Review: How to use Google Trips for planing and during a trip

For me, traveling is an experience that starts way ahead before I actually leave. I used to maintain a todo list of places I want to visit and one of my goals is to have visited each country in Europe. As of May 2018, there are 14 countries I still need to tick off that list before.

The next country I’ll visit will be Poland and I thought I share how I plan such a trip using free Google Trips app that has replaced my todo list.

First, I’m using several resources on Internet to find places I want to see and photograph. Such places typically are landscapes, cityscapes and lost places. Whenever I find such a place I’m adding it to Google Trips and then use the app during the trip to find my way around to those places.

Here’s how I use the app for my upcoming trip to Warsaw, Poland.

How Google Trips works

Google Trips is a quite simple app for iPad and iPhone that works with Google Maps and thus requires a Google Account to work. With Google Trips you can get ideas, inspiration and suggestions for places to visit in or near a city, save those places to lists and view all those saved places on a map, which is the best feature of the app in my opinion. And it’s a great way to find a hotel near all those places you plan to visit.

Moreover, you can get hints on food and discounts and even have Google create a suggested daily itinerary based on the places you’ve saved, the distance between them and how much time people usually spend there.

Finally, you can add flight, hotel and car rental information and download all of that stuff for offline use to save on data roaming while traveling and to have it always at hand.

How to plan a trip with Google Trips

First, download the free Google Trips App from the App Store and login with your Google account.

Then start by entering a destination in Google Trips like e.g. Warsaw (which is my next destination) into the search field at the top of the screen. This will create a trip to the destination you’ve entered.

Google Trips overview over upcoming and past trips

Google Trips overview over upcoming and past trips

Once you’ve created a trip, you’ll see the following screen:

Google Trips Cards

Google Trips Cards

Here’s what each of those cards does:

  • Enter your flight details, hotel reservation or car rental reservation under reservation.
  • Things to do contains a searchable list of suggested places to visit
  • Saved places holds the lists of places you plan to visit after you’ve saved them from the Things to do section.
  • Day Plans Automatically creates and suggest a daily itinerary based on the places from Saved Places, the distance between those places and the average time people stay there.
  • Discounts displays, as the name suggests, discounts for your destination. I guess that those also (or mainly) contain paid advertisements.
  • The Getting around and Need to know sections contain tips for your destination like how to get from and to the airport, public transportation, shopping districts and so on.

Find and save places to see in Google Trips

So, now let’s get some inspiration for places to see and photograph from the Things to do section for my upcoming trip to Warsaw, Poland. Tap Things to do.

You’ll see a list of suggestions from Google that you can browse by swiping down (and up). To further narrow this list of recommendations, use the scrollable menu at the top of the screen that says Top Spots, For you, Local Favorites, Parks and Gardens, Museums, Fashion, Indoor, Outdoor and many more.

Bookmark Places in Google Trips

Bookmark Places in Google Trips

Once you find a place you’ll like to visit, tap the bookmark icon and a menu will pop up in which you can add the place to an existing list or create a new one. To create a new list, just tap the new new list entry at the bottom of the menu that pops up after you pressed the bookmark icon.

Bookmark Lists in Google Trips

Bookmark Lists in Google Trips

I’ve created a few lists based on my interests like lost places or night photography, architecture or landscapes

Instead of using the Google suggestions, you can use the search function to find interesting places by tapping the search icon in the top right corner.

Once you’ve added a few places, it’s time to check the map view of your saved places. Tap the map icon in the upper left corner. Your saved placed are marked using a green dot and recommendations are shown using a blue dot.

Google Trips Map View

Google Trips Map View

Day Plans

One nice feature of Google Trips is the ability to create Day Plans from your saved places. Google jumps ahead and created some suggestions for you. Here’s an example of such a day plan that Google thinks is great for me.

Automatic Day Plan in Google Trips

Automatic Day Plan in Google Trips

I admit that I rarely use this feature and mostly just as a rough guidance for the day because Google also takes the average time people spend at a place into account. That time spent may be totally different for me as a photographer.

What I do like is that day plans displays the walking or driving distance and opening hours of places.

If you feel you need a day plan that better suits your travel style, create a manual plan by tapping the big plus icon in the lower right corner of the screen.

Planning a trip using saved places and map view

Once I've saved all the things I want to see, I check the map view of saved places. Here Google Trip displays all then lists I've created.

Remember when I said I recommend to add everything to the Want to go list and possibly a second list based by interest? As we have all spots in the want to go list, I can see those places in a single map.

I know from my research for the trip to Warsaw that there's one spot that lies a few miles away from Warsaw and that is the abandoned Napoleon castle. See the green map marker in the upper right corner? That's probably a little too far to walk there. So I need to check my options on how to get there:

Finding your way around in Google Trips

Finding your way around in Google Trips

  1. I tap the icon of the place in Google Trips
  2. Google Trips displays a card of the location at the bottom of the screen. When I tap the card it opens in fullscreen
  3. Then I tap directions. Now Google Trips may ask which maps app it should open. I use Google Maps here as Google maps is way better for public transportation than Apple Maps.
  4. In Google Maps, I tap directions and Google will display the route from my current location to the fortress. That's not what I want right now (as I’m still in Vienna planning the trip) and so I enter the name of my hotel in Warsaw
  5. Now I can check and see the best way to go to that place.

Using Google Trips during the trip

If you’ve created a day plan or want to follow a Google suggested day plan, just open the Day Plans section and follow the plan. It doesn’t get much easier.

If you’re like me, I’ll just start in the Saved places section at one point and will go and see one after another. To determine the best way to get to the next spot, I tap the marker on the map, open the card, then Google Maps and have Google show me options on how to get there.

As all your data is saved in Google Maps, the trips and places basically sync between all devices you use. I like to create trips with iPad and then use iPhone during the trip.


Final thoughts about Google Trips

For the past months I’ve used Google Trips to plan my travels and during my trip to Prague, Potsdam, Leipzig and now Warsaw. It’s a really easy and convenient way to plan a trip and finding your way once you’re there.

One thing I really like about Google Trips is that all my saved places are stored inside Google Maps and I can even add places to those lists in Google Maps.

To find the lists in Google Maps

  • Go to Your places
  • Tap the middle tab called Saved.

Here are all your lists and saved places.

One thing I’d like to see is the integration of flight status. If I enter a flight number, it would be great if Google Trips displays flight information and possibly even seat advice for the plane.

As a Backup, just in case, I also write down vital travel information like flight Info, hotel contact, embassy phone number, in a Field Notes Memo Book. But that’s a different story.

Finally, you can get Google Trips from the iTunes App Store.