November 6, 2019

Best Hotel Booking Site

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You've got plenty of options when booking hotels for your next trip. But which websites offer the best deals? We cover all the best hotel websites—and the pros and cons you should know before booking.

Is It Better to Book Directly With the Hotel?

Even with all the other online options available, you may still get the best deal on a room by contacting the hotel directly. Many major brands offer deals and specials to compete with online travel agencies (OTAs) and search engines.

Depending on the hotel, you'll also earn points through their reward programs. You won't typically qualify for these when booking through other sites.

If you find a good deal through an OTA, call the hotel directly before booking. They may offer that lower price. Plus, you'll earn the loyalty points that come with reserving your room directly. These points can used toward future stays or special promotions.

Even if they don't drop their price, they might give you other perks like free breakfast, Wi-Fi, or complimentary late checkout.

Are hotel booking sites reliable?
You can book with confidence through well-known online travel agencies and search engines (including all the ones on our list). However, you may want to do some research before reserving a room with an unfamiliar website. Regardless of where you book, always call the hotel 24–48 hours after making your reservation to confirm.

Top Hotel Booking Sites

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We've compiled a list of the best booking sites for your next business trip or vacation. Many of these OTAs and travel search engines have similar features.

We've listed our favorites in order below. That being said, that the best booking site for you will ultimately depend on your individual needs and travel plans.

Keep reading to learn more.

Which website gives you the best hotel deals?
  • Best for Las Vegas: Hotwire or Priceline
  • Best for Asia: Agoda or Trivago
  • Best for Europe: Booking.com
  • Best for Last Minute Travel: HotelTonight

1. Booking.com

Booking.com has a lot of things going for it. The OTA offers bookings on accommodations, flights, bundles and more.

Of the major hotel booking sites, it has the longest-lasting low-price guarantee; customers who find the exact same accommodations online for lower rates after booking can get refunded the difference up to 24 hours before their check-in date.

Another huge plus is the site's range of accommodations. Travelers will find stays ranging from hotels to hostels to farms listed in every search. If you're looking exclusively for one type of stay, you will need to sort through your search results by using the filters to the left of the list.

The final thing that sets Booking.com apart is its "Verified Reviews." Only customers who have booked through the site can leave reviews on accommodations. These typically give a more accurate opinion of the place than reviews on other sites, which can be easily faked.

Pros

  • Book other types of accommodations—bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, hostels, etc.
  • Book flights, car rentals, airport taxis, and flight plus hotels
  • Lots of search filtering options and clear descriptions of types of rooms
  • 24/7 customer service

Cons

  • Users can't earn brand-specific loyalty rewards
  • Requires filtering if just searching for one type of stay

Best for Paris and Rome
For cheap deals on hotel brands and franchises, start with Booking.com. But European cities in France, Italy, and Spain are also home to a lot of independent hotels. Travel search engines like Trivago or HotelsCombined let you look for hotels as well as hostels, inns, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfasts.

2. KAYAK

KAYAK is a metasearch site, not an OTA, which means it doesn't have any of its own Kayak-specific bookings.

Instead, Kayak indexes OTAs as well as direct travel accommodation sites themselves to compile results for each search, which you can then use filters to sort through. Booking directly through a hotel or airline's website will often earn you loyalty points, which you usually can't get through an OTA.

One of the best parts of Kayak's site is the explore map. The map allows you to enter a departure airport and then view rates to destinations all over the world within a 6-month period. It's a great way to save on a more flexible vacation.

Kayak also has split-reservations for hotels known as its "Hacker Stays." By booking two consecutive stays at the same hotel, Kayak claims users can save.

Pros

  • Excellent filtering options
  • Map option shows all the hotels in that city, plus restaurants, shopping, and attractions
  • Search for flights, cars, cruises, packages, and special deals
  • Users can earn brand-specific loyalty points if they book directly

Cons

  • Can't book directly through the site
  • Hacker Fares and Stays can cause extra work on the traveler's part

What's the difference between an online travel agent (OTA) and a travel search engine?
An OTA, like Expedia or Agoda, compiles available hotel rooms so users can compare prices and other features. You can book your stay directly through an OTA.

A travel search engine, like KAYAK, displays available rooms and features from several OTAs to help users find the best price. But you can't book your room directly—instead, you'll get redirected to the site of your choosing.

3. Expedia

The Expedia Group owns multiple OTAs, including some of the others mentioned in this list. The main site, Expedia itself searches across all of those platforms, saving users time.

Booking through an OTA, such as Expedia, often means you'll lose out on any hotel-specific loyalty points. Expedia makes up for that with one of the best rewards systems of any OTA with luxurious benefits, such as:

• Bonus points
• Exclusive offers
• No blackout dates for reward redemption

Guests earn two Expedia points for every $1 they spend on the site, which can make for a big payoff, especially if you're also using a travel credit card that earns cash back on each purchase.

Expedia also offers split-rate bookings, which can help you save by creating two reservations at the at same hotel. If you find a booking you made on Expedia on another site for a cheaper rate, you can submit a low-price guarantee claim up to 24 hours before your reservation to receive a refund of the difference.

Pros

  • Easy-to-earn rewards program with three tiers
  • Benefits for higher tiers
  • Split-rate bookings
  • Extended low-price guarantee

Cons

  • Booking through an OTA keeps customers from earning brand loyalty points
  • Same prices as other OTAs in the Expedia Group

What to know about Split-Rate offers:

Kayak and Expedia offer split-rates on hotels, which are multiple-night stays broken into two separate reservations to maximize savings.

They can be a hassle since you'll have to check out and check back in between reservations. The hotel also may not guarantee you'll have the same room for both reservations.

But you ask nicely, the front desk staff at your hotel may be able to combine the reservations so you don't have to change rooms.

4. Hotels.com

Hotels.com sticks to the basics by offering hotels, flights, packages combining them both, and vacation activities. This has worked out it its favor - the site is one of easiest OTAs to use.

The two distinguishing parts of Hotels.com are its:

• Secret Prices
• Valuable rewards program

Customers who sign up for the Hotels.com newsletter and/or create an account gain access to "Secret Prices." These are hotel bookings with additionally discounted rates.

Secret Price savings range widely. For a 3-night stay in Las Vegas, three-star hotels typically saw Secret Price savings of $5 - $8 per night vs. the regular Hotels.com rates. However, more expensive 4 and 5-star hotels with Secret Prices returned per-night savings of $40 and up.
Booking any hotel with Hotels.com earns customers loyalty points through a punch card-like system. Every 10 nights booked through the site earns 1 free night at any hotel equivalent to the average value of all of the 10 nights.

Flights, vacation packages and activities don't earn points. To redeem a free night, you will have to pay applicable taxes and fees and a $5 redemption fee. Waiving that fee is simple, though - just book through the Hotels.com app instead of on the site itself.

Pros

  • Has own loyalty program—earn 1 night for every 10 you book
  • "Secret Prices" only available to members
  • Frequent sales on hotel rooms

Cons

  • Can't earn loyalty rewards
  • Secret price savings range in value

5. HotelsCombined

Just like Kayak, HotelsCombined is a metasearch site that searches across and then compiles results from OTAs and individual hotel sites. The site also lists non-hotel accommodations like bed and breakfasts and hostels.

The search function works the same as most other OTAs. People looking for family hotels can search based on if the property offers babysitting services, while those interested in luxury can choose to only see results with onsite spas, among many other filters.

Where the site shines is its "Hot Deals" for last-minute bookings. These change daily and can often offer significant savings on hotels around the world. HotelsCombined also offers exclusive "member rates," and since it's an aggregator and not an OTA, users will likely earn brand-loyalty points if they book directly through a hotel's site.

The only glaring issue with the service is its sometimes-inaccurate prices. When redirecting from HotelsCombined to the actual booking site, there is sometimes a discrepancy between the two listings. That price difference can range from a few dollars to over $100 per night. Just make sure to check multiple listings to find the cheapest rates.

Pros

  • Hot Deals offer significant discounts
  • Search for hostels, B&Bs, and other types of accommodations
  • Can earn hotel brand loyalty points

Cons

  • Price per night sometimes inaccurate
  • No loyalty system

6. Agoda

Agoda was created to primarily serve as a hotel booking site for Asia. While it now lists hotels all over the world, its listings are still the most comprehensive in Asian cities. The site offers lots of the same features as other OTAs, such as pay now or later reservations and advanced search filters.

Each search listing is labeled with the hotel's perks, like "breakfast" or "free cancellation" to help travelers narrow down their searches without having to click through to each individual page. Agoda also includes non-traditional accommodations in its results.

Users who create accounts (by clicking the "Create Account" button at the top right of the homepage) can access Agoda's Insider Deals, which automatically discounts certain prices. These savings can range in value from less than $10 over $50 per night, depending on the overall price of the stay.

Booking certain labeled accommodations through the site will also earn you rewards points in the form of AgodaCash, which is credited to your account after you have checked out from the accommodation. There's no minimum spending limit with AgodaCash, meaning you can redeem as little or as much as you want at a time to pay for a new booking.

Pros

  • Pay now or later options
  • Free cancellations
  • Rewards program
  • Easy-to-access Insider Deals

Cons

  • Not as comprehensive in western countries

Best for Travel to Japan
Rakuten is one of the largest online shopping portals in Japan, offering travelers hundreds of hotel options. Trivago is also worth checking out, with over 12,000 hotