Los Angeles, O’Hare Predicted To Be the Busiest U.S. Airports this Thanksgiving

Los Angeles International (LAX) and Chicago O`Hare International (ORD) are expected to be the busiest U.S. airports this Thanksgiving, according to Orbitz’s Insider Index. The two airports switched positions from 2012’s ranking, when O’Hare was busiest.

Rounding out the top five are Boston Logan International (BOS), San Francisco International (SFO) and New York LaGuardia (LGA).

The least busiest airport is predicted to be Syracuse Hancock International (SYR). So all you folks living in New York state (talking about you Binghamtonites) might want to look to Syracuse rather than New York City for booking a flight.

To arrive at these rankings, Orbitz reviewed its booking data from the top 50 U.S. airports over the Thanksgiving travel period (Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, 2013).

Orbitz Releases iPad-Optimized App For Flights, Hotels And Rental Cars

Travel-booking service Orbitz had released an update to their popular iOS app, bringing full iPad optimization to Apple’s tablet for the first time. The new version of the app now runs at the iPad’s native screen resolution and taps into the device’s more powerful processor to provide faster search results to consumers. The app also presents users with special mobile-only discounts that aren’t available through the company’s traditional web portal.

Much like the former iPhone-only version, the new app lets users find and book discounted flights, hotel rooms and rental cars. The search results are then displayed on the larger iPad screen allowing travelers to compare the details of different flight options or view hotels in both a list and map view. These features help make the search process much easier and simply aren’t possible on the smaller screen of a smartphone.

Streamlined searching of travel options isn’t the only thing the app brings to the table. It also allows travelers to save their itineraries for offline viewing and even adds important dates and times to the iPad’s built-in calendar. Additionally, it will provide updated information on flight delays or gate changes and grants access to exclusive deals for hotel rooms, often at as much as 50 percent off the normal price.

In celebration of the release of the new iPad app, Orbitz is giving away a trip for two to Chicago. The contest winner will receive first-class, round-trip airfare and two nights stay at the swanky Peninsula Chicago hotel. To enter to win, just visit the Orbitz Facebook page.

And to download the new iPad version of the app hit the App Store.

[Photo Credit: Orbitz]

Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

The Internet has brought us many ways to research and book hotels at prices much lower than the hotels’ published rate. Aggregate sites like Kayak and Orbitz give you the best available rate (BAR) without pre-payment on a specific hotel, while “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for a room below BAR but the actual property remains hidden until after you book and the purchase is non-refundable. Now a new booking site offers you hotel deals well below BAR while ensuring consumers flexibility and a standard of quality.

Guestmob differs from other hotel booking sites by combining high-tech algorithmic pricing and expertly curated properties hand-picked for their high user ratings. The site works by grouping hotels into collections of four to eight properties in a given category and neighborhood. You enter your travel dates and can immediately see a room rate of up to 50% below BAR for each hotel collection. The Thursday before you check in, the exact hotel is revealed but you are guaranteed one of the specific hotels in the collection. Best of all, unlike other opaque booking sites, you can cancel your reservation up to three days before check-in.Previously, some savvy travelers have tried to “game the system” with sites like Bidding for Travel, a forum that tries to guess winning bids and participating hotels on opaque sites by sharing successful bookings. Guestmob removes the need for this research by specifying hotels in each collection and immediately offering a deeply discounted price. While room upgrades, frequent guest points and other requests are still at the discretion of the hotel upon check-in, it’s still a great option for travelers with flexibility.

A Guestmob search for a hotel in Chicago on a weekend in mid-May yielded a price of $164 for a 3.5 star hotel on Magnificent Mile (such as a Courtyard or Embassy Suites), or $203 to bump up to a 4 star in the same area such as a W or Westin Hotel. The same properties ranged from $221 to $279 on other sites. Most Guestmob hotels are part of well-known chains such as Marriott or Starwood, or smaller chains like Kimpton and JDV.

