This app wants you to forget StubHub and make fun choices last minute

Last Thursday, a friend from out of town asked if I had a connection to get us and four friends tickets to the Knicks versus the Wizards basketball game for that night.

There’s options for that. I could have pulled up one of the common resale markets like StubHub or SeatGeek. I probably could have just gone to the arena considering the Knicks continue to be terrible. Instead, I went to Gametime.

In a matter of minutes, we had six tickets – and everyone already had them on their phones. 

This is the use case that Gametime is trying to serve — social, last minute, and seamless.  

“We’re the best last-minute tool for sports and shows and theater,” said Brad Griffith, Gametime founder and CEO. “Compared to the competition, we appeal mostly to a younger demographic who does more in life and wants to do more with friends. We really own this last-minute category in the ticketing industry.”

Surely, they aren’t the biggest ticket reseller and perhaps they never will be. But Colin Evans, Gametime’s chief revenue officer, who was also one of the founding members of StubHub, doesn’t see that ranking as an issue. Griffith, Evans, and their team based in San Francisco (with about 80 employees) are determined to own a new market. 

Image: GAMETIME

“When you define a market, you can grow very quickly. StubHub defined the secondary market. We’re defining the last-minute market, and we’re growing faster than StuHub did while I was there,” Evans said. He worked for StubHub from 2000 to 2007 as VP of sales and business development. 

Gametime’s growth numbers of the last year prove they have, at least, a good business going for now. The company had more than $50 million in sales in 2016 and also brought in record revenues in March. They sold more than 6,000 ticket for the Giants-A’s exhibition and had record sales for the LA Dodges and SF Giants home openers. 

All of these numbers contribute to Gametime’s claim to be one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States. 

For Gametime users (myself included), the app is less about rushing to get tickets once they’re released at a certain hour or planning far ahead. Gametime’s slogan is “live life last minute,” and they want to help users find good experiences that just hours before a big event. For example, I bought tickets to Kanye West’s Life of Pablo tour at Madison Square Garden a day prior via Gametime. 

“Gametime has mobilized the millennial fan, which is strategically important for teams and leagues to reach,” said Jeff Mallett, one of Gametime’s original investors and the former COO of Yahoo as well as a co-owner of the SF Giants. “The photography plus the simple and fast checkout flow really appeals to mobile-centric fans.”

Fan views

Gametime is still iterating. This week, the app released a new feature that they believe will give the app another leg-up in the ticketing industry. 

The feature is called Fan Views, and it’s kind of like Yelp or Foursquare meets ticketing. Users are encouraged to rate their experience. But unlike Yelp, it’s not about a bunch of text rants. Gametime wants your photos and quick summaries of what’s nearby. 

Image: gametime

“We’re big on photography,” Griffith said. “We’re trying to extend into that realm and give the fan as much information as humanly possible.”

StubHub offers a VR experience that’s meant to also demonstrate what someone’s seat view would look like. Gametime expands that notion by making it more of a social experience, all the while wanting to keep the same speed of the transaction. 

Image: gametime

The app will show nearest attractions, like a beer garden. 

These reviews will eventually help for seat recommendation. The company believes it can help users make better seat decisions, and in the future, the data can be used to personalize what seats are recommended.    

“We want to use that for personalization. Instead of going to dinner or going to the mall with you’re friends, you’re going to a concert that we’re able to identify to what they’re interested in,” Griffith said. 

Personalization for events? That sounds a lot like Facebook. “I don’t fear Facebook eating us. They haven’t eaten a lot of e-commerce stuff in general. They’ve done a great job with advertising and they’re a great partner for us,” Evans said. 

Versus StubHub

For Gametime, the biggest hurdle isn’t beating StubHub or Facebook. It’s letting people know about the company. Press coverage, like this piece, obviously help, but they’re also funneling more money into advertising this year. 

Gametime is one of Snapchat’s beta partners, where they tested the app install product before it was largely released, for example. That’s been one of their best channels as well as Facebook ads. They also have a campaign planned for TV and for various audio channels to air in the coming months. 

In 2017, the company is making a big consumer marketing push and looking to partner more closely with stadiums and artists in 2017. 

“We’re becoming a lot closer with the venues themselves,” Griffith said. “We are actively putting in place the right relationships that would allow us to go after the venues specifically and partner with them.” 

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Android Wear vs. Apple Watch: Which one will “wow” your wrist?

Wearable tech is fast becoming the next big thing. We’ve seen fitness trackers gain popularity, smart jewelry take off, and even luxury brands start to sit up and take notice. But smartwatches are one of the most popular choices among early adopters of wearable tech. Big names such as Huawei and LG all have products based on Google’s Android Wear smartwatch platform, while Apple is on its own with the Apple Watch.

If you’re ready to strap on a smartwatch, you have a choice between two dominant platforms: Android Wear or the Apple Watch. Which one should you look closely at, and which should you avoid? We’ve compared the specs, features, and designs to help you decide which to get.

Specs

Android Wear

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Again

Time functionality Yes Yes
Interface Touchscreen, depends on manufacturer Touchscreen, “Digital Crown” dial
Voice Control Yes, via Google Assistant Yes, via Siri
App friendly Yes, via Google Play Yes, via Apple App Store
Multiscreen functionality Yes Yes
Fitness and health monitoring Yes, via Google Fit Yes, via Apple Health
Heart rate sensor Depends on manufacturer Yes
Waterproof Depends on manufacturer Splash/water resistant to IPX7
Smartphone compatibility Android 4.3+ and iOS 9+ iPhone 5 and later
Price $192+ $350+
Availability Now Now

Design

When you’re dealing with a smartwatch, design is just as important as functionality. A watch is more than just a timepiece — it’s an accessory.

Both Google and Apple have gone out of their way to ensure their flagship smartwatches bring out the best in design and aesthetics. In Android Wear’s case, devices like the Sony SmartWatch 3 boast a square face. Others like the LG Watch Sport and the classically-styled Fossil Q Founder feature rounded bodies.

Android Wear watches run the gamut in terms of design. Some, like the LG Watch Sport, have Apple Watch-like rotating crowns. Others boast physical keys that launch apps, and other special features, like Casio’s WSD-F20.

While older versions of Android Wear were sometimes awkward to use on a round screens, newer watches like the Huawei Watch 2 Sport ship with Android Wear 2.0, which has been redesigned from the ground up. Rather than having to swipe left or right to navigate menus and select apps, the new interface is a simple, vertical design that focuses on up/down gestures.

Many Android Wear smartwatches provide ample opportunities for customization, from changing the watch face to buying an aftermarket strap. The LG Watch Sport is the exception to the rule — the bands house cellular radios, and so aren’t swappable — but watches like the ZTE Quartz and Huawei Watch Sport 2 can be accessorized to your heart’s content.

AW Bands

The Apple Watch, on the other hand, has a square screen. You can choose from various watch faces, and Apple also has an extensive range of aftermarket wristbands that cater to fashionistas and fitness freaks alike. Each of the Apple Watch models — the Apple Watch Series 2, the Apple Watch Series 1, the Apple Watch Nike+, the Apple Watch Hermès — support a slew of different band and case materials, and come in two sizes: 38mm and 42mm.

The Watch Nike+ model, for instance, has an aluminum case and a soft, flexible sports band, while the Apple Watch Series 2 is available in one of several stainless steel cases with an accompanying band made of metal, leather, and woven nylon. For those who can justify the asking price, the Apple Watch Hermès comes in aged leather and stainless steel.

The design is consistent across the range of Apple Watch models: A square body with rounded edges and a bright little screen. It’s characterized by the digital crown, a clever, functional wheel that adds a touch of flair. It’s often far thinner and slimmer than most of Android Wear’s offerings.

Facebook wants social VR to be a thing. That’s never going to happen.

In about 24 hours, Mark Zuckerberg will take the stage at Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8. In his many updates about the company he’ll no doubt bring us up to speed on Facebook’s progress in social VR.

You know, social VR? Socializing in virtual reality? You might remember it as that thing where a Zuck gets to pretend he’s a cartoon version of Justin Timberlake and snap photos with virtual selfie sticks.

