8 Cool New Tools for Finding the Perfect Hotel
Move over, Expedia & Co. The next generation of hotel booking websites has arrived. Which one will find you the room of your dreams—and at a dreamy price? Budget Travel editors tested them out.
How it works: Punch your destination into HotelSweep's "direct hotel search" tool, and the site will fetch a quick-and-dirty list of properties, which you can sort by nightly rate or distance from a particular location. A Google Street View image of the property is provided, but it's up to you to take the next step and contact the managers and book a room. If that is too much work, HotelSweep also has a "live price comparison" tool, which is a standard booking engine powered by HotelsCombined.com, an Australian rival to Kayak, though it doesn't include all of the mom-and-pop listings that turn up in the "direct hotel search" tool.
Recent steal: In a hunt for New York City lodging, HotelSweep's "direct hotel search" tool dug up more than a thousand properties. The cheapest listing was Hostelling International, a property with rates from $29 a night per person. Surprisingly, the hostel has earned decent user ratings and reviews with TripAdvisor and a review from Lonely Planet, even though Expedia hadn't heard of it.
Snags: HotelSweep isn't vetting properties. It simply lists any place that has a Web presence. So, it puts you in hardcore "buyer beware" territory. Also, the live comparison tool doesn't include all the properties in the hotel search tool, so you might have to work harder to make a booking.
Best for: Culture vultures and nightlife fans who want to stay in the buzziest neighborhoods.
What it does: Previously a metasearch site for airfare, Hipmunk last year added hotels to its repertoire. One of its signature tricks is to allow a traveler to name his or her favorite interest, such as nightlife, shopping, and museum-hopping, and the site will filter its listings to only display hotels in neighborhoods with an especially high number of relevant venues, such as bars, boutiques, and museums.
How it works: Run a search for a hotel like you would on any travel site, and Hipmunk retrieves real-time rates from booking sites, such as Orbitz, Getaroom, Hotels.com, HotelsCombined, and vacation rental platform Airbnb. Hipmunk also assigns an "ecstasy" rating to each hotel, based on an evaluation of the property's rates, amenities, and user reviews on TripAdvisor.
Recent steal: A recent search for hotels in L.A. turned up dozens of hotels that Hipmunk gave high "ecstasy" scores. A click on a button labeled "nightlife" revealed a map with a downtown district near Pershing Square that has a dense concentration of clubs and bars. Clicking on the neighborhood on the map revealed a few properties with a high "ecstasy" rating, including the Miyako Hotel for $116 a night.
Snags: The site is primarily map-driven, and people who find maps confusing might find Hipmunk equally off-putting.
Best for: Travelers booking hotels overseas who have been disappointed by the selection on U.S.-based travel agencies.
What it does: In 2010, Momondo, moved beyond being a flight metasearch engine and now lists hotels from major overseas hotel booking sites, such as Escapio and Hotelopia, which tend to be overlooked by U.S.-based travel sites like Expedia. It also includes an option to search for hostels.
How it works: Like Kayak, you enter your search query, and the site draws up a list of rates from various online travel agencies and hotel sites.
Recent steal: In a search this winter for hotels in Zurich, Momondo uncovered 185 hotels (and about 330 other types of lodging, such as hostels), compared with 133 hotels on Booking.com and 125 on Orbitz. Momondo put at the top of its search results properties with the most central locations, highest star ratings, lowest prices, and best user reviews. Its top pick: Hotel Rothaus, on Langstrasse in the city's entertainment district, with room rates from $104. Booking.com had the hotel buried in its search results for $140 a night on the same dates, and Orbitz had it for $139.
Snags: Compared with American giants, such as Hotels.com and Priceline.com, Momondo wasn't great at finding hotels in the United States.
Best for: Travelers whose priority is a room with the most amenities.
What it does: Room 77 is unique in researching room-by-room amenities and floor plans for hundreds of three- to five-star hotels in about 30 North American, European, and Asian cities. It then facilitates booking a particular type of room.