Google Now Improvements Make Holiday Travel Easier

With Google Now, Android users will get even more helpful and topical information that automatically pops up on their mobile devices as they travel.

Google engineers are expanding Google Now to give travelers even more up-to-date travel information instantly and automatically, without their having to push a single button for updates on their Android mobile devices.

The Now service is being broadened beyond simple up-to-the-minute weather alerts and upcoming appointments in a user’s current location to bring them helpful information on the weather and things to do in the city of their destination as they travel.

This more thorough "info-as-you-travel" feature is what makes Google Now even better, Baris Gultekin, product management director for Google Now, wrote in a Dec. 5 post on the Android Official Blog.

"Before you even leave your house, Google Now will tell you what the weather will be like at your destination (just in time to make sure you remember to pack those mittens)," wrote Gultekin. "At the airport, your boarding pass is automatically pulled up, helping you breeze through to the gate (launching shortly for United Airlines, with more to come)."

Then once at their destination, Google Now will display options for things to do in that new location. The service will offer information on local events near users, as well as suggestions for Websites to explore the events and to get more information on museums, culture and more on their journey.

Google Now presents its information through a series of flip-through "cards" that are visible on the screen of Android mobile devices, providing a different piece of information on each card. The "cards" appear on Android mobile devices at the moment they are needed by users, such as the train schedule card appearing when they are heading to the local train station. Presently, the service is available for devices running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or higher.

"All of this builds on top of some of the other cards designed for travel, like the currency conversion, translation and flight status cards—hopefully taking a little bit of the stress out of holiday travel so you can focus on family and fun," wrote Gultekin.

Google also announced upgrades to Google Voice Search as part of the Now updates, giving users the ability to now find out the name of a song that's playing by using the voice feature to ask, "What's this song?"

Other new voice-activated services include the ability to quickly find product info by using the voice feature to say "scan this barcode" and to post updates on Google+ via a user’s voice, according to Gultekin.

Users of Google Now set their own preferences for what information cards appear on their mobile devices. The cards include details such as flight information, traffic reports, sports scores, appointments, weather, hotels, events, restaurant reservations and more.

Travelers can get even more useful information and reduce some of their stress during the holiday travel season using other Google features, according to a related Dec. 5 post by Robert Stacey, a Google software engineer, on the Google Inside Search blog.

"One way to cut down on some of the stress before you head to the airport is to plan ahead," wrote Stacey. "Let's say this year you’re traveling to France for the holidays. Here are some quick answers that can make your planning faster and easier—we recently redesigned these features to be richer and more interactive on mobile and tablet, and now you'll see them on desktop as well, so you can plan ahead, whether you're at home or on the go."

Users can put the Google features to work for them by learning about traditions in their destination before their trips begin, as well as scheduling agreed-upon times for online conversations with friends and relatives back home using Google+ Hangout while traveling. Users can do a quick Google Search to check on the time difference so the calls can be made at times that work for both parties, Stacey wrote.

Travelers can also check their flight status before heading to the airport by just typing the flight number and airline into Google Search and getting a status update, he wrote. Similar search features are coming soon for the desktop, including quick search capabilities for finance, unit conversion, and holiday and sunrise times.