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When Google Trips launched in September to little fanfare we covered it here at Memeburn, noting that it arrives as a big upgrade to their previous app, Google Now. But things have been oddly silent in the media since the launch.
If you missed our original article, then, it’s entirely possible that Google Trips has slipped beneath your radar, leaving you wondering what this whole thing even is. You certainly wouldn’t be alone in your confusion.
Compared to the fanfare that accompanied the launch of Google+, Google Trips, which culls information from your emails to help assemble trip itineraries, didn’t receive much media buildup.
Sure, Andres Cardenal at The Motley Fool initially wondered if Google Trips would be a threat to other travel apps, but at this juncture, we’re more inclined to ask the opposite question: can Google Trips keep up with established travel planning companies and tools or has it arrived too late in an already saturated market?
Peek inside: planning a trip
Let’s say you’re getting ready to go on a trip. Maybe you don’t know where you’d like to go or you’ve already booked the tickets and now you want to plan some activities — how can Google Trips help you?
When you open Google Trips, it will first ask where you want to go. Enter a destination or select one of the cards created based on data in your emails. From there, you’ll be taken to the Local Guides, made up of various sections such as Things To Do or Food & Drink. It’s a well-organised app, but none of this is groundbreaking as far as trip-planning tools go.
In terms of planning activities during your excursion, Google Trips is actually organised quite poorly. The app enables you to search activities within a limited geographic region and schedule them, which is the perfect recipe for an overpacked trip.
It’s always better to plan less than you think you can do on a vacation, but Google Trips encourages exactly the opposite.
In terms of planning activities during your excursion, Google Trips is actually organised quite poorly
Let’s take parasailing as an example of something you might want to do on your next vacation. After doing a little research, you learn that when parasailing, you’re pulled by a boat while harnessed to a parachute, and you’re in flight for about 10 to 15 minutes. It looks exhilarating and right up your alley, so you make a reservation.
Using Google Trips’ scheduling tools, you’re likely to want to cram your schedule full, so you multiply a 15-minute parasailing turn by the number of members in your family and then, based on proximity, you schedule the next thing. You forget to account for the safety talk, the time spent changing harnesses, or a late start, and now the rest of your day is off track.
This type of over-scheduling makes your trip hectic and stressful, the opposite of how you want to spend your vacation.
How does Google Trips hold up to competitors, then? If you attempt to book the same trip on Expedia, for example, the site will help you save money by creating bundled reservations and still offer you tools for developing a complete trip itinerary of daily activities, restaurants, and attractions.
Though many use the site primarily for the transit and housing aspects of trip planning, its capacities go well beyond that. Similar things can be said for apps like TripAdvisor, and Airbnb is said to have a travel app in the works.
There are also a lot of lesser-known apps that you can use to plan your vacation and that are designed to help you create a unique experience, rather than just a well-organised one. SideStory, for example, is an app that lets you partake of what makes an area special, booking activities with local chefs or artisans who will show you the hidden pleasures of your destination.
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Similarly, TourMega takes the overwhelming process of booking activities at your destination and helps you refine your options before showing you the results. This keeps the list more manageable and better tailored to your interests.
Overall, it looks like Google Trips will have a hard time keeping up with the competition, whether that comes from older apps that already control most of the market share, or more specialised, new apps that focus on specific types of experiences.
Though it’s possible future redesigns or the general force of the Google ecosystem could change this — automatically pulling travel information from your email and recommending the app, for example — right now, Google Trips is out for the count.