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Google adds COVID restriction alerts, new road-trip mapping features, as vaccines enable safer travel

If you’re like me, the vaccine shot in your arm means you’re looking into finally taking a trip after staying locked down for a year. To help you travel safely and in line with local guidelines, Google will now send you alerts regarding pandemic-related restrictions at your destination along with other handy travel tools for the COVID era.

Google is today announcing three new features to help those in the US who are interested in taking a trip after more than a year of staying home now that vaccines are widely available.

The first of these new features is regarding COVID-19 travel restrictions and advisories. As cases in the United States drop, many states, counties, and cities have changed their restrictions as well as screening regulations. Frankly, it can be a bit of a headache to keep up with, and that’s where Google’s new tool can come in handy. When you start planning a trip, you can enable alerts from Google about COVID restrictions and regulations at your destination, or whether you’ll need to quarantine upon arrival, provide a negative test, and/or confirm that you’ve been vaccinated.

You can now also track travel advisories or restrictions for your destination and get email updates. If you are signed into your Google account, you can toggle “Receive an email if this guidance changes.” You’ll be notified when restrictions are added, lifted or reduced. These updates are country-specific, with state-specific information available in the United States.

The second feature Google is adding this week is a revamp to the “Explore” tab for its Travel site. Instead of just showing flights, the page will now show places you can get to both by plane and by car, the second being added as an option because, obviously, it’s a safer method of transportation during the pandemic. You can easily set the page to “Flights Only,” though, if you’d prefer to go on a longer trip. This change is live now.

You’ll see more destinations on the map — including smaller cities and national parks — and if you have a certain type of trip in mind, you can filter destinations for interests like outdoors, beaches or skiing. If you only want to see cities with an airport, select flights only in “Travel Mode.” When you pick a destination, we’ll show you if there’s a travel advisory or restriction and, in addition to the best flights, you’ll see other helpful information for planning your trip, like hotels, things to do, the best time to visit and more.

Finally, Google Maps is adding more features for road trips. From the Google Maps website you’ll now be able to start your starting location and destination and find different stops along the way including hotels, parks, and rest stops. You can plan out every stop on your journey, and when you’re done, you can send that to your phone so the navigation directions are ready to go.

When you visit Google Maps on your desktop computer, enter your starting point and your final destination, and at the top of the map you can choose from different types of places to stop like hotels, parks, campgrounds, and rest stops. Select a specific location and add it as a stop.

Google says it’s introducing these tools at a time when travel demand is growing considerably. In April 2021, the company says searches for hotels reached its highest point in the past 10 years with “travel restrictions by country” also at an all-time high. The company says that more people are looking for domestic trips in the US at the moment as well.

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