My new favorite travel reservations website is Hipmunk. The site offers some features I haven’t seen in any other travel reservations site, but should be standard everywhere.
When searching for “flights,” Hipmunk returns a useful long-haul transportation option that most other sites don’t show, Amtrak. Check out the screenshot showing travel options between Seattle and Portland. Options are sorted by “agony” (low to high). The agony metric factors in cost, transfers/connections, delay history, and travel time. As you can see, Amtrak scores well here, presumably because of its low cost and comparable overall travel time in comparison to flight options.
It is not possible to book train air and train tickets under one reservation, though. This will probably only be possible with greater collaboration between the rail and air carriers (see example Amtrak and Continental codeshare arrangement, “An air/land transportation partnership”). Adam Goldberg, CEO of Hipmunk, says:
“Users can’t combine air and train into a single ticket because it’s not supported by any of our partners’ ticketing systems. If this becomes possible in the future, we’ll definitely explore it. In the meantime, the best bet is to do two one-way bookings.” (Gadling.com)
Momondo has also been showing Amtrak fares for over a year. Kayak, interestingly, has said the site has no plans to display train schedules and fares in the U.S. market, but does display this information for European travel (“Amtrak goes the Hipmunk route with claims of exclusive deal”, tnooz). Travel reservations sites will offer a great service to their users if they begin listing all available options, instead of exclusively air travel. A truly complete travel reservations site should show intercity bus, rail, and air options.
See more about train travel search on the Hipmunk blog.
Another unique Hipmunk feature caught my eye. The hotel search feature shows heat maps for walk score, nearby night life, cultural amenities, and other geography. For someone who prefers to travel without the expense and hassle of a rental car, this feature allows one to select a hotel that will have everything they need nearby. Below is an example of the Walk Score heat map.
Update: Read more about the Walk Score heat map at the Hipmunk blog.