When you find yourself away from home with no accommodation booked, how do you go about finding a room? Do you jump on the web? Start making phone calls, or walk into a reasonable-looking hotel and start negotiating on rate??
In the USA, travel search provider Hipmunk is now offering metasearch (metasearch is the ability to search deals from a range of providers at the same time) on same-day hotel bookings, via iPhone and Android smartphone apps. The Hipmunk app draws information from a massive range of mobile-specific and general deal listings to find the “best” rate for that night.
The issue for Australia is that we don’t have Hipmunk or most of the other leading same-day booking apps available to us.Many online booking providers, such as Wotif and Hotels.com, offer smartphone apps but they mirror the content of their main sites rather than offering app-specific or dedicated same-day deals.
In a mock search for a hotel in Sydney, I compared various websites, apps and same-day booking apps and found very few variations in prices. The same Sydney based hotels listed in my results feed at exactly the same price with each new search - no bargains anywhere. One app: Hotel Quickly, opened its bookings at noon but claimed to be “booked out” of Sydney rooms when I checked at 1.10pm.
The metasearch provider Kayak was looking like a good option (apart from its rates being in US dollars), until I clicked to book and the price went up more than 15 per cent once fees and taxes were added. I hoped to have more luck with the “local” same-day deal provider Stay Today, which opened in Australia and New Zealand just over a year ago – but it came up with only two hotel options.
My next plan was to go with Hotels Combined, which is a leading metasearch engine that claims to compare prices from hundreds of websites. The company has a smartphone app that is easy to use, with simple filters for star rating, price, facilities and other factors, but failed to come up with the best available price on one of the hotels I checked. By the time I had done all that, my phone was cluttered with apps, I’d lost a few hours and I had failed to find a one-stop solution.
To save time my advice is to pick one or two booking sites and download their (free) apps so you can use them if you need to make a booking on the go.
You could also try the tried and tested method of walking into a hotel and asking what price they can do on a room that night. Negotiating in person is not for everyone but it has its benefits, one of which is that the hotel can offer you a discount without officially dropping its rates or being seen to discount.
Good luck and happy travels!