Thursday, March 3, 2011
Online Hotel Searching Just Got a Bit Easier
A few days ago, I told you about the debut of Room77, which seems aimed at OCD travelers who want control of their bookings down to the room number. Now Hipmunk has traded the 'agony' for the 'ecstasy' in its new hotel search engine.
Let me explain: in its first iteration as a flight search engine, Hipmunk ranked flights by how much 'agony' they were going to cause you (with too many stops, high prices, etc). With Hipmunk for hotels, the site pulls together information on the hotel's amenities, prices and ratings from past guests for its 'ecstasy' rankings.
Its a smart move. Other sites tend to let users list options either by price, or by the number of stars they attract without ever mixing the two. With this new rubric, users can see, easily, which hotels give the best value for the dollar.
I also like the fact that ratings are tempered by price. So often, very good budget hotels fall to the bottom of the star ratings, simply because they don't have the bells and whistles of the $400-a-night places. This makes them seem less worth worthy than they are. Bravo to Hipmunk for re-working the equation.
The maps Hipmunk uses on its search result pages are also, well, very hip. Not only do they allow users to see quickly where all their hotel options are located, but the site allows for an overlay of these same maps with useful information. Want to know if your hotel is in a good eating area? Click a button and the map displays the "density" of restaurants in each area of the city. Conversely, if you want to avoid seedier areas of town, you can click the "vice" button which will tell you where most of the porn theaters, adult stores and/or casinos are grouped. There are also buttons for shopping areas, nightlife districts and areas of touristic interest.
Best of all (at least in my estimation): Hipmunk doesn't confine itself to searching hotels. It's teamed up with AirBnB.com to show users where they can rent apartments, or rooms in locals' apartments and homes. This is a huge boon for budget travelers, as these types of accommodations often cost a fraction of what standard hotels do. As with the hotels, the listings include reviews of the property in question.
The site debuted just this past Tuesday (March 1). It already covers all of the major cities (and many secondary cities) in the US, Canada, and Western Europe as well as many areas of Oceania, Asia and Latin America.
Try it. I think you'll like it.