Tired of packing a bag full of tour books for an international vacation? Replace them with one online resource that can provide all that information and more

Google has become a search engine institution. But it also features some interesting shortcuts and exciting features that can be used for easier travelling.

Google: A Virtual Guidebook

  • Check the weather. If you want to know the forecast for the city you’re planning to visit, simply type the city name into the search box, followed by the word “weather” and the current temperature, conditions, and a four-day forecast will come up. (If you just Google the word weather, it will tell you the forecast and weather right outside your door!)
  • Calculate the exchange rate. Google also acts as an instant currency converter. In the search box, type the amount of money and the type of currency and you'll get an instant conversion to Canadian dollars, unless you specify otherwise.
  • Track your flight. You can track flights through Google searches too. To see the flight statuses for arriving and departing flights, type in the name of the airline and the flight number into the search box. For example, key “Air Canada 205" into the search box and the status of the flight will appear with information about Air Canada flight number 205's departure and arrival times.
  • Check the time. World time can be instantly accessed as well. Type "time London" or "London time" into the search box and the city’s current time appears. This works for any city in the world.
  • Translate words. Google Translate can help decipher foreign languages. You can find a word, a phrase or have an entire document, Web page or message translated instantaneously and accurately.

Best of all, these searches pop right up on the Google results page, you don’t have to navigate to another page.

How to Use Google Maps for On-the-Road Assistance

Google Maps is also a vital resource when it comes to navigating the streets of a foreign place.

  • Find a location. Type a place name or address into the Google Maps search box, and you'll get a map on the right hand side of the page and photos on the left.
  • Find services nearby. Click "Search nearby" and you can find just about anything around your location. Type in museum or sushi and the locations’ listings pop up. Type in hotels and you'll get options for lodgings and check-in and check-out dates, along with a small photo, the hotel's address and phone number, a price, and reviews by other visitors.
  • Map your route. Use “My Maps” in Google Maps to plan a walking tour around your destination. Add your favourite hotels and restaurants as a guide for someone else and, after the trip, turn your map into an online scrapbook with text, photos and videos. There is even a video tutorial to get you started.

So before or during your trip, try out some of these basic Google searches and you'll be well-prepared for a last-minute change of plans, weather changes, and even conversations with the locals.