In a plentiful sea of flight and hotel search engines, Hipmunk stands out for having a few special features that make it easy to find a flight that will be comfortable for you, and accommodations that also fit your needs—even if you can’t find them in a standard hotel. Hipmunk’s iPad app, called Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search (free), delivers the same great experience on the iPad. Visually, it works very well, showing color-coded flight options by carrier, making it easy to see layover locations and duration. The app even provides slider bars for narrowing down what time you want to travel. Its hotel search has a few additional neat visual features and, best of all, it includes listing from Airbnb and HomeAway in its results.
This search aggregator doesn’t quite tick all the boxes, though, and it’s important to note that it’s a search app, not a booking app. Hipmunk will send you off to an airline’s website or even Orbitz when you’re ready to put down your credit card details. It’s similar in that respect to Google Flights, and equally as handy for search.
Special Features: Flights
When I saw the initial landing page of Hipmunk’s iPad app, I worried that it would not effectively use the screen’s real estate, as you’ll see a cramped box in the upper left corner for filling in your search criteria. But it’s just this first screen that doesn’t use the iPad’s full space, and in fact, the layout and visual nature of Hipmunk on all its following pages is excellent.
All the basic search options are included, such as type-ahead search for airport codes, number of passengers, and whether you prefer to fly coach, business, or first class. Hipmunk searches both internationally and domestically. You won’t find any selections for fine tuning which airports you prefer, like being able to say “all New York City airports except EWR,” for example, as you can in Kayak’s iPad app. Flexible dates are also out both here and on Hipmunk’s full web site, so stick to Editors’ Choice Orbitz (website version) for that feature.
The results appear quickly and are color coded by airline. In the slideshow, you can see just how easy it is to find a flight that fits all your needs. Hipmunk lets you sort the results by price, flight duration, and its signature default category “agony”—in other words, the least painful flight considering all the variables.
Sliders at the top of the page let you quickly narrow down your search based on departure or arrival time. Flights that have Wi-Fi on board include a Wi-Fi icon right on the results matrix. It’s all extremely intuitive to use and takes advantage of the iPad’s touch capabilities very well.
My favorite feature, however, is one that’s so simple I can’t believe other flight search apps don’t use it: tabs! Hipmunk’s iPad app lets you have multiple search results open at any given time. Tabs also make it easy to switch between the results you’ve found for comparative shopping.
Special Features: Hotels
Hotel search results also use neat visual displays to make it easy to sort through the options. A map view shows cool features and different facets of the neighborhood where you might stay, like whether it is pedestrian-friendly (hilly San Francisco is a dream to navigate with this feature enabled) and whether there’s nightlife nearby by showing heat maps of hot spots, if you’ll forgive the pun.
As mentioned, the hotel results include listings from Airbnb and HomeAway, two online services that let individuals rent out their houses and apartments. When you need a room in a very specific location or at a flexible price, these two services can really open up your options, and it’s a god-send that Hipmunk includes them.
TripAdvisor and Airbnb ratings are included in the hotel results as well, giving you yet other metrics on which to judge the decency of a particular place to sleep.
As with Bing Travel and Google Flights, Hipmunk sends you to a merchant site once you’re ready to make a reservation. The benefit is that you get the best possible price; the compromise is that there’s no pricing guarantee from Hipmunk (there may be at the point of sale, though, depending on where you go to book). Hipmunk will send you to an airline website directly, or Orbitz, or Airbnb—wherever has the best price.
Price, Priorities, and the iPad
Especially when on the road with an iPad, Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search can help you find the right air travel itinerary or accommodation quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t have quite the same granularity for filtering as Kayak or Orbitz, but it’s simple to use and can get the job done quickly and efficiently if you’re not too picky about airports and know precisely which days you need to travel.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc