I’m working on plans for a trip in April to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and have recently been criticized by friends for my use of Kayak over Hipmunk to search for flights and hotels. I am a frequent Kayak user for its ease of use and quick ability to search lots of websites for the lowest prices. So, why would I switch my loyalty? Well, I decided to check out Hipmunk and see what those who know are raving about.
Hipmunk is a new and hip way to search for flights and hotels. From a cosmetic standpoint, it has a more fun website and mobile app than Kayak. As a mascot, Hipmunk has a cartoonish Chipmunk that flanks the banner line and waves its arms like a plane flying through the air while the site searches for flights and hotels. But what makes Hipmunk so great is its simplicity. The website was designed to take the agony out of searching for flights and hotels. Like Kayak, the site doesn’t have a booking engine, but it displays prices after searching other popular travel sites to find the best deals.
Searching for Flights with Hipmunk
For flight searches, Hipmunk scans the web for the lowest fares. The search results are displayed on a simple bar graph and ranked by a combination of price, shortest duration, and fewest layovers, or from least agony to most agony. You can re-sort the results by price, duration, departure time, and arrival time. In addition, you can filter the results by preferred airline(s), desired airport(s), and duration. For booking, Hipmunk takes you to the third party site where it found the fare you want to purchase. The site also allows you to register your flight searches for fare alerts, which it sends to your email address.
Another great feature on the website is its ability to generate a graph with the fare you’re searching for displayed over the next 90 days. If your dates are flexible, this allows you to see when you can book the best deal to your destination.
My one complaint with the Hipmunk mobile app is that it doesn’t allow you to do multi-city airfare searches (leaving from/returning to different airports or itineraries with multiple destinations).
Searching for Hotels with Hipmunk
Like the airfare search function, the hotel search feature is equally as simple and straightforward. Search results are displayed on a large map of the city/destination. The properties are listed on the left with a user rating (powered by Trip Advisor) and price. For some cities, Hipmunk provides a neighborhood filter that highlights areas suggested for families, LGBT travelers, romance, business, and adventure. A great feature of the hotel search is that it displays apartment rentals in addition to traditional hotel and B&B options. You can refine your search results by property types, chains, and amenities.
After exploring Hipmunk and testing it to make reservations for my upcoming Cabo trip, I’m sold on the site. I like the simplicity of the search results and appreciate how flight options are sorted by degree of agony. Lately, I’ve noticed that Kayak and Orbitz’s results list flights with extremely long layovers as the first options (granted, they are the cheapest, but who would spend 27 hours laying over in Houston flying from DC to LA…). While the lowest price, I don’t want to scroll through a long list to find an itinerary with a reasonable connection time (least agony). Hipmunk shows me that option first.
If you haven’t tried Hipmunk yet, it’s definitely worth a visit. As a new site, it has several limitations. It doesn’t yet allow you to book rental cars or vacation packages. I’m sure those features are forthcoming. In the meantime, happy trip planning!