Tag Archives: Search

Humans Behind Search: Meet Catherine

Catherine is an Engineering Director for Search and a Tech Site Lead in the Google London office. She’s been managing software engineering teams since the early 90’s and joined Google in 2017 to lead the engineering team working on the Google mobile app.

What’s your favorite feature on mobile?

It’s got to be Hum to Search, without a doubt. If you go into the Google app on your phone and press the microphone button, you can hum a song and it will tell you what the song is. This has helped me quickly identify a tune so many times!

We do have a rigorous testing process, even for fun features like this, to make sure these things are something users can use and actually want. It’s a continuation of the Search premise, to keep answering the questions that niggle at you – but this time via audio.

What excites you about the future of Search?

Probably the fact that it simply keeps getting more helpful, as we combine our understanding of text, voice and images — so you’ll be able to find helpful information about whatever you see, hear and experience, in ways that are most intuitive to you. We’ve developed a helpful new function called multisearch, which means you can search with images and text at the same time. So even if you don’t have the words to describe what you’re looking for, you can get help. For example, you can search for similar products in a different color, or take a picture of wallpaper and ask for it on a blanket instead, or even how to look after the basil plant on your windowsill. We’re envisioning a future where you can search your whole world, any way and anywhere.

You’ve said before that software engineering is a very social thing. Can you expand on this?

We have an incredible team working on Search — people developing the machine learning models, the services, the software on the phone. How well those people communicate determines how well the software fits together, so it’s important people have psychological safety in the job. If they do, it means easy feedback mechanisms, good communication and tight team work.

It’s also down to leadership to make sure teams realize everyone has to succeed for the business to — that it’s really not a competition. When looking for our future Search stars, the whole person matters, not just their skills — so will you put users first, do the right thing, work well with others and create an inclusive environment? Those questions really help determine the right fit.

What do you think is a lesser known, but really useful fact about Search?

We’ve got a newish feature called ‘About this result’. When you’re searching for something, you can click an icon that then tells you more about how our systems determined a result might be a good match for your search. You can also find important context about a source or topic, before you visit a website. We’re trying to help people develop information literacy skills — so they can have more context about the sources of their information and understand how Search works. And it means they can be more savvy about what’s going on.

What do you enjoy most about working on a product like Search?

Just the impact. We have billions of users. Lots of people are relying on our information to help them in their daily lives, help them in extreme situations, help them always. It’s really nice to work on something you know people need and want. We are helpful — that’s it really. I rely on it – it’s how I live in my world. I worked in computers long before the internet, and I grew up spending hours in the library just looking things up – Search coming along changed all that. If you’d told me about this as a teenager I would have told you you were crazy!

Mental health resources you can count on

When you or someone you care for is going through a mental health situation, it can feel isolating, overwhelming and distressing. To get through those moments, access to the right resources can make all the difference.

Anxiety and depression increased by 25% across the globe during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and hospitals and doctor groups recently called mental health a national emergency for adolescents. With these issues on the rise, searches for "mental health therapist" and "mental health help" reached record highs this year in the U.S.

Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, geopolitical crises and economic concerns also hit home for many Americans. To help support mental health challenges stemming from these issues, our goal is to surface authoritative information you can trust, create access to helpful resources you need in the moment and show empathy for everyone facing mental health issues. So in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S., here are tools built to support you when you need it most.

Resources for those in crisis

We know that many people turn to Search to get actionable information during a personal crisis, whether it’s related to suicide, sexual assault, substance abuse or domestic violence. In the coming weeks, we’ll update Search to use our AI model MUM to automatically and more accurately detect personal crisis searches in order to show you the most relevant information when you need it.

We’ve also made it easier to access clinically-validated mental health self-assessments from Search for conditions such as depression, anxiety, postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These self-assessments, frequently used by medical professionals, are meant to help people understand how their self-reported symptoms might map to known mental health conditions.

On YouTube, updates to our crisis response panels better connect you with timely and important resources. For years, YouTube has shown crisis resource panels on certain search queries to connect people with local organizations that can help them through a moment of critical need. Now, crisis resource panels appear on the Watch Page and in search results. The number of topics that display crisis resources in YouTube search results has also expanded to include issues like depression, sexual assault and substance abuse.

