Hipmunk News: Book Hotels Directly on Hipmunk’s Website and Mobile App

We’re always trying to make travel planning faster and easier for you. Today, we’re happy to bring you direct hotel booking on Hipmunk.com and through our iOS and Android apps. Your perfect hotel is even fewer clicks away!


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When conducting a hotel search, you will now see a “Book on Hipmunk” button for certain hotels, allowing you to purchase that hotel without leaving the site or app. With your Hipmunk account, you can securely save your billing information so you don’t have to enter information for each individual purchase. We’ll also keep track of all your upcoming hotel bookings across web and mobile in the “My Bookings” section of your account.

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Hotels on iOS


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Hotels on Android

We’ve also added “Verified by Hipmunk” to hotel descriptions on web and mobile. When checking out a property, the Verified by Hipmunk section will show you Wifi prices, parking rates, and any additional charges such as resort fees. That way, you can be informed of additional costs before you book a hotel.


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Verified by Hipmunk on iOS


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Verified by Hipmunk on Android

And yes, we called all these hotels to verify this information, so you don’t have to. You’re very welcome!

Check out the Hipmunk Flight and Hotel App for free!

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The Making of Hotel Search on Mobile

It began with a demo. 

Our mobile hotel search app was weeks away from shipping. The UI was tight, performance was shaping up and the punchlist was shrinking. 

But there was a problem. Jacqueline, our press whisperer, did a hotel search in the new app. She couldn’t figure out which, from the dozens of hotels depicted on the map, was the one she actually wanted – and didn’t know where to start.


While seeing all those options from the comfort of a desktop’s huge screen wasn’t bad, now the results were unusable. We debated changes but my head wasn’t really in it. My ears were ringing.

For all our slick UI and data visualization, we were nowhere in terms of making it easy and fast to find a great hotel from your phone.

We’d failed.

Alongside this, I’d been devouring Edward Tufte’s Envisioning Information. The book is packed with styles and strategies for displaying data, along with analysis and cautionary tales. On the train one morning, I turned a page then violently emptied the contents of my forehead onto the seat in front of me.

For on that page, Tufte had helpfully supplied the solution to our problem.

This diagram combines two intricate layers of information: component illustrations and their identifying numbers. One is rendered in grayscale, the other red. Despite the complexity, the image comes apart quickly and cleanly. With this example in hand, redesigning the dots’ behavior and appearance went quickly.

We could fill the entire map with hotels, as we already were, but now we’d only color rooms whose stats made them worth recommending. The rest would appear grayer and smaller – easily ignored, but still illustrating the contours of an area’s hotels. When the user moves or zooms the map, we do all the math again, coloring only the best options in the new region.

 

The effect draws your eye to investigate the creme-de-la-creme. From there, UI mechanics take over to examine hotels without leaving the map. Before you know it, you’re making choices.
 
It was also important to make scanning hotel lists easier on the eye. Hotels are broken into three price buckets: cheap (green), average (blue) and pricey (red). Room prices were set in the color of their bucket. Because each price was different, interpreting bucket meant actually reading the colored text, which takes a little time. By setting the price in a simple badge that’s always the same size and position, the user only needs to glance to know a hotel’s bucket. A small detail, sure, but it makes a big difference with momentum scrolling.

The resulting experience was so quick and satisfying, we wanted it on the site, too. So go try out the new Hipmunk Hotel search for AndroidiOS, and now, the web.


— Danilo

Best Smartphone Apps for Worldwide Travel

 

This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads

As a part of an ongoing series on technology and travel (first up was my favourite USB gadgets while on the road), I’d like to post about the best smartphone apps for travel. These aren’t apps for booking your flights – I’m assuming you’ve already got that covered with hipmunk and the free hipmunk iOS app. Rather, it’s a list of useful downloads to help navigate, communicate or stay sane and safe while travelling around the world.

When I started my trip in 2008, I had no laptop and no smartphone. As the years have gone by and I’ve continued my travels, I’ve picked up a phone and kept an eye out for apps that help me as I navigate strange places, be it via language, food or helping make my life a little easier as I go.

1. Onavo (iphone only): Onavo’s aim is to shrink your data usage, and it does so by installing a configuration profile on your phone, so that the data you receive from the interwebs is streamed through their cloud-based compression service. This means that the compression takes place before it gets to your phone, and this also means Onavo saves you some money if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.

2. Skype: Being on the road for over three years means that I’ve had no SIM card and no home base. As a result, Skype has been a saviour – it allows me to use WiFi to reach my friends, I can forward its services to a local number, and I’ve added SkypeOut credit for those family members (*cough* dad *cough*) who refuse to get an account themselves.  For those of you who want to stick to apps from Google, Google Voice’s app is an alternative, allowing you to text freely within North America from anywhere in the world.

3. TripIt: TripIt has been getting rave reviews from friends and travelers alike. It’s essentially a trip organizer – forward your trip details or confirmation to them, and TripIt will build you the full itinerary, accessible from mobile or the web. If you’re a frequent traveler with plenty of reservations to keep track of, this app might make your life quite a bit easier.

4. Urbanspoon (for travel to UK, US, Canada or Australia): I’ll admit, I don’t travel often through North America or Europe; most of my trips take me further afield, to street food fun in Asia. But for the trips I do take in these parts, Urbanspoon is a great way to find out where I should eat. I prefer its interface and enjoy using it more than the also-popular Yelp app.

5. ICOON Global Picture Dictionary: this is near and dear to my heart and I’ve used the old-fashioned Point It Dictionary (i.e. paper) version a lot on my travels to far flung places. When words just won’t work, be it because you can’t speak the language or you need a doctor ASAP, this is your friend. Photos by category, foods, body parts, lodging basics and more. For Android, the Picture Dictionary is an option, though less pretty in design and function.

6. Google Maps: it works in a startlingly comprehensive list of countries; it helps when you’re really exhausted and just cannot figure out where your hostel is and all the street signs are in an unfamiliar language. If you’re directionally disabled like me, Google Maps is a must, especially when you can use it to show your taxi driver where you need to go in their native language

7. Speaking of language, I’m enamoured with Word Lens (iPhone only). The app instantly translates printed words from one language to another using your phone’s video camera. It’s a pretty nifty idea, and even if you don’t absolutely need to get a message across right now, you’ll have a great time playing around with translation on-the-go.

8. Oanda’s Currency Conversion App: Currency conversion is a helpful thing to have available on the road, especially farther afield where you are sometimes negotiating for rates when changing money. Those countries with a closed monetary system (Myanmar, for example) won’t really care what your app says, but for the most part it’s very helpful to have an interbank rate at your immediate disposal. I’ve used this app throughout my worldwide travels and it comes in handy not just for ensuring I get a decent rate, but also to keep track of what I’m spending by converting to USD as I go.

9. Sit or Squat (available for Blackberry or iPhone) might not be the most useful, but bonus  points for creativity and for listing 109,280 toilets around the world (and counting). Just plug in your address and find a place to relieve yourself.

Bonus: Tipping Bird. A Hipmunk user (@jyzhou) created this app and I have to say I wish I had it prior. Divided by country, the app lets you know what you ought to be tipping as you go, in a cross-section of industries. Country tips are divided by restaurants, bars, taxis and others, with info from Thailand to Argentina to the States. Looking forward to using it the next time I travel!

 

Anything I left out? What are your favourite smartphone apps for worldwide travel?

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