There are many websites and apps out there with hotel reviews. What’s typically absent is the ability to see these properties side-by-side. Enter SmartDepart.
With this app – or through their website – you can sort hotels in a city by price, number of stars, reviews, or amenities. The web version won’t win any awards for beauty but behind the sparse home page sits a wonderful engine. A great feature is the ability to limit your search to properties within a chain such as Marriott, Hilton, or Starwood. For example, you can search only for a Courtyard or DoubleTree or Westin at a specific location. This is a great time saver for those who either have a certain preference or have elite status with a specific chain, though it is additional work to click on all the types of properties within a chain.
What’s missing is the opportunity to search only for a broad specific chain with one click. Also, you have to be careful here. If you are searching for a specific type of hotel within a chain, make sure your price is set at the right amount for that city. If it is set too high or too low, nothing will appear even though it is obvious that some property exists in that city. I also found someone who said that the prices shown on the app/website were not always the same when the user went to book the hotel. I did not find this to be the case but it is something to watch out for.
But the beauty of SmartDepart is the ability to see and compare two hotels side-by-side. I tested this feature by requesting hotels near the Los Angeles (LAX) airport. Up popped some choices and then I did my comparison without having to search on different screens or browsers. Unlike many other hotel sites, SmartDepart goes beyond simply looking at hotel information and amenities. They include the surrounding area for other traveler benefits. If you are comparing two hotels, they offer a recommendation and tell you why. Heck, they even include Uber fares. That’s great.
Suggestion to SmartDepart… Have the comparisons open in a separate browser window if using the computer version. There is a “modify search” button but it is easier for visitors if they want to search multiple cities or dates. And of course, it would be even nicer if there was a way to more easily compare three or more hotels in a location.
I do not know where their reviews come from though my guess would be their primary partner, Expedia. According to this article, the shopping/dining comes from Yelp. So how do they make their money? Ads on their site, partners including Expedia, and click-through’s.
SmartDepart is limited to US hotels at this time but this will expand worldwide, with Europe first, as it becomes more popular. It’s a pretty slick app, check it out if you are the type to want to compare hotels before booking.