I think it’s safe to say we’re pretty frequent travellers. But even though we look pretty smooth jetting all around the world, there’s actually a lot of work that happens behind the scenes.
Something as simple as booking a hotel in a new city we’ve never visited isn’t always so simple. It drives me nuts when Erin or I spend hours and hours on this when we’re only staying in the city for a night or two. The process usually involves a lot of browser tabs, comparing hotel prices, TripAdvisor reviews, researching attractions, public transport, parking options, and airport proximity (we learned about that the hard way in Manila when staying 3 hours away from the airport, thinking it was very close).
We’ve recently come across Yonderbound, a new website (still in beta) which handles hotel bookings with an interesting social twist. Think of it as a blend between Pinterest and a hotel booking site. Keep in mind it’s still in beta so things may change a bit and more features are being added regularly.
Let me take you on a walkthrough…
Like most hotel booking sites, it all starts with a search – either the name of the city you’re visiting or specific hotel you’re looking for. The interface and process here is very clean, smooth and intuitive.
The search results page will probably look sparser that the typical chaotic pages you’ve seen on other sites. I really appreciate the minimalistic finish, as it feels much less cluttered. And less clutter always makes me feel less stressed.
Plus I can find what I’m looking for much faster.
Some of the key features to point out on this page:
A) Search query – this can be easily changed
B) Filter – at first I didn’t click on this because I was looking for “advanced search”, a phrase I was more familiar with. But, sensibly, this is where you can filter down the list of hotels based on specific criteria.
Sensibly, the most popular filters are available on the initial view: TripAdvisor rating, star rating and freebies. Free Wi-Fi is always top on our list – we (almost) can’t live without it. By expanding the filter fields, more options are displayed. I a particularly like how the family-related fields are grouped together. And when we’re on a road trip, finding a hotel with a fridge and parking is always essential.
C) Sort by – arrange the list by distance, lowest price, highest price or TripAdvisor rating.
D) View mode – either list the search results as “tiles” or on an interactive Google Map. This is a great feature because often I like to see what is located around the hotel and how far away it is from train stations, bus stations, shopping, restaurants, airports, etc.
E) Add to Yonderbox – it just takes 2 clicks to add any hotel to one of your Yonderboxes.
At the bottom of the search results is a list of relevant Yonderboxes, which can provide that much-needed inspiration when you get stuck for choices.
The Nitty Gritty
Once you’ve drilled down to the specific hotel, most of the information you need is cleanly presented.
Being able to share a hotel’s details with a friend, family member or travel companion via Facebook or email is only one click away.
Previously, if we liked a hotel it would end up being 1 of 50 tabs open in the web browser. You can also use the heart icon to add the hotel to a Yonderbox and short-list the property for your own benefit, or (if you choose to) make it public for others to see.
It’s the little things that can make the biggest differences. I really appreciate the Google Street view integration on the map. If I am visiting a new city and have no idea what the area around the hotel looks like, this is the perfect way to get more familiarised.
I do have a couple small gripes about the hotel listing pages. I think in the focus for minimalism, there are a few pieces of valuable info that has been overlooked.
- I’m hoping this will be fleshed out by the time the site comes out of beta.
- I found some of the current hotel descriptions to be a little too short.
- When comparing hotels (and also different rooms within the same hotel), I like to see the actual floor space (in square metres) as this isn’t always obvious from photos supplied by the hotel.
- There are no separate photos for the actual rooms when multiple room options are available. I always find this useful to visualise what the bed configuration will look like. When all the photos are grouped together in the top carousel, it’s difficult to determine which photo matches which room type.
Now we get into the big time saver – TripAdvisor integration. Previously once we had short-listed a hotel as a potential candidate during our research, we would look up reviews in TripAdvisor. Yonderbound brings this all in 1 easy-to-read interface. No need for separate browser tabs, and no need to even reload the page. It’s all there. It’s possible to expand further and view all the reviews without reloading the page. This makes the whole navigation silky smooth and fast.
Lock It In
Once you’re ready to complete a booking, the final 3 steps of the booking process are equally as smooth.
All the essential pieces of information are available at a glance and there’s no distracting up-sells which always drive me nuts on other websites. Just add a name, contact details and payment and you’re done.
How Does The Price Compare?
Every other hotel booking website claims to have the cheapest prices with various guarantees to back it up. I’ve done a few tests against other sites like Booking.com, Agoda, and Hotels.com and Yonderbound often comes out at a comparable price or slightly in front. There are a couple occasions they were more expensive. It’s natural to expect that there will be differences in prices between booking agents like this when hundreds of thousands of hotels are involved. And if you’re only interested in getting the lowest bargain basement price, then comparing your favourite booking sites will still need to be done.
Keep in mind that Yonderbound include all taxes and fees in their pricing, whereas some other booking sites don’t do that. Compare apples and apples.
But if you value your time and realise how much time you can really save using Yonderbound, then that puts this site in an even more favourable light.
Here’s Where It Gets Social…
Yonderboxes are a clever way of sharing your travel experiences, recommendations and inspirations with the extra ability of generating some credit out of it that can be used for your next booking. Just group together hotels you’ve stayed at (or might like to) on a “box” (similar to a Pinterest board), add your description, and you’re done.
The Yonderbox has a unique website address that you can share with friends and family on social media or anywhere else you wish. And the kicker is that if they make a booking through your Yonderbox, you get a cut of that. To top it off, if other users of Yonderbound come across your Yonderbox (even if they reach the website via Google or some other source), you’ll still get credited for it. Bonus!
If you wish to keep your Yonderbox private, that’s easy too with just 1 click.
Here’s a few of our Yonderboxes we created to provide you with inspiration:
The Final Word
As a design enthusiast, I always appreciate a beautifully designed user interface. And the folks at Yonderbound have definitely nailed that. More importantly, they are pushing the Internet hotel bookings industry in a positive direction. I welcome the competition they bring as well as fresh and creative thinking which produces concepts like the Yonderbox. The ability to earn credits by sharing hotel recommendations and suggestions makes a lot of sense.
Once a few of the teething issues are resolved and a dedicate mobile app is released, there’s a very good chance this could become my go-to tool for hotel bookings.