There has been new wave in on-demand services in arena of travel. From shared holiday accommodation to alternative rental car companies to on demand taxi service. In alternative taxi space there are few companies which are creating their niche by providing an easier way of taking that ride when you need it. Two of them are providing incentives like discounted and free rides to get the passenger on board and this companies are UBER & LYFT. Both of them work on a similar model where you use their Iphone or Android App to get taxi service when you need it. These helps in hunting down the taxi quickly as well as eliminating the hassle of cash payment which traditional taxi requires.
UBER - Uber has been the first mover in this space and has presence in 100 cities around the world as of this writing. They do promotions for free rides of varying dollar amount when they launch in the new cities and currently provide $10 credit if you signed up using existing member referral (Of course this provides the referrer $10 credit and if you wish you could use my link to sign-up). Currently you can use the code "hipmunk" to get $25 credit for your first ride. You can sign-up using your email address and need to register a credit card as well as mobile number to take the ride. You could also set the percentage of tip you want to give your driver. All you need to do is download their Iphone or Android app and login into your account to request the taxi service (provided they are present in your city). It would give you the approximate wait time for your pick-up as well as you can see the approximate amount it will cost you for the ride. Uber provides wide range of car selections and charges different amount based on the taxi type you request. They have taxis categorized from UberX to LUX with increasing cost.
LYFT - Lyft is currently offering the first time users $50 credit for free rides when you register on their app using the code "slickdeals". The only downside is you need Facebook login to register yourself. Also they just launched in 24 cities on April 24th and as part of that promotion they are providing 50 free rides up to $25 each in those cities for new users. You would not be able to get on to both the above promotion but they both are good if you are looking to hire a taxi in coming days. Usually the drivers are friendly and you would be intimated of the approximate wait time before the taxi arrives. Also since you enter all the payment information in the "app" itself you do not need to do any payment transaction. As soon as you are done with your ride you can get to see in the "app" the cost of the ride as well as your receipt. Currently Lyft is present only in 36 cities across USA but they have aggressive expansion plan. So, next time if you are stuck looking for taxi you might want to take a "Lyft".
I would strongly suggest giving Uber and Lyft a shot next time you are looking for a taxi and you will surely enjoy the convenience of a ride.
ITA matrix is a great tool with variety of advance search features available. This features are useful when you are trying to search for flights with specific criteria and want to quickly look what is available. They also help determine the fare for upgrade-able tickets using upgrade instruments provided to their loyalty program member elites by United Airlines, Delta Airlines or Alaska Airlines. The few of them are listed below:
Let's look at an example below for a flight from San Jose (SJC) to Philadelphia (PHL) in Virgin America through some snapshots below on ITA matrix. You could look up the 2 letter IATA code for airlines here.
As you can see from above that the Virgin America flights are available for $248 on few dates. Now let's see how can we replicate the same using Hipmunk from snapshots below. Hipmunk does not allow wide range of dates, so having a search done on ITA matrix helps us narrow down on potential dates which we feed to Hipmunk. You can see the results in below snapshots.
As you can see from above ITA matrix helps to narrow down the dates for cheaper fares and dates for San Jose (SJC) to Philadelphia (PHL) flight which in turn could be fed to Hipmunk for quick reservation. Of course not all features supported by ITA matrix could be directly used by Hipmunk, as well as there is limitation on how many segments could be fed in Hipmunk, but you could do lot of stuff by plugging in similar "coding language" from ITA matrix to Hipmunk.
Broadly Speaking there are three kinds of Hotel Stays:
Let's assume your intent is to "pay the lowest price". In that case this article would give you various resources which will help you making that decision better and faster (Hopefully!). Below are few websites/tools which will quickly allow you to narrow down your search to few of the hotels in your desired area.
This is a pretty useful tool where you can enter your desired hotel location and it will quickly show up the hotels and the points required to stay there. Since, it uses Google Maps as the backdrop, it is very easy to map the hotels with your desired place of stay. Currently the website supports following Hotel Chains:
All you need to do is to enter your "Destination" in the search box and it will pop up hotel property names and price in award points for them. This makes it very easy to short-list the hotels and gives estimate on price you would have to pay (based on your valuation of the points) if you chose to stay on "award". For e.g. I have searched "Bali, Indonesia" below and as you can see that there are several options to select from based on where I want to stay and price I am looking to pay. Of-course there are certain limitations of this tool, as it does not list the "exact rates" for your dates as well as it does not specify the availability of award for your dates, but you at least get to know available properties and the points required which makes your selection easier.
Wandering Aramean Hotel Tools:
This tool gives specific information about the hotels as well as comparison between the "cost of award stay" and "cost when payed with cash". The comparison does require your "Fair value of points input", but it is pretty neat in that it will only show hotels with availability on your dates. It requires you to create your "login ID" before performing the search and currently supports Rates comparison for following Hotels:
Now you have done your reward stay research it's time to check if there are hotels available (may or may not be brand affiliated hotels) which are better bargain then redeeming your points. HotelsCombined is hotel aggregate site which searches for the hotels in your "desired location" and gives you whole bunch of criteria to narrow down or refine your search. The best part is it will show various "OTA as well as hotel websites" where you can book online along with their price comparison. For e.g. searching for hotels with only "5 stars" gives us prices ranging from $21 for a shared dorm to a price of $2299 for a resort room. You can further filter down on brand name and other bunch of criteria to get best bang for your buck.
Enter TripBam! This is a useful tool once you have done the search through HotelsCombined and have booked a "refundable room" for your stay. You can use this "TripBam" to send you alert if the price of your reserved hotel goes up or down on your desired dates of stay. You can also set the criteria if there are other hotels of your interest where you can possibly stay if the price is within the desired range of the price you paid for the current reservation. TripBam can send you an email alert about the price changes for your set of desired hotels so you do not need to keep searching for lower price once you have booked your reservation. For e.g. you can select the set of hotels you are interested in as shown below and you are on your way to savings if the price drops below your price paid or desired price.
Although there are numerous other sites which can help you search Hotels such as Kayak, but the above are just a few gem of tools which would help you make your hotel search better and faster.
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