Traveling can be stressful. As many vacation planning tips as I try to gather from friends and the internet, it doesn't change the fact that being in a new place, navigating new roads, dealing with airports and ever-changing flight times, and having to fit everything you plan to use over the duration of your entire trip into a single suitcase is hard. Ugh. Love traveling, blessed to be able to do it, but yes — it sometimes has potential to be a load of stress. That said, let us not overlook the extremely stressful cousin to travel anxiety that can also rear its ugly head while we just try to enjoy our lives and go on a trip: travel planning anxiety.
You know what I'm talkin' about. This is a real thing: In fact, I suffer from it myself. From deciding on the best time of year to travel and buying plane tickets to figuring out where the heck to stay once you arrive, planning a trip takes time, research skills, and patience — and it can be anxiety-inducing as heck. Like, I totally get why people used to hire travel agents to deal with that whole mess. According to a Google press release, more than half of travelers apparently want help making better, faster decisions about travel, so yeah: It's a thing.
Technology is definitely our friend when it comes to travel planning: For example, Google offers tons of insight on travel trends that can help you choose a destination to visit (and find the best time to do so), and Google Flights is a much-loved flight aggregate that can help you find a reasonable price on airfare. But your stress level when it comes to travel planning just got a little lighter, cause Google just launched a bunch of brand new travel features that serve as total hacks to ease your travel-planning anxiety. This means you can be excited about booking and preparing for an upcoming trip, not stressed.
Here are a few game-changing tips to make trip-planning way less stressful.
1. Price Tracking Features For Airfare
Let's start with flights — cause if you're going to a new place, you've gotta get there somehow. If you're me, then you agonize over flight prices for so long that you've ended up paying more in the end while waiting for the "perfect" price. Mess! While Google already shows us whether prices are high, low, or typical for any given flight route, starting Aug. 8, 2019, you’ll see the same insights for your whole itinerary whenever possible — and for certain flights, Google will show you the price fluctuations over the past months and notify you when they think the price may go up, and when it's reached its predicted lowest price point, too. This will definitely help you eliminate the stress of wondering whether you're getting a decent flight deal, so you can rest easy and take the plunge.
And fun news for those of you planning an upcoming trip: Beginning Aug. 13, Google will offer a special, limited-time flight price guarantee deal. "When we predict the price won’t decrease further for select flights booked between Aug. 13 and Sept. 2, we’ll guarantee it and we’ll refund you the difference if it does," explains Google in a press release. "This feature is available for a limited time for select itineraries originating in the U.S. with ... departure dates between August 13 - November 24, 2019." Book those trips between Aug. 13 and Sept. 2, and secure that low ticket price, y'all!
2. Take Things Step-By-Step When It Comes To Planning
Once you've purchased your flights, it's hard to know what to do next — there's just so much. But Google's new timeline feature, which shows you "next steps" for trip planning among other things, can help you stay organized and sort out exactly what comes next.
Here's the deal. When you book a flight and receive your itinerary and confirmation e-mail in Gmail, you should automatically see your trip show up on your shiny, new Google.com/Travel timeline when you're logged in (and if you don't get a confirmation e-mail to your Gmail account, you can easily add the trip deets yourself).
Along with your upcoming flight itinerary, you'll now also see links to suggestions for all different next steps you can take for planning, making things much easier to manage. "[W]e’ll assist you with recommendations for next steps — such as searching for hotels, restaurants and things to do," explains Google's vice president of product management and travel, Richard Holden, in a press release. Deep breaths: You got this.
3. Get To Know The Neighborhoods Virtually
One of the most difficult aspects of planning a trip to a new city is figuring out which neighborhoods are best suited to what you want to do. I think we've all made the mistake of booking a hotel in the wrong part of town once or twice, and it can really put a damper on your trip if you're staying in an inaccessible or less-happening part of a city.
Thankfully, Google's stepping in and putting that stress to the test by making neighborhood breakdowns globally much easier. "Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Paris. Once you’ve searched for hotels for your destination and dates, click on 'Where to stay' at the top of your hotel results," explains Holden. "For each neighborhood you’ll see a description, the average price and more." Once you find a neighborhood that suits you, you can filter your search results and easily limit them to the area you want to stay in.
