Make Travel Planning Easier with These New Google Features
Google has recently released several updates to maps and travel booking, just in time for the summer vacation season. Here's how to save money, iron-out logistics, and book all the best hotels and experiences with these helpful new features.
Updated Hotel Browsing
In an attempt to make hotel browsing easier, Google is optimizing how hotel images are displayed on phones. After clicking on a hotel option, potential travelers can now swipe through images of the property in a storyboard format. Pull up more details about the area along with summaries from previous guests with a single tap. When finished, viewers can swipe up to exit out of the details and continue browsing. These changes aim to give prospective travelers a better sense of what to expect from different hotels.
Flight Price Guarantee Program
One of the biggest costs associated with travel can be airfare, and without being able to predict the future of travel prices it can be one of the most frustrating things to book. While there are many tips and tricks on when to time the best prices for domestic and international travel, there is nothing worse than the feeling of seeing plane tickets drop significantly in cost right after you've already your flight. Now, Google is piloting a program that would guarantee you get the best price and avoid buyer's remorse altogether. Essentially, if the price of the flight goes down before your departure date, Google will give you a refund on the flight.
When using Google Flights, look for the “Price Guarantee” badge which indicates the price isn’t expected to get any lower. If for some reason the price does happen to drop later (by more than $5), Google will refund you the difference via Google Pay. While the “Price Guarantee” feature is still being rolled out, it is currently limited to airlines that use “Book on Google"—such as Alaska Airlines, Spirit, and Hawaiian Air. It's also only available for flights departing from the US, and there’s a cap with how much you can get refunded, too—$500 per year for a maximum of three bookings. Still, that's a pretty generous cap, especially when you consider that Google is trying to avoid paying out refunds by notifying users of the best price in advance.
Seamless Booking for Experiences and Attractions
In addition to making the booking process for hotels and flights less stressful, Google has also simplified the process for finding attractions and sight-seeing activities. Instead of combing through different tours' and experiences' websites for pricing details and booking, travelers will now see prices alongside listings in Google searches for things to do. There will also be a link to book as well as suggestions for related experiences, so you'll be sure to not miss out on all the best activities.
Map and Explore National Parks
Googles Maps has collaborated with the National Park Service to introduce several new features aimed at enhancing trip planning and exploring for national parks. Park entrances have now been added to park basemaps, so that travelers can more easily plan their routes and choose the best trails to reach where they want to go. First-time visitors will also find photo pins for the most popular spots in a park especially useful, as they can get a sense of what to expect or what to plan for when putting together a trip plan. These pins will be similar to Google's Neighborhood Vibe feature and provide a visual representation of attractions, campgrounds, visitor centers, and trailheads.
They've also simplified finding trails within national parks. When searching for a specific trail, the map will now highlight the entire route. Directions are available for both walking and cycling to trailheads. User-generated photos and reviews of trails can also be added to the Placesheet, the info window that pops up when you click on a location in Google Maps.
Of course, what happens when you actually get to the trail and find out you've got no cell service? Google has thought of this too and added offline functionality for national parks. Park maps are downloadable, and a dynamic blue dot indicating your location will help visitors navigate the park despite not having Wi-Fi nor cell service—which is not only massively convenient, but makes traversing new and unfamiliar park trails even more safe.
Right now, features are available for only some parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, but all 424 National Park Service sites are expected to support them within this month. Plans to expand beyond US parks are in the works for the coming months as well.
— For more ways to utilize Google with trip planning, see their travel tips article here.