A phone screen shows a YouTube video with a panel underneath that has contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In the past month, searches for "local drug rehab centers near me" reached an all-time high in the U.S. As part of our ongoing commitment to help people find useful and accurate information related to addiction and recovery and to support the newly instituted Fentanyl Awareness Day, our Recover Together resource has a new section. Here you can find more information about the prevalence of fentanyl in illegally-made pills and the importance of naloxone, a legal drug that can reverse overdose from opioids like fentanyl, heroin, morphine and oxycodone.

A desktop screen shows a map that can be used to search for recovery resources.

Building empathy and reducing stigma

Sharing stories about mental health can normalize the issue and reduce stigmas that deter people from getting help. Working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, YouTube created a guide for creators with tips on how to speak from personal experience, work with experts and use inclusive language.

To listen to supportive community stories and helpful information on mental health, you can watch videos in this playlist on YouTube. For younger audiences, the YouTube Kids app features mental health content on expressing emotions and building coping skills through music, art and more. For more on what YouTube is doing when it comes to mental health, check out this blog.

Personal moments of managing stress

In moments when you need a hand managing your stress levels, Fitbit can help. SelectFitbit devices include a Relax app for deep breathing or an EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor so you can better understand how your body responds to stress — which is especially important as we all cope with the stress of the pandemic. From there, you can take steps to adjust your activity levels, improve your sleep or practice mindfulness to help manage the impact on your wellbeing.

A Fitbit device screen shows the Relax app.

Over the past year in the U.S., searches for “5 minute meditation for anxiety” more than doubled. Using Google Assistant, you can find and play meditations from Calm on your Google Nest display to help relax during the day or fall asleep at night. Just say, "Hey Google, show me meditations from Calm" or "Hey Google, start a meditation."

A Nest Hub screen shows the Calm app experience.

Contributing to community wellbeing

Beyond providing resources to people using our products, we’re also helping organizations and researchers that contribute to mental health.

Since 2019, we've provided $2.7 million and nearly 30 Google.org Fellows to help The Trevor Project use AI to support LGBTQ+ youth in crisis. Most recently, Trevor and a team of Fellows built the AI-powered Crisis Contact Simulator (CCS) that lets volunteer trainees practice realistic conversations with digital youth personas. The Trevor Project recently introduced a new persona to expand their counselor training.

Ask for help when you need it

It is always okay to ask for help — whether that’s going to Google or YouTube with questions you’re not comfortable asking anyone else or opening up to your friends and family or connecting with experts who can help you through the difficult moments. We need to support each other however we can.

Seniors search what they see, using a new Lens

Technology shines when it helps us get things done in our daily lives, and that’s exactly why a group of around 100 very eager seniors gathered in Odense, Denmark. All older than 65, many up to 85, they decided to stay on top of the latest technological tricks and tools. On this March day, the eye-opener was the often overlooked potential in searching for information using visual tools, like Google Lens.

So now the seniors searched their surroundings directly: Scanned trees, plants, animals and buildings, used Translate to get hold of Turkish language menu cards or Japanese sayings, and found product declarations through barcode scanning.

The group was taking part in a training set up by Faglige Seniorer, which organizes 300,000 seniors in total. They first partnered with Google back in 2019 to train seniors in using voice to search, and now the time had come to use live images.

“Often, when I go for a walk, I stumble upon an unknown flower or a tree. Now I can just take a picture to discover what kind of plant I am standing before,” Verner Madsen, one of the participants, remarked. “I don’t need to bring my encyclopedia. It is really smart and helpful.”

Seniors in a country like Denmark are generally very tech savvy, but with digitization constantly advancing — accelerating even faster during two years of COVID-19 — some seniors risk being left behind, creating gaps between generations. During worldwide lockdowns, technological tools have helped seniors stay connected with their family and friends, and smartphone features have helped improve everyday life. One key element of that is delivering accurate and useful information when needed. And for that, typed words on a smartphone keyboard can often be substituted with a visual search, using a single tap on the screen.

Being able to "search what you see" in this way was an eye-opener to many. As the day ended, another avid participant, Henrik Rasmussen, declared he was heading straight home to continue his practice.

“I thought I was up to speed on digital developments, but after today I realize that I still have a lot to learn and discover,” he said.

Get the full picture with helpful context on websites

When you think about how you can stay safe online, you might immediately think of protecting your data, updating your passwords, or having control over your personal information. But another important part of online safety is being confident in the information you find.

Information quality — in other words, surfacing relevant information from reliable sources — is a key principle of Google Search, and it’s one we relentlessly invest in. We also give you tools to evaluate for yourself the reliability of the information you come across.

Helpful context on websites

One of the tools we launched last year, About this Result, has now been used more than 1.6 billion times. This tool is available in English on individual Search results, helping you to see important context about a website before you even visit it. More languages will be available for this tool later this year.

But we want to ensure you have the tools to evaluate information wherever you are online — not just on the search results page, but also if you’ve already picked a webpage to visit. So we’re making this helpful context more accessible as you explore the web.

Soon, when you’re viewing a web page on the Google App, you'll be able to see a tab with information about the source with just a tap — including a brief description, what they say about themselves and what others on the web say about them.

GIF showing the new helpful context feature for websites

Imagine you’re researching conservation efforts, and find yourself on an unfamiliar website of a rainforest protection organization. Before you decide to donate, you’d like to understand if it’s an organization you feel confident you should support. With this update, you’ll be able to find helpful context about a source while you’re already on a website.

You’ll be able to see context like this on any website — coming soon to the Google App on iOS and Android.

We hope this will not only give you more context and peace of mind when you search, but also help you explore with confidence.

A new Search tool to help control your online presence

Have you ever searched for your name online to see what other people can find out about you? You’re not alone. And for many people, a key element of feeling safer and more private online is having greater control over where their sensitive, personally-identifiable information can be found.

These days, it’s important to have simple tools to manage your online presence. That’s why we’re introducing a new tool in Google Search to help you easily control whether your personally-identifiable information can be found in Search results, so you can have more peace of mind about your online footprint.

Remove results about you in Search

You might have seen that we recently updated our policies to enable people to request the removal of sensitive, personally-identifiable information — including contact information, like a phone number, email address, or home address — from Search.

Now, we’re making it easier for you to remove results that contain your contact information from Google. We’re rolling out a new tool to accompany our updated policies and streamline the request process.

A gif showing a representation of a new tool that will allow people to easily request the removal of Search results containing their phone number, home address, or email address.

When you’re searching on Google and find results about you that contain your phone number, home address, or email address, you’ll be able to quickly request their removal from Google Search — right as you find them. With this new tool, you can request removal of your contact details from Search with a few clicks, and you’ll also be able to easily monitor the status of these removal requests.

This feature will be available in the coming months in the Google App, and you’ll also be able to make removal requests by going to the three dots next to individual Google Search results. In the meantime, you can make requests to remove your info from our support page.

It’s important to note that when we receive removal requests, we will evaluate all content on the web page to ensure that we're not limiting the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles. And of course, removing contact information from Google Search doesn’t remove it from the web, which is why you may wish to contact the hosting site directly, if you're comfortable doing so.

At Google, we strongly believe in open access to information, and we also have a deep commitment to protecting people — and their privacy — online. These changes are significant and important steps to help you manage your online presence — and we want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for you to be in control.

Improving skin tone representation across Google

Seeing yourself reflected in the world around you — in real life, media or online — is so important. And we know that challenges with image-based technologies and representation on the web have historically left people of color feeling overlooked and misrepresented. Last year, we announced Real Tone for Pixel, which is just one example of our efforts to improve representation of diverse skin tones across Google products.

Today, we're introducing a next step in our commitment to image equity and improving representation across our products. In partnership with Harvard professor and sociologist Dr. Ellis Monk, we’re releasing a new skin tone scale designed to be more inclusive of the spectrum of skin tones we see in our society. Dr. Monk has been studying how skin tone and colorism affect people’s lives for more than 10 years.

The culmination of Dr. Monk’s research is the Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale, a 10-shade scale that will be incorporated into various Google products over the coming months. We’re openly releasing the scale so anyone can use it for research and product development. Our goal is for the scale to support inclusive products and research across the industry — we see this as a chance to share, learn and evolve our work with the help of others.

Ten circles in a row, ranging from dark to light.

The 10 shades of the Monk Skin Tone Scale.

This scale was designed to be easy-to-use for development and evaluation of technology while representing a broader range of skin tones. In fact, our research found that amongst participants in the U.S., people found the Monk Skin Tone Scale to be more representative of their skin tones compared to the current tech industry standard. This was especially true for people with darker skin tones.