More generally, social VR involves putting on a headset not unlike Facebook’s own Oculus Rift, connecting to a network, and interacting with other people who could be in the same room or on the other side of the world. You’re all represented by avatars, and you can shape the environment however you want — from the conventional (a virtual café) to the sublime (outer space).

It’s also something that no one ordered or cares about. Social VR will never be a thing.

I know… I see the money being thrown around in the category and the intense interest from Facebook and others. More than $2.3 billion was invested in VR in 2016 alone, up from $700 million in 2015. At F8, Facebook is dedicating no fewer than eight sessions on social VR. There were only two last year — a 300% year-over-year increase.

Mark Zuckerberg talks to his wife, Priscilla Chan, from a VR environment.

Mark Zuckerberg talks to his wife, Priscilla Chan, from a VR environment.

Image: Facebook

Developer interest and financial largesse don’t equal consumer interest, though, and on that standpoint, I just don’t see it. VR has been a real thing people can buy for more than a year, there’s no sense that it’s really taking off. By and large, the questions and concerns around VR have remained the same since the category’s inception. It still has to prove itself, it still needs a killer app, and the equipment is still unwieldy or expensive or both.

That’s probably not going to change in the near term, or even a few years out. And even if it does, social VR still won’t be a thing because it actually goes against everything Facebook represents.

Social VR still won’t be a thing because it goes against everything Facebook represents.

Facebook is now 1.8 billion users strong — it’s fair to say, as the connected population goes, it’s captured the planet. But it didn’t do that by simulating real-world interactions online. It did so by reducing those interactions to their most basic: the poke, the comment, the like. Facebook is all about breaking down your “socializing” to its most efficient forms: You can listen to, react, or say something in a conversation, but without all the “how do you dos” or small talk or all the other social lubricants that punctuate real human contact.

Certainly, there’s a case to be made that you lose something by abandoning those frictional social norms. Many have, and they make good points. There’s a certain falseness to Facebook “friends” you never interact with beyond the occasional Like or emoji-filled comment.

But you can’t argue with how efficiently Facebook has pushed us down the social-media funnel, distilling out interactions to the point where we can blaze through a News Feed, reading, watching and reacting to dozens if not hundreds of wholly different updates. You can be dropping hearts on someone’s Star Wars meme on second, frowning at news about missile strikes the next.

Social VR epitomizes the opposite of this entire trend. Its aim appears to be recreating a real-world social setting, complete with gesturing, eye contact, and — ugh — actual speech. And for all the promise of infinite virtual environments to choose from, it’s basically a singular experience — extremely limited when compared to the simultaneous many-worlds scroll of the News Feed.

I know it sounds silly to be making a case against such things. The thing is, I’m not making it — Facebook is. In fact, it’s been making it since the beginning.

If there’s a science to Facebook, it’s rooted in quantum mechanics: reducing social interactions to a few basic units, which users can combine and recombine in near-infinite ways. But social VR takes an opposite, holistic approach: it’s Einstein’s relativity in this analogy, a universal theory that’s nearly perfect in its description of reality but doesn’t have much meaning at smaller scales — i.e. individual users.

In other words, Zuckerberg will need to pull off the social-media equivalent of uniting quantum mechanics and relativity — considered a Holy Grail in the scientific community — to make social VR a success. He’s a smart guy, but even he’s going to have hard time convincing anyone to click Like on his VR future.

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India’s attempt to go cashless is turning food vouchers digital

Image is for representational purposes only.
Image is for representational purposes only.

Image: Shutterstock / DGLimages

India’s push for a digital, cashless society is well-documented by now. 

After last year’s currency ban, the country has pushed cashless transactions in every sphere of citizen life — from payments at the local grocer and refuels at gas stations to utility bill payments and more. 

Local mobile wallet companies have recorded an unprecedented growth as a result. 

Last month India’s federal bank mandated that even meal vouchers that corporate houses provide their employees must go digital by the end of 2017. 

And cashing in on this opportunity is Paytm, India’s largest mobile wallet with 200 million users. It has launched a Food Wallet that will take on established players like Sodexo and Ticket Restaurant in the meal voucher space. 

