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10 Hotel Mobile Apps that Make Travel Easier

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Travel plans can change, and any tool that gives you flexibility on the go can be a huge help. Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr looks at which hotel apps are making it to easier to book rooms, find properties nearby, and more when you’re away from home.

I’m always interested in finding tools than can improve my travel experience. Last week I reviewed 10 airline apps that can make your life easier by helping you update your itinerary, access flight information, and more, even while you’re on the move. Today, I’ll look at the hotel side of things and see which hotel brand’s app can give you the leg up on your next trip.

Hotels have upped their mobile technology game at an impressive pace. For example, Hilton and Starwood are saying the majority of their properties will have smart phone enabled room key systems by the end of 2016. The table below shows which hotel apps offer the basic features that I use most often. (This article is based on the iOS version of all apps; features may differ on Android and other platforms.)

Hotel Book Revenue Night Book Award Night Mobile Check-in Select Room Use Phone as Key
Accor Yes No No No No
Best Western Yes Yes No No No
Choice Yes Yes No No No
Club Carlson Yes Yes No No No
Hilton Yes Yes Yes Yes Coming Soon
Hyatt Yes Yes Yes No No
IHG Yes Yes Notification Room is Ready No No
Marriott Yes Yes Yes No No
Starwood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wyndham Yes Yes No No No

With the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at some nuances worth noting for each mobile application:

Accor — Besides offering an easy to use reservation interface, perhaps the best thing about this no frills app is the special offers tab. It shows several promotions which could save you some cash.

Best Western — Conveniently, Best Western’s app has an option to interface directly with TripIt to help keep all your itinerary information in a central location.

Choice — You can store payment information under your Choice Privileges account and look at quarterly points statements. When searching for a room, I like that it shows all of the different rates available in one screen shot. Not much else stands out.

Club Carlson — One very handy feature is the map property search, which quickly shows you a map of your city and all available properties. Seeing the convenience (or inconvenience) of a property’s location in 5 seconds makes the deciding whether to book much easier. You can store a credit card to speed up the reservation process, but like the brand’s main website, the app is lacking a bit.

Hilton — An empowering Manhattan wallpaper strikes you immediately upon opening the app, and sets the tone for its capabilities. At 6 am the day before a stay, you can check in to an eligible property and select the exact room you’d like. Redeem points, update personal room preferences, use your phone as your room key … you can do it all in the Hilton app.

Hilton's app makes a Manhattan wall paper about as aspirational as possible.
Hilton’s app makes a Manhattan wallpaper about as aspirational as possible.

Hyatt — This is a simple app, but it gets the job done. You can easily find a property and pay cash or points for the night. You can check in and check out from the app, save your favorite properties to make future reservations easier, and review ongoing Hyatt promotions.

IHG — The app allows you to redeem Rewards Club points for digital rewards like music, ebooks, games, and software. An interesting idea, but not a good value. There’s a link to IHG’s online GeoGuessr game. There’s also a message center for news and offers, but I’ve never received one.

Marriott — Besides the new check-in and check-out functionality, the app is rather basic for such a large chain. I can make reservations with cash or points. I guess that’s all I really need.

Starwood — The app in its entirety is a one-stop convenience shop. From basic functionality to keyless entry and handy contact phone numbers, the app is great. I can look at my Starwood Gold Preferred Guest benefits to check my progress toward Platinum, explore hotels by Starwood brand or location, and see new offers to save money or earn property credit. I can also link my SPG account to Uber via the app.

Soon enough, you may never have to stop at a front desk again. Register your phone to work with SPG Keyless.
Soon enough, you may never have to stop at a front desk again. Register your phone to work with SPG Keyless.

Wyndham — It’s hard to even know which app to download when looking for the Wyndham hotel group. There are three listed as the “official” app in the iTunes store. There’s a separate app for Wyndham Rewards, even though you can redeem points for free hotel nights in the “Wyndham Hotels and Resorts” app. Besides booking revenue and award nights, looking at your account balance, and making future reservations, there’s not much else here.

The W Hong Kong was one of Starwood's original properties to have keyless room entry using your smartphone. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
The W Hong Kong was one of Starwood’s original properties to have keyless room entry using your smartphone. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

I’m happy with a hotel app if I can review my loyalty account and redeem points for an award night (perhaps if I’m stuck somewhere and need a quick free night). The prospect of never again stopping at a front desk is now reality. Using an app to check in or check out, and then again using your phone as the key may be enticing to some, but I actually enjoy talking to the hotel staff. Many upgrades have been direct results of those interactions. For me, part of the allure of staying in a hotel is the service and getting to know the staff. If I took them completely out of the picture, I think I would miss those relationships.

Aside from all the functions mentioned above, I’m fond of the apps that have contact numbers and twitter handles readily available. It beats trying to look up the correct number or search twitter to find someone to talk to quickly if a situation ever arises. I also enjoy the apps that use my location to show me the closest properties nearby (in case I get stuck at an airport or slowed down by traffic).

Which hotel apps do you use?

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