In the age of the internet, there is no shortage of resources to book the perfect hotel room!
With SO many choices and options, you may be wondering, what is the best hotel booking site? Or at least how to book cheap hotels online.
Back in the day – before Airbnb and Booking.com – we, backpackers, had to find an available room on the spot. While there is a certain nostalgia in roaming the streets of a new town with backpacks and sweat stains, nowadays, finding the perfect hotel room can be done from the comfort of your home and phone.
Depending on your trip, it often makes much more sense to reserve a room in advance on a hotel booking site. Maybe you’re limited on time, or you’re visiting a remote destination. Perhaps you’re on your honeymoon, or you just need to book the first night after a flight.
From metasearch engines to online travel agencies to luxury villas to backpacker hostels, finding a hotel online and booking has never been easier, but it’s also never been more overwhelming.
Out of all of the most popular online hotel booking sites, which website is the cheapest? You may be questioning how to get a cheap hotel room last-minute. Or what is the best site for hotels?
Use these sites for comparing prices for guesthouses, corporate hotels, dorm beds, cheap hotel rooms, bed and breakfast stays, and more. These are the best hotel booking sites.
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Agoda began as a hotel booking site with a focus on Asia, and that focus remains apparent on the home page, where properties in Malaysia, Thailand, and other Eastern destinations get prominent real estate. But now that Agoda has come to the U.S., it delivers a hotel search experience that matches some of the best hotel sites on this list. There were even instances when Agoda had better hotel deals than its competition, including one hotel search result in which the total booking cost was more than $200 less than the same hotel on Priceline (with a coupon code). Don’t expect that sort of result every time, but it shows that Agoda, like all the rest of these hotel booking sites, is well worth checking for the best hotel deals.
Best feature: A good selection of well-located places to stay, with some of the best hotel prices around.
A tried-and-true traveller favourite, Booking.com has over 29 million listings in 227 countries and territories. The site has a reputation for reliability and is amazingly easy to use, thanks to its simple, clean interface.
When compared with competing sites, it typically finds at least double the number of results for any given destination and often delivers the best price for a specific hotel. The website offers a bunch of different ways to search for the best options. In addition to conventional hotels, the site also lists vacation rentals, apartments, B&Bs, and hostels, making it a good fit for every type of traveller.
Despite the sheer number of results, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for by using search filters that include budget, star rating, facilities, property type, neighbourhood, and distance from the city centre. If you have a specific trip in mind, enter your chosen destination, dates, the number of adults and children in your group, and the required number of rooms. You can also browse listings by destination or property type instead if you’re in need of inspiration.
Each listing also includes verified reviews from previous guests. Best of all, prices include taxes and charges from the start, so there are no hidden costs.
Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz
Short of the colour scheme and fonts, you’d be hard-pressed to find much difference between these three legacy hotel booking sites. Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz are all owned by Expedia Inc., and all three use the same layout, with a few minor tweaks. Interestingly, the hotel search results do vary slightly. The top hotel result for each test search was the same across all three of these hotel booking sites, but the order of the list of hotels below is varied. Prices, of course, were the same, since they’re all powered by Expedia. These perfectly fine hotel search engines are not all that different from Hotels.com: They’ve got plenty of options, prices that are usually good but not always great (as with any hotel booking site), and useful hotel search filters. That might be faint praise for discount hotel sites, but there’s something to be said for consistency, right? Keep an eye on these hotel sites’ deals and limited-time offers, which is when any of these three hotel search engines are more likely to beat their competition substantially.
Once a division of Microsoft, Expedia became an independent company in 1999 and has since become one of the largest hotel websites in the world. Because the company has been in the hotel aggregator business for a long time, it knows what makes for the best user experience, while still delivering as many options as possible.
Yet, despite the massive amount of choice available, you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for thanks to the extensive search features available on the site. Expedia lets you sort hotels by options like price, distance from the airport, and the site even recommends popular filters based on the city you’re looking at.
When you click on a hotel, you’ll see its amenities, conveniences, room options, and everything about the hotel’s location. From there, you can narrow things down even more with check-in dates, guest reviews, and payment types.
Of all the websites on this list, Expedia.com is the most diversified when it comes to servicing your travel needs. Visitors to the site can a hotel to stay in, but also entire flight packages, car rentals, and even cruises.
