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Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 2.47.18 PMEvery vacation has a story, but why is it so hard to tell it? Pictures alone rarely do it justice. Yet writing a narrative about making a wrong turn or spending eight hours lost in a city is probably too unwieldy for most readers.

Enter Google+ Stories, a new tool within the Google+ app that was created specifically with trip-sharing in mind. We’re excited that it covers everything from documentation to editing to social posting, and we can’t say we’re all that surprised. With Uber integration and new Street View enhancements that focus on famous landmarks, Google is moving deeper than ever into travel. Here’s more about Stories and other Google features that can make your vacation a better experience:

Google+ Stories
Stories creates an online scrapbook of your vacation. By analyzing your GPS locations and photo-taking behavior, the app automatically detects when you’ve embarked on a journey. If it notices that you’ve begun to take bursts of photos miles from where you usually are, for example, it’ll take note of what you document until you’re back at your home location. The app gives it a solid 24 hours to make sure you’re not longer on the move, then creates a chronological collage from your photos. A reverse search function can recognize landmarks and other important locations to highlight, but of course you can go back and customize which photos and their location data after the fact. To personalize your story further, you can add captions and even video into your story. The “Auto Awesome” function lets you compose and edit your films or turn them into gifs. Google+ creates these stories automatically after you back up the Google+ app on your smartphone or tablet, so you don’t need to worry about turning Stories on and off or even having internet connectivity for your road.

Offline Maps
For those who need some help navigating a foreign territory but don’t want to splurge on a data plan, Google has a little-known Offline Maps function that lets you roam stress-free. You’ll need to have the app on your smartphone, of course. (iPhone users, you’ll need to download it from the app store, since the default maps app is Apple’s.) When you launch the app, tap on the profile icon next to the search bar and scroll to the bottom of the page. Hitting the Offline Maps maps section will take you back to a map, from where you can zoom in and out to specify what areas you want to save. The maps will be stored for thirty days only, but once you save a map, the app shows you a useful expiration countdown.

Lane Guidance for Road Trips
How many times you have missed an exit and panicked? Panic no more. The latest Google Maps upgrade makes navigating the interstate easy, with icons that tell you which lane to use in the turn-by-turn navigation view as well as the step-by-step view of listed directions. You’ll see when to merge to exit as well as which lanes on a five-line highway split in which direction. The feature is currently available in the U.S., Canada, and Japan.

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