Google Launches Trips App to Be Your Guide Around the World

By Jessica Plautz |

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This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

Google on Monday launched a new travel app, called Trips, which it's describing as "a personalized tour guide in your pocket."

And that it is: The app offers a city guide, curated tips from Google's travel experts, and personalized recommendations based on your Google history—the activities, sights, and restaurants the company believes you're most likely to prefer.

Google is combining what it knows (which is a lot) about what activities and attractions are generally popular in your travel destination with what it knows about you. The result is a travel app with tons of information that keeps pretty good tabs on what you're up to and what you might want to do next.

"Flight receipts, car rental reservations...if you have that sitting in your [Gmail] inbox, the first time you open the Google Trips app that will be there," Jonathan Alferness, vice president of product for Google Travel, told Travel + Leisure.

When I opened the app, I had a pre-populated list of Trips based on reservations in my email, including the trip I'm currently on, based on flight and car rental information. Within the trip, tne "Things to do" is the most robust, with a built-in interactive Google Map populated with activities and an option to auto-magically create a full- or half-day itinerary.

"We wanted those maps to feels as rich and live as possible," said Alferness. "They can't just be screenshots of the map."

Operating hours, popular times, reviews, and real-time weather conditions are all embedded to provide plenty of information for making itinerary decisions within the app.

"Google Trips acts as a place to reflect and surface all of that great content and information in a pocket-sized, digestible but also downloaded way so you can take it with you on the go," said Alferness. The download option is available on each Trip—especially handy if you'll be traveling abroad and aren't sure you'll have cellular data or Wi-Fi.

There's a small learning curve to customizing the day plans, which seem intended to be as automatic as possible. Overall, however, I found the recommendations to be useful and informative, and offered great ideas I wouldn't have thought of even though I'm very familiar with the city I'm visiting.

The app is not without limitations. For the trip I'm on, ideally the flight information would be integrated and connected with the airline app on my phone. Instead it's connected to the email confirmation, so I'm several taps away from a mobile boarding pass.

And since Trips are automatically populated from email reservations, they can include itineraries that have been sent to you even if they're not yours. That happened to me with a few family members' vacation plans, which I had to manually delete from the app–not difficult but mildly inconvenient. Also, I frequently rent a car and drive to my destination, which Google interpreted as trips to New York City (which is a little weird since I live there). Again, this can be adjusted manually, but it's not as intuitive as it could be.

Google Travel plans to iterate on the app to further improve it based on user behavior and feedback.

"We're eager to see how users react and respond to this, so we can make sure we're prioritizing features in the right order based on how the tool is getting used," said Alferness. "Over time, we'll bring more and more personalization into this."

What's obvious about the app now is how much information is being pulled in, and how simply it's presented.

"A lot of the magic that you're seeing in the Google Trips app leverages work that we've been doing in travel for a number of years."

Google Trips is available on iOS and Android.

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