Ensuring you get the best from a vacation can be quite stressful. That's ironic, really, as many of us expect our vacation to be the ultimate in relaxation and enjoyment. But keeping tabs on booking travel, accommodation, entertainment and eating; ensuring all the paperwork is in order and everything you need is to hand; and making the most of the time you have at your vacation destination can all be tricky.
Google Trips is a free trip planner that will take care of all these areas and should be useful both in planning stage and while you are on your trip.
Good app organization: The tile based design of the Google Trips main screen breaks information down into eight easily recognizable groupings: reservations, things to do, saved places, day plans, discounts, food & drink, getting around and need to know. These categories mean you should never need to fumble around for information you saved "somewhere" but can't remember where.
Create trips: Once Google Trips knows where you are going it will synchronize with your Gmail, finding information relating to that trip and bringing it into the app so it is all in one place -- in the Reservations area. This means that as long as you use your Gmail for all trip-related emails -- such as booking flights, hotels, restaurants and so on -- everything you need will be readily to hand.
Make complete day plans: The Day Plans area is probably the best part of Google Trips. You can create plans for a single day (or longer periods), and the app comes with some built-in plans both based around different lengths of time and topics such as museums, literary figures and child-friendly plans.
The big win is that plans are very easily amended. The day plan is laid onto a Google map - which helps you get around an unfamiliar city. Simply clicking the pen symbol brings up a range of alternative places, and a day plan can be amended with a few simple taps on places you want to add or remove.
Any place on the map, whether it is part of a day plan or not, can be tapped for detailed information, including opening times, travel directions, phone number and a link to the venue web site as well as user reviews.
Useful information: The app includes a section called 'Need to know' which has a raft of useful information on several topics. There is information on health and emergencies with phone numbers and information about nearby hospitals, information about shopping areas, on sales tax, on currency and tipping and more.
Transport tips: The section on 'Getting around' covers getting to and from major airports as well as giving key details on public transport, taxi services, information on driving and parking, and on cycle hire and walking. It's the kind of detail you often scrabble around for just after arriving in a new place.
Food, drink and nightlife: A key part of a holiday for many of us is sampling local foods and enjoying the nightlife. Google Trips has lots of information about places to eat, drink and enjoy the local nightlife. Every venue's details include mapped location, some user reviews, venue website link, directions and a link to call - so you can easily make a booking.
Offline access: Don't worry about not having access to the internet 24/7 while you are on your trip -- Google Trips has full offline access.
Some information is sparse: Some sections are quite sparse. For example, if you look in the Things to Do section you will find some inspiration in the form of places to visit sorted into categories, but this is only a small subset of everything that's on a city map. That said, it is good for a browse.
Gmail reliant: The Reservations area of the app is a great idea -- it can keep all your tickets and bookings in one place. But it does rely on you using your Gmail for all email. If you use another account to make any reservations or bookings, you'll need to forward what you want to keep to your Gmail so the app picks it up.
Google Trips is a really useful app both for pre-planning and for use while you are on your trip. Some of the standard information is a bit basic, though it is useful to have emergency and other reference information handy. The real plus points come in the day plans. The preconfigured ones are good, and they are easily personalized through the excellent map interface. Being able to check out venues, make bookings and even pick up discounts could also be very useful. And there is a lot to be said for keeping all your ticketing in one place too.