Haven’t you ever dreamed about one day just out of nowhere pointing your finger at the globe and taking the next plane to the location that is selected? It’s a crazy idea, but we all have that adventurous side deep down that tells us to just go out and do it.
What Is It?
I could try to write some interesting clever way of describing this app, but the good people at KAYAK have already done such a great job at it that I’m not even going to try. Instead, here it is: “KAYAK Explore for Mac takes the popular “Explore” feature from our web site, gives it a personal trainer, pumps it full of steroids, reads it a number of self help books, bites it with a radioactive spider, exposes it to an accidental overdose of gamma radiation (intentionally), and makes it way more fun and useful.”
So basically, Kayak Explore is a desktop application for Kayak’s Explore web feature, which gives you the option to explore all the destinations available from your location, with certain filters like price and type of destination at your disposal. But the Mac app is quite a bit more than that. Let’s take a deeper look.
Instead of using the plain interface of the Kayak Explore page, the Mac app has its own very unique and entertaining interface that provides you with all the information you need to decide your next vacation. In the center of the main window, there’s a world map that is used to mark where the selected destination is located. Around the map, there will be four circles, each outlining a different location decided by your selection of filters.
Inside each circle, you have a picture of the place, and right behind there will be a text box with its name and the estimated price (again, dependent on the filters that you have active). Below the map there’s a slider where you can adjust the price ranges you’d like to be shown and a toolbar where you can adjust the filters, which we’ll get to next.
Using the Filters
The gimmick of the app is based on “exploration” and finding new places to visit. But you also need some control over the options that are shown to you, and that’s what the filter toolbar is for. There, you can adjust things like the type of place you want to go to (beaches, urban, romantic, etc.), the airport you are departing from or arriving at, the number of persons you are traveling with and the month you’d like to travel in.
You can leave most of this empty or at their default selection, but if you do, the results will not be very accurate, as the app uses each one of them to estimate the selections that you are shown. For example, if you tell the app that you’ll be traveling with three persons, the prices for each place will be calculated for all 3 of them instead of just one.
Selecting a Destination
Once you find a destination that interests you, if you click inside the circle you’ll be taken to a new window where you can review the flight times and prices from different websites and you can immediately go and book them. Unfortunately you can’t really tweak the dates or anything like that, those will automatically be chosen for you based on the month that you selected in the filters.
Here you can also view a few other things about the hotel that has been picked for you, like the description, location, address, photos and reviews. The booking is also done externally through different sites, and you can compare the rates between them (if more than one is available).
In the Mac App Store reviews, I read a few that complained about how there’s really much less stuff in the Mac app than in the web version of the Explore feature. From what I’ve seen, I think if you have a Mac and you like the web version, you have no reason not to try the Mac app. It really does a great job at bringing “exploration” to the feature.
But then, there’s the question of who would use this app for anything but to just discover new locations? I can’t imagine anyone actually booking a flight through this app, as it doesn’t really let you select anything other than the place you’d like to go to and the estimated timeline when you’d like to travel. This makes it quite purely an “exploration” app, and as such, it works to give you ideas of where you could go next, and even giving you an idea of how much it could cost; but as a flight booking app it doesn’t work.
I also feel like most of these apps are more useful if applied in a mobile setting. I recently got to review an iPad app called Highlights that has the same discovery sense for new places, and I feel that the mobility of that app was what made it stand out from the rest, as it made it more readily available for situations where you might be more likely to use it. What do you think?