Google City Tours

google city tours + sightseeing[trip style = sightseeing]

Google City Tours, a DIY Traveler’s Dream Come True? Do-it-yourself travelers of the world rejoice, moonlight as a tour guide with Google City Tours.  Launched last summer, this map-based, itinerary planning service allows you to search, find and refine sightseeing options for the city you're visiting.

Whether you have one or five days to explore, Google’s attempt at a DIY tour application can help pinpoint major tourist attractions, their distance from one another, how much time it will take to walk from one to another, how long you should stay at each, as well as the attraction's hours and star-rating.  According to Google, City Tours “helps you identify points of interest and plan multi-day trips to most major cities. You just specify the location of your hotel and the length of your trip and City Tours will map out an itinerary for you.”

Forget about booking with Tour companies? Not so fast. At this point, City Tours only indexes major cities, so if you fancy a getaway off the beaten track, conduct your research elsewhere or talk to a tour company specializing in the region.

Putting Google City Tours to the Test With high hopes, I tried to get a one-day, walking guide for a city I know well. Entering “Vancouver, Canada” into the search box produced the following results: - Granville Island Model Ships Museum 09:16, for 60 minutes - walk about 24 minutes - Vancouver Museum 10:40, for 60 minutes - walk about 3 minutes - Vancouver Maritime Museum 11:43, for 60 minutes - walk about 38 minutes - Roedde House Museum 13:21, for 60 minutes - walk about 9 minutes - AldrichPears Associates 14:30, for 60 minutes - walk about 23 minutes - Canadian Craft & Design Museum 15:53, for 60 minutes

After reviewing all the results listed, you learn why the application is still in within lab mode---Google’s testing ground for any application that makes it to the mainstream. For instance, the second last result in my one-day Vancouver itinerary suggests I go to Aldrich Pears Associates. Strange, I've never heard of this tourist attraction even though I’ve lived in the city my whole life.  Clicking the link takes me to a company who does planning and design for museums, science centers and zoos---oops, an incorrect assessment of attraction.

And what about major tourist areas like Stanley park or Yaletown?  In order to add these sights, you need to click Add/Remove Sights. One pitfall to be aware of is Google’s current definition of attraction. If the location is not listed as a museum, exhibition or the like, it will not show up in the itinerary. I can’t imagine a tourist coming to Vancouver without seeing our oceanside parks, vibrant markets and chic neighborhoods.

It’s not a perfect science, but Google City Tours is an excellent tool to keep in your travel planning arsenal as a means of comparing and contrasting the info you gather from other sources.  If Google decides to develop the application more, it will become a DIY traveler's dream come true.