SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- A Google Maps mashup called the Map Channels Hotels Directory shows you all hotels with availability listed in order of price. Just punch in the city, the check-in date and the number of nights you'll be staying, and it will lay out all your options. Boy, I wish I had known about this a month ago.
I traveled to New York City last week on business and didn't book my hotel room until four days before the trip. By that time, there were just two hotels in the entire city with availability: The Best Western, which was $445 per night (no, that's not a typo: Best Western, $445 a night!) and the worst hotel in the universe, the Hotel Pennsylvania for $399 -- a hotel that's so bad it always has rooms available. I ended up staying at the Hotel Pennsylvania. (Shudder!)
New York isn't always that bad. There are something like 300 or so hotels in the Greater New York City area. But it's getting worse. As the dollar falls, and the weather warms, Euro-tourists come flooding in to Manhattan, taking up all the hotel rooms.
I tend to put off finding a hotel room because it's such a pain. First, searching for a hotel online is really hard to do. The reason is that every two-bit "travel agency" in the world uses hotel names to link-bait the searches, so searching for hotels often brings up a million links to sites that won't give you the information you're looking for.
With Map Channels Hotel Directory, however, you can find the ideal hotel in less than a minute. Because it's a Google Maps mashup, it shows the location of every hotel on a Google map. If you know where your event, meeting or other business will take place, it's easy to pick a hotel within walking distance. And because the site lists only hotels with available rooms, you won't waste your time calling booked hotels.
The basic functionality is great. But the site has some really nice optional features, too. For example, if you choose the "Detailed" view instead of the default "Summary" view, it'll show all the hotels below with a description, photo and close up Google Maps view showing the exact location.
You can also see hotels listed in order of customer rating, hotel supplier, address or in alphabetical order.
Best of all, the site handles hotels globally! You can bet I'll use this site from now on every time I travel.
Hotel Pennsylvania, I hardly knew ye.