Dates’ let’s you just pick the months you’re considering. Next, you can refine your search by the type of activity; or you can even include the keywords in your search with hobby terms + [Location] + “Destination”, like “California Surfing”, “Colorado Hiking” or “Spain Skiing.” If you don’t know what you want, let Google do some thinking for you and choose from the options are as below. And last, but certainly not least – you can adjust the end price which takes into account 7 nights away; as of now, it’s only available for 1 or 2 travelers.
If you click through to your dream spot from the first search, you’ll be presented with a window with two tabs. ‘Explore’ gives a little bit of background on the area – including the most sought after locations in the area, various itineraries based on past searches, a birds eye view of the topography and annual meteorology of the area letting you know when the best time of year to go is and a variety of additional locations to enjoy based on your search. Currently, Google only has itineraries for roughly 201 locations but I’m sure that number will increase exponentially with the use of the application.
If you don’t have your phone handy, don’t have a destination in mind or simply would rather watch someone else do it – take a gander at the video below.