During the last couple of weeks I have been testing Google Trips, TripIt and Visit a City in my quest for one itinerary app to rule them all. Each of these apps excels in some ways, but also falls short in very disappointing ways.
This is what I want and need in an itinerary planner:
- Keep all my trip related information (reservations, notes, etc.) in one place
- Be smart enough to use my hotel information and favorite places to build daily itineraries. But also only include attractions that are open on the days/times it adds them to my plans.
- Provide transportation information offline i.e. let me know how to get from the airport to my hotel, from my hotel to places I want to visit as well as from one point of interest to the next, then back to my hotel. Ideally this information can be minimized and expanded as needed, but I should never depend on WiFi or mobile service to access it.
- Provide little handy extras like packing checklists, tips, etc.
While these are the most important items for me, I understand others would like trip related recommendations such as hotels, restaurant and top attractions. Two of the apps in question provide such assistance, I personally prefer to make my own research rather than blindly accept their suggestions.
Let’s begin by analyzing how my go to app, Google Trips (GT) meets my 4 requirements. I have been using GT since I became aware of it , it tends to make my life easier by automatically importing almost all my travel information. I point out most, because GT can’t seem to be able to import ferry information. We have a ferry which was completely left out of our plans, and the app won’t let me add the information. I would say GT gets me 80% where I want to be in terms of keeping all my trip information handy.
I have an even bigger issue when it comes to my daily itinerary or as the app calls it “Day Plans.”This might be Google’s least flexible function ever. The app decides where you should go based on who-knows-what. Even when you select “Favor saved places in day plans,” GT seems to blatantly ignore my wishes. Google is supposed to know everything about us, but it seems to not apply it when it comes to Day Plans. For instance, the app knows my hotel’s location, but it does not take it into consideration when building “smart” daily itineraries. I might not necessarily want to go to the most popular spots or maybe I have already been there which Google knows, but the app ignores. By the way, good luck trying to add a place or attraction on your own.
I would love it if GT allowed me to simply add the attractions that I want to visit and then did its magic calculating the best way to visit each place.
GT let’s me download maps and plans for offline use, yet in practice this approach has not work for us in the past. I remember last year in Paris, what should have been super smooth became a waste of time. As I search for the perfect app, I have resorted to printing directions to the most important places i.e. airport to the hotel, hotel to the port, etc. One can never assume there will be WIFI everywhere. While you might have downloaded the map for the area you are visiting, you won’t be able to get A to B directions of any kind.
GT falls short when it comes to my last requirement since it does not offer checklists, ability to add notes or any other extras beyond its discounts section.
As you can see, my frustrations with GT especially when used in remote locations without easy internet access, have made me want to look beyond in hopes of finding an app that meets all my wants and needs. GT is still fantastic for many travel styles. In our case things are a bit more complicated since we will be visiting several international locations. On the next post we will see how TripIt and Visit a City do.