Travel Tools I (Might) Love: Hipmunk

If you haven’t heard of Hipmunk, it’s no surprise. The site only launched in the last couple of weeks, but it’s off to a good start. If you book flights, it’s a site you’re going to want to bookmark. Hipmunk has the potential to make booking flights easy, but it’s not quite there yet. A couple of tweaks, and we’ve got a winner.

Hipmunk was actually started by a couple of guys with no travel industry experience. That is generally not a good sign since navigating the world of selling travel requires some serious insider knowledge, but it also means they can look on the process with fresh eyes. I spoke with co-founder Adam Goldstein and he walked me through their thoughts. I think they’re on a good path. Here’s what the search results page looks like (click to enlarge):

The idea was to create a very simple and clean way to book travel. So to start, they’ve contracted with Orbitz for the and they’ve slapped their user interface on top of it. The result looks a lot like what you might find on ITA Software, but with booking capability. The goal was to put as many flights in as small of a space as possible. This set up allowed them to show you all possible options on one screen so that you don’t have to keeping clicking to see more options. It works quite nicely.

There are a few things that really make this stand out in my mind.

  • The “Worse” Feature
    On the far right side, you’ll see random scattered “worse” buttons. This is all part of the plan to reduce the clutter on the screen. The worse button automatically hides flight options that nobody would want. I should say, almost nobody. For example, let’s say you’re connecting. There might be an option that has the same connecting flight but an earlier first flight, like this.

    That longer layover in Denver might be great if your Great Aunt Mildred lives there, but otherwise you don’t want it. But that’s why they hide it instead of delete it entirely. The info is still there for the rare few who dream of a long layover.

  • The “Agony” Sort
    The first sort you see is not intuitive. It’s the agony sort, which right now looks at price, total trip duration, and number of stops.

    The idea is to get away from the straight price sort, and that’s a good thing. But it’s not where it needs to be. Adam mentioned that they were talking about creating a profile where you could sign up and create your own variables for the agony sort. Then anytime you search, it would use those presets. This would be excellent. Right now, the first thing that pops up in the above agony sort is a nonstop but it’s a redeye. I hate redeyes, so I would want to have that in my profile and have it never show up at the top again.

  • The “Time” Bar
    You’ll notice there are no time filters here, and that might bug some people, but the filter is actually hidden in the site. On each side, there are black bars that you can drag to be your earliest start time and latest arrival time. It would be nice to have a little more flexibility than that, but with the searches I’ve done, it’s actually narrowed it down plenty.

There are a few bugs here and there, but it’s only been up for a couple weeks so they’ll work through them. Once they have more providers that can provide more robust info, this site will be come even more useful. Like I said, I like where it’s going. It’s just not quite there yet. And that’s why this is a travel tool I might love.

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