Travel | March 13, 2017 9:00 am

Book With This New Travel App, Get Free Amazon Gift Cards. Really.

If you can't save money ... spend some?

Another day, another dollar supposedly saved by the latest and greatest travel booking service. But this one — we like this one. 

It’s called Upside, and it’s run by Jay Walker, founder of Priceline. Here’s how it works: Book your plane and hotel together. Get a gift card, from some very decent retailers, including Amazon. That’s it. 

We tested out the beta experience with a three-night trip to San Francisco from Newark. The flight-booking part was super straightforward; we ended up with two non-stops on United. The hotel booking experience was slightly rockier: According to Upside, there wasn’t a single four-star hotel available in S.F. the three nights we would be in town. (Not so, according to Also, you can’t search for, say, “three stars and up” — you’re locked into your star selection. (If otherwise, we couldn’t figure it out.) We did find a hotel for three stars. This isn’t old-school Priceline; you know the exact airline and hotel before you commit.

Here’s where the Upside magic came into the deal. We were offered the opportunity to switch to a different, same-class hotel for a slight reduction in overall cost and a significant jump in the amount of our gift card. Overall, our total for the hotel and flight was just over $1,100 — plus a $180 gift card. (Moving hotels raised the value of the gift card by about $100.) 

We made separate bookings via United and the same hotel for the same dates — booking on Upside saved about $30 — and came with that $180 gift card, which we could either redeem for a retailer or apply immediately to the total due for our travel costs. 

Sure, problems could crop up down the road — but our initial experience, even on the beta site, was very positive. Check out an L.A. Times story, which records a similar appraisal. Recommended.