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Some people waste time on the Internet by window shopping online, reading blogs or browsing Facebook. I plan trips. So news of Google’s (s GOOG) new experimental Hotel Finder announced on its official blog Thursday is very welcome.
The first thing you’ll notice about Hotel Finder is the look. Most travel search sites share pretty much the same layout: They’re overwhelmed with search boxes, radio dials, and drop-down menus galore, and of course, ads. Lots of them. In that way, Hotel Finder has a refreshing approach: It’s clean, uncluttered, and not a single ad can be found. (For now at least — this is Google we’re talking about.)
You have two good options for how you want to search. You can search and get results in list form, which can then be sorted by hotel class, user ratings, average price per night, and how far above or below the current price is compared to the average price the rest of year. From there, you can make a “short list” of favorites you want to compare or review later.
Perhaps even niftier is the map view. You’re given a free-form parallelogram that you can structure around areas you know you may want to stay in–for instance in San Francisco you may want to search within Nob Hill, Union Square, and North Beach, but want to avoid the Tenderloin and Financial District. You can isolate hotels within that parallelogram and then compare lodging at just those places. There’s also a “heat map” of sorts that highlights the popular tourist areas in case you’re visiting a city you’re not familiar with.
Hotel Finder also pops up information about each hotel you select within the browser window, rather than detonating a small explosion of new tabs and windows like pretty much every other travel site. Only when you go to book (a drop-down tab will give you the options of where to get the best rate) will you be sent off to a different site to complete the transaction.
Hotel Finder is available for hotels in the U.S. only for now, the company blog says, but seems to imply that it could expand beyond U.S. borders should the “experiment” go well.