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(Cross-posted on the ITA Software By Google blog)

Google aims to help people turn their intents into actions, lightning fast. For travelers, this means we’re helping to take the complexity out of planning a trip by making it fast and easy for users to find the information they need to plan their next journey. Whether you’re looking for information about flights, hotels, activities or destinations, we have tools to help you -- and they are easily accessible for people on the go. Some of our favorite new functionality is outlined below.

More information, better presentation 

This year, we’ve made some changes to the user interface of Flight Search, and added features that offer more information about amenities and fees; we did this to help users feel well-informed, and to help them quickly choose the best itinerary.

For instance, you can now quickly compare multiple destinations and multiple days simultaneously, using live prices, with our recently introduced experimental feature called Flight Explorer. Try it at www.google.com/flights/explorer.

    Flight Explorer experiment search results page 

You can also use a number of new features to tailor your flight shopping:
  • More easily calculate the total cost of your trip by taking a look at the baggage fees displayed next to each flight option 
  • Choose a flight offering in-air connectivity by viewing a new indicator noting flights that offer Wi-Fi 
  • Consider a little more luxury in the sky by comparing the cost of flying business or first class instead of coach 
  • Easily plan complex itineraries -- such as those including multiple stops, or trips that involve a flight into one city and a return trip from another -- without confusion, using our new, user-friendly interface 
    Multi-city trip, Wi-Fi availability indicator, upgrade cost and checked baggage fees 

    Going global 

    In March, we made it possible for users to find flights to more than 500 destinations outside the US. Soon after, we enabled this capability for any international destination airport, for flights originating from the US or Canada. Globetrotters can try these features at www.google.com/flights, or just type your departure city and destination in the search box.

    Results for international destination flight 

    And late this year, we rolled out localized versions of Hotel Finder in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, UK and Ireland. Now, people in those areas can search for and view hotel options in their own language and currency.

    Helping people make informed hotel choices 

    In 2012, we made it even easier to find and book the right hotel for you using Hotel Finder. We also added more content including Zagat reviews and amenities. Hotel Finder now shows the price and availability for a choice of room types.

    Pricing information, reviews, hotel details on Hotel Finder 

    Varying room types on Hotel Finder 

    You can try these features, and others, at www.google.com/hotels.

    Empowering road warriors, delivering better destination data 

    In September, we made it easier for you to find the information needed to plan a trip, whether you’re searching via desktop, smartphone or tablet.

    Soon after, updates to Google Now offered a number of ways for you to stay informed while on the go:
    • Automatic flight status notifications 
    • Updates on weather at your destination 
    • Showcase of events happening nearby 
    • Website suggestions to help you explore as you research things to do
    • Electronic boarding pass cards for ease of travel
    Google now travel cards

    Finally, you can easily tap into the collective intelligence of the web to uncover a list of information relevant to your destination, using the Knowledge Graph carousel -- and hopefully, find inspiration.

    Knowledge Graph carousel list of activities in Rome

    Stay tuned for more. We think you’ll love what we have coming your way in 2013.

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    As 2012 comes to a close, it's time for our 12th annual Year-End Zeitgeist—an in-depth look at the "spirit of the times" as seen through the billions of searches on Google over the past year.

    On our 2012 Zeitgeist website, you can explore the most popular and hottest trending search terms from around the world. This year’s site is our most global to date, with a total of 838 lists from 55 countries. We’ve also added a number of new features, including an interactive map that shows where and when some of the hottest terms spiked around the world, and a Google Zeitgeist Android app coming out later today (with an iOS version coming soon too).

    For a round-the-globe tour through 2012, take a look at our video:



    So what kinds of things were top of mind this year? While there are perennial themes—“what is love?” topped the list in 10 countries—it’s the unusual and surprising that caught our attention in 2012.

