Bellhop Makes Finding a Hotel a Breeze

Going on vacation is good for anyone. It can relieve the stress of work, give you insights to a majestic piece of the Earth, or even inspire you to paint something you’ve found along the way. The process of going on a vacation is different for a lot of people. Some prefer to drive, while others take a flight, mostly when they’re going abroad. On the road, it’s common for folks to stop in a hotel to rest for another day’s drive. Even if they end up flying, a hotel comes in handy when they’ve landed.

Most people use services like Kayak.com or Expedia, which are handy tools for finding affordable and decent places to rest. All these services have iPhone apps, but you don’t often come across one for the Mac. Bellhop is changing that. The app, developed by Conceited Software, aims to make your hotel-finding process on the Mac effortless. Sounds promising, but is it any good?

Start Searching

The search screen with some suggestions for San Francisco.

The search screen with some suggestions for San Francisco.

When you first open Bellhop, you’ll be greeted with a simple search screen containing a bellman’s outfit, a text field for the location you’re going to be staying, check in and check out date fields, and a drop-down menu for the number of adults and children you are bringing to the hotel. Once you’ve filled those out (the date fields have pop-out calendars that appear when clicked) and clicked Search, the app will make sure the city you searched for is in the country you’re traveling in. There’s also a suggestions drop-down to assist you.

Browse the Map

Searching for a hotel leads to Bellhop’s map, powered by Google. This alternative to the list layout that most Web sites have is a lot more user-friendly and makes finding things easier. For instance, if you’re looking to stay close to the coastline but don’t know your way around the city, you can easily find the closest hotel to the ocean using the map. Likewise, this would be useful for other attractions and helps the user visualize proximity.

Pins on the map are hotels.

Pins on the map are hotels.

One annoying thing about the map is that there’s no way to zoom in and out with the scroll wheel on your mouse. A two-finger swipe up or down also does nothing. This would make navigating a lot faster than it is now — clicking the + and – buttons in the top left just to zoom in and out: it’s inconvenient — and wouldn’t be at all hard to implement since Google Maps already supports it in the browser.

Once you’ve found a place you like, clicking its red pin will open more information on it. If the selection has free wireless Internet or the number of rooms available is limited, the info screen will show this, the latter in red. There’s also a picture of the location at the top of its listing along with a virtual tour that pops up when the picture is clicked. Please note that this feature is only available on some hotels and I wasn’t able to get it to function on smaller ones.

Add Amenities

Selecting an amenity from the menu.

Selecting an amenity from the menu.

Not everyone is looking for a basic place to put up for the night. Sometimes it’s nice to have a pool, fitness center, or restaurant — continental breakfast is, though often under par, also a plus — within the walls of the inn. And when people really want luxury, there’s always the one hotel that has an opulent room with something as outlandish as a kitchen or private spa. Bellhop can assist in finding such amenities with its more advanced search.

First, of course, you’ll need to begin a regular search. After that’s all sorted out, click the Add New Filter button below Amenities and select whichever benefit you’re looking for, from free breakfast to conference rooms. There’s even a Pets Allowed option for canine and feline lovers, though it’s going to be hard to find that specific benefit in a lot of areas.

Make and Organize Reservations

Making a reservation.

Making a reservation.

Oh, you thought that this app was only good for finding hotels, eh? No, there are some other features as well. The developers thought it’d be better to not leave the app to reserve a room, so they built this feature in to the app. You can click a hotel, select a room, and click Book Now to reserve it for a future trip to a far-off land. Bellhop even asks you if you’ll allow it to access your Mac’s contacts so it can fill out all the fields for you. Well, except the payment information, of course.

Once you’ve booked a hotel, it’ll be added to the Organizer (CMD + O or File > Organizer). You can then print the receipts and even cancel the reservation. There’s also a Refresh Status button that’ll give you the assurance that everything is going according to plan. Not many iOS apps do this, do they?

Needs List Sorting

As I explained earlier, using Bellhop’s map view to find a place to stay is great. I have no complaints about locating a hotel that way, but the flip side is list view, a more dull experience. Everything still looks nice and there’s still — unusually — a pop-out for the hotel’s information when you click it, but there’s no way to sort by price, number of rooms available, or rating.

Search results in Bellhop's list format.

Search results in Bellhop’s list format.

Now I’m not just talking about looking at certain ratings because that can be achieved by applying a reviews filter with either the stars or TripAdvisor rating in the left sidebar. Instead, there should be a way to sort the hotels by highest to lowest rating. Right now, you can search for a range of one to five stars and then add a price range to that as well, if you wish. Even then, the price range will only do you so much good if there’s a large list of hotels to look through, especially since rooms start at the price shown on the right.

Handy and Nicely Designed Travel App at a Price

Many features of a room.

Many features of a room.

Bellhop is the epitome of finding, booking, and organizing your hotels. It’s going to come in especially useful if you’re a businessperson who takes many trips, whether it’s abroad or in your homeland. The organizer will keep all your bookings in a tidy list that you can bring up any time on your trip. Of course, an iPhone or iPad app would be nice for this, wouldn’t it? That’s just another suggestion to add to the list sorting.

With the little issues and lacking features aside, this app has a lot of benefits to offer. It costs $9.99 though, and that’s going to be an instant turnoff for many people. The price would be perfect at $4.99 or even $6.99, but its current cost is making it hard-to-sell. Most people are still going to resort to Kayak.com or another favorite if this competition comes with such a price.


Summary

Finding hotels can be a breeze with Bellhop, you're new trip companion. Find a place to stay using the map or traditional list, if you prefer, but beware that good sorting is missing from the latter.

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