A useful tool for everyone from novice travelers to frequent flyers, Hipmunk offers a different take on travel search. Not only does the app display its search results in a uniquely visual chart form, but it also employs proprietary algorithms to sort flight itineraries based on "Agony" and hotel rooms based on "Ecstasy" (more on these later).
Hipmunk's flight search module is simple, with fields for travel dates, origin and destination, number of passengers, and even travel class (Coach, Business, and First). The workflow here is very similar to that of many other travel apps and Web sites, plus it includes a few conveniences like autocomplete suggestions, a nifty date selector, and access to recent searches.
After you fill in all the fields, Hipmunk goes off and searches through its database to bring up tons of travel options. In fact, it even includes Amtrak options in its search results, which many other apps don't do.
The biggest thing that sets Hipmunk apart from other travel apps is its beautiful search results page, which consists of a large, visual graph, displaying time along the X axis and price along the Y axis. Flights are color-coded for different airlines and clearly marked when layovers are involved. Also, Wi-Fi-equipped flights are denoted by an icon, so you can easily spot them if you require in-air connectivity. While it may sound like a lot to take in, the way Hipmunk lays everything out makes it incredibly easy to quickly compare flights according to several factors -- often a difficult task with other travel apps and Web sites.
Also, Hipmunk lets you rearrange search results by Price, Departure, Arrival, or interestingly, Agony. Sorting by Agony takes into account factors like travel time, price, and stopovers to recommend the least-agonizing itineraries. I find the option useful and even use it as my default view when conducting a search. There are also a number of filter options, which let you view only itineraries by specific airlines, only nonstop flights, and so on.
Once you choose your flight, Hipmunk provides you with a link to book either through the airline's site or through a third-party broker's site like Orbitz, depending on where it found the deal.
If you're not quite ready to book, I would recommend trying Hipmunk's new Fare Alerts feature (log-in required). With the alerts set, Hipmunk will notify you immediately when prices that pertain to your search change.