Most kids dream of visiting a Disney park from the moment they realize these magical wonderlands exist. They grow up watching Disney fairytales unfold on television and in their favorite movies, envision their lives as Disney princes or princesses, and yearn for the day when they can see the iconic Disney castles with their own eyes. According to a recent analysis by Time Magazine, the average four-day Disney vacation costs families $6,360. That includes the costs of hotels, transportation, park admission, food, souvenirs, and extras. The reality is, even the average, non-luxury trip to Walt Disney World isn’t going to be cheap. Even if you can drive to a park, you’ll need to pay for park admission, hotel stays, and food at a very minimum. If you want your kids to have any special experiences like dinner in Cinderella’s castle, that costs extra, too. You could do it cheaper, they noted, if you stayed off the resort, shortened your visit, drove instead of flying, avoided “park hopper” tickets that let you visit more than one park in a day, and ate entirely off the resort. However, the cheapest realistic budget they could come up with for a Disney vacation still came out to $3,564. But, what if you could save even more on your trip? Some experts say it’s possible to whittle down the cost of your Disney vacation significantly if you’re willing to think outside the box, sacrifice in a few areas, and plan way ahead. Budget Travel has plenty of deals to find at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California—and they aren't the only way to save money. CouponChief.com has assembled the ultimate guide of practical ways to save for a Disney vacation. Whether you plan to visit Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando or Disneyland Resort near Anaheim, California, there are tons of savings strategies that can add up in a big way. Book with a Disney-approved travel agent “Look for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner,” says Steve Griswold, owner of Disney-themed travel agency Pixie Vacations. According to Griswold, authorized Disney vacation planners are travel agencies that the Walt Disney Company has given this designation to. These travel agencies usually specialize in Disney vacations such as Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Aulani. “Most agencies are free to work with and their knowledge and service will help you find and plan the perfect vacation just right for you and your family,” he says. For example, these agencies will typically watch prices for you so that, if a new offer comes out that would save you money, you can reconfigure your vacation right away. “This is also very convenient as you don’t have to look for new discounts every day or spend hours on hold with Disney.” Griswold also notes that hiring an agent can help you save time since they typically help with Disney dining reservations and going over the different dining packages with you, along with booking fast passes and other Disney extras. Shop for these items getting to the park or resort Disney merchandise - courtesy of disneytouristblog.com Travel necessities – Disney Authorized Vacation Planner Sandy Nussbaum-Giercyk of Instant Impressions Travel Services says one of her favorite savings tips is hitting the Dollar Store to buy necessities before she leaves. “I get throw-away rain ponchos, glow sticks, and some little toys to keep us and those around us busy in line,” she says. You could also head to the Dollar Store or any discount store to stock up on additional supplies you might need for your trip – things like paper plates, toothpaste, and shampoo.Souvenirs – While Disney parks offer all kinds of activities to take part in, they are also chock full of distractions intended to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Souvenir shops and game stalls abound and, if you take advantage, you could wind up spending hundreds of dollars on extras and souvenirs. Disney-branded items can be purchased for much less than official gear or items on-site. Pack some Disney stickers or stuffed animals purchased cheaply at home and hand them out to your kids as required. They won’t know the difference, but you’ll avoid the huge mark-up on souvenirs at the parks. Alternatively, if you're set on doing on-site shopping, be firm with a budget. Give kids an upfront dollar limit in terms of what they can spend on souvenirs. If they have $30 to spend, for example, they might be choosier when it comes to what they buy with their spending money.Meals and snacks – You can absolutely bring your own food into any Disney park (as long as it is not alcohol or inside a glass container). This can include a cooler with drinks and sandwiches or little snacks to help you get through the day. If you can avoid even $20 in snacking at the park over five days, that’s an easy $100 in savings. If you have Amazon Prime Now or another favorite grocery delivery service, take advantage of these services if you're staying at hotel or condo with a refrigerator and kitchen. Select a limited number of special dining experiences; there is no need to pay Disney prices for every meal—especially if you have young kids that may not eat much of what is offered. Save on park ticket prices Save with an annual pass - courtesy of thepointsguy.com Consider multi-day passes – While planning a longer trip might sound counterintuitive for those wanting to save, Nussbaum-Giercyk points out that park tickets become cheaper per-day when you stay longer. “Disney park tickets are front-loaded with cost, so a single day or two seems very expensive,” she says. “Add on at day 5 or 6 and it costs about the same as going to the movies!” Obviously, staying longer will cause the total cost of your trip to surge, but you may get more value in return if you’re able to buy a multi-day ticket and find other ways to save on your trip.Buy discounted park tickets through UndercoverTourist.com – While the