“In our research, we found that a lot of the time people feel they’re lumped into racial categories, but there’s all this heterogeneity with ethnic and racial categories,” Dr. Monk says. “And many methods of categorization, including past skin tone scales, don’t pay attention to this diversity. That’s where a lack of representation can happen…we need to fine-tune the way we measure things, so people feel represented.”

Using the Monk Skin Tone Scale to improve Google products

Updating our approach to skin tone can help us better understand representation in imagery, as well as evaluate whether a product or feature works well across a range of skin tones. This is especially important for computer vision, a type of AI that allows computers to see and understand images. When not built and tested intentionally to include a broad range of skin-tones, computer vision systems have been found to not perform as well for people with darker skin.

The MST Scale will help us and the tech industry at large build more representative datasets so we can train and evaluate AI models for fairness, resulting in features and products that work better for everyone — of all skin tones. For example, we use the scale to evaluate and improve the models that detect faces in images.

Here are other ways you’ll see this show up in Google products.

Improving skin tone representation in Search

Every day, millions of people search the web expecting to find images that reflect their specific needs. That’s why we’re also introducing new features using the MST Scale to make it easier for people of all backgrounds to find more relevant and helpful results.

For example, now when you search for makeup related queries in Google Images, you'll see an option to further refine your results by skin tone. So if you’re looking for “everyday eyeshadow” or “bridal makeup looks” you’ll more easily find results that work better for your needs.

Animated GIF showing a Google Images search for “bridal makeup looks.” The results include an option to filter by skin tone; the cursor selects a darker skin tone, which adjusts to results that are more relevant to this choice.

Seeing yourself represented in results can be key to finding information that's truly relevant and useful, which is why we’re also rolling out improvements to show a greater range of skin tones in image results for broad searches about people, or ones where people show up in the results. In the future, we’ll incorporate the MST Scale to better detect and rank images to include a broader range of results, so everyone can find what they're looking for.

Creating a more representative Search experience isn’t something we can do alone, though. How content is labeled online is a key factor in how our systems surface relevant results. In the coming months, we'll also be developing a standardized way to label web content. Creators, brands and publishers will be able to use this new inclusive schema to label their content with attributes like skin tone, hair color and hair texture. This will make it possible for content creators or online businesses to label their imagery in a way that search engines and other platforms can easily understand.

A photograph of a Black person looking into the camera. Tags hover over various areas of the photo; one over their skin says “Skin tone” with a circle matching their skin tone. Two additional tags over their hair read “Hair color” and “Hair texture.

Improving skin tone representation in Google Photos

We’ll also be using the MST Scale to improve Google Photos. Last year, we introduced an improvement to our auto enhance feature in partnership with professional image makers. Now we’re launching a new set of Real Tone filters that are designed to work well across skin tones and evaluated using the MST Scale. We worked with a diverse range of renowned image makers, like Kennedi Carter and Joshua Kissi, who are celebrated for beautiful and accurate depictions of their subjects, to evaluate, test and build these filters. These new Real Tone filters allow you to choose from a wider assortment of looks and find one that reflects your style. Real Tone filters will be rolling out on Google Photos across Android, iOS and Web in the coming weeks.

Animated video showing before and after photos of images with the Real Tone Filter.

What’s next?

We’re openly releasing the Monk Skin Tone Scale so that others can use it in their own products, and learn from this work —and so that we can partner with and learn from them. We want to get feedback, drive more interdisciplinary research, and make progress together. We encourage you to share your thoughts here. We’re continuing to collaborate with Dr. Monk to evaluate the MST Scale across different regions and product applications, and we’ll iterate and improve on it to make sure the scale works for people and use cases all over the world. And, we’ll continue our efforts to make Google’s products work even better for every user.

The best part of working on this project is that it isn’t just ours — while we’re committed to making Google products better and more inclusive, we’re also excited about all the possibilities that exist as we work together to build for everyone across the web.

Search your world, any way and anywhere

People have always gathered information in a variety of ways — from talking to others, to observing the world around them, to, of course, searching online. Though typing words into a search box has become second nature for many of us, it’s far from the most natural way to express what we need. For example, if I’m walking down the street and see an interesting tree, I might point to it and ask a friend what species it is and if they know of any nearby nurseries that might sell seeds. If I were to express that question to a search engine just a few years ago… well, it would have taken a lot of queries.

But we’ve been working hard to change that. We've already started on a journey to make searching more natural. Whether you're humming the tune that's been stuck in your head, or using Google Lens to search visually (which now happens more than 8 billion times per month!), there are more ways to search and explore information than ever before.

Today, we're redefining Google Search yet again, combining our understanding of all types of information — text, voice, visual and more — so you can find helpful information about whatever you see, hear and experience, in whichever ways are most intuitive to you. We envision a future where you can search your whole world, any way and anywhere.

Find local information with multisearch

The recent launch of multisearch, one of our most significant updates to Search in several years, is a milestone on this path. In the Google app, you can search with images and text at the same time — similar to how you might point at something and ask a friend about it.

Now we’re adding a way to find local information with multisearch, so you can uncover what you need from the millions of local businesses on Google. You’ll be able to use a picture or screenshot and add “near me” to see options for local restaurants or retailers that have the apparel, home goods and food you’re looking for.

An animation of a phone showing a search. A photo is taken of Korean cuisine, then Search scans it for restaurants near the user that serve it.

Later this year, you’ll be able to find local information with multisearch.

For example, say you see a colorful dish online you’d like to try – but you don’t know what’s in it, or what it’s called. When you use multisearch to find it near you, Google scans millions of images and reviews posted on web pages, and from our community of Maps contributors, to find results about nearby spots that offer the dish so you can go enjoy it for yourself.

Local information in multisearch will be available globally later this year in English, and will expand to more languages over time.

Get a more complete picture with scene exploration

Today, when you search visually with Google, we’re able to recognize objects captured in a single frame. But sometimes, you might want information about a whole scene in front of you.

In the future, with an advancement called “scene exploration,” you’ll be able to use multisearch to pan your camera and instantly glean insights about multiple objects in a wider scene.

In the future, “scene exploration” will help you uncover insights across multiple objects in a scene at the same time.

Imagine you’re trying to pick out the perfect candy bar for your friend who's a bit of a chocolate connoisseur. You know they love dark chocolate but dislike nuts, and you want to get them something of quality. With scene exploration, you’ll be able to scan the entire shelf with your phone’s camera and see helpful insights overlaid in front of you. Scene exploration is a powerful breakthrough in our devices’ ability to understand the world the way we do – so you can easily find what you’re looking for– and we look forward to bringing it to multisearch in the future.

These are some of the latest steps we’re taking to help you search any way and anywhere. But there’s more we’re doing, beyond Search. AI advancements are helping bridge the physical and digital worlds in Google Maps, and making it possible to interact with the Google Assistant more naturally and intuitively. To ensure information is truly useful for people from all communities, it’s also critical for people to see themselves represented in the results they find. Underpinning all these efforts is our commitment to helping you search safely, with new ways to control your online presence and information.

Humans Behind Search: Meet Matt

Matt Cooke, who heads up the Google News Lab, talks about how his team’s keeping it real in news and search.

First, can you tell us about the Google News Initiative and the work that your team does?

The Google News Initiative is the part of Google that works with journalists and entrepreneurs to drive innovation in news — from surfacing factual information to helping local publishers to digitize their content.

As part of that, the News Lab offers partnerships and training in 70 countries around the world to bring Google technology to journalists and news publishers. We want to help strengthen digital skills to help journalists verify sources, fact check and explore different forms of storytelling for audiences searching for accurate information.

Tell us about your background and what led to working at Google.

I worked for a number of years at BBC in various roles, including reporting from the East London multimedia newsroom in the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games. We gave members of the audience access to small cameras, which got me thinking about the potential of digital storytelling. So when the opportunity came along at Google, I seized it! I’m coming up to my 10th anniversary here.

What tips can you give readers searching for credible news and information?

News comes to us in so many different ways and formats these days so it can sometimes be hard to tell what's authoritative and accurate. But there are tools available to help, and there are five things I would recommend when it comes to checking authenticity:

  1. If you’ve stumbled across something surprising, check the source. The About This Result feature provides details about a website before you visit it, including its description, when it was first indexed and whether your connection to the site is secure.
  2. If an image looks suspicious you can go toGoogle Images and do a reverse image search by clicking on the camera icon and dragging in your picture. An example of an obvious fake, that many will have seen and that recurs, is the shark swimming up a flooded street.
  3. Again if a story is surprising, look at other news sources to see if they’re covering it too. If they’re not, that could give you some pause for thought. Stories on Google news have the option for ‘full coverage,’ which means you can see how others are reporting the same story.
  4. We have something called theFact Check Explorer which allows you to type in a search term and then it shows you counterclaims and debunks of that theory by fact checking organisations.
  5. Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View can all help you verify whether an image that you are seeing is from the reported location. This can be done by checking for shadows of, for example, mountains or nearby buildings on Street View, and by matching them up with Google Earth.