    Global superstar Whitney Houston topped many countries’ lists as well as three of our overall trending lists—her unexpected death surprising fans around the world. From Korea, YouTube sensation PSY’s “Gangnam Style” signature dance took the world by storm, landing him the #1 spot in many countries and making his song the second most trending query of 2012. (PSY’s video became the #1 most watched in YouTube history—stay tuned for YouTube’s Rewind for more.)


    Then there was the superhuman. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s epic free fall jump made him the #6 globally trending person of the year, while the 2012 Olympics and its various athletes made it into almost every country’s top trends. And NBA player Jeremy Lin also rose on the charts this year, making him the #1 trending athlete globally.

    People researched a breadth of other topics, too. Web users took a serious interest in threats to the open Internet, with proposals like SOPA and ACTA both finding their way to the top of many countries’ lists. The U.S. elections brought attention to the candidates and issues, not least the presidential campaigns’ most notorious political gaffes. And while it might not be surprising to see that tragic natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy ranked highly (#3 on the global trending list), it is reassuring to find searches like [donate to Sandy] spiking as well.

    We hope you enjoy exploring what people around the world were searching for in 2012. It’s quite a snapshot of what makes us human: a blend of guilty pleasures and higher pursuits.

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    It’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. On the one hand, it’s a joyous time of the year full of festivities and delicious baked goods. On the other hand, it’s stressful. For something like traveling which is already stressful on its own, traveling during the holidays can feel like twice the trouble.

    One way to cut down on some of the stress before you head to the airport is to plan ahead. Let’s say this year you’re traveling to France for the holidays. Here are some quick answers that can make your planning faster and easier -- we recently redesigned these features to be richer and more interactive on mobile and tablet, and now you’ll see them on desktop as well, so you can plan ahead whether you’re at home or on the go:
    • Figure out your budget. Since luggage space is limited and you don’t want to pay an overage fee, you may want to buy your gifts when you land in France. Find the currency exchange rate ahead of time so you can figure out how much that $15 (USD) fruitcake actually costs in euros by searching [15 usd in euro] or [french currency].
    • Learn about French traditions. Friends who live in Paris have invited you to their reveillon dinner. Trouble is, you don’t know what that means. You can quickly find the answer by typing [define reveillon] in Google.
    • Plan your holiday Hangouts. Even though you’ll be oceans apart, you can still wish your family a happy holidays in person. Schedule a date for a Google+ Hangout, but don’t forget to factor in the time difference, which you can figure out by searching [time in france].
    • Track your flight before you leave the house. To avoid arriving at the airport only to find out your flight’s been delayed for hours, you can quickly check the flight status by typing the flight number like [united airlines 942] or [UA942], into the search box.

    Other quick answers we’re updating on desktop over the next few weeks are finance, unit conversion, holiday and sunrise times, and weather. And, of course, you can also make your holidays easier to manage using things like our Flight Search feature to book your trip, Google+ to share your photos with family and friends, Google Docs to track your holiday spending, and more.

    Happy holidays!

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    Over the next few days, when you search in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, or Italian, you’ll start seeing new answers from the Knowledge Graph -- our project to map out real-world things as diverse as movies, bridges and planets. You can now quickly and easily discover new information relevant to your language and country.

    So in Japanese, your search for [白鵬] will bring up the top-ranked sumo wrestler, including his heya and ranks, and help you discover other highly-ranked sumo wrestlers. Or a Russian search for [петр I] will help you research the country’s historic Tzar Peter the Great, and explore connections to his family and other famous rulers. And if you’re a fan of football in Brazil, [corinthians] will show information including that team’s most recent championship wins -- all in your language.



    This is more than just translation. The Knowledge Graph needs to account for different meanings of the same word -- “football” means something quite different in the U.S. than in Europe. It also needs to recognize what's most important in a particular region. The graph now covers 570 million entities, 18 billion facts and connections, and about three times as many queries globally as when we first launched it -- we’ll keep working on making it more useful for you.

    Posted by Aaron Brown, Senior Product Manager, Search