Google launches a splashy new travel app, plus several navigation apps get new killer features.
Google Trips Compiles Travel Plans
The biggest news this week in travel apps: Google launched its long-in-the-works travel app called Google Trips. The free app, available for Android and iOS, scans your Gmail account for airline and hotel reservations to create travel itineraries, such as “Weekend in Chicago.” Each trip provides restaurant and sightseeing recommendations, public transportation info, and fast access to nearby places you’ve saved on Google Maps. And the best part is Trips can download all this data, including local maps, to your device to access when you don’t have Wi-Fi or a data connection.
Google’s previous forays into travel have excelled, particularly its Maps app and Flights search engine, and sites like The Verge are calling Trips the “killer travel app for the modern tourist.” But so far, Trips leaves a lot to be desired. Savvy travelers know you can simply type “my Chicago trip” into the Google search bar and get the same information, including your airline and hotel reservations compiled from Gmail. Google says Trips uses your search history to make personalized suggestions, but nearly every trip on my app recommends golf courses, and I’ve never golfed a day in my life. Trips’ interface is a travel-centric version of Google’s Calendar app, which similarly scans Gmail but also looks for restaurant reservations, concert tickets, and more events that are absent from Trips. What else is missing: cruise reservations and vacation rentals like VRBO and Airbnb, which Trips doesn’t always recognize.
As Google refines the data and adds more innovative features, perhaps Trips will live up to its “killer travel app” billing.
Google Maps Points the Way
Speaking of Google apps, the tech company has made a nifty update to Google Maps for Android. Travelers now see a blue beam shining in the direction they’re facing, like a flashlight pointing the way. The beam replaces a tiny direction arrow that many users likely overlooked.
Google says the beam also tells users how accurate their phone’s direction is at a given time. The more narrower the beam, the more accurate the direction. If the beam appears wide, the phone’s sensors aren’t working and its compass needs to be calibrated. To do this, move your phone in a figure 8 motion a few times, which should reset its sensors and provide more accurate direction.
The blue beam does not appear on Google Maps for iOS, and Google doesn’t say when it’s coming.
Apple Maps Remembers Where You Parked
Not to be outdone, Apple Maps also added a nifty feature during its recent iOS 10 update. It now remembers where you parked your car. When you park and disconnect your iPhone from your car’s Bluetooth connection, your phone automatically drops a pin on Apple Maps. The best part is that it displays this information prominently on the lock screen in a Maps module. If you slide the module, it opens Apple Maps and provides directions to your parked vehicle.
Waze Finds You a Place to Park
Waze is one of the best travel apps thanks to its rich set of navigation features, including real-time traffic data, speed limit indicators, and speed trap alerts. The app has a new killer feature: It helps you find a place to park.
Waze launched a “where to park” feature that recommends parking lots closest to your destination. The feature works in a few ways: When you enter your destination, it suggests nearby parking lots and gives you the option to change your destination to one of those lots. If you haven’t set a parking lot as your destination, an option appears as you approach your destination, asking if you’d like to be directed to the nearest parking lot. Parking lot data is provided by the Waze community and a new partner called INRIX, but unfortunately it does not include pricing and availability.
Waze says it plans to roll out more features related to parking.