Best feature: Dependability. Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz are the Honda Accords of hotel booking sites. You’ll reliably find what you need, at the best prices, and with minimal hassle. Just be sure to compare prices to a hotel booking site that’s outside the Expedia family.
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Google’s hotel search engine works by simply entering “hotels in (insert city here)” right on Google.com. (You can also go straight to the Google Hotels page.) This feature is integrated into Google Maps, which makes it very different from any of the other hotel booking sites listed above. On Google, hotel locations are marked by prices on a map, rather than by name or any other identifying characteristic. From there, Google’s hotel search tool is fairly price-forward, which is what metasearch should be. Clicking on a price displays the hotel’s name, features, and booking options. Overall, it’s no surprise that Google offers a powerful, no-frills hotel search engine for travellers who don’t want all the hard-sell aspects of cheap hotel sites and more commercial hotel search engines. (And yes, Google did surface that low-with-coupon hotel deal from Agoda.)
Best feature: Location is usually pretty important when choosing a hotel, and Google Maps integration—with satellite and street view—allows you to factor that into your hotel search easily.
Hotels.com, one of the longest-running hotel listing sites, is still going strong today with over 300,000 different hotel listings in almost 20,000 locations. That wealth of offerings you’ll have plenty of options to choose from when you’re starting to book your trip.
The website’s excellent search engine function helps you narrow down your options by adding categories like which landmarks you’d like to stay by, which neighbourhood you want to be in, and which amenities you’d prefer. You can even choose the type of hotel you’re looking for, whether that’s a boutique spa, a motel, or even an adventure hotel.
Once you find the hotel that’s right for you, you’ll be able to read hotel overviews and reviews right on Hotels.com, getting all the information you need to decide if it’s worth booking or not.
Hotels.com will also help you figure out just what you want to do on your trip. The site offers select vacation packages that come with both flights and adventures like tours, shows, or spa trips included. If you’d like to plan a bit further than that, though, you can still browse the “Things to Do” tab to flesh out your trip’s itinerary.
HotelsCombined is a metasearch engine, which means that it compares listings from online travel agencies like Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Agoda, as well as from major hotel brands like Hilton and AccorHotels. So, when you search for a hotel (either by using its specific name or by entering your chosen destination and dates), the results will list the best prices from a number of different third-party sites. Click on the link, and you’ll be redirected to the third-party site to make your booking.
The downside of this system is that prices and availability sometimes change in the time it takes to be redirected, so you’ll occasionally encounter higher prices or sold-out rooms by the time you try to make payment. However, HotelsCombined does offer a “Best Price Guarantee” that refunds the difference if you find a hotel listed cheaper elsewhere, so you can be sure you’re getting the absolute best deal.
Listings for each property show an overall review score, the distance from the city centre, photographs, and a map. You can also choose to view prices including or excluding tax, and you can filter results by price, star rating, type, amenities, and more, to narrow down your search.
If you’re a budget traveller looking for a hostel or cheap hotel, Hostelworld is the hotel booking site for you. It lists 36,000 properties in 178 countries, with more than 12 million verified guest reviews to back them up, so there are tons of options to choose from, and more than enough information to know you’re making the right choice.
The site’s search engine lets you look for a specific property, enter your chosen destination, dates, and search for rooms by the number of people in your party. Click “enter” to view a list of hotels by top amenities, traveller rating, and distance from the city centre, so everything you’ll need is visible at a glance for easy comparison. Starting prices for dormitories and private rooms are also shown.
You can filter the results in several ways, including by room type – options include accommodations like en-suite family rooms and all-female dorms – and by payment type. A list of checkable amenities includes backpacker priorities like free breakfast, cooking facilities, and a lack of curfew.
Once you click on a listing, you’ll be able to read a Hostelworld description of the property, in addition to overviews provided by the property owners, and other traveller’s reviews. Choose your room type and receive instant confirmation without paying any booking fees.
Hotwire’s search engine is pretty much the same as any other hotel booking site: simply enter your chosen destination, dates, and guest details, and voilà.
But after that, the similarities end. You can opt to view Standard Rate Hotels, in which case you’ll get a regular list of hotels with useful details, including the starting price, traveller rating, and location.