discounts can vary quite a bit, it’s possible to save on the cost of park tickets through UnderCoverTourist.com. Make sure to compare prices before you choose this option. Also compare whether you would save more if you purchased a full-fledged Disney vacation package instead of buying tickets and lodging ala carte.Plan for just one park per day – While the idea of buying “park hopper” tickets that let you visit multiple parks every day does sound intriguing, many families are able to save substantial sums of money by visiting just one park per day. Most families can save $250 or more on their trip if they skip the “park hopper” upgrade and plan their visit accordingly. You still get to visit the parks you want this way, but you have to be more mindful in terms of the rides you want to ride and when, along with the special amenities you plan to take advantage of each day.Buy an annual pass – If you’re visiting Disney parks multiple times per year, buying an annual pass can absolutely pay off. A Disney Platinum Plus Pass is currently $829 for those ages 3 and up, but it includes unlimited admission to most Disney parks as well as free parking. This pass also allows you to visit more than one park in a single day. Florida residents also get special discounts. Don't live in Florida, but have a grandparent living there? Not only do Florida residents get discounted pass prices, but they can purchase resident-rate passes for grandkids (under age 18). Utilize travel credit card rewards Driving instead of flying can save hundreds of dollars, but it isn't the only way to save on transportation costs. It’s possible to avoid the cost of flying if you’re savvy with credit card rewards. By racking up miles with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, for example, you can often fly round-trip into Orlando or into several California airports for just the cost of airline taxes and fees, which works out to $5.60 per person, per leg. You can earn Southwest miles by signing up for a co-branded Southwest credit card, flying with Southwest, shopping through their shopping portal, or signing up for the Southwest Dining Club. Disney does offer a co-branded credit card with Chase, but the rewards are paltry compared to what you can get with other cash-back and travel rewards cards. If you’re looking for ways to get at least part of your Disney vacation covered for free, it might be worth it to look into travel credit cards that offer flexible points or travel credit. Just be sure to pay down your credit card each month, otherwise the interest will negate the benefits and rewards. Get smart about Disney gift cards The entrance to Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida - courtesy of orlandoinformer.com One of the best ways to save for a Disney vacation is to take advantage of offers for Disney gift cards. “You can save five percent by buying Disney Gift Cards at Target, for example,” Griswold notes. To do so, you’ll need to sign up for a Target REDCard, which allows you to save 5 percent on Target purchases. According to the vacation expert, there is a special app that lets you type in your Disney gift cards so they are all organized and ready to be used and applied to your Disney World vacation balance. Sam's Club is also a popular place to buy Disney gift cards at a discounted price (usually 3% to 10% off). Just be sure to always purchase your gift cards from a trusted retailer and, if possible, in person, as there are plenty of websites online that are scams. Rent a vacation condo or stay at an off-site hotel Florida rental property - courtesy of orlandovacationhomes.com If you’re worried about the high costs of staying on-property at your favorite Disney resort, you may want to consider renting a condo or timeshare week off-site. Doing so can typically net you plenty of savings and more room than you might have otherwise. For example, you may be able to pay less for a week in a two-bedroom condo than you would in a Disney resort with two queen beds. If you stay at an off-site hotel, it is likely possible you can shuttle to the parks instead of taking your rental car and paying for parking. Many off-site hotels offer their own shuttles to entice guests, so make sure to check. Sit through a timeshare presentation Lots of local resorts offer special deals on Disney vacations (or Disney lodging) if you’re willing to sit through a timeshare presentation that can last between 90 minutes and 4 hours. These presentations don’t require a purchase but often include high-pressure sales techniques. While some of these pitches offer free or discounted hotel stays, others offer free tickets to a local Disney park in exchange for your time. While these opportunities can absolutely help you save on a Disney trip, Griswold says you should think long and hard about pursuing this option and what your time is worth.“You will see booths all over Orlando offering discounted park tickets,” he says. “You are going to waste at least half a day in timeshare presentations and most have very high-pressure sales people.” If your trip is fairly short already, the time you spend may not be worth it. Skip Disney during one day of your trip Just because you’re in Florida or California near a Disney park doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment soaking up the Disney experience. If you plan a “free day” or skip the park for a single day, your savings can be substantial. A free day can be anything you want it to be. Maybe your kids would be happy as clams swimming in the hotel pool. If you’re near the beach, you can also pack a picnic and let the kids play in the surf for the day (this option would require a rental car). Lastly, you could shop or explore other less expensive parks nearby such as city parks or water parks. You could even go roller skating or take the family to the movies! — For more ways to save on a Disney vacation, check out the full guide at CouponChief.com.
