An iPad makes a better traveling companion than a laptop for its incredible lightness, durability (no moving parts to snag or break), and the fact that TSA doesn’t require you to pull it out of your bag when it goes through the x-ray machine. If you’ll be on the road—or maybe just the next time you want to do a little armchair travel—get the Kayak PRO for iPad app (99 cents), one of the best travel search and booking apps in the App Store, and our Editors’ Choice.
Kayak centralizes search, giving you tools to find flights, hotels, and cars from one convenient app. You can’t do a single search for all three at once, the way you can on the website, but the app is a close second in terms of convenience. Sure, Orbitz offers the same basic functionality in its officially titled Orbitz Flights, Hotels, Cars iPad app (free, 4 stars), but it doesn’t offer you the option of searching across other travel search sites, such as Priceline (which now owns Kayak) and Hotwire, to ensure you’ll get the best price. Plus, Kayak’s iPad app offers several other neat features that make it slightly more useful and fun to use than Orbitz’s app. Plus, Kayak PRO presents a more streamlined and thoughtful interface that lets you move effortlessly between your flight, hotel, and car options. While Kayak did not in the past support direct payment processing, it does now, with the help of its partner Travelocity, letting you pay quickly and conveniently for plane tickets, as well as hotel and rental car reservations. Occasionally, Kayak sends you elsewhere to complete the purchase to get the best deal, but it’s always a reputable site and the Web page loads within the Kayak app, rather than routing you through Safari—making for a clean and efficient experience.
The 99-cent price tag on the Kayak PRO iPad app buys you an ad-free experience. Other than that, it is virtually the same as Kayak’s free iPad app, a fact that surely some will begrudge.
Searching and Booking Flights, Hotels, Cars
The primary navigation in the Kayak PRO app happens from a tiny left rail, where you can jump between sections for searching flights, hotels, car reservations, and travel deals around the world. Two more sections, a flight tracker and “my trips” section, give the app even more utility. You can set up flight-tracking on multiple flights, which is especially helpful for frequent travelers as well as small business owners who need to keep track of their employees’ flights—or their own.
The flight search supports one-way, round-trip, and even multi-city journeys. All the options appear quickly and are simple to navigate. When you hit the results page, finding a flight that fits your needs based on arrival or departure time, price, layover time, and so forth, is dead simple. Kayak really centralizes every bit of the travel search experience.
When you skip between sections, moving from a flight to a hotel search for example, Kayak remembers your most previous dates and cities and auto-fills them into the search criteria. The hotel section and results page work much in the same manner as the flights, with appropriate filters to help you narrow down your options. One, however, a slider bar that lets you adjust how far from the city center a hotel can be, is difficult to maneuver at distances smaller than about 20 miles. Considering that many airports are in major cities, where the difference between one mile and five from the city center is huge, it’s an area where Kayak could make some smart improvements.
Hotel listings come with photos when available and appear on an interactive map, but they don’t include alternative accommodations (i.e., rental properties and rooms to let), like the kinds you’ll find on Airbnb or HomeAway. Another travel search app for iPad, Hipmunk (free, 3.5 stars) can scout out a full-sized home or apartment rental, although similar to Kayak in its infancy, Hipmunk doesn’t book the stay for you. You’ll be pushed to another site to lay down your credit card.
The car search area works just as well as the others and includes all the major car rental companies. But the real strength of the app is its ability to glide you from one section to another quickly, so that you can secure your car at the same time as reserving your hotel room.
Extras and Oddities
If booking travel takes too much out of you, consider using the Kayak PRO iPad app just for kicks instead. From a map icon, you can search for travel across all known dates from any airport and see a list of the lowest prices Kayak can find. If you type in your airport of choice, Kayak displays a world map with pinpoints and prices based on a roundtrip fare. Tap on a pin for more information, and it’ll show the dates of travel for the price found.
The only problem with this feature is that the prices aren’t always what they seem. For example, just as I was ready to book my flight to the Abu Dhabi (only $810 roundtrip from New York!) I clicked through for complete flight details and watched as my bargain price skyrocketed to $1,026.A few times, the opposite happened, like when I spotted a reasonable $180 ticket between London Heathrow and Oslo, when in fact the final quote came in even lower at $173.
Kayak for Pro Travelers
I’ll admit that I am a long-time Orbitz user, having booked on that site nearly since it first debuted. But Kayak has become a real contender in the travel search—and now booking—space, and its iPad app is a testament to the company’s hard work. A thoughtful design and set of features that easily meet expectations keep Kayak PRO one of the most efficient apps for travelers, while a few little extras help it appeal to wanderlusters, too. Kayak PRO for iPad is PCMag’s Editors’ Choice for iPad travel search and booking apps. Pack Kayak PRO, and you won’t go wrong.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc