Why should trip planning be any more complicated than opening your browser and entering the name of your favourite city? Six months ago we launched City Tours on Google Labs with the goal of making vacation planning as easy as searching the web. After all, Google knows the top sights in many cities around the world and we've been providing directions on Google Maps for years, so Google Labs seemed to be the perfect way to test out a combination of these two capabilities, with our computing power thrown in to sift through the thousands of possibilities.

Though City Tours is still in Google Labs, the purpose was clear and the demo was popular, so we've continued to work on it over the past few months to take into account the hundreds of suggestions from users all across the globe. Now you'll find several handy additions:

  1. Show complete walking directions. Until now, we've simply estimated the travel time between destinations based on the distance between them. Today, we start providing complete pedestrian routing information for every step of your tour, taking road types, bridges and bodies of water into account just like a regular Google Maps walking directions search. We still try to minimise the time you spend walking and we still won't recommend a visit to an attraction when we think it's closed but, now, the suggested tours are a whole lot closer to reality.

  2. Import a My Map as a tour - because we can't always guess what you want to see! Maybe last time before you went on holiday you created a My Map of all the things you wanted to see when you got there. Now, next time you're planning a trip, you can import that My Map into City Tours: we'll try to schedule a visit to every feature in your map, just as if you had entered the city name into City Tours' search box.

    Alternatively, maybe the last time you came home after holiday you created a My Map of the best attractions you saw. If you've made your My Map public and listed, once a user has found it they can import it into City Tours with its link and re-live your tour, customised - of course - for the dates on which they're visiting. In the mood for literature in the Big Apple? You'll want to try out this walking tour of New York bookshops.

  3. Finally, we've made a whole bunch of small user interface improvements both to help usability and make City Tours behave just a little more like the Google Maps site you're used to.

We're confident that these additions will make City Tours a whole lot more useful to a whole lot more people, although it should be noted that City Tours remains a Google Labs product and is still far from complete. We hope to continue tweaking and improving it over the coming months, continuing our goal of making planning a trip as easy as doing a Google search.