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10 ways to use Google to plan a trip

Google maps can be helpful when planning a

Google maps can be helpful when planning a vacation Credit: Handout

Planning your spring break or summer getaway? The Web is your best tool for finding hotels, figuring out exchange rates and even translating foreign menus. Here are 10 Google tips for maximizing the bang you get from your online searches.

1. Find hotel prices directly on Google Maps. Did you know you no longer need to copy and past addresses from one site into a map to see its location? For several major cities in the United States, you can now see nightly rates when you do a search for hotels in Google Maps.

Try it out: Search for  “hotel in los angeles” on Google Maps

2. Search for airline tickets. You can type in the airport codes where you’ll depart and arrive, then enter your travel dates and select which ticket vendor site you’d like to visit.

Try it out: Search for an airline ticket between New York and Orlando by typing in: "JFK MCO March 27 April 4 Expedia" into the general Google search box.

3. Preview your destination using Google Street View. Check out the attractions near your hotel by viewing Google's 360-degree ground-level photos in more than 25 countries around the world.

Try it out: View the surroundings of the Plaza Hotel in New York by searching "Plaza Hotel New York." Right click the map icon and select "more," then "street view"

4. Weather: Check out the weather for many cities in the United States and around the world by typing "weather" followed by the name of the city or ZIP code. To plan what to wear on a day of sightseeing, type "weather" into the search box and see the weather of your current location.

Try it out: Search for "weather in Buenos Aires"

5. Translate. Google Translate can translate words from English to French and back, as well as Spanish, German, Chinese, Hindi and many other languages. You can also use it to  translate entire documents or Web pages to and from different languages. Or enter any website address into, and it will automatically detect the language and translate it into English. You can also translate phrases by typing directly into Google’s search box.

Try it out: Translate "Parlez-vous Francais?"

6. View local search results on a map: When you want to find somewhere to eat, enter the type of food plus the town or postal code and Google will display the results on a map and give you directions for getting there.

Try it out: Search for ‘barbecue in Memphis’ on Google Maps

7. Convert currency: Type "ten pounds in euros" to bring up the conversion chart and see the latest exchange rates for currencies traded around the world.

Try it out: Convert 100 Yen into U.S. dollars by typing "ten pounds in euros" into the Google search box, then click "view more conversions" and select yen into dollars.

8. World Clock: To see the time in many cities around the world, type in "time" and the name of the city.

Try it out: Type "Cape Town time" into the search box

9. Flight Tracker: To see flight status for arriving and departing U.S. flights, type in the name of the airline and the flight number into the search box.

Try it out: Check the status of United Airlines Flight 100 from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. by searching "United Airlines 100"

10. Plot your trip by adding your own icons to Google Maps: Make your own travel maps with My Maps, a feature of Google Maps that lets you personalize the map by adding your own icons. Before your trip, you can use this tool to mark all the hotels you’re considering staying at and all the sights you want to be sure to see. Then decide which is in the most convenient location. I used this tool to map out driving distances between stops on a recent trip and it really helped when budgeting time. You can also share My Maps with friends and family so they can all participate in mapping out your trip. When the trip’s over, use My Maps as a virtual scrapbook: add icons on the map for the great picnic spot you found in the park or for the great little gelato stand you kept revisiting. You can even add text, photos and videos within My Map to help keep the memories alive.

Try it out: Click "My Maps" on the left side of the page to get started.

Share your search tips in the comments section below.

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