Nancy and I visited Washington, D.C. last week, as a combination birthday and work trip (she had a photo session up there).  We were loosely planning it, taking it slow, and not being really intentional about getting things lined up for the trip.  That’s very unusual for us.

We had poked around on AirBNB.com and a few other travel sites trying to find a good place to stay, but never settled on one.  Finally, the day before our trip, I jumped on an app I hadn’t used before called Hotel Tonight, and checked out what they had available in D.C. for the next evening.

Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight (which has both iOS and Android versions) appears to really focus on finding great, last-minute deals at great hotels.  When I first learned about the app, it only served select markets, so I deleted the app because I didn’t use it.  I re-loaded the app, fired it up, and looked through Washington, D.C. results.

search results  detail listing

One thing I noticed and enjoyed was that the crap hotel listings were already pre-filtered from my search results.  They didn’t show me the Motel 6.  They had limited listings in the city, as they work with hotel partners in each city to get negotiated rates.  The app rates each hotel on their unique scale.  The few ratings I’ve seen thus far include Lux (top tier), Hip, Charming, Solid (mid-tier), and Basic.

We went with the Aloft Hotel near Dulles Airport.  It cost us a little time (40 minutes from downtown) and some tolls ($5 each way) but we made the strategic trade off instead of paying top-dollar for a room and parking in town.  (That Savoy Suites in the picture above is cheaper tonight than it was last week!)

As you drill down into each hotel listing, they display a list of reasons “Why We Like It,” which gives good insights to some of the features of each listing.  This also skips the perfunctory and pointless “features” listings present at many travel sites (toilet, sink, shower, hair dryer, and air conditioning, etc.).

"Why We Like It"

Lastly, I found the user interface intuitive, sharp, and well-polished.  You can save credit cards within the app for future bookings, and inputting all the required information for a reservation was quick and easy.  You indicate your agreement to the terms and conditions by tracing the outline of the lower-case “h” logo – pretty cool concept.  I confirmed our reservation the day-of with our hotel, and the check in process was quick and easy, just like any other online booking service – maybe better.

That being said, buyer beware: these short-term listings are paid in advance and are non-refundable.  That’s the risk you take and the price you pay.  I’m sure if you had a dissatisfactory stay, you would have recourse, but I’m not sure if that would come through the hospital or Hotel Tonight.  That’s part of the risk you take with any online booking system.

The app is going to stay in my “travel” folder for now.  I’m not sure how much I’ll make use of it, simply because we’re not generally your “spur of the moment” type, but it could (and has already) come in handy.

Have you seen or used Hotel Tonight?  What other travel apps do you love?