Have you noticed a change recently when you’ve searched for hotels on Google.com? I noticed for the first time today that at the top of the page there is a band across the top of the results displaying hotels. Upon further investigation (which meant I sent a note to a friend on Facebook who is a product manager at Google, and I might add, he responded almost instantly with the answer) I discovered Google Hotels.
Since I’m finalizing my last 3 days in Hawaii now, I thought I’d do a quick comparison using Google Hotels to see how it really works.
I started by searching “Maui” and got a long list of hotels in return.
A really cool feature is is the custom area search. On the top left corner of the map, you can select custom area. Then, you can drag the map boundary to create your own search area. Here’s the area I created.
So far, so good. When I sorted my new custom results, I got a little less info than I’d hoped for. For some reason, when I sorted the results by “number of stars” the vast majority of the results showed “price unknown”
I was able to find some hotels with known prices, and one of those was a hotel where I’m already booked, The Westin Ka’anapali. So I decided to do a comparison of prices between Google Hotels results and the Starwood website. Here’s what I found
When looking at the Westin Ka’anapali on Google Hotels, it showed a rate of $489/night ($555 w/taxes) using Booking.com. The rate details on Booking.com show two different rates, a refundable rate and a non-refundable rate. The non-refundable rate was $554.60 and the refundable rate was $565.92/night. So the rates shown on Google were very accurate.
Next, I searched the Starwood website directly and found three different rates: an Automobile Association rate, a Prepaid rate and an Endless Escape Rate. The prepaid rate was exactly the same rate as what was found on Google Hotels via Booking.com. There was a better rate, however. The Auto Association rate was $449 or a savings of $40. Now, if you’re not a member of an auto-association, it might make sense to join. The cost of AAA basic membership is $89, however, if you do a Google Search for AAA Membership Discounts you’ll find tons of information on how to get discounted memberships. I found an offer for $49 for 14 months in South Carolina. The benefit of using the AAA rate to book the hotel is that it’s discounted and refundable through 11/21/13.
So, until I found the AAA rate, Google offered the exact same rates as Starwood’s website. Personally, in this instance where the rate was exactly the same, I would book using Starwood to ensure I earned my points and stay/night credits.
In the end, I found Google Hotels to be pretty good. The only complaint is that certain sort criteria seemed to throw it off and produce a lot of “price unknown” results. I definitely liked this search much better than other sites like Kayak and Expedia.
Have you tried it?