Woe be the family that doesn’t chart the highlights of their week-long cruise before setting sail. But brainstorming an itinerary does not have to be the arduous undertaking it once was — that is, you do not need to enlist the services of a travel agency, reach for your yellowing copy of Fodor’s, or chart potential routes on a paper map. Nowadays, software giants — particularly Google — are happy to provide an assist. On Monday, the Mountain View, California-based company announced Trips, a new app for Android and iOS that serves as a trip aggregator and guide for everyday globetrotters.
Trips is, in many ways, an evolution of Google’s Destinations, a planner that surfaces notable attractions and suggests affordable times to fly and lodge and it inherits the features a major Google Search update in July that saw the introduction of flight price and hotel deal tools. At its core, Trips is an organizational vacation aid much like Concur’s Tripit and Sabre’s TripCase. But unlike either service, which offers premium tiers with features like loyal rewards and flight alerts, Google’s effort is focused firmly on the ground and specifically on curated recommendations. The aim is not purely to collate the activities you have already planned, but to suggest new ones you might otherwise overlook.
Setting up Trips is simple enough. Once you have signed in with a Google account, you are presented with both a historical list of trips and vacations you have yet to embark on — derived mostly, Google said, from airline confirmations and hotel bookings extracted from your Gmail inbox. Trips that Google does not automatically detect can be added manually. Dive into an individual excursion and you are presented with a grid of informational tabs: Reservations, Getting Around, Saved Places, Food & Drink, and Need to Know. The Reservations tab surfaces any restaurant bookings, car rentals, hotel stays, and flights you arranged ahead of time. Need to Know, meanwhile, features indispensable tidbits like the conversion rate for the local currency, what to do in case of an emergency, and directions from your inbound airport to your trip’s next destination.
Things to Do, a tab of recommended activities and sights, is where Trips shines. It uses your interactions with Google services to build a personalized itinerary: everything you searched, saved, and favorited in the course of Google searching, plus crowdsourced data from other travelers and Google Maps. Just step off the plane in Barcelona, Spain? Trips might recommend “Top sights in the Eixample District,” a nearby suburb. And if you indicate to Trips that you have time to spare — or don’t — the app will offer specific categories of destinations like malls, museums, public parks, historical architecture, and more.
Itineraries are customizable — you can delete sights, add them, or let Trips automatically fill in a morning or afternoon for you — and factor contextual information like the time of day, weather, and proximity to other notable attractions. Better yet, they are accessible offline — if you are traveling to a country without a reliable connection, for instance, or just do not want to risk hefty data overages, Trips will let you download every site, map, and trip ahead of time via Wi-Fi or cellular data.
Trips’ bundle of competitors is formidable. It includes the aforementioned TripIt and TripCase, of course, but apps like TouristEye, too, which emphasizes collaborative trip planning — you can group with other users to track airfare, brainstorm activities, and sift for hotel deals. And on the enterprise end, there are services like WorldMatch — some of which collate itineraries and appointments, integrate services like LinkedIn, and provide automatic trip alerts and connecting flight info.
But Trips is not necessarily trying to compete. It is, like Google’s predeceasing Destination, is a service of convenience. It is not the most robust solution, nor tailored to a particular niche. But for average vacationers, 74 percent of which feel the most stressful aspect of travel is figuring out the details, according to a GoodThing study, it will more than help map the sprawl of an unfamiliar city.