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At a time when travel is fraught with cancellations, frequent changes and the need to socially distance, Google has added some helpful features to its travel platform. New search filters, local data and updated information on travel restrictions aim to help travelers get around safely and avoid unpleasant surprises.
Here’s a rundown of Google’s new travel search tools and how they can help you better plan pandemic-era travel.
Get local COVID-19 data for your destination
Google travel searches now display COVID-19 trends at your destination, along with suggestions for things to do and places to go. Simply type in a destination like “Austin” or “San Diego” and up-to-date info will be included right at the top of the page under a drop-down menu headed “COVID Trends in …” Click the drop-down arrow to see travel advisories, local cases, the percentage of hotels with availability, and the percentage of flights operating in and out of the destination. There are also links to CDC and Google News pages with more detailed info.
This creates a convenient look for your pandemic travel research, saving you visits to multiple websites before deciding if you can — or should — book a trip.
Find flexible hotels
When looking for hotels with Google, you can filter your search results based on cancellation policies and even properties that have COVID-19 responder rooms available.
Prior to this summer, travelers could filter only for criteria like rating, amenities and price. So the ability to single out hotels with free cancellation policies means peace of mind at a time when canceled flights and the ability to travel safely are real concerns. And you don’t have to wade through several pages of terms and conditions on hotel booking sites to get this valuable information.
The dedicated search filter to identify properties offering COVID-19 responder rooms can help those traveling to address local health issues.
» Learn more: The latest in travel news
Search for flights
If you search for international flights to a place where travel restrictions are in place — Rome, for example — you’ll see an alert advising you of those restrictions, with a link to a page with more details.
» Learn more: Where U.S. citizens can travel right now
The bottom line
Though you won’t find highly detailed information like local mask mandates or business closures, Google now offers more of what you need to book COVID-era travel with confidence. Even if you're driving instead of flying, Google maps can also now alert you to any checkpoints or restrictions along your road trip route.
With a few clicks, you can get an idea of how far along a destination is on the road to recovery, whether confirmed cases are rising or falling and even whether you can travel to the destination at all.
Getting all this information on the same platform where you can find cancelable hotel rooms saves you time and can ease your mind. And though you can’t book award travel through Google with most points and miles programs, you can use it to make decisions before booking through Google or any other site you choose.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card