Summer is the season to travel to far-flung destinations, if the wisdom of the crowd is anything to go by. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that Americans take over 600 million long-distance trips between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. In 2017, travelers within the U.S. spent a collective $2.8 billion per day on trips.
To help vacationers gear up for the busiest travel time of the year, Google today rolled out a series of updates to google.com/travel, its one-stop itinerary planner on the web. You might recall that Google folded Google Flights and Google hotels search under the google.com/travel banner in May and that it recently shut down the mobile Google Trips app to further consolidate its travel services.
“We know that every day people are going to Google not just for help when they’re planning a trip, but also for when they’re actually traveling. They’re figuring out the things they want to do, how to get there, what the weather [is like], and stuff like that,” a Google product manager told VentureBeat during a press briefing ahead of this morning’s announcement. “The features we’re releasing [today are] around helping you plan and research … where to go.”
Google Flights, Google’s online flight booking search service, already boasts tools that bubble to the top airlines’ fluctuating prices, including a calendar view of fares, alerts for price changes to tracked flights, and contextually aware booking tips. And last December Google debuted proactive flight notifications from Google Assistant and Flights, plus more detailed fare breakdowns, search filters for checked bags and carry-on bags, and other trip-planning goodies in Google Search.
But Google thinks it can do one better. That’s why with google.com/travel it’s introducing price insights for specific itineraries that indicate whether a given flight fare is relatively low, high, or typical compared with the historical baseline. For instance, a search for August tickets from New York to Paris might yield a graph showing that the aggregate fare is toward the upper limit of average, while results for a September trip to Paris from New York might show that tickets are less expensive than they usually are that time of year.
Furthermore, for some flights google.com/travel will reveal what the price would have been if the flight had been booked months in advance and whether an increase (or decrease) in fare is imminent. In all cases, you’ll see the actual fare for a specific set of tickets that you could have bought online rather than an average or aggregate, according to Google.
Lastly, there’s a new fare options selector on google.com/travel that spotlights differences in ticket class amenities in a standardized, minimally jargony fashion. Helpfully, it highlights the cheapest fare (e.g., business, first class, or economy) required to check a bag or select your own seat.
To commemorate the launch of the new and improved flight insights, Google is kicking off a promotion next Tuesday for customers who book flights (with a price guarantee badge) originating from the U.S. with domestic or international destinations — this will be available through Flights until September 2. When google.com/travel incorrectly predicts that a price won’t decrease further, it will notify affected travelers via email and offer to refund the difference.
Fare selector and next steps
Complementing the new flight fare prediction and fare selector features, google.com/travel is becoming a bit more personalized. Going forward, Google says you can expect to see hotel results that include places you’ve searched for or stayed at before, in addition to lodging close to points of interest you’ve researched through Search. It will also show information about top neighborhoods, the best time to visit, and typical hotel prices at the top of hotel results on desktop.
On the itinerary-planning side of things, a new google.com/travel tool recommends next steps based on existing reservations pulled in from Gmail, Google Calendar, and other sources within the Google ecosystem. If you’ve booked a flight to Mexico City, for example, you’ll see search suggestions for local hotels, restaurants, and activities. Separately, within the itinerary view, there’s a new shortcut that lets you add missing flights, hotels, restaurants, trains, and more to a timeline in a few clicks.
In August 2018, Google quietly released Travel Trends, a tool that highlighted airfare price fluctuations throughout the year and the months and dates likely to have the lowest prices. Moreover, it highlighted the most popular activities that users searching for destinations have saved in Maps.
Google is this week expanding the tool in partnership with visual journalism team Polygraph, with whom it designed Travel Trends. In this latest version, you’re able to view top deals and times to book around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and the Lunar New Year. Select a time frame from a dropdown menu, and you’ll see trending destinations for roughly 15 countries, based on data captured a year ago. Scroll down, and you’ll get the historical prices of flights, along with a list of the top 10 destinations with the best accommodation rates.
Flights to Amerstdam are up to 50% cheaper during Thanksgiving, as it turns out, and up to 45% less expensive if you detour to Pa Tong, Frankfurt, Perissa, or Cala d’Or. And if a stopover in Venice or Hakone during the Lunar New Year is in your near future, Google estimates you’ll save somewhere in the ballpark of 54%.