"We’ll also help you pick the best place to stay by showing you personalized hotel results including places you’ve searched for or stayed at before, and hotels that are close to points of interest you’ve searched for," explains Holden. Now that makes life easier.
4. Make Sure Your Itinerary Is Organized
There's nothing worse than feeling like a disorganized hot mess when you're travel planning. Of course, in 2019, your devices should be doing the organizing for you, right? Right?!
Right. Google Maps is now your one-stop-shop to for all of your flight itineraries and hotel reservations. "Simply tap on the three gray lines at the top left corner of your screen, and then on 'Your Places'. Then, hit the 'Reservations' tab where you’ll see a list of your upcoming trips," explains Rachel Inman, a UX designer for Google Maps. "Selecting your trip will instantly pull up your reservations, and you can even access them if you’re offline, so no need to worry if you’re off the grid with no service or traveling internationally without a data plan." Rest easy knowing that your travel deets are accessible with or without service, and that you can pull all of them up in one place. Never fumble through your messy inbox searching for the right confirmation e-mail again.
5. Plan Your Walking Routes Ahead Of Time Using Virtual Reality
Use Live View to see the way you need to go in a new city
OK, I know I don't always rent a car when I travel, as I often do my best to navigate on foot or via public transportation — I think it's a much more effective way to get the feel for a new city and sync up with its vibe! That said, it's hard to plop yourself in the middle of an unfamiliar place and know where the heck to trek.
BUT THE FUTURE IS NOW, Y'ALL. Enter Google's new Live View feature, which is making that totally do-able with much less stress via augmented reality. "With a feature called Live View, you can use augmented reality (AR) to better see which way to walk," explains Inman. "Arrows and directions are placed in the real world to guide your way." This means you alleviate your anxiety by plotting your walking routes — and actually seeing what they look like — before you even arrive somewhere. No more planning a walk and realizing upon arrival that it's taking you through skid row.
"We’ve tested Live View with the Local Guides and Pixel community over the past few months, and are now expanding the beta to Android and iOS devices that support ARCore and ARKit," shares Inman. Expect to see that update on a device near you, as it rolls out the week of Aug. 8, 2019.
6. You're Going To Find The Best Restaurants, I Promise
Find restaurants you’re most likely to enjoy with 'Your Match' and see when a restaurant is crowded, book a table, and find the most popular dishes.
I literally plan vacations around food, so I know that the anxiety of finding the can't-miss restaurants and dishes in any given city is real. No need to spend thousands of hours reading niche travel blogs and scouring Yelp reviews anymore, though. Google Maps is comin' through with some ultra-helpful new in-app features that will change your vacation meal-planning game for the better.
"With Google Maps, you can quickly find restaurants tailored to your tastes with Your Match, see how long the wait is, and even book a reservation without ever leaving the app (and no, we’re not talking about delicious dinner apps)," explains Inman. "With the popular dishes feature, you can quickly find out what the must-try items on the menu are." Now get to pilin' on the reservations and rest assured that you'll be maximizing the very best part of traveling: eating.
7. Keep Your Memories Safe
Remember the days of travel journaling? Me neither. I always used to promise myself that I'd journal throughout a vacation so I could remember every special little serendipitous meeting, snack, or clothing store that I came across, but I never ended up doing it. Now I just Instagram everything, but even that isn't enough.
Still, the anxiety of worrying that you'll forget these little traveling gems upon returning home is real! Google's taking some new steps to ensure you can relive your travel memories — and share them — with ease.
"If you’ve chosen to turn your Location History setting on, you can now use the updated version of Timeline to easily remember that amazing hole-in-the-wall restaurant you dined at or the cute vintage shop you popped into," shares Inman. "You’ll also be able to see all of the places you went to in a country or a city, and even drill down to the categories of places you visited — including restaurants, shops, attractions, hotels and airports." Now you'll know exactly what to recommend to anyone else who's planning a trip to that same location. Look at you — you're a travel expert in the making!