Also, it will bring you food coupons without an expiry date. 

Sodexo, meanwhile, is the largest operator with over 10,000 corporate clients and 2 million beneficiaries. Paytm has set out with an ambitious target of 6 million customers, the company blog noted.

“Every working Indian is eligible for a tax-free food allowance of Rs 50/meal ($0.78) up to Rs 2,200 ($34.15) per month. However, between easily spoiled paper coupons, low acceptability and expiry dates, 60 lakh (6 million) Indians struggle to file their food voucher claims every year,” it said.

Image: PAYTM BLOG

The Food Wallet feature is integrated within the Paytm app and allows employers to directly top-up the credits for their employees on a flexible daily, monthly or quarterly basis. 

The e-cash in the wallet can then be used at office cafeterias and a wide range of offline merchants which the Alibaba-backed Paytm has partnered with. These include popular fast food chains such as Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Cafe Coffee Day, and food ordering service Zomato.

Users can go to the ‘Passbook’ option on their Paytm app and check their Food Wallet balance. They can also locate the closest food outlet using the ‘nearby’ feature on the app.

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The Food Wallet comes with the complete suite of in-app security features available on Paytm such as app lock password, two factor authentication and passcode among others. 

The balance can be offloaded at grocery stores and supermarkets too provided you’re buying food or beverage items.

While Paytm is a new entrant in this space, incumbents like Sodexo are gradually pulling the plug on paper transactions too. The company has reportedly converted 60 percent of its meal vouchers to digital meal cards to comply with the federal bank’s mandate.

Only time will tell how fast India adapts to this new mode of food allowances. 

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Facebook issues statement after murder suspect shares video of shooting in Cleveland [Updated]


Facebook has issued a statement after a video showing a fatal shooting was uploaded onto the social media network by the alleged murderer. Cleveland Police say that Steve Stephens broadcast the killing of an unidentified elderly man on Facebook on Sunday evening and is the target of a manhunt as of this writing. [Update: The victim has been identified as 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. Facebook issued a statement clarifying that the shooting was uploaded by Stephens after the murder, not broadcast on Facebook Live.]

Stephens also posted two more videos in which he claimed to have to committed other murders and said he was going to “kill as many people as I can,” before his account was shut down by Facebook.

In a statement to journalists, a company spokesperson said “This is a horrific crime and we do not allow this kind of content on Facebook. We work hard to keep a safe environment on Facebook, and are in touch with law enforcement in emergencies when there are direct threats to physical safety.”

Though Facebook’s policy prohibits content that glorifies or incites violence, that rule is inherently difficult to enforce on a social media platform that encourages its users to post photos and videos in real time or soon after they are taken.

Facebook Live launched to all users almost exactly one year ago and while the majority of videos are innocuous, the feature has broadcast, both accidentally and on purpose, heinous acts of violence. These include the shooting of a toddler, the torture of a teenager with special needs and sexual assaults in Chicago and Sweden.

The Chicago case prompted questions about whether people who watch crimes live but don’t report them can be legally charged and what jurisdictions are responsible. Furthermore, once media has been put on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s easy for other users to save and re-share. This means victims and families are forced to re-experience the trauma and is an especially insidious problem in cases where live streaming was arguably used by perpetrators as a psychological weapon.

Featured Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In his new book, The New Urban Crisis, author Richard Florida shows how cities can survive an uncertain future


Richard Florida is most frequently associated with the concept of the rising creative class and his books have described how these high-paid knowledge workers are slowly changing the face of our cities. In his first book he foresaw the growth of high tech hubs in places like San Francisco and Pittsburgh and in his new book, The New Urban Crisis, he describes the dangers we face when segregation and inequality increases as cities change.

Florida equates the rise of cities to the growth of popular bands. By filling a particular niche – Pittsburgh in self-driving vehicles, Nashville in new music startups, for example – small places can begin pulling in the creative classes who leave less innovative cities behind. What’s the solution for places in between – Wheeling, for example? Florida wants to see rail connections between outlying cities where housing is cheap and the “spike cities” where land is expensive. This is happening in dribs and drabs but if a city intends to be competitive it has to happen much faster.