5 Tips to Deal With Flight Delays
Blake Walsh, travel expert at Travel Lens has commented on the steps passengers should take if their flight is delayed and whether they’re entitled to compensation: “Facing the prospect of a delayed flight can leave my passengers feeling frustrated and anxious, so it’s important to understand how you should approach the situation if you were to discover your upcoming flight is going to be delayed for a long period of time.” “In most cases, a flight will only be delayed for a short period of time but if you are facing long delays, then you could be entitled to compensation, but it’s not as straightforward as what it might sound. Firstly, before you can start the process of securing compensation, there are a number of factors you need to consider, such as the length of the delay, the distance of your flight and the airline you’re traveling with.” “For example, if you are traveling on a domestic flight which has been delayed for between 1 to 2 hours after the original arrival time, you could be entitled to a maximum compensation of $675 and for international flights, the delay time is extended to between 1-4 hours. This is only a guideline and as previously mentioned, there are a number of factors to consider before being awarded compensation, but it’s important to know that passengers do have certain rights if their flight is delayed.” Below are five tips from Travel Lens on what to do if you face a flight delay. 1) Speak to the airline’s customer service team If you’re able to speak to a representative of the airline at the airport then great, but in some cases, it’s more efficient to ring the customer service team. The staff members at the airport will have a flight load of people to try and accommodate for and they will only be able to do so much, so ringing the customer service line could prove to be quicker and more beneficial to you.Courtesy of abcnews.com2) Use social media to your advantage Sadly, not all customer service teams are as helpful as they should be and getting in touch with them via a phone call isn’t always easy. Airlines value their reputation on social media and platforms like Twitter are a great way to get in contact with an employee. If you do use Twitter to reach out, then it’s important to remain polite and calm as this will work in your favor.3) Check your insurance documents If your flight is delayed for a long period of time, then it’s worth checking your insurance policy. Not all policies will cover flight disruption, but most will, so it’s worth reading your policy in detail as you may be covered and not have to potentially pay out for an alternative method of transport or accommodation, which may be the case for a passenger with no insurance.A busy airport terminal - courtesy of Shutterstock4) Understand your rights as a passenger If your flight is delayed for a certain amount of time then the majority of airlines are expected to re-book you onto an upcoming flight, but in some cases, you're entitled to more than just a new flight ticket. It’s important to understand your rights as you may be able to claim back expenses for food and drink, as well as accommodation as a result of the delayed flight, so be sure to keep hold of any receipts you have.5) Arrive at the airport early If you notice your flight has been delayed before you get to the airport, then it’s wise to leave early so you can get to the check-in desk and try and secure an alternative flight. Most people traveling on the same flight will want an alternative flight as soon as possible, but it’s unlikely that all passengers will be accommodated for, so it’s best to arrive early to ensure you have the best chance of being given an alternative ticket.
