I’ve been testing a new hotel booking engine that I really like and I wanted to share it with you. There’s a lot to cover, including how it works, a first-time booking discount and a pretty cool giveaway.
Full disclosure, I don’t make a lot of my bookings through online travel agencies (OTAs). I use them to search for what I need and ultimately book at the hotel chain’s website for virtually 100% of my bookings. I don’t stack some of the small rebates out there, though I know plenty that do. And, I rarely book an advance purchase rate.
One of the biggest reasons I don’t use OTAs is because I want to ensure that I get my elite benefits, points and stay credits. This isn’t something that’s easy to do with an OTA booking, let alone dealing with some of the requisite hassle of canceling those bookings. For a while, I really liked Points Hound’s Double Dip product, but when those rates dried up, the hassle of canceling through their site and lack of benefits was an immediate buzz kill for me.
That’s why StayFaster and StayatHand appealed to me. For starters, they’ve figured out a way to make reservations via a 3rd party site and still receive elite benefits and points for your stay. That’s a huge plus for me. Second, they do make it really easy to cancel a reservation (big button on the top right of your screen).
For me personally, just being able to book and get elite benefits isn’t especially valuable unless it’s easy to use the site to search. Stay Faster does a great job minimizing clicks and page reloads. They also include some little extras along the way that are timesavers. The website is somewhat bare bones (light on graphics and “pretty”) but is wicked fast. Here’s a look at the home page:
I found the search to be very quick, as quick (and in most cases much quicker) than other OTAs. I also tested it on a Gogo flight recently and still got decent results, quicker than running similar searches on Expedia at the same time. Once the search is complete, the system will display results in list format on the left with a map on the right.
There are a number of filters and option bits you can select, including enabling/disabling AAA, military and senior discounts as well as filtering for properties that are full service, extended stay or associated with a chain. Most of these options can be preset in your profile for future searches.
The site will allow you to see 10, 25 or 100 results on the list view. What I liked much better than Expedia is that if I start typing in the search box the site immediately filters the results without reloading the page. So, everything is there and hiding, ready to be sorted without a new page load, something Expedia just doesn’t do very quickly (don’t get me started on Orbitz).
I double-checked some of the rates I found across multiple cities and they matched what the hotels were offering on their websites, including advance purchase and other special rates. From a responsive standpoint, I found a couple of things I thought could be improved, such as the calendar defaulting to the month you’re searching when you’ve already started a search. The company responded quickly and has already shown progress on some of those items. They’ve also shared with me that there are more search option bits to come soon, like the ability to toggle on and off advance purchase rates.
Their app, which is designed a differently to focus on booking rooms near your geographic location, has a phenomenal user experience. The home screen changes based on which categories you use most frequently. Once you identify how you want to search (somewhere near you or by entering your own criteria), the display will allow you to see things by list or map. Both are useful, but the map view is friggin’ awesome. It puts a gold star on the lowest price, which is helpful in a dense search area. And, as you zoom in or out or move around the screen, it instantly updates pricing.
Click on any price bubble and it displays the hotel info. Again, the info is very elegantly displayed.
The app also allows you to select some presets for how you want to search in the future.
I really like the website and the app. I personally have more use for the website than the app. I can see searching and booking on StayFaster, knowing that I can view multiple chains (for me, usually Hyatt and SPG) and book right on the site while still getting my elite benefits. The folks running the company have rich hotel experience and appear well-equipped to make this product a long-term success.
Now, For The Good Stuff!
Stay Faster is offering each of my readers a 10% rebate on their first booking, without restriction. This is not a discount, it’s an actual 10% cash rebate. That’s pretty darn cool. All you need to do is the following:
1. Click Here To Register At StayFaster. You’ll need to click on the “Create Account” link at the top right under the Login tab.
2. Enter my promotion code. Wait for it…. PizzaInMotion
3. Provide a first and last name, plus a password.
That’s it. You’ll receive a 10% rebate on your first booking once it’s completed. This is valid for virtually every hotel and rate on the site. There are a few non-commisionable rates that don’t qualify, marked as “Not Eligible for Promotions”. You can read the full T&C here.
Please note, I do earn a referral credit with Stay Faster if you use my code. It doesn’t take anything away from the discount you’re receiving. Rather, you’re getting the best deal currently available.
And, finally, the giveaway!
StayFaster offered me $200 in credit to use on their site, good for virtually any hotel room bookable through them. Instead of keeping it, I thought it would make a great holiday gift for one of you.
So, all you need to do is tell me a little story. Tell me about one of your most memorable hotel stays/vacations. It can be memorable for a good reason or a bad one, I don’t care. And, it doesn’t need to be long.
You can enter as many times as you like provided you’re actually sharing a story. If you’re just leaving a “pick me” comment, you’re limited to one entry a day.
If you have a memorable picture, feel free to send it along to ed -at- milepoint dot com and I’ll post the good ones!
All decisions by me in relation to the contest are final.
I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday, December 24th, just in time for me to head out for Christmas with the family, and add to someone else’s pile of gifts!
Don’t miss any of the daily travel tips, tricks and strategies found here. Follow me using one of these options: