Google City Tours Simplifies Trip Planning – Adds Walking Directions, Custom Maps

December 31, 2009 0

San Francisco — The team at Google Labs last summer introduced a new service dubbed as Google City Tours, one of the ongoing projects by Google Labs team that has tweaked the interface that generated a tour of various attractions near a location including real walking directions and My Maps integration within walking distance of the starting point–making it more friendly as to how people actually vacation: head to a city, pick places to go, and get precise directions to them.

It fine tuned the service as it still had some rough edges, but it proved useful enough to become quite popular. It had a few major catches, though some of which have since been rectified by the developers team which is now providing an update on their progress.

“Six months ago we introduced City Tours on Google Labs with the goal of making vacation planning as easy as searching the web,” Trevor Johnston, software engineer from Google Zurich, wrote. “Though City Tours is still in Google Labs, the purpose was clear and the demo was popular, so we have continued to work on it over the past few months to take into account the hundreds of suggestions from users all across the globe.”

At launch, City Tours did a decent job of knowing neat places to go inside a city, and even extended such information as when they were open and what they cost. Moreover, easing the travelers stress, also tells you how far apart those destinations were.

Now City Tours has been upgraded on three fronts. First, it now includes detailed walking directions and times in your itinerary. The tours can be tailored according to a specific day and time, and Google will modify the tour to avoid sending you to sites it believes will be closed at that hour. For example, this walking tour of New York bookstores tells you to plan on spending 45 minutes at Patners & Crime and would not send you to the Mysterious Bookshop after 7 PM.

And if you are a My Maps nerd who has picked out spots to visit on your own, now, City Tours can import those data from Google Maps to plot the path and takes into account several factors like road conditions, where the bridges are and others, so you get a mix of suggestions and pre-picked favorites. At the same, it still considers things like operating hours when suggesting locations and the emphasis is still on minimizing the distance between attractions.

Finally, Google made a bunch of other smaller updates and enhancements both to help usability and make City Tours behave more like the Google Maps site users are familiar with. Although, Google says that City Tours is still a Labs project and will be for a while, but it will continue to work towards taking advantage of the tools and services the company already offers, while also improving the original features and adding new ones.