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Don't leave home without Hipmunk's travel search app for iOS

Philip Michaels | Jan. 25, 2013
In an App Store full of free travel search apps, Hipmunk stands out thanks to features well suited to your iPhone and iPad.

The iOS App Store boasts more than its fair share of apps capable of helping you track down flight and hotel reservations. Many of them are free and decent enough to get the job done. But Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search lets you search in style with features that are well suited for both the iPhone and iPad.

This universal iOS app is essentially the mobile version of Hipmunk's travel website, with a feature set geared to on-the-go searches. Searches for flights are sorted by Hipmunk's Agony index--which considers the length of the flight, the number of layovers, and the price of tickets--while hotel searches include heat maps that rely on color-coding to show how close your potential lodging would be to things like restaurants, nightlife, and other attractions.

But the mobile version of Hipmunk presents this information in a way that's tailored to your iOS device. Searching for a flight, for example, is a matter of simply tapping out your departure and arrival cities; instead of fumbling through separate scroll wheel date pickers, you use a single scrollable calendar to select arrival and departure dates. Your flight results appear in a Gantt chart-style display that you can further sort based on price, departure time, and flight length. (iPad users will enjoy the ability to easily filter out flights that depart too early or late just by dragging their finger on the timeline--perfect if you hate red-eyes as much as I do and don't want those results cluttering up your screen.) Tapping one of the individual bars produces more information about the individual flight, including key tidbits like whether the flight has on-board Wi-Fi or not.

Hotel searches through Hipmunk are similarly intuitive. The app searches for rooms based on your current location by default, making Hipmunk's mobile offering better suited for finding last-minuted lodgings; switching cities is as simple as tapping the location and typing out a new city. From there, it's just a matter of tapping in the length of your stay, the number of guests, and how many rooms you need. Hipmunk displays its results on a map of the surrounding area, using color-coded dots for an at-a-glance view of the price range of your would-be accommodations. Turning on heatmaps for food, sights, shopping, and other categories gives more at-a-glance information that, frankly, looks a little busy on the iPhone's screen, but is much simpler to digest on an iPad. In a neat little feature, you can save up to three different hotels for comparing and contrasting later on.

Once you've found a flight or a room you want to book, the app will let you do so via your device's mobile Safari browser. But entering that data on your iPhone or iPad can be a bit of a pain. Hipmunk recognizes that fact and gives you the option of either emailing yourself a link to the selected flight or hotel room or using a URL and code to complete the booking once you're back at a computer with a physical keyboard. It's a wise acknowledgement by Hipmunk that while your iOS device excels at many things, completing transactions that involve a lot of data entry may not be one of them.


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