The Internet offers vast resources for travelers, but don’t overlook one of the most basic sources of information: Google.
The search box on the Google home page puts all sorts of information at your fingertips without requiring you to go to separate websites.
Wondering about the weather where you’re going? Type the name of any city or zip code in the search box with the word “weather.” You’ll get the current temperature and conditions, plus a four-day forecast.
If you simply type “weather” with no city, you’ll get the weather for wherever you are — for example, outside your hotel room if you’re already in your destination.
Google also offers instant currency conversions. In the main Google search box, simply type the amount and type of currency and you’ll get an instant conversion to dollars, unless you specify some other currency. So, type in “200 euros,” and you’ll get a conversion to $280.16 (depending on the day’s rates), without having to go to a currency conversion website.
You can track flights through Google searches too, again without going to another website. Type “AF 22” in the search box and the following result pops up: “Track status of AF 22 from Paris (CDG) to New York (JFK),” with information about Air France flight number 22’s departure and arrival time.
World time can be instantly accessed as well. Type “time Athens” or “Athens time” into the search box and the current time for Athens, Greece, appears.
Google Maps offers a wealth of information. Type a place name into the Google Maps search box, click on the result that matches your destination, and you’ll get a map on the right hand side of the page and photos on the left. You can click for directions or, under “More,” get the mesmerizing “Street View.” Street View is available in 25 countries, but there are still some places where you’ll have to stick with still photos, like Darwin, Australia.
Click “Search nearby” in Google Maps and you can find just about anything in the destination. Type in “museum” or “pizza” and listings pop up. Type in “hotels” and you’ll get options for lodgings, check-in and check-out dates, along with a small photo, the hotel’s address and phone number, a price, and reviews.
Using My Maps, you can also map out your walking tour and see how long it is in miles; add your favorite hotels and eateries as a guide for someone else; and after the trip, turn that map into a scrapbook with text, photos and videos you collected along the way. There’s a tutorial to get you started.
Google Translate is a good resource for help with foreign languages. You can find a word, a phrase or have an entire document, Web page or message translated. It’s instantaneous and includes some lesser-known languages such as Maltese and Galician.
So bring your web-ready device on your next trip, try some of these basic Google searches, and you’ll be well-prepared for last-minute changes of plans, surprise thunderstorms — and even conversations with the locals.