You can also opt to view Hot Rate Hotels. These listings include the hotel’s star rating, traveller rating, general location, and price per night, but they don’t show you the hotel’s name until after you book. By booking blind, you not only keep the sense of adventure alive but also receive some incredible discounts.
Still, if the idea of booking blind is a little intimidating, don’t worry. Some Hot Rate Hotel listings give you peace of mind by including a list of three hotel names and the guarantee that yours will be one of them. Either way, Hotwire won’t lead you astray, and the blind listings are sure to be a great stay, with options including everything from luxury villas to quaint B&Bs.
Like its flight search, Kayak’s hotel search offers a clean, easy-to-use interface with many available filters. It also shows other hotel booking sites’ rates so you can compare them all in one place. But the first hotel price result is often higher than better rates farther down the list unless you specifically filter by price. Kayak’s hotel search results are automatically sorted by the vague factor of what’s “Recommended,” which is true of many hotel booking sites. Often, higher rates populate first while scrolling results, and sometimes that lead price is much higher than other comparable hotel options. It’s hard to see how this is useful, especially if the point of hotel search engines is to help you find the best hotel prices. The site’s minimal look is nice, but does have a downside: The option to sort by price is a hard-to-find, grey drop-down menu atop the list. Kayak presents strong options and price comparisons, so long as you’re willing to scrutinize or sort by prices.
Best feature: Clean, easy-to-use interface. It’s also one of the best hotel apps you can download onto your phone.
Priceline has one of the more visually appealing design layouts of the major hotel search engines and is definitely among the easiest hotel sites to navigate. None of these hotel search sites is dramatically different from the others in terms of rates or price comparison, so usability can go a long way toward improving the experience of searching for the best hotel prices. Unsurprisingly, Priceline’s prices are on par with the other online travel agencies (OTAs), and its results are largely focused on downtowns and tourist-friendly areas. The big draw of Priceline has always been its unique “Name Your Own Price” and “Express Deal” options: The former allows you to submit a final hotel price you’re willing to pay, which a hotel can then accept (with a nonrefundable booking). The latter is a flash deal that hides the name of the hotel until after you book. While somewhat gimmicky, these hotel search options can offer significant savings.
Best feature: Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” and “Express Deal” features are major differentiators from other discount hotel sites. They’re a big plus if you’re looking for the best hotel deals and are open to not knowing exactly which hotel you’re booking.
Popular review site TripAdvisor is a great option for those that like to read about other travelers’ experiences before choosing a hotel. The process is easy; first, enter your destination, then select the “Hotels” tab at the top of the page. The results can be ordered a number of ways, including Best Value and Price.
Choose the Traveler Ranked option to see hotels listed according to the number and quality of their reviews. If you’re looking for something more in-depth than that, you can also pin down your options by using a long list of filters, including a budget, amenities, property type, and star-rating.
Each hotel listing shows the cheapest third-party rate at first glance, and when you click on it, you’ll see a comparison of prices and booking links from companies like Booking.com and Agoda.
The listing also includes an overview of the hotel, a gallery of photos, and a list of traveller reviews. You can filter the reviews by rating or traveller type, or use the search bar to look for a particular word or phrase. If you need something specific like accessible options, a great spa, fitness facilities, or a wealth of food options, it’ll be easy to find what you’re looking for.
TripAdvisor often has fewer listings than its competitors but does remarkably well in delivering lower-than-average prices, since the site is always aggregating the best options around.
The meta-search sites usually found a competitive rate, but not always. The best of them (Kayak) still only surfaced the cheapest price a third of the time, and the others were worse.
Mobile sites were pretty similar across the board, which isn’t all that surprising. There are only so many ways to search for and display hotel listings on a small screen, after all.
All sites had plenty of photos of the properties in question, and all but Trivago showed customer reviews and ratings. The number of reviews varied — for the same hotel, some sites had over a thousand reviews, while others had less than ten.
Many of the sites had a reward program of some sort, although the details varied widely. If you’re travelling all the time and find a site you like, you’ll get some benefit by consistently booking through it. For everyone else, just tracking down the cheapest rate will leave more money in your pocket than worrying about rewards.