Google gets a lot of bad press these days and rightfully so (e.g. they’ve destroyed the search results page with ads), but I have to give them credit when credit is due. As far as apps that help travelers, no other company is doing more. And they don’t even charge for the apps. Of course, there are lots of alternatives, but Google provides its apps for free and they are easily accessible via the internet.
I got married in Italy in 2001 and traveled around Europe during college so I remember what things were like before Google. I can say without hesitation that Google has transformed the travel experience.
Here are the apps we used just about every day during our three months around Europe:
Hands down the most time-saving travel app you’ll find. Getting around Europe with paper maps used to suck, whether you were just finding your way in a city on foot or getting between cities in a car. Google Maps is such a game-changer. Even if you miss a turn here or there, Google will redirect you to the right place.
Google Flights is one of my go-to sites for finding flights. Not perfect, but quick and easy. Their free alerts are also nice if you want to track fare changes over time.
A convenient place to get a current list of the top attractions and sights in a given city. Instead of spending a ton of time researching cities like we did (Wikipedia, forums, etc.), you can get just about everything you need by exploring Google Travel.
Being able to take a picture of a sign and have it automatically translate the text is another game-changer. It’s not perfect, but you can get the basic idea.
A quick tip: download the entire translation dictionary for a language so you don’t even need an internet connection to translate things. This was helpful in grocery stores and museums which sometimes have poor connectivity.
My wife, daughter, and I created a 50+ page doc of all our city-by-city research. Because it was internet-accessible and shareable, we referenced it frequently during our city walks.
One annoying thing (also the case with Evernote) is every time you look at a Google doc on your phone, it refreshes the page, which sucks if you have to scroll through 25 pages to get back to the right place.
We put our full daily schedule in a Google Sheet. I also kept track of all of our expenses in a Google Sheet. Nothing fancy, but again, I didn’t have to use a separate third-party app to do it.
Interested in more? Read about my family’s adventure around Europe: Part I