'Tis the season for giving!—and the season for inboxes full of promotional emails, busy schedules, and endless, end-of-year to-do lists. Shopping can add a lot of stress this time of year, but we've got a few ideas that can help. Whether your gift list includes an avid traveler or just someone who enjoys the occasional day trip, we've got a great list of budget-friendly picks and stocking stuffers that are both practical and thoughtful. Please remember: If you purchase through our links, we may earn a commission from our partners, thanks for your support! The Charging Cable That Does It All Mr Bio Eco Friendly Universal Compact Multi Charging Cable - courtesy of brookstone.com. This Mr Bio Eco Friendly Universal Compact Multi Charging Cable is a multi-adapter cable that can charge all kinds of devices and only costs around $15. It features a patented dual USB/USB type C power in and power out tips to Apple lightning connector, USB type C, and micro USB tips. Bonus points: the company works hard to make their product environmentally-friendly, as it is created with a bio-degradable enclosure and woven-paper cable made out of recycled plastic bottles. A Power Bank for Off-the-Grid Adventure Solar-charged power bank - courtesy of magellans.com This solar-charged power bank will keep your devices up and running no matter how long the next hike takes! Perfect for camping and backpacking trips, users can keep devices charged without having to track down an outlet thanks to this product's front solar panel and dual USB ports. It even features a built-in flashlight. For those travelers not going to far into the wild, these power banks can still save the day when it comes to airport layovers or outings to busy theme parks when searching for an outlet for a mid-day charge is unsuccessful. Laundry On-the-Go Tide sink packets - courtesy of amazon.com Family trips, road trips, and extended stays in hotels are made infinitely easier with simple and quick laundry solutions like stain pens and these Tide Travel Sink packets. Maybe not the fanciest gift on the list, but a perfect fit for the ultra-practical packer or parent-turned-travel agent in your life. The Perfect Travel Pillow Samsonite Magic Travel Pillow - courtesy of jcpenney.com Sometimes the journey isn't always as fun as the destination. Make trains, planes, and automobiles a lot more manageable by gifting a comfy travel pillow, like this Samsonite Magic Travel Pillow. This one can be switched between a U-shaped pillow or a square shape, comes with a travel clip for easy transport, and weighs a mere half a pound. Add earbuds and a sleeping mask to make a perfect package for light sleepers. A Memory Journal Promptly Travel Journal - courtesy of amazon.com A simple journal for writing down thoughts, reflections, memories, or even sketches can be a great easy-to-pack activity for anyone on the go. All that's needed is a beautiful blank notebook and maybe a nice set of pens, and you've got a incredible thoughtful and open-ended gift. For those that especially love the process of writing, though, this one from Promptly Journals is specifically designed for documenting vacations with space for everything from pre-departure plans to post-journey takeaways. A Germ-Busting UVC Sanitizer U-V-C Sanitizer Portable Case - courtesy of jcpenney.com. Nothing ruins a trip more than a surprise illness—and yet, sometimes it's hard to avoid when passing through busy airports and cities along the way. This U-V-C Sanitizer Portable Case eliminates some of the stress for the germ-conscious traveler, featuring a compact size that can still easily fit items like jewelry and earbuds. For an added touch, throw in some other handy health items like lozenges and wipes and you've got a perfect travel care package. Road-Trip Safety Kit Black Series Roadside Auto Emergency Safety First Aid Kit for Drivers - courtesy of jcpenney.com For solo travelers and those that prefer to hit the open road, this roadside emergency kit that includes jumper cables, a head lamp, and simple first aid tools can save the day when things don't go quite as planned—especially when cell service is spotty and gas stations are far between. A Portable Hammock AnorTrek Camping Hammock - courtesy of amazon.com Some travelers, like the minimalist backpacker, prefer to pack light, making shopping for them even harder. A portable hammock can be a great item for campers and hikers that want to pack efficiently. This AnorTrek Camping Hammock comes in a dozen colors, weighs just over a pound, and can be set up in seconds. Reminders of Trips Past Chicago candle - courtesy of amazon.com Homesick Candles makes a perfect, sentimental gift for those who may be nostalgic for a place or city that they've always loved visiting in the past. Choose from scents inspired by specific locations, like "Southern California" or "New York City," or more general travel themes like "Ski Trip" and "Beach Cottage." Gear for Efficient Packing Packing cubes - courtesy of jcpenney.com. Sometimes, it's hard to pack light—and for some people, it can be nearly impossible. For those that like having lots of outfit options, lean towards being over-prepared, or simply just want to make the most of their suitcase capacity, these affordable packing cubes help keep everything organized and compact. For the chronic over-packer, save them a headache at the airport luggage weigh-in with this handy luggage scale.
