Travel Tuesday Top 10: Hotel Apps

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TPG contributor Jen Jones Donatelli downloaded, plugged in and played with dozens of hotel apps to bring us today’s Travel Tuesday Top 10.

When it comes to booking travel and checking points on the go, you can take it with you. Available for a range of devices, apps are now offered by just about every major hotel chain, and some even have a dedicated app for their loyalty programs. We’ve sniffed out 10 of the best for you below. (All apps are free unless noted otherwise.)

Pinpoint your destination using IHG’s advanced interactive mapping technology.

1. IHG Priority Club Rewards: This app gives Priority Club members an extensive selection of handy mobile options, from searching hotels by airport code to using a corporate ID to snag special rates. Other features include the ability to redeem points for reward stays, save profile information for speedier bookings, get hotel directions via reliable GPS, and call your hotel of choice with one click. InterContinental Hotels and Resorts also offers a Concierge App for the iPad, which gives insider tips from its concierge team and access to VIP event tickets. Recommendations and video tours are provided for more than 120 destinations, and concierges also detail their “perfect day” for users to replicate.

Available for: Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Phone 7, and iPad.

Groove out to custom playlists made by the W’s resident curator of cool.

2. W Hotels: Even though W Hotels are accessible via the SPG app, the W Hotels dedicated app earns a spot on our Top 10 list thanks to an array of innovative features. Along with all of the usual trappings, the W’s app showcases an “I Need” button for communicating requests to hotel staff kind of like the online version of the “Whatever, Whenever” button on W Hotels phones, along with the ability to order room service, and for those feeling especially generous, a “Treat Yourself or Someone Else” feature to order extras like champagne and snacks. There’s an “Insider” tab where users can get the scoop on local events in their destination. A Mix.dj music player treats app users to custom mixes curated by the W’s Global Music Director Michaelangelo L’Acqua. There are reports of the app crashing a lot when playing music, though.

Available for: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. (Requires iOS 4.0 or later.)

Turn the Ritz-Carlton app into your own personal concierge whenever you need it.

3. Ritz-Carlton Mobile App: If you’re a Ritz-Carlton aficionado, make your life easier (and a bit more fun) by downloading the hotel chain’s mobile app, which just debuted in May. The app has some unique features, such as a QR code scanner that can unlock an array of cool little items—from scavenger hunts to cocktail recipes to tips from Ritz-Carlton president Herve Humler. Advanced GPS technology also alerts the app when you arrive on property, after which you’ll get notifications about hotel events happening during your stay, tips on what to do in the area, and other goodies.

The app also has all the usual bells and whistles, such as the ability to make, view, or edit reservations at any Ritz-Carlton hotel or resort, create or access your rewards account, and scroll through photo galleries and hotel amenities.

Available for: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Book HHonors rewards stays using Hilton’s handy app.

4. Hilton: Though some users have complained of bugs (such as having to log in on every screen), the Hilton app can still be a helpful tool for HHonors members on the go. The app enables members to make rewards reservations, check your balance, and access profile information. You can also use the app to book or check in to rooms, view specials and promotions, or utilize mobile maps for getting from Point A to Point B. One unique feature of the app is its Requests Upon Arrival feature, through which you can request special touches like extra pillows, fresh fruit and champagne, or a romantic surprise for a significant other. Some users have had difficulty looking up reservation information, and complain about having to log in every time they use this app.

Available for: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Club Carlson’s app provides streamlined options for just about any of your hotel needs.

5. Club Carlson: Available for Android and Apple products, the Club Carlson app lets you not only make regular reservations at Carlson properties, but also to make award bookings using points at more than 1,000 hotels around the world in the Radisson, Country Inn & Suites, Park Inn, and Park Plaza families. (You can also take a virtual tour of various hotels to help you decide where to stay.) If pressed for time, you can use Express Booking to make reservations on the fly. And while you’re on the go, access the app’s interactive Maps feature, which gives users a virtual passport to more than four million points of interest all over the world. Some users claim recent upgrades have made the app harder to use for reservations, but reviews are very positive overall.