There are some amazing and painstaking examples of work from BBC Africa Eye with video verification. It shows that by combining digital tools with great journalism, you can get to the heart of what’s really going on.

How are you tackling deep fakes?

Technology evolves fast, but our engineering teams and trust and safety teams are working hard to make sure that our technology stays ahead of emerging threats, and we’re working closely with industry partners too to understand how they’re engaging with verification and misinformation. It’s an industry-wide effort.

Progress is being made, for example YouTube has something calledContent ID which allows organisations to detect their IP copyright and content.

How does Google make sure that organisations don’t game the algorithm?

We update the search algorithm thousands of times a year and work hard to make sure that the information people find is the most accurate, authoritative and relevant to what they’re looking for. We have policies in place to prevent spam and any deceptive practices — there’s more information here about how Search works. And I’d also add that we place a lot of importance on people finding good quality local news from reliable sources as well.

How do you make sure that search literacy isn’t confined to the few and privileged?

Over the last few years we’ve spent a lot of time with media literacy experts to provide newsroom style lessons for primary and secondary school students across the UK, a good example is Be Internet Legends which has reached over 70% of primary schools in England.

And there’s more that can be done outside the classroom. Last year, we contributed €25 million to the European Media and Information Fund, which supports funding for publishers, academics and researchers to research and implement media literacy.

What excites you about Search?

One of the things that my team works with is a tool calledGoogle Trends, which shows you anonymised, indexed data on what people are searching for across a given location or a given time.

We collaborate with broadcasters, journalists, academics and non-profits to see what emerging patterns and trends in search reveal. What’s really interesting is how changing questions reveal changing attitudes across time. It’s useful for journalists, or indeed anybody who’s interested, to see what preoccupations people have around major news events.

For example, if you're looking for the latest design trends, we can see that Search interest for 'japandi interior design' has increased by 973% in the last 12 months. Similarly, if you're wondering what people in the UK are reading, we can share that between 2017 and 2021, Search interest for books on neurodiversity has increased by 1280%.

What’s your most loved search feature that everybody should know about?

Some of the more Advanced Search features can really save time. So if you’re searching for information about an institution or a public figure, often you’ll have to wade through lots of information. If you want to delve deeper you can start to remove repetitive information, simply by putting a minus symbol in front of a word. For example, I travel a lot for work so if you’re looking for information about UK airports but you don’t want to focus on Heathrow you can type in ‘UK airports -Heathrow.’ It is simple, but saves lots of time!

On Google Street View, my favourite desktop tool is the little clock at the top of the screen. This allows you to go back in time so you can see how things have changed. For example, when Britain was getting ready to host the 2012 Olympic Games, you can see all the flags and banners up in central London. And where cities change fast, for example East London, you can see how new developments have taken the place of old buildings. Take a look!

3 things to ask as you prepare for summer travel 2022

Summer 2022 is nearly here, and vacationing is on many minds. But it’s not as easy as deciding you're ready to hit the road — or sky. We took a look at some Google Search and Flight trends and came up with a few questions you can ask yourself as you start planning to go…somewhere, anywhere besides your home. And to help you answer those questions, we’ve got plenty of travel-related Google trends that can guide you through settling on your next journey.

Who should go on the trip with you?

So far in 2022, search interest in “girls trip destinations” is up 300% and “good bachelor party ideas” is up 200%, so group trips are certainly on our minds. Expecting parents would be wise to take one last couples trip — in fact, in the U.S., search interest in “best babymoon destinations usa” increased 170% in the first four months of 2022. And there’s nothing wrong with going solo; look no further than the 600% spike in “singles cruises” from January through April 2022.

What’s the goal of your getaway?

Once you’ve settled on who you want to travel with, the real fun can start and you can decide what kind of trip this will be. Well…is this a trip, or a vacation? Do you want to rest up, or rev up? Are you treating yourself or trying new adventures? Or maybe a little of all the above!

