washington dc

Travel App Review: Hotel Tonight

My DC trip was super-last minute. And ridiculously so, since Evan and I had long been planning to go away that weekend.

But we’d gotten so caught up in planning that we ended up not planning anything. For weeks, we debated whether we should do DC, or a Jersey beach town, or maybe Philly or some other place in between NYC and DC. We finally decided to do DC on Friday morning—i.e. the day before we were to go wherever we were going.

That meant that we weren’t able to book a hotel in advance. But it seemed like an opportunity to test out Hotel Tonight, an app I’ve been curious about.

Hotel Tonight’s premise is that each night, hotels have vacant rooms. Instead of letting them be missed opportunities for profit, why not offer them up at discounted rates for people who want/need last minute places?

The catch is that you can only book hotels the day of. And you don’t know what hotels and rates will be available until that day.

Hotel Tonight doesn’t release the day’s deals until 9 am. After that, you can search for your destination city and enter whether you need a hotel for one to five nights. Then your results come up.

I spent some time in the app on Friday, to see if we’d want to use it the following day. I was impressed with the slick, user-friendly interface. Each hotel option has a nice photo and its location, price for the night and, in most cases, the normal rate. Helpfully, hotels are also classified as “Hip,” “Luxe,” “Solid” or “Basic.”

Hotel Tonight, DC Options

Hotel detail pages include many more photos, both from the hotel and other users; its user-rating; its location plotted on a map; and other basics facts, like room size and Wifi costs.

I especially liked Hotel Tonight’s “Why We Like It” notes, like: “Big, funky, chilled-out guest rooms with pops of pop art and Lite-Brite-esqie color” (for the Hotel Helix). They gave me a sense of the place, and tips on the hotel’s perks.

I felt that the app offered a good number of options (about a dozen), and prices seemed fair. Most were in the $99 to $150 range. High-end places in prime locations fell into that upper tier.

Hotels Tonight also has a weeklong forecast, where they note whether they expect to have many or few good deals.

Even though I was a little scared to wait until the morning of our trip to book, Evan and I decided to go for it. I figured the worst that could happen is that we wouldn’t find anything good, and end up at a hotelВ near the airport—not exactly the stuff of human hardship.

On Saturday morning, a little after 9, I opened the app. The Donovan House, a hotel I’d had my eye on, the previous day, was still an option. The price had gone up to $140 from $135. But that was still better than the rate that the hotel offered on its official site: $180.

Evan and I felt that $140 was reasonable for a hotel in a major city, in a prime location, with a roof deck pool, on a Saturday night. So we booked it.

Hotel Tonight

We were very happy with our choice. Check-in was as smooth as if we’d booked through the hotel’s site.

Our room was nice…

donovan house room

Desk at the Donovan House, DC

…and we enjoyed hanging out at the pool.

H&E

While Hotel Tonight worked for us in this case, I don’t think I’d use it in many other scenarios. If we were staying somewhere for multiple nights—and planning in advance—we would have shopped around for a better deal, or booked an Airbnb.

But for a one-night, super-last minute trip to a city, I couldn’t have been happier. I’d definitely use Hotel Tonight again, in a similar situation.

24 Hours in Washington, DC

This weekend, Evan and I took a super-quick—and super-last minute—trip to DC. Even though we just had 24 hours in the city, we made the most of it!

We found a good deal at the Donovan House (more about that in my next post), a Kimpton hotel conveniently located just a few blocks from the White House and the National Mall.

To be honest, we chose the place because it had a roof deck pool. Though we arrived late afternoon, we still squeezed in a few hours poolside, with wine and soft tacos, before the sun set.

donovan house pool

Evan and I had a hard time choosing where to get dinner. Peter’s cousin, who lives in DC, had recommended two restaurants, Brasserie Beck and Sette Osteria, that both looked awesome. To further complicate the matter, we went through Eater’s list of essential DC restaurants, as well.

Finally, we decided on Jaleo, Jose Andres’ tapas place. Though the restaurant has been around for more than 20 years, it was recently renovated and felt new—it was hopping on Saturday night. Evan and I chose to bypass the 45-minute wait for a table and eat in the bar area, instead. We found a cozy table right away.

Everything on the menu looked amazing. We went with two tapas and one paella—which was both the right and wrong decision. On the upside, the shrimp and calamari paella was epic. It was served in a huge pan and cooked wonderfully—the rice puffy and slightly crisped. The downside: the Iberico ham and chorizo/potato tapas we had were even better. And we would’ve loved to have tried more, if we hadn’t ordered the giant paella.

paella

Jaleo was near the National Mall, so we decided to see the monuments by night.

It’s a little spooky, since it’s not well-lit. But lots of other people were doing the same, and it’s no wonder. The monuments are stunning when they’re lit up against the dark sky.

washington monument b&w

washington monument

lincoln memorial

lincoln
washington monument from the lincoln

The next morning, we slept in, spent a little time at the pool, and then drove 20 minutes to Falls Church, Virginia for lunch. Peter’s cousin had told us about a shopping center, called Eden Center, that had good Vietnamese food.

The place was basically Little Vietnam. Neon signs in store windows advertised their specialties and a DJ blared Vietnamese music in the parking lot.

Our first stop was Song Que for banh mi. We asked the guy working the counter which sandwich was the best and he said it was the lemongrass beef. Sounded good to us!

banh mi

It was probably the best banh mi I’ve had. We gobbled it up.

Evan and I felt we had to get pho there, as well, so we went to Eden Kitchen for a delicious bowl.

pho

With only a few hours before my train, we headed to Georgetown to pick up a few things and walk around.

georgetown cobblestones

I loved the cobblestone streets and pretty architecture.

georgetown home 1

georgetown home 3

georgetown home 4

All too soon after, I had to say goodbye to Evan and board a train back to NYC. Twenty-four hours in DC definitely wasn’t enough. We’re hoping to make another trip back there when we’ll have more time to spend.

Off to DC!

dc rowhouses

Happy Friday!

For once, I don’t have any beach plans. Instead, I’m heading to DC for a super-quick trip. Evan hasВ a training course in Virginia next week, so we figured we’d head down there together, over the weekend, and spend some time in the capital.

It’s a super-last minute trip. For weeks, we were waffling between DCВ and one of the Jersey beach towns. We finally decided (this morning!) to go with the DC because we only have a weekend and wanted to minimize the driving.

Plus, it’ll only be my second time in DC, ever. So I’d love any restaurant/shopping/neighborhood recommendations you may have.

Until next week, a fewВ interesting links from around the web:

Gorgeous photos of Barcelona.

NYC takeoutВ orders, and who delivered them.

This photo, alone, makes me want to go to Rio.

Awesome Airstreams.

NYC’s best cold noodles. I can’t recommend Xi’an’s liangpi noodles enough!

Beach warning flags.

Have a good one!

(Image via Washington Life)