Due to the pandemic, travel has been slow this past year, and you might be a little rusty when it comes to picking up and traveling somewhere to visit friends and family or just planning a getaway. Whatever the case, Google has a few helpful tools in Google Maps and Google’s travel site to help you get started on making those plans and staying safe along the way.

Getting started with Google’s travel website

Google’s travel website is meant to be a companion site that can help you plan all of the details of your trip. You can use it to book flights, make an itinerary, and even explore interesting places to visit at your destination. If you have a Gmail account, there’s a good chance that any flight reservation you make will automatically appear the next time you use Google’s travel site, making it that much easier to plan the trip’s details. If not, Google Travel may suggest locations based on your search history and interests. While that may be a little creepy, it can also be pretty helpful.

If no destination has been chosen yet, Google will suggest locations in the “Explore” tab. You can filter these locations based on flight and hotel cost, giving you a pretty good idea of where a nice place to go would be. After choosing a destination, Google gives you a few options as far as what you’d want to know. There’s a “Discover” section that will break down various points of interest. In bigger cities, you may find the number of things to do or see endless. Fortunately, you can filter out locations and activities based on your personal interest.

If there are a few places that pique your curiosity, or you already know you want to go there, Google allows you to save them to the trip and pin them to the trip’s detail page. This serves as a sort of to-do list when you get where you’re going.

Using Google Map’s road trip feature

If you don’t plan on flying and want to avoid certain COVID-19 hotspots, Google Maps is probably the way to go. Just this year, Google added a feature to the Maps website that allows you to add stops along the route when planning the trip. Previously this was possible on mobile, but it didn’t lend itself well to planning out a road trip to be shared with friends and family. Adding stops along the way with Google Maps on mobile was best for impromptu stops.

Once you’ve defined a starting point and destination, you can add stops along the way. You can add anything from a city to rest stops and gas stations. You can do this by either manually entering a stop you already know you would like to pause at, or by choosing one of the criteria towards the top of the screen. Google Maps lets you narrow down your search by these criteria:

Hotels Campgrounds Restaurants Coffee Fast Food Groceries Rest stops
Gas Ev charging Banks Attractions Events Parks Museums

When selecting from one of these criteria, Google will also suggest a few filters. For instance, choosing hotels will bring up a “Guest rating” filter, as well as an “Amenities” filter, so you make sure that you’re getting free wifi. Of course, if none of these fit the bill, you can always just search for what you want. The nice thing is that these suggestions can add a little flare to the trip by suggesting something you would have never thought about, making the road trip that much more exciting.

Once you find a point of interest, hit add stop, and Google Maps will automatically insert it in the right spot on the planned route. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to define how much time you plan on spending at that stop, so the trip time might have to be calculated manually. Besides that, Google Maps has become a handy road trip planner with enough tools to get you where you’re going and let you have some fun along the way.

Planning a trip around COVID-19 restrictions

The major caveat to traveling right now is the looming risk of COVID-19. Fortunately, the travel website by Google and Maps both supply some great tools for managing risk and assessing where you plan to go.

On the travel website, you can find up-to-date COVID-19 information for your destination pretty easily. You can access this information by searching for and clicking on the destination. Under the main card that lists the date of your trip, area name, and weather, there will be a COVID information section. This section has useful information like the CDC’s travel advisory website, COVID-19 stats for that specific area, and the number of local cases.

Clicking on the “Travel advisory” button brings you to the CDC’s COVID-19 map. This map is a risk assessment of most destinations in the world, color-coded depending on how risky it is to travel there. The second button will search Google for COVID-19 information on the location you’re traveling to, detailing data like news, statistics, and testing locations. The “Local cases” button will show even more detailed information about active cases, vaccines administered, and deaths in the area. All of this is fantastic information to have when traveling and comes in handy when planning your trip.

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