According to Google Trends, lots of people are looking to experience the outdoors: The top-searched summer attractions in the U.S. include Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, as well as Lake Tahoe and the Grand Canyon.

Glamping is also a popular option for those who want to get outside without totally roughing it (that’s glamorous camping, for the uninitiated). From January 2019 to April 2022, search interest in glamping near me” spiked more than 500%. Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Tennessee are the most-searched destinations for glamping.

Where should you go?

Whatever kind of traveler you are (or plan to become this summer!), landing on the right destination is key. And if you’re excited about an international adventure, you’re in great company! Search interest in “passport appointments” increased 300% over the first four months of 2022, and Google Flights trends show that five of the top 20 destinations people in the U.S. are searching for are in Europe — London, Paris, Rome, Athens and Lisbon. Here’s a look at the complete list of the 20 top-searched summer destinations on Google Flights:

1) Orlando

2) Cancun

3) Las Vegas

4) London

5) New York

6) Los Angeles

7) Paris

8) Seattle

9) Honolulu

10) Denver

11) Rome

12) Miami

13) San Juan

14) Fort Lauderdale

15) Chicago

16) Boston

17) Athens

18) San Francisco

19) Lisbon

20) Portland

Looking to stay stateside? Domestic travel trends show people looking for flights to Orlando, Las Vegas, New York, L.A. and Seattle, among other great U.S. cities. So if you want to hit the trendy spots, you know where to go…and if you want to avoid the trendy spots, you know where not to go.

Traveling isn’t stress-free, and for anyone who’s already feeling overwhelmed by the options, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a staycation. In fact, looking at January through April 2022, “luxury hotels near me” has over two times the search interest it had during the same period in 2019. No passport required.

Road tripping on Route 66

Ninety-six years ago on April 30th, one of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System was assigned its numerical designation of 66, creating what we know today as Route 66. But to say Route 66 is just a highway is a grave understatement. After all, it is the most-searched U.S. highway of all time.

One of the perks of working as a Doodler (I promise, it’s a real job) was getting to drive the 2,448-mile journey from Chicago to Los Angeles in my ‘72 Chevelle. I got to experience this captivating road trip firsthand, to create a Doodle celebrating Route 66.

This Doodle, which is essentially an animated sketchbook of various historic spots along the route, is the product of more than 100 paintings and sketches I created from the side of the road and countless U-turns. I remember being utterly lost one day, driving further and further down an old dirt road, when I finally saw an old man sitting on a lawn mower. “Is this Route 66?” I enquired. “Boy, this isn’t even Route 6!” he responded. Even the dead ends were interesting.

If this Doodle has you feeling inspired to take a trip across Route 66, we also caught up with a member of Google Maps’ Local Guides community who has some tips of his own to help you hit the road and explore.

Local tips from a Local Guide

Rhys Martin is a Level 6 Local Guide from Tulsa, Oklahoma who also serves as the President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association. Having driven all 2,400 miles of the existing route, Rhys is passionate about adding photos and reviews to Google Maps that help raise awareness for the variety of experiences — from big cities and rural communities, to farmland, mountains, deserts, mom-and-pop motels and kitschy roadside attractions — a road trip down the historic highway provides. We asked him to share his best tips, tricks and recommendations to discover and experience his favorite spots along the route.

  • Discover local businesses along the route: By searching for something like “U.S Route 66 Restaurants” on Google Maps you can virtually explore restaurants or other businesses across all eight states along the route. This way, you can familiarize yourself with attractions, view how much certain restaurants cost, read reviews and even see popular menu items to help you choose places you want to visit.
  • Plan your road trip with Lists in Google Maps: Once you discover the places you’re interested in visiting, save them to a list that can serve as an itinerary so you can support local businesses — and help preserve history – along the route. You can even share your list with others, or make them collaborative so you can plan together!
  • A picture is worth a thousand words: Photographing the details of a place — like the decades-old neon signage or the original menus hanging behind the counter — and sharing them through reviews on Google Maps helps capture the essence of an establishment and helps others discover places they want to visit.

While Oklahoma has the most drivable miles of Route 66, Rhys says there’s so much to see in all eight states along the route. If you’re itching to plan the perfect summer road trip, check out a list of his must-see spots across Route 66 from Illinois to California.