Not too long ago, travelling to far-flung destinations was usually quite expensive for most people – it was a luxury saved for holidays that were few and far in between.

However, the meteoric rise of mobile and online technology this past decade has made it easier for budget-conscious travellers to find the best flight and hotel deals at the click of a mouse or a swipe on a touchscreen.

Even in these few short years, we’ve gone from having to open multiple tabs in our browsers to compare prices to having apps that will do all the comparison work for us.

According to research conducted by Google, 70% of travellers who own smartphones use them to research their travel options, and when the time comes to make their bookings, 31% of leisure travellers say they use their smartphones to make the purchase, while 53% of business travellers say the same.

In a 2017 survey, Criteo, a commerce marketing company, found that tech-savvy consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are shifting towards a mobile-first lifestyle, including travel – mobile travel sales already account for half of the total travel sales made so far this year, and is expected to take an even larger share of sales in coming years.

With a multitude of apps available on the market, but a limited amount of storage in our smartphones, it can be a hassle to have different apps covering various functions; instead, users often look for a convenient all-in-one app for all their travel booking needs.

But separating the wheat from the chaff can be a hit-and-miss: Google’s data has also revealed that 88% of travellers with smartphones would switch to another app if the one they’re using doesn’t satisfy their needs.

So what are the top features travellers look for when choosing their go-to travel booking app?

Value-for-money deals

Who doesn’t love a good deal? For travellers who are counting each and every sen, promotions and discounts can be lifesavers.

According to Sarra, a business executive from Kuala Lumpur, trying out a travel booking app that she hadn’t used before helped her cut costs for an upcoming family trip.

“I managed to save around RM250 per ticket when purchasing flight tickets for my family to fly to Indonesia for a relative’s wedding, thanks to an on-going promotion,” said the 29-year-old.

Traveloka travel app

Koh Samui in Thailand.

Nor Shahidatul, a 23-year-old student from Kuching, said that as a student, one of the main factors influencing her travels was cost.

“The first thing I’ll look at when I’m planning a trip is the price of a flight ticket or accommodation, which is why it’s really handy to use a booking platform that regularly offers good value,” she said.

Managing editor Nurul Eeman, 35, agreed that affordability was a major factor when planning a trip.

“When I was looking for a cheap round-trip flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tehran, I saw that one particular online booking platform offered the same price as a low-cost carrier, but on top of that, it also had a flight promotion with up to RM50 off. So of course I went for the one offering the discount!”

Upfront prices with no hidden fees

For most, it can be an unexpected surprise (and not the good kind, either) when they head to the payment page, only to find that the price that they had expected to pay was inflated with surcharges and fees that hadn’t been clearly displayed earlier.

Rokiah, 58, said that she’d previously had such an experience on a travel booking website.

“After choosing my flights, I suddenly saw that I had to pay a lot more than I expected. While I still went through with the purchase, the experience put me off booking through such sites,” explained the homemaker.

“Ever since coming across a travel booking platform where the price displayed is inclusive of charges such as airport fees and there’s no additional booking fee, I appreciate the transparency in being able to see the final price before proceeding to payment.”

User-friendly

It can be frustrating when the app you’re using isn’t particularly user-friendly. Common app user gripes range from a messy and convoluted user interface to the app not being able to work at all.

Rokiah commented that a good travel booking app should make it easy for customers to do research for flights and accommodation all in one place by having a feature that selects the best combination of flights for value.

“When it comes to choosing a place to stay, there are so many options, so having a customizable search feature with a variety of filters is great, because you can tailor your search based on your preferences like budget range, star rating, available facilities, and type of accommodation,” she added.

Nor Shahidatul shared that previously, she had tried various apps to book her trips, but finally found one that was easy and quick to use.

“I was having difficulty making payment for a booking, so by chance, I downloaded this other app, which is far more user-friendly. I managed to secure my booking and have been using it ever since,” she said.

Flexible payment options

Not everyone has a credit card or uses online banking, so having secure alternative payment methods, such as being able to pay in cash, can be a real boon. For example, MOLPay CASH is a payment method where you can pay in cash at a nearby 7-Eleven within a certain timeframe.

For many travellers, paying for a group holiday or a long-distance trip can also be quite costly, so being able to pay for it in instalments is a useful option. However, despite travel bookings being such a big-ticket item, not many travel booking apps offer much flexibility when it comes to payment.

Government servant Abdul Hakim Ali, 30, said when making a hotel booking for six rooms recently, he came across the option to pay for it in instalments.

“It was quite a big purchase, so when I got to the payment page and saw that I was eligible for a six-month instalment plan, I went for it, as it’s easier to divide the cost over six months,” he said.

Reliable in any situation

Can you count on the app you’re using in good times and in bad? No matter the circumstance, it should be a relatively smooth and simple process to search and book a flight or hotel, whether you’re leisurely booking your next holiday or need to make a last-minute booking.

But even after you’ve confirmed your booking and made payment, if you face any issues with your flight or accommodation, the difference between a mediocre app and an exceptional one is its customer service.

In a comment, Herni Henry said that one online travel agency provided helpful 24-hour customer service that allowed her to make changes to her booking quickly and easily.

“They helped expedite my husband’s flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur without any hassle, which I really appreciated,” she said.

So, is it possible to find all these handy features in a single app?

According to the users interviewed, it is. They’ve named the Traveloka App as their preferred travel booking app, as it ticked all the boxes above and made travelling a breeze for them.

Sarra said that while Traveloka is similar to a flight aggregator, “you can directly book the flight at the same website. Plus Traveloka offers special prices and discounts for flights and hotels!”

Nor Shahidatul added: “The app is very easy to use and it’s much more convenient to make a payment with it compared to other apps I’ve tried.”

According to Nurul Eeman, great deals on the Traveloka website got even better when accessed through the app and recommended making purchases on the app to maximise savings.

“I’ve been using Traveloka since 2016 and have been able to save a lot of money through their deals and discounts,” she said.

From tech startup to South-East Asia’s emerging travel expert

Founded in 2012 by a three-man team of engineers, Traveloka has grown from strength to strength over the years, specialising in flight and hotel deals.

From its humble beginnings in the bustling Indonesian capital of Jakarta, Traveloka has since spread its wings to become a leading online travel booking platform across South-East Asia, setting up offices in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Fuelling its rise is the international recognition of its excellence: Traveloka has won several international awards, such as the prestigious Top Brand Award for Flight Ticket and Hotel Booking Service in 2015 and 2016, in addition to being named as Indonesia’s top Cheap Flight and Hotel Booking Service, according to comScore.

While customers can make their bookings through Traveloka’s various platforms, such as desktop website and mobile website, it’s through the Traveloka App that users get to see the full extent of its convenience and ease, with special features and deals you can only get in the app.

Traveloka has established partnerships with more than 100 domestic and international airlines, serving more than 200,000 routes worldwide. It also has the largest direct accommodation inventory in South-East Asia, varying from hotels, apartments, guest houses and homestays to villas and resorts.

With what’s essentially your own personal travel agent in the palm of your hand, app users can access a smart search for flights with a variety of filters at your disposal and a handy fare-based calendar for those who are more flexible with their travel dates.

Choosing which hotel to stay in is also a cinch, with user reviews and a map including the nearest attractions and facilities to help you make the right choice.

With all these features and more, it’s easy to see why over 20 million people in South-East Asia have downloaded the Traveloka App to secure good value deals and make their travels effortless.

To experience it for yourself, download the Traveloka App for free on Google Play Store and Apple App Store or check out www.traveloka.com to learn more.