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App Smart

Finding, comparing, and booking rooms

Hotel booking apps have transformed the way I book rooms.
I used to hate doing this online, because it was awkward, and it took too much time to find a hotel I liked and weed through reviews to make sure I wasn’t making a bad decision.

Expedia

Free on Android and iOS

My favorite option is Expedia. The app’s clean design emphasizes ease of use and access to information. When you search for a hotel for a particular location or date, the app quickly lists the available hotels, along with a thumbnail image of each one. The results also show price, number of rooms available at that price, and a rating based on user reviews. You can sort results by popularity, price, rating, or special offers — and see your options on a map.

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Tapping on a hotel takes you to a page with more photos and a map. There is also a quick summary of the hotel’s amenities, like whether it has a gym, as well as additional information like policies on pets and checkout times.

At the bottom of the page, two buttons give you the option to use the in-app booking section or call the hotel. The in-app booking section has a clear design but is a bit complicated.

My favorite part is the user review section, where Expedia displays snippets of each review. You can choose to view only the favorable reviews or the critical reviews.

Priceline

Free on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone

Priceline, another strong option, is easy to use and good at delivering useful info. The search filters it offers — like searching only for hotels with Wi-Fi — is handy. But the app attracts a lot of negative reviews for its customer service, and while it has neat tricks like “express deals” for heavily discounted hotels, it’s not my go-to app.

Hotels.com

Free on Android, iOS,
and Windows Phone

Also competing with Expedia and Priceline are well-known apps like those from Kayak, Booking.com and Hotels.com. These are similar to Expedia’s in many ways, offering the same sweep of options and generally returning similar hotels at similar prices.

Kayak has a nice interface, although it doesn’t present as much information about each hotel in the list of search results. Kayak is free on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

Booking.com (free on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) feels more like a website that has been made into an app. It requires a lot of navigating through menus and pages. But it offers many more search filters — such as for valet parking and airport shuttles — than apps like Expedia’s. This makes Booking.com pretty good if you have very specific needs or wants.

But if you are a persnickety traveler, your best bet is the Hotels.com app. Although it has a cluttered design, it has a comprehensive list of filters for searching.

Many of these apps will return slightly different prices for similar hotels, so it’s worth comparing them. Apps like those from Expedia and Kayak can also book flights, but you don’t have to book everything through one app. You can easily mix and match.

Kit Eaton writes on technology
for The New York Times.
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