Google Travel is making it easier to plan a trip during the pandemic

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In this summer of quarantines, travel restriction and stay-at-home orders, perhaps it’s not surprising that Google has seen an increase in searches for safe places to go on vacation. Maybe we’re all feeling a little stir crazy. 

Compared to the beginning of the pandemic, travel restrictions are now loosening, making (a few) more areas available to visit. Since the impact of COVID-19 on certain destinations varies dramatically, Google wants to make it easier to stay updated on the latest information pertinent to places you want to go. 

So whether out of necessity or just to get out of town, if you’re looking to travel soon, here are a few of Google’s recent updates that may help you make confident travel decisions.

Google Travel’s COVID-19 additions

Enter your destination on Google Travel, and you’ll see new booking details. Data includes the percentage of open hotels with available rooms, as well as the percentage of flights operating based on Google’s flight and hotel data from the previous week.

You’ll also get information on average costs for flights and hotels, plus links to the U.S. Department of State travel advisories and up-to-date coronavirus disease trends. 

Earlier this summer, Google introduced driving alerts to notify travelers about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions, like when crossing international borders, while you follow your Google Maps route. 

For example, type in St. Lucia and you’ll find an alert: “There’s a government travel restriction related to coronavirus (COVID-19).” Once you click on that link, the St. Lucia Tourism Board website pops up, stating that “All arriving passengers including travelers from within the Designated Travel Bubble must have a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 7 days before arriving in Saint Lucia.” 

Don’t know if you’re in “the bubble,” you can then check and see, and if you’re not (the U.S. is not for St. Lucia) you’ll know that booking a trip may be a bit harder than originally expected. 

Free cancellations

Due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, people are looking to book travel that allows for flexibility. Many hotels and vacation rentals now waive cancellation and change fees to give travelers more confidence when planning trips. Now, when you enter a location into Google Hotels, you’ll be able to filter only to hotels that offer free cancellations. 

Responder rooms

Under the “more filters” tab you can check the box for “COVID-19 responder rooms,” which indicates hotels that offer discounted rates to those working essential jobs during the pandemic. 

COVID-19 trends

You’ll also see the current “COVID-19 trends” in your destination, this data indicates what percentage of hotels have vacancies and the percentage of flights which are operating compared to the same time last year. In the case of Chicago during mid-September, 72% of hotels have availability and 54% of flights are operating.

According to Google, travel trends are updated weekly and the diagrams show activity over the last 180 days.

Coronavirus case tracking

You’ll also find a handy link to Google’s Coronavirus case-tracking pages for the destination of interest. Data found on these pages shows the total number of cases and deaths in that particular county or area, based on statistics from The New York Times. It also links to COVID-related news articles for that area, where you’ll find information on mask mandates, dining restrictions and more.

Bottom line

While it’s still safest to stay at home during the pandemic, people are traveling. If you do plan to move about, Google is making it a bit easier to prepare for this new style of travel.

Virginia Brown is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets. She covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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