Guestmob soft-launched last year in San Francisco and has now expanded to include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix. The site is well connected to social media so you can get help, learn news or give feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also chat with them right on the site if you have questions.

Orbitz “Insider Index” predicts London, Chicago and Austin will be popular in 2012, looks at 2011 and 2012 travel trends

According to Orbitz‘s annual survey, released this week, London, Chicago and Austin are primed to be top travel destinations in 2012. The “Insider Index” used both travel experts and the OTA’s booking and consumer search data to predict what they think will happen in the 2012 travel market.
Hotspots for 2012
London: London will mark its place in history as the only city to host the modern Olympic Games three times when it welcomes the 2012 games this summer. In late June, the city will also host one of its most beloved events, Wimbledon, where spectators can watch some of the best tennis champions compete on the court.
Austin: The trendiest part of Texas only seems to grow in popularity each year and 2012 will be no different, Orbitz experts predict. Regarded as a music lover’s mecca, tens of thousands of revelers flock to the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” every spring for the annual South by Southwest Festival, which takes place March 9-18 this year.
Chicago: The city that attracts 40 million visitors a year is gearing up to welcome even more as it serves as the backdrop for two high-profile world events in 2012. The 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will make its North American debut in Chicago in April followed by the G8 Summit in May. For those who find their own version of peace on the back nine, Chicago will also host the Ryder Cup in September– a bi-annual international golf event eagerly followed by golf enthusiasts around the world.
Sure Bets for Great Deals in 2012
San Diego: Whether a mountain adventurer or a coastal relaxer, there is something for everyone at a price that works in San Diego. And this year, there’s even more of a reason to visit this coastal city. The convention business is growing, but has yet to reach the peak levels attained during 2007. This, combined with an increase in supplier inventory, means great values throughout the city.
Washington, D.C. : A bit of a hush falls over the nation’s capital during election years with the Washington insider crowd outside the Beltway campaigning. “As candidates hit the campaign trail in 2012, more hotel rooms and flights have space available and that can add up to great deals for travelers looking to explore Washington, D.C.,” said Donna Mulligan, Washington, D.C. destination expert and regional director for Orbitz Worldwide.
Riviera Maya: Soft white sand and beautiful aqua water make Mexico’s own Riviera an oasis for travelers seeking relaxation. With its large hotel infrastructure-the biggest in Mexico-Riviera Maya has long been a shoo-in for travel deals. However, trending declines in visitors from foreign countries will make the area even more affordable in 2012.
What Consumers Want Most in a Hotel in 2012
Based on consumer search inquiries in 2011(1), Orbitz travel experts anticipate these popular perks will continue to drive consumers’ hotel booking decisions in 2012:
Convenient transportation: Whether driving or flying, travelers are looking for easy, no hassle ways to get to their destination. Free parking and airport shuttles are among the top-searched hotel amenities.
Pool: Swimming pools rank high on the list for both families traveling with kids and for those heading to spots like Las Vegas or Miami where it’s more about the scene (and being seen) than actually swimming. As one of the top-searched hotel amenities for the second year in a row, pools often determine whether a hotel option will sink or swim for a consumer.
The extras: Consumer searches show there is strong interest in hotel amenities that go beyond the basics. Four-legged companions are often seen as an integral part of the modern family. As such, search behaviors show that lots of travelers are seeking lodging that will accommodate their pets. There is also strong interest in hotels that provide spa services, fitness centers and wireless internet.
Predictions for 2012
In-house travel experts at Orbitz also identified the top three travel booking trends for 2012.
Mobile: Mobile commerce is expected to nearly double in the U.S. next year(2) and many of those mobile consumers will be on-the-go travelers, Orbitz forecasts. “65% of hotel reservations made via our mobile channels are for same-day stays compared to 14% via traditional desktop browsers,” said Chris Brown, vice president of product development for Orbitz Worldwide.
Flash Sales: The number of flash sale sites rose more than 350% from July of 2009 to July 2011 and the popularity of such sites seems only to be growing.
Gift of Travel: Today, many consumers are finding more meaningful value in giving experiences and memories vs. products off store shelves. “We are seeing parents gifting travel for graduations and birthdays and more engaged couples are opting to register for activities for their honeymoons instead of a set of towels,” said Jeanenne Tornatore, senior travel editor for Orbitz.com. While most give the gift to help people explore somewhere new it can also be a subtle reminder, and the extra push some need, to visit loved ones who do not live nearby.
Top 2011 U.S. Destinations
The usual suspects are back atop the list of the 10 most popular U.S. travel destinations. Las Vegas and New York claimed the top two spots for the fourth year in a row. One surprise showing, however, came from Orlando, which nudged ahead of Chicago, bumping the Windy City down to number four.
2011 could be dubbed the year of the urban escape as U.S. travelers often opted for cities over sand. In fact, the following beach destinations on the 2010 list were notably absent in 2011 rankings: San Diego (#5 last year), Honolulu (#7), and Miami (#10). Meanwhile, Boston and Los Angeles-two top destinations for 2009-reemerged in 2011 and Denver (#6) and Atlanta (#8) were welcomed as newcomers.
Top 2011 International Destinations
The top three international travel destinations for U.S. travelers – Cancun, San Juan and London-held steady in the same slots as 2010. However, there was a bit of shuffling from 2010 with Paris moving up two spots to number four and Toronto climbing one spot to six. Additionally, Mexico had an impressive showing, adding three of its cities to the list.
Warm climates and adventure activities enticed consumers to hop flights to foreign destinations last year. In addition to scenic beaches, travelers benefitted from lower rates in Mexico City, Guadalajara and San Jose del Cabo, while Cancun stayed relatively unchanged.