Available for: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Starwood’s “My SPG” functionality keeps you abreast of your points balance and other need-to-know info in one glance.

6. Starwood: In March, we told you about the Starwood app’s sleek redesign, just one of many reasons to be a fan. Now they’re giving us another reason: Starwood Preferred Guest members can earn 500 bonus points on eligible stays booked through the iPhone app through December 20th. Another feature to fawn over with the iPhone/iPod touch app: live customer service via Facetime.

A standout feature of the Starwood app is its state-aware technology, which changes the content and display based on whether you’re in the planning process, traveling, or already checked in. You can also check your Starpoints balance, view details on upcoming and past stays, and engage in social networking via FourSquare and Facebook to share photos and check-in to nearby hotspots. Users who have already switched to iOS 6 for the iPhone have complained that the app is not properly supported so far, but a fix is in the works.

Available for: Blackberry, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

With the Choice Hotels app, you can log directly into your Choice Privileges account on the go.

7. Choice Hotels: Developed in April 2009, this was the first global reservation-booking app launched by a hotel company, and they’re still blazing trails. This app uses up-to-date GPS technology to help you find and book hotels near your current location; of course, you can also search more than 6,200 Choice hotels both near and far (with the ability to view in either list or map form). Common app features such as viewing hotel details, amenities, and photos and managing upcoming reservations are available as well.

While using the app, you can also join the Choice Privileges program or access your account. Choice Privileges members can also store login credentials for easy access. A few platform-specific features: Exclusive to the Android app, you can book rooms at special rates. The iPad version has a few “choice” features of its own, specifically the ability to compare hotels side-by-side, or save a Choice hotel as a favorite (for Choice Privileges members only). Unfortunately, the advent of iOS 6 seems to cause this app to crash for users who have updated to the new technology, but hopefully a fix is not far off.

Available for: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Preview the amenities in store for you at your Hyatt property of choice.

8. Hyatt: Available in English, German, Chinese and Japanese, the Hyatt app provides instant access to its 400+ hotels around the globe. Like many of the other hotel apps, it utilizes location-based technology to bring users weather details, local time, maps, and driving directions for your destination of choice. You can also join the Hyatt Gold Passport program or track your Gold Passport points. And if you stay at Hyatt properties frequently, you’ll enjoy the “favorite” feature, which allows you to save selected Hyatt hotels for easy access. In the works for the future are iPad apps that will allow guests to order room service, review charges, see hotel amenities, and check out of their rooms.

Available for: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

View rates and special promotions to make sure you get the best deal with Wyndham.

9. Wyndham Hotels Group: The Wyndham Hotel Group app offers an Express Booking option which enables you to reserve a room using just your name and email address—no credit card necessary.  (Reservations are then held until 6pm for you to solidify at your convenience.) When searching for hotels, the app provides search results by not only price and distance, but also TripAdvisor rating so you can get the real deal from previous guests. You can also view recent promotions and deals to make sure you’re not missing out on any offers. The app also keeps you connected, allowing you to share hotel information via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Some users have complained that the app tends to be slow and altering reservations can be difficult.

Available for: Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Search for a Marriott property easily and efficiently.

10. Marriott: Available in five languages (though Blackberry is English only), the Marriott app is a useful download no matter how you say it. Make reservations at more than 3,600 hotels and resorts around the world, and browse city guides to see what’s in store when you get there. If for some reason you have an issue with a reservation, the app can call customer service in one touch.

Marriott Rewards members can use their Rewards Digital Membership Card to plug into account information on the go, check-in and earn points for reservations booked through the app. (You can also use the app to enroll in the Rewards program if you haven’t already.)

Available for: Android, Blackberry, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. (Requires iOS4 or later.)

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