I interviewed Florida about his new book, what he expects out of cities in the next decade, and how the future isn’t going to be awful. You can listen to us by clicking below or simply downloading an MP3.

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Stitcher or iTunes and download the latest MP3 here.

Featured Image: frimages/Getty Images

Travel back to a black-and-white Mac interface with this Apple emulator

About 25 years ago, Apple released what was considered by some to be the most elegant personal computing interface available at the time, MacOS 7.0.1. 

Apple’s System 7 interface hasn’t aged as well as other relics from 1991, like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Nirvana’s Nevermind, but the ancient computing platform nevertheless retains a certain charm. Now, thanks to the Internet Archive, you can experience some of that old school computing magic using your existing computer and a web browser. 

The black-and-white graphical user interface was a simple but powerful tool that allowed anyone to use applications like Microsoft Word, BBEdit Lite, HyperCard, Microsoft Excel and design tools like Pagemaker, MacDraw, MacPaint. 

Part of the affection for System 7 was not only due to its simplicity and ease of use, but its place in history. For many, the system served as the nine-inch window into the early versions of the mainstream Internet.

The Internet Archive’s emulator lets you launch the operating system and use many of the applications that were popular at the time, including games like Risk, Cannon Fodder, and Shufflepuck. 

And if you really want the full cave computing experience, there’s an option to go full screen, which will make your current PC truly look like it’s running MacOS 7.0.1. 

What’s the point? Well, beyond pure geek love of our computing roots, it’s a great reminder to appreciate just how amazing that current touchscreen interface you’r using to run 10 apps at the same time really is.

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5 songs you need to stream this week: Kendrick Lamar, Mac DeMarco, and more

Every week, there are thousands of new songs hitting the airwaves — and it’s just too much for your two ears to handle. With all those options, you can’t be wasting your time on tracks that deserve a thumbs-down click.

But don’t worry, we’re going to save you the hassle. We listen to some of the most-hyped and interesting songs each week, and tell you which are worthy of your precious listening time.

Here are our top five songs to stream this week. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our Spotify page for a playlist of our weekly picks, which can also be found at the bottom of this post.

Kendrick Lamar — FEEL.

On Thursday evening, Kendrick Lamar released his fourth studio album, titled DAMN., causing many fans to listen late into the night. On FEEL., the album’s fifth track, the rapper investigates how famous he’s become, and how that has transformed both his music and the actions of those around him.”I feel like only me and the music though/feel like your feelin’ ain’t mutual,” he exclaims on the deep and introspective song, expressing a desire to maintain artistic integrity in a world full of musicians he thinks are corrupted by money and fame.

Danger Doom — Mad Nice

Iconic rap duo Danger Doom (a collaboration between producer Danger Mouse and underground rapper MF Doom) announced plans this week to rerelease their only album, 2005’s The Mouse & the Mask, while simultaneously sharing this special bonus cut. Mad Nice is a vintage-style hip-hop song that samples the iconic evil laughter of horror film actor Vincent Price and features rapper Black Thought of The Roots, who shares an especially introspective verse on the first half of the 3-minute cut.

Mac DeMarco — On The Level

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A poorly rendered 3D image of Emperor Palpatine stands with his arms waving up and down in the middle of the new music video for songwriter Mac DeMarco’s latest single, On The Level. But despite the comedic elements of its visual presentation, this is a song that showcases the more elegant side of DeMarco’s production and songwriting. Gentle synthesizer lines and soothing Lennon-like vocals sit atop a simple groove, in a song that feels like it could calm the dark side in anyone.

Jonathan Rado — Thunder Road

Foxygen frontman Jonathan Rado recently partnered with Turntable Kitchen’s Sounds Delicious vinyl club, which commissions contemporary artists to cover classic albums in full, to make his own full-length version of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. Our first taste of this effort, this take of Thunder Road, does sound more lo-fi than the original, but it retains all of Springsteen’s classic energy. Rado’s acclaimed indie production abilities shine through, in the form of layered guitars, synthesizers, and bell patterns. It’s as loving and honest an homage as any we’ve heard, and one that you’ll have fun comparing to the original.

Camp Howard — Juice

The most candy-flavored bit of indie pop we heard this week came from Richmond, Virginia-based quartet Camp Howard. The title track off the group’s upcoming EP, Juice, features heavily syncopated bass lines that meet clean drums and vocal overdubs, with just the right amount of vibe-y guitar to tie the whole thing together.

That’s it for now, but tune in next week for more tunes — and check out the playlist loaded with our recent selections below:

Need to get away? 5 ways to book a much-needed, impromptu vacay

Summer is approaching, and that means we have wanderlust in our minds. Many will have already planned in advanced, but if you’re like this writer, you’ll leave it to the last minute. Congratulations, you are a “spontaneous traveler,” a term that’s being kicked around in the travel industry to describe a trend in post-Boomer generations.

This shift mirrors how we travel plan today. We no longer drive to the travel agency, but pull up a travel site to book our flights and hotels. But even that’s becoming old school: A lot more of us are now using apps on our phones. And with a desire for on-demand pricing and booking, there are plenty of travel apps that do just that.

But what if you are looking for inspiration? While most apps are good at handle the basic transactions, few can offer insights or recommendations. If you’re looking for some help in planning a last-minute getaway, these six apps are our current favorites.

Google Flights

Google Flights is useful for looking up real-time airfare and price fluctuations, but if you’re looking for inspiration, the website (there’s no app) has a handy discovery tool. Punch in some dates or search by month, length of trip, places, and interests. You can leave it vague if you want a wide selection of suggestions, or narrow down to a specific weekend or location.

The website shows a visual list of recommended cities, along with estimated pricing for flights (based on your point of departure) and hotels, as well as interests (we’re not sure we would count “fog” as our must-see attraction in San Francisco, but to each his own). If you have a strict budget, use the “Explore map” view to adjust the search parameters to include a price cap. Then, pan through the map to see what surprising locations pop up. Hit the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button if you really want to be spontaneous.

Hopper

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We’ve sung many praises for Hopper, the flight search app that uses artificial intelligence and big data to make fare predictions. It tells you the best times to book, and you can have Hopper keep watch for better prices. Hopper’s results can help you determine whether you should make that last-minute getaway or save it for another time.

A new feature we like is Fair Bear. Essentially, it’s an overview of the fine print associated with an airfare that many travelers may not pay attention to. While a fare may be the cheapest, it could come with a lot of restrictions. As airlines continue to introduce confusing pricing tiers and new fees, Fair Bear gives a quick nutshell of what you’re getting into, and whether the price is worth it.

HotelTonight

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With the rise in what’s being termed “spontaneous travel,” many hotel booking services are now catering to last-minute travelers. The one app that’s the most popular is HotelTonight, which focuses solely on this type of travel.

HotelTonight says it offers heavily discounted rates, and we found this to be accurate. In one search, a HotelTonight rate for one hotel was $100 (or more) cheaper than other booking sites, include the hotel’s. The only downside we notice is that hotels tend to be on the pricier side, but the positive is that they are all highly rated properties, so you don’t have to scroll through hundreds of listings.

Airbnb

While it’s better known as the app for short-term vacation rentals, Airbnb also offers a service called Experiences. As the name suggests, these are events hosted by in-the-know locals that focus on interests in the area, like sake tasting in Tokyo, home cooking in Bangkok, trail exploration in Portland, Oregon. If you’re looking to include some authentic experiences – whether it’s the arts, food, nature, etc. – in your trip, this is a nicer alternative to packaged tours. Of course, you can still use the app to book last-minute lodging.

Google Trips

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Not to be confused with Google Flights, Google Trips is an iOS and Android app for planning and managing itineraries. It’s great for those who already have a flight reserved (if you use Gmail for bookings, it can search for trips – past and future – and automatically add them to the list), but haven’t done any research on things to do and see, places to eat, important info to know, how to get around, etc. – city guides essentially. Besides suggestions, Google Trips can even plan entire itineraries for select destinations, which is perfect for the lazy, last minute non-planner.