How to Plan a Getaway with Google Travel Tools

We all have those “I want to getaway” moments, sometimes daily (hourly even).  If you are never sure where to start so that you stretch your dollars as far as they can possibly go, here’s some ways to make it happen.

Maybe, you haven’t had a vacation in a long time or there’s a place that you think you could never afford to go to.  I want to show you some ways to make it happen.  Stop dreaming, start traveling.

Google keeps making it easier and easier to find what you need within your budget.  I get it, calling a travel agent can be scary if you’ve never done it before.  There are definitely lots of reasons why I believe (us) travel agents are worth our weight in gold, but I also know that DIYers can do a good job for themselves when armed with the right tools.  Either way, I’m still your travel advisor, just so you know. We’re stuck together, BFF’s now.

Mind if I segue for a sec and tell you what your travel agent really wants from you?

  • 1.  Honesty about your budget.  There’s no judgement, I seriously can’t help you if you give me an impractical number.
  • 2.  Realistic about your goals.  I know you want the most luxurious stay ever; we all do.  I can only try to give you what you realistically can afford though. (There’s also lots of ways to make it affordable!)
  • 3.  Flexibility.  If the budget is tight, the timeline needs some flexibility.  If the timeline is tight, the budget might need to flex.
  • 4.  More honesty.  No need to ghost, just say thanks but no thanks.  Tell the truth, what price do I need to beat?  Which hotel would you rather stay at? You really don’t like morning flights? You hate that airline? It’s fine, boundaries make good foundations.

Back to the business at hand.  Using google to DIY that trip.  I bet you have been starting at the search bar.  That’s fine, you can do that too but let’s go straight to the tools.

Google Travel

Google Flights

Hotel Search

The Big Question is “Where can I go?”

If you just want to find something new and local, just do the following:

Search: “fun things to do near me” or “fun things to do in ________”

If you’re looking for a surprising non-local adventure, then we want to start at Google Travel and hit “Explore”.  It will give you some great ideas like:

  • A weekend at the Grand Canyon – May 13 – 16 Round Trip flight $117 from Orlando to Phoenix.
  • A weekend at Niagara Falls – May 6 – 9 Roundtrip flight $103 from Orlando to Buffalo.
screenshot mco to buf
screenshot by interest

If your dates aren’t flexible, pick a time period, a certain month, or specific dates to search for the best price during that time.

If you move the map, you can widen your search to other parts of the world.

screenshot costa rica 1

How about a week in September in San Jose, Costa Rica? Sep 9 – 15 shows Orlando to San Jose on Spirit $276 and COPA $333 (COPA includes a carry-on bag but the spirit flight is Nonstop, oh decisions, decisions).

This is my best kept and most beloved secret.  I plan my trips around the deal!  But don’t go booking flights yet, always check hotels next.  You never know what could be happening in the city during that great flight price.  True stories: You could wind up booking a flight to Paris just as Fashion Week comes to a close and the best hotels are sold out months in advance.  You could book a flight to New Orleans during a music festival.  Conferences and festivals can make finding a best value hotel price much harder.  (I’m not saying your travel agent will know everything going on everywhere, but she might.)

Streamlining Your Travel Dreams

If you start at Explore and use the details by selecting how many travelers, you can find the cheapest places in Europe to take your family of 5 for a 2-week trip in the next 6 months:

Dublin – Oct. 9 – 25, $2249 avg hotel price $134/nt

Reykjavik – Sep. 16 – Oct. 1, $2268, avg hotel price $160/nt

Stockholm – Oct. 7 – 20, $2582, avg hotel price $127/nt

Pay close attention to how many stops and duration of flights, those really low prices can mean a long day of travelling.

Google makes it easy for you!  Right there after you find that great deal, on the left side are options:

Things to Do – Top Sights, Sights by interest, and you can see travel articles

Hotels – I hate to say it, but they’ve thought of everything.  You may not even need me after really exploring all that Google provides unless you just want to see photos and come for my witty banter.  If you click these little links, you’re going to see Where to Stay ( a breakdown of the areas), When to visit (climate and pricing), and What you’ll pay (2 – 5 star hotels, usual pricing, and how many hotels are available).

screenshot costa hotels

Vacation Rentals – I don’t mention them often but when I do, it is usually highly recommended rentals or Marriott homes and villas.  It’s so important to have a good idea of what to expect, in this area, you’ll see prices, photos, a location summary, and a review summary.  If you can see TripAdvisor reviews and other hotel industry reviews, that provides even more to help you make an educated decision that you will feel good about.

screenshot vacation rental

And an ever present COVID warning so you are aware of what to expect. (sign of the times)

screenshot covid advisory
screenshot where to stay

If you know where you want to stay, here’s how Google’s travel tools can help you figure out when to stay there.  When you see a DEALS badge, next to the hotel, it is usually a below normal rate that may be offered by the hotel or a partner.   

One day in April can be as low as $168 while it might be $291 per night in May.

The best part of the location summary is that it can set your expectations for how easy/hard it is to walk to nearby things to do, the airports, and the transit options.

Popular hotels or resorts will even have reviews from all across the web.

screenshot review summary

5 More Features You’ll Love

1.  Track flight prices. Put in your preferences, departure, destination, and then turn on the switch next to “track prices” to receive an email when there is a significant price change.  You can even track a specific flight.

2.  If it shows “prices are unlikely to drop before you book”, you should probably book it today.

3.  Click the down arrow next to the price of a flight to see average legroom and amenities like in-seat power, WiFi, or streaming media.

4.  Still undecided on a destination? Go to Things to Do and you will see the Reasons to visit.  On a business trip – this is perfect for you so you’re not all business and no play time!

5.  Have specific needs like outdoors, kid-friendly, or just want to go where the locals go?  “Top Sights by Interest” answers those questions for you.

Guess what – you can also look for hotels and things to do inside google maps! If a restaurant has online ordering, you’ll sometimes see it right there.  That truly makes my day after a long day of wandering.  If you research before you go, you can bookmark the ones you find.  That’s one way to avoid those low moments when you’re not sure what to do next.  This way, you are always ready and can be a non-stop wandering warrior.  Don’t rely on this completely though, I have been in places and saw all sorts of restaurants and things to do that just didn’t come up while I was researching. 

Did you know that you can turn off the location history?  I like being able to look back and see when I visited a place or trying to recall the name of restaurant but if you don’t, you can turn this off.  You can even set it to auto delete after a certain time period.  Click on Activity Controls to explore those more.

screenshot activity controls

If you find that you really don’t want to do all that work – then by all means, book with your favorite travel advisor! That’s why we’re here.

And don’t forget the insurance! Didn’t 2020 teach you that?

Happy Wandering!

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