Friday, April 26, 2013

Hack My Trip - New Offers Numerous Improvements, Few Complaints

Going into my second year of Diamond status with Gold Passport I use their website quite a bit and became accustomed to its glitches — for example, never being able to change my destination without going back to the main homepage. But now that the website has undergone a radical redesign I am impressed by the results. Some features, like new home pages for individual properties, have been rolling out for at least a couple weeks. But over the weekend the design and function of the reservations system itself was upgraded significantly.

Most features remain exactly where you last saw them, but some designs have changed. For example, boxes with sharp corners and boldly colored outlines highlight most information. There has also been an effort to reduce clutter. When beginning the booking process on, you can pick the dates and location, but the option to select a special rate code requires you to click on a button first. Annoying? To me, yes, since I always pick the AAA and Costco discounts, but it's probably an improvement for most people.

The search results look much as they did before. I like that the logos for individual brands have become more prominent, allowing one to distinguish between an Andaz, a Hyatt Regency, and a Hyatt, for example. However, the rates for these different properties are not so obvious.

The map at the top of the results page is also new, and it was especially buggy. I don't remember if it was always provided by Bing, but it my tests I found that it loaded slowly and then spontaneously zoomed all the way out. Very annoying. But in the process I found a new featured: numbers that indicate how many hotels are in a geographic region. Clicking on the number will zoom in and show you more detail until eventually each dot indicates an individual property.

I imagine this feature will turn out useful when I am visiting a new place and just want to get a sense of how many hotels are nearby. I like exploring maps more than just entering a city and searching.

After selecting a hotel from the search results, I was presented with several rate options organized with tabs instead of in a list. This is a great improvement. Before, the lowest price on the search results might have said $107, but the list of rates could have started with $127 because that special $107 discount was hidden near the bottom. Now, if you want to choose between a prepaid rate, refundable rate, AAA rate, or Costco rate (or more) they are all presented in their own tabs with the lowest price for each.

Upon selecting a rate and room type, I was taken to a reservations page that looked much the same except that entry fields have been separated into a main section and a sidebar. The body contains the rate information and a breakdown with taxes. The sidebar contains all the optional information, like a room preference, arrival information, or other notes. It's nice to see that they're still available but easy to ignore if you don't find them important.

For those who book at a lot of international properties, you can easily choose a new currency and the page will update to show the local and selected currencies side-by-side.

I've been told things are always cheaper in Mexico, so I selected the Mexican Peso. Interestingly, "Mexico Peso" is also an option, and it returns a rate of USD $0.00. If anyone knows how to acquire Mexico Pesos, I'd love to be able to pay with those instead.

It has become much simpler to book Gold Passport awards for free nights directly from the main page of In the past you needed to first go to Gold Passport's page and then search through a separate system. Now, you can just click on a box to "Show Hyatt Gold Passport Points." I don't know why I need to click on the box at all — it seems like an extra step — but it is faster than before at lets me compare the cost in points vs. cash more easily.

It's bears mentioning that I had to check that box twice, both on the search results page and on the individual hotel page. If I do have to click it, I would like to click it only once.

Hyatt also prepared a website and video introduction if you'd like to learn more about their changes. I've heard in the past that they are looking at lots of new ideas, including things like Cash + Points reservations, so keep your eye out in case any of those bear fruit.

Link: United States tourists swim for 14 hours when the ship sinks in Saint Lucia

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