Now that we are officially in summer, road trips and vacations are on the national agenda — with a very unique twist. All 50 U.S. states—along with many other coronavirus-hit countries—are in various stages of reopening, and with businesses desperate for income and economies reliant on tourist money on the brink, people are once again being encouraged to venture out, enjoy some warm weather and get a long-overdue taste of normal life.
Figuring out just where to go and handle coronavirus-related precautions will make it a bit confusing, however, as countries and states have set their own schedules of reopening.
That’s where travel planning tools come in. Since the first phase one reopening in the U.S., navigation apps and auto insurers, both sitting on a gold mine of driver and commuter data, have built interactive maps and alert systems that will help you travel safely.
Google and Apple, despite their mixed success with the collaborated COVID-19 contact tracing system, have both rolled out new features to notify users of coronavirus-related travel information.
Starting this week, Google Maps, the world’s most popular navigation app with more than 150 million monthly users, is launching a set of updates to alert users about travel restrictions, potential virus hotspots and real-time information about nearby testing and medical facilities, Google said in a company blog post on Monday.
Google’s COVID-19 features are particularly helpful to commuters. For example, if you are taking public transportation for a trip, you can search on Google Maps to see if a particular train station is too crowded at the moment or if a bus is running on a limited schedule. If you are planning a trip in advance, you can also choose to see a full schedule of a transit station’s peak and slow hours based on historical activities.
These transit alerts will be first available in the U.S., the U.K., France, Argentina and several other countries.
For drivers, Google said the latest Maps app will show alerts about COVID-19 restrictions along a specific route, such as checkpoints at national borders. This feature is only available in North America (the U.S., Canada and Mexico) for now, with plans to expand to more countries.
“We’re showing these alerts where we’ve received authoritative data from local, state and federal governments or from their websites,” Google said, encouraging more government agencies to upload relevant data to the company’s portal.
Apple Maps hasn’t announced a similar travel-specific function just yet. But in April, Apple began publishing an interactive Mobility Trends Report, based on anonymized Apple Maps data, to show how travel habits have changed during the pandemic so as to help people make better travel decisions. For example, if you are considering traveling to New York City, you can search the city on Apple’s Mobility Trends page, and it will tell you how popular New York City is among travelers right now compared to its usual level.
Planning tools made by car insurers also come in handy, especially to domestic travelers. AAA’s COVID-19 interactive map, for instance, shows the latest coronavirus-related restrictions in each state and locality, including border crossing closures, checkpoints, national land closures and so on. For an even more straightforward and scannable guide, AARP has a regularly updated webpage detailing travel and quarantine restrictions of each state.