Bored of your daily routine? Want to relax on a sunny beach or on top of a freezing mountain? A long vacation helps you remove your boredom and rejuvenate with freshness to better battle the daily chores. However, we know many of you, perhaps, are worried about budgeting your vacation. Where does the money come from? What if we tell you that we found the top 7 apps to help you save for your next vacation? Isn't it exciting to let an app manage your budget and keep you on track for your dream holiday? On top of it, we selected these apps carefully so that even a non-tech-savvy person can use them with relative use. Yay for user-friendly technology! #1 - Mint Mint, without a doubt, is the most widespread and renowned budget app. With its intuitive usage and maximum coverage, the app helps in every financing activity of our daily lives. Using Mint, you can track your expenditure, pay bills, and check your credit score with relative ease. You can also link your credit and debit cards and your bank account with the app to record all your financial information. It's just one click away! What's more, Mint is highly secured; you won't have to worry about losing your private information. The best benefit of Mint is it's free and easy to use. Using Mint, you can save your money for tours in the best places to spend a vacation around America. #2 - Qapital Qapital may not be as famous as YNAB or Mint, but it does the job of managing your goals for any plan with perfection. The clever app allows you to set financial goals for different purposes, including your next trip. Once you set your targeted amount and probable date for the trip, the app takes you to a customized screen. Here you can set rules for your expenditure to fulfill your goals. It's AI technology will help you tailor the rules and maximize a user-friendly experience. What's more, once you have set the goal, it will assign an attractive photo next to the rules. As it keeps showing you the progress, you will feel motivated. Last but not least, the app is available on all platforms, including websites, iOS, and Android. #3 - YNAB YNAB is another popular financial and budgeting app for all people. So, you may be already familiar with its name. YNAB stands for You Need A Budget and lets you set a goal for every penny you earn. You can quickly split your budget for housing, lodging, food, and not to mention your future vacation. Since you can split your earnings and keep a record of your spending with a few clicks on the mobile screen, it simply just makes your life easier. Once you set your next vacation goal, the app will update you about the progress. The only downside? You'll need to pay $99 for a year or $14.99 a month once the trial period gets over. But isn't it worth it for your dream vacation? #4 - Trabee Pocket Trabee Pocket is a dedicated app to help you save for your next vacation. The app permits you to set different goals for different requirements of your daily life, including trips and tours. The best feature of the app is its ability to switch and swap between other currencies, which allows you to know exactly how much you need for your favorite tour in the proper currency. Also, it differentiates between your credit and cash purchases, helping you out with how much you have left. It is an excellent way to stop over-expenditure that may deter you from going on your holidays. This feature can be game-changing for those who use travel rewards for credit cards. Also, knowing which credit card offers more flexibility in your post-vacation payment is a winning moment even before your tour. The app is free and available on both Android and iOS platforms. #5 - Digit Are you having trouble budgeting your money and deciding how much you can save each month from visiting somewhere like Disney World or Navagio Beach? Fret not…. Digit, with its nearly endless features, is ready to do the job for you. Once you download the app and connect it with your bank account, and set your vacation goal, it will automatically pull money from the account. So, budgeting and managing your next vacation will get easier and simpler. Once you set your goals, Digit uses its intelligent AI and algorithm to check your daily expenses, purchasing habits, monthly income, and vacation expenditure. Then, it will start deducting money and pull it into your savings without troubling your mind. So, you will save a good amount without even knowing about it. The app offers 30 days of a free trial. After that, you need to pay $5 while signing up. What's more, it provides a 1% saving bonus every 3 months based on your daily spending. #6 - Acorns Is there anyone who hasn't used a piggy bank in their childhood? If kept securely in a piggy bank, even a tiny amount of change and spare money can become a substantial amount over time. Acorns have embraced this concept and applied it to help you save for the next dream vacation. It is a micro-investing intuitive app. The app permits you to save your spare change and get a profitable return according to your goal. You can connect your credit and debit card along with banking information as well. The intelligent algorithm of the app will then transform your spending and purchases into round figures and save the excess amount to return as a good savings strategy. And better yet, it starts merely at $3, and the app is user-friendly with great instructions and an eye-catching design. So, what's your next holiday destination? Set your goal and let one of these apps take charge to fulfill your dream. You will love how these apps will save your money without troubling you daily and fulfills your vacation requirement for a refreshed lifestyle.