Google has added a tool to search with its new Hotel Finder application. Joining other hotel aggregators, the site is Google’s latest foray into travel search. But how does the site stack up against competitors like Kayak and Bing Travel? We take a look for you.
Google Hotel Finder
Like all things Google, Hotel Finder’s user-end layout is minimalistic and easy on the eyes. There’s no clutter or an overwhelming amount of options; instead it’s sparse and clearly points you in the right direction. Most results immediately pull up a photograph of the hotel, which are generally eye-catching images (with the exception of a few cheesy brochure-type shots here and there).
Navigation through the site is very intuitive, and you remain on the same page the entire time. There are no pop-ups or need to repeatedly hit the back button. Everything remains on the right hand side tab pull downs, so you can easily access other parts of Hotel Finder without abandoning something that’s caught your attention.
Kayak is a more veteran site, and one with a variety of travel services, so it isn’t entirely surprising that it is fairly text heavy. Even still, it’s not as easy on the eyes as Hotel Finder, and requires a little more clicking as well. For instance, you choose what sites Kayak pulls hotel options from for comparison purposes, which you don’t with Hotel Finder.
While a comparison feature is user-friendly, its layout isn’t. Multiple popup windows fly up and they look like ads. Worse yet, there isn’t some set comparison chart showing all the information side-by-side, it just redirects you to those sites. So in order to effectively use this, you have to have multiple windows open and troll through them to find the best deal. Kayak’s own results are also littered with ads (something we’re sure Hotel Finder will eventually be subjected to).
[UPDATE] That was on our first trial, however. A Kayak rep got in touch with us to show that there is an ability to stay within the same window and compare prices. If you don’t select the site options on the first page where you put in your request (where you see a warning that this will result in new windows popping up) you can move on through and use the select button on your results to see comparisons in the same window. And this made a pretty big difference, which we’re happy to admit we skimmed right over initially. The only thing we would mention is if on the first page you feel you want the comparison you may not realize there is an option in the results to avoid these pop-ups, which is what we did. All in all, Hotel Finder does manage to keep users entirely with the same page more than Kayak or Bing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean other features of the two don’t outweigh this – we’d say that depends more on personal preference than anything else.
Bing’s hotel finder is actually fairly reminiscent of Google’s, it just looks like a more crowded version. It has a variety of other services you can compare its findings to, which lie on the right hand side. There is a ton of white space on the Bing site, so everything feels sort of squished to the left, but results feature high-quality photos and a helpful amount of information.
Like Kayak, it’s a little text heavy, and we prefer Google’s drop down method for showing more off about the hotel rather than putting more in the basic listing and then redirecting to a whole new page.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the most noteworthy features each site brings to the table.
Google Hotel Finder
- Tourist Spotlight: When you search for a hotel, you’ll see a blue polygon outlining a specific area around that city. This is the “hippest” part of that location, where travelers frequent. You can edit the shape to include a larger or smaller area to get more exact with your hotel destination.
- Shortlist: This tool helps you keep track of hotels you like so you can compare them later.
- Photos: The drop down for each hotel provides multiple, beautiful images.
- Compare to typical price: When you’re setting you’re your search, there’s an option to see hotel’s that are offering deals by looking for prices that are a certain percentage below the usual fees.
- Facebook integration: You can login using your Facebook ID to simplify matters if you don’t want to make a new account. You can also update friends (if you want) on your travel plans.
- Pin: You can use the pin option to save hotels you’re interested for later referencing.
- Customization filters: You can include a variety of details in your search, including what hotel chains you prefer, amenities you want included, and what type of rental (hotel, motel, inn, resort, etc) you’re looking for.
- Share: A pop-out lets you share via e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn, or URL your hotel plans.
- Search history: Shows the hotels and location you’ve been searching on the site, which we used a few times.
- Direct booking: Users can book their hotel room directly through Kayak instead of being sent to an outside site if they prefer.
- Rate indicator: Under each hotel price, you see a banner rating whether it’s a good, average, or bad deal. If you use the map view, you can see this indicated by color here. It gives you an idea of where the more expensive or affordable neighborhoods are.
- Customization filters: Like Kayak, Bing has tons of customization filters including brands, amenities, and distance from other destinations. These two sites have more than Hotel Finder currently does, where it’s limited to price and five star rating.
- Search history: Shows what you’ve been perusing on the site during your last visit, which was convenient.
Our case study: Austin, TX
To put the three hotel aggregators to work, we decided to draw from real-life and look for accommodations for an upcoming trip. The requirements: A two-night stay in Austin, Texas for less than $100 a night, preferably in the downtown area, for two adults. And a swimming pool would really seal the deal.
We narrowed the field of results using Hotel Finder’s Spotlight feature, so we knew we’d be within walking distance of desired locations. This was probably one of the most helpful features, because not knowing Austin well, we could just pinpoint addresses within the same screen and which options were best. Using that, as well as setting the price ceiling at $100 and no other filters, Hotel Finder yielded 19 results. There were five options under $60, all of which had pools (although there was no way to see this until you clicked the hotel to see its drop down information). The least expensive room was $41 a night.
Booking was simple. An icon reveals a drop down showing the prices from the sites it pulls from (Booking.com, Priceline, Expedia, Hotels.com, Expedia, and the hotel owner’s site in this case) so you can see right there where you want to book from. After choosing, you’re redirected to that site.
We entered our dates and location as well as request for a pool and pricing needs. After that, to narrow it down further and at least try to compare it to Google’s Spotlight feature, we requested the hotel be within five miles of the city’s center. This search yielded a whopping 214 results, with 12 under $60 (narrow this down to two miles and you’ll only get one choice under $60). The least expensive option was $41 a night.
Clicking this option took us to a new page (we definitely preferred the drop down layout Hotel Finder featured). That said, Kayak had far more information on the hotel on its site. Underneath the description were prices for the sites it pulled from with the cheapest highlighted at the top. Booking the room kept you within Kayak’s own site instead of redirecting you.
We entered all the same location on Bing (Austin, TX, one room, below $100, swimming pool) but there wasn’t an option to narrow your search by location. So we simply typed “downtown” into keywords, and received a measly four results, and only one was under $60. There was a Neighborhood filter, but they were locally known neighborhoods, none of which included “city center” or “downtown.” Using a simple Google search (we see the irony here), we found central Austin is considered downtown, so we tried the Central East Austin filter and got only one result.
Scrapping location entirely still only brought up four results. Taking out the swimming pool filter only found five. The least expensive result each time was $56. The description was thorough, but obnoxiously written in all caps. All pricing options were listed, but (and this is a small caveat) weren’t vertically placed on the page. Choosing your best option then takes you to the respective site to finish your booking.