[Flickr via TJ Morris]

Orbitz to use Facebook Send button … will you? [POLL]

Is traveling about to get more social? Orbitz has just announced that it’s using the new “Facebook Send” button on its hotel pages, which should make it easier to brainstorm travel ideas. To me, it seems like a natural fit for family vacations and trips with friends. Using the button, you can pop a link off to a limited group of people – instead of sharing it with the world – and make plans more easily.

I’ve been watching travel and social media for a while, and to be honest, I haven’t been blown away. For all the talk of travel being a natural space for social media sharing, the marketing execution hasn’t knocked my socks off. The new move from Orbitz, however, strikes me as a step in the right direction. By taking advantage of a new Facebook feature early in the process and allowing users to self-target, the online travel agency has put itself ahead of the curve.

“Orbitz is continuing its tradition of innovation by integrating with Facebook to make the search and book experience for travel more like the actual experience of travel – social, interactive and fun,” notes Sam Fulton, Senior Vice President, Retail, Orbitz Worldwide. “With the new Facebook Send button, travelers can easily share and solicit feedback on hotels from relevant friends or groups, which ultimately leads to making a more confident and informed choice.”The Facebook Send button, of course, is applicable to more than just travel, but the Orbitz announcement indicates an early lead for the company … in a space that’s becoming increasingly competitive. With the ability to send messages and links – for specific hotels, especially – to individual friends, several friends, Facebook message inboxes and email, collaborative travel is set to become much easier.

Unsurprisingly, Orbitz already has a user dynamic in mind:

Here is an example of how the Facebook Send button works on Orbitz: Travelers planning a summer getaway to Las Vegas with a group of friends can look at individual properties, hit the Facebook Send button to message or post those options to an individual or group via Facebook or send to their friend’s email. Friends can then view a full description of the hotel property on Orbitz – including room rates, photos, maps and reviews — and discuss as a group on Facebook before selecting a hotel.

So, do you plan to use this tool to plan your next trip? Or, is it more your style to pick up the phone? Take the poll below to let us know your thoughts on this!