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: Room 77 works like a typical hotel search engine, only it goes into much greater detail about the amenities available in individual rooms at hotels, such as what the view might be from any given window. Guests who book directly through Room 77 can take advantage of its free "room concierge" feature, in which it contacts hotel managers on a guest's behalf to request a room matching his or her preferences, such as "connecting rooms" and "distance from elevators." There are no guarantees, but the site claims that its customers have a high satisfaction rate with its concierge service.
Recent steal: A recent search on Room 77 for a hotel stay in Seattle turned up a list of properties, matched with their rates. One listing was for Courtyard Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square, and Room 77 included specific booking tips, such as the fact that rooms with numbers ending in 3 (i.e., 1003) above the tenth floor are among the most spacious and have some of the prettiest views. Room 77 also reveals blueprints of rooms, overlaid on a Google map. Clicking on the silhouette of room 1105 at the Courtyard Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square, for instance, reveals that it is 28 feet from the elevator, has 300 square feet of space and a view of Puget Sound. Room 77 lists current rates through multiple websites, such as Expedia and Booking.com, including taxes and fees.
Snags: The site only lists specific details for about 5,000 properties, most of which are from major U.S. chains. Room 77's room descriptions are also fairly generic and positive. For truly warts-and-all insights like "room smells of blow dryer and dead mouse," turn to TripAdvisor user-reviews.
Best for: Travelers who prefer the consistency and quality control of U.S.-owned chain hotels, and don't want to be distracted with information about other places.
What it does: Seven hotel chains—Best Western, Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Quality Inn), Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo), Marriott, and Wyndham (Howard Johnson, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8)—are listing their rooms together in a new search engine. Unlike major online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline, Room Key limits its selection to chains, eliminating most of the uncertainty about what kind of hotel you might end up with.
How it works: Punch in your destination and travel dates and the site brings up a list of relevant hotels, which you can winnow down using the standard tools, such as distance, price, and star rating. When you decide to book, you're sent directly to a hotel owned website, where you'll need to enter your credit card number to book the room. Booking directly with the hotel cuts out the middleman and earns you customer loyalty points.
Recent steal: In a recent search, the Hilton Atlanta turned up for $179 a night on Room Key, compared with $219 on Expedia, for the same dates and type of room.
Snags: Only about 27,000 hotels—with limited international choices—are currently listed, compared with the more than 100,000 posted on the major online travel agencies.
Best for: Travelers looking mostly for American business-type hotels.
What it does: Finds the cheapest rooms at major-brand hotels located at America's largest airports and financial districts—and nearly nowhere else.
How it works: This consolidator has access to rooms at a volume discount with major brands like Hyatt and Marriott at most major U.S. airports (especially Chicago, Denver, L.A., Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.). By only allowing members to see deals, the site is able to offer rates much lower than major chains and websites with lowest-price guarantees offered to the general public.
Recent steal: A recent search on YourRoomKey for a room near Chicago's O'Hare Airport on less than a week's notice turned up a room at the Holiday Inn with a queen-size bed, free Internet, and a free airport shuttle ride, for $52 a night. A comparable room at the same hotel on the same date went for $97 on Kayak and $109 on Travelocity.
Snags: You have to create an account with the site to be able to see any of its listings. Membership is free, but it can take a day or so to activate.
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