Better Search, Blazing Fast, Tested

Travel search engines commonly claim to produce the lowest prices or best selection. Some say they have the most accurate reviews or are quick at what they do. When we received a press release from hotel-finder Room 77 claiming “blazing fast” results, we put them to the test.

On our 25.5 Mbps DSL line, it took just 3.5 seconds for Room 77 to deliver 573 results for an overnight stay in a hotel in Miami later this month. That did seem fast so we compared it to a couple other hotel-finding sites. brought 437 in 3.6 seconds and Kayak returned 354 in 3.8 seconds – about the same speed-wise. But in addition to more results, Room77 delivered lower prices and included hostels in the search.

“Room 77 searches other sites for you and compares the prices right in the search results,” Kevin Fliess, Room 77’s general manager and VP of product development told Gadling. He added, “In addition to a fast and comprehensive search, we also allow travelers to earn loyalty points or pay at the hotel.”

Going a step further, Room 77 has their Room Concierge, a free service when booking a 4-star or above hotel that helps travelers identify a hotel room matching their preferences. Buyers specify what type of room attribute is most important – size, noise level or view – and Room Concierge staff goes to work finding just that room for buyers.

On Room 77 and other travel-related sites, it’s all about providing detailed, intuitive results that match what buyers want: a search process that is quick and easy.

Another site that delivers rich content fast in a very “we’re not wasting your time” sort of way is a new feature from Nerd Wallet that searches and compares airline fees.

Nerd Wallet, best known for finding and comparing credit card offers, says they “scour the financial universe to bring you any and every bank and credit union we can find, along with our own unbiased take on what various rewards programs or deposit accounts are actually worth,” on their website.

Now, Nerd Wallet’s Search and Compare Airline Fee finder, gathers information for pretty much all domestic airlines quickly and efficiently. Users can compare, say, the baggage fees of all airlines or find out all the details about one airline in a speedy and easy search.

The results at Nerd Wallet also are intuitive and consistent with predictions made earlier this year; new technologies may create changes for our future travel planning methods.

“Today, we stand at the forefront of a technological evolution in travel that we refer to as Online Travel 3.0, which recognizes the power shift from suppliers to retailers and to end consumers,” Stephane Durand, Director, Online & Leisure at Amadeus, a major provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry told Gadling earlier this year.

That was just back in February when Gadling covered how travel search was becoming more personal, focused and nosy.

Then, we told of a global study that identified the online shopping behavior and future motivations of trend-setting travelers: micro-targeting information to specific consumers offering products that are actually relevant for the buyer.

Today, sites like Room 77 and Nerd Wallet’s Airline Fee Finder are delivering on that promise.

Up next, look for sites that learn from our online behavior over time and become interconnected, sharing information about us among each other.

[Flickr photo via Viernest]

Lost Baggage Finds A Home On New Reality Series

When we think of travel baggage, we often think of fees, checkins, carry-ons, overhead storage and the hope that it arrives with us at our final destination. We watch video of baggage handlers misbehaving at work and wonder why we pay so much to check it. When soldiers returning from war are charged extra for it, we’re outraged. But what about when baggage goes missing? It’s a topic that is often infuriating and sometimes mysterious.

On the Travel Channel’s new reality series “Baggage Battles,” we get a peek behind the scenes into the world of auction specialists earning a living off bidding, buying and reselling lost luggage.

Sort of along the lines of A & E’s Storage Wars, they travel to different airport auctions around the world where we see what happens to the 70,000 pieces of luggage that go unclaimed or get lost every year.

“Baggage Battles” features three teams of auction specialists that compete to see who buys baggage filled with valuable treasure or worthless junk.

  • Laurence and Sally Martin, a married couple from California has been in the antique business for over 20 years.
  • Mark Meyer, 25, still lives at home with his parents and is a young entrepreneur from Long Island, New York.
  • Billy Leroy, also from New York, was 25 when he bought a $200 painting and sold it for $18,000.

They visit more than airports too, stopping at customs auctions, police auctions and freight auctions bidding on seized merchandise in different venues.”With dozens of auctions to visit, thousands of bags to explore and millions of dollars at stake, these auction specialists need both skill and luck to hit the jackpot,” says the Travel Channel on the “Baggage Battles” website. “They don’t know if it’s junk or a jackpot until they win the bid and open the suitcase.”

Baggage Battles” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the Travel Channel.

[Flickr photo via Canolais]