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Travel websites have brought to phones and tablets some special deals on rooms the day of stay.

Jared Andrew Schorr, New York Times

Using apps to find last-minute rooms

  • Article by: SUSAN STELLIN
  • New York Times
  • November 3, 2012 - 3:04 PM

Smartphones and tablets are giving travelers a reason to wait until the last minute to book a hotel: discounts if you reserve a room for the same day using an app. Kayak, Priceline, Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia all offer apps that let travelers search for hotel rooms, often discounted 10 to 50 percent for stays that begin the day you book. Here are some pros and cons of the apps:

EXPEDIA

Expedia's hotel app (expedia.com/app) will detect your location and show you nearby hotels, or you can enter the name of a city. Results can be filtered by distance, price or star rating, or you can view them on a map and select a pin to see the hotel's price and name. "Mobile exclusive" deals are marked with a flag indicating how much you're saving.

Recent deal: Element New York Times Square, $126, with taxes.

Pros: The app scrolls through photos of the selected property; hotel descriptions include nearby attractions, guest ratings and a list of amenities. Check-in/checkout policies and fees for things like Internet access are also displayed.

Cons: You can't filter the list of hotels by neighborhood. Initial prices displayed do not include taxes.

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (all with iOS 5.0 or later), Android.

KAYAK

With Kayak's app (kayak.com/mobile), you can choose "Hotels near me -- Find a deal for tonight" or enter a destination. As with other apps that pinpoint your location, the results can include options that are nearby but not necessarily convenient. Using the map view lets you zoom in on a specific area.

Recent deal: Park Central New York, $170, including taxes.

Pros: The map view shows each hotel's base rate in balloons above the street where it is (most competitors show pins, without prices). Once you select a hotel, Kayak displays rates available from different travel agencies, including taxes and fees, making it easy to find the lowest price. There's also a "call hotel" link if you prefer to book by phone.

Cons: Using the list view, you cannot sort the results by neighborhood and price at the same time.

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Mobile 7, Kindle Fire.

ORBITZ

I tested the Orbitz Hotels app (orbitz.com/mobile) with my iPhone 4, but if you have a newer iPhone or Android device, you can download a version of the app that also lets you book flights and cars. A funnel icon at the bottom of the screen lets you filter the results by amenities, area, hotel chain and rating, and then you can sort the list from lowest to highest price.

Recent deal: Sheraton TriBeCa New York, $232, including taxes.

Pros: Orbitz automatically scrolls through photos of the selected property, with descriptions of amenities.

Cons: You can't see all the prices at once on the map. Instead, you have to click on each pin. Initial rates displayed do not include taxes.

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android.

PRICELINE

Priceline (priceline.com) recently introduced an iPhone app that features last-minute deals on flights and rental cars as well as hotels, but I tested its older app, which focuses on hotels -- and is available for more devices. If you search for a hotel with either Priceline app, you'll see "Tonight-Only Deals," which are available starting at 11 a.m. local time in 150 cities. For those deals, Priceline displays the hotel's name. Its apps also feature Express Deals, which can be better bargains, but the hotel's name is not revealed until after you book.

Recent deal: Hilton Garden Inn Times Square, $209, including taxes and Wi-Fi.

Pros: Filters let you select a star level (for example, three stars and above), amenities and neighborhood, then you can sort by price.

Cons: Initial prices displayed do not include taxes and fees. You can choose only one neighborhood at a time.

Available for: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android.

TRAVELOCITY

Travelocity's app (travelocity.com/mobile) lets you book flights, hotels and cars with "mobile exclusive" deals on hotels. Another app, "Hotel Deals by Lastminute.com," released by a sister company, is available only for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices with iOS 5.0 or later. I tested Travelocity's main app.

Recent deal: Park South Hotel, $240, with taxes.

Pros: The option to select mobile exclusive deals to see which hotels are offering special same-day discounts; the list is sorted from lowest to highest price and displays star ratings and distance from your location.

Cons: On my phone, which is just over a year old, the app crashed frequently or stalled. Prices were generally higher than those I found using other apps.

Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 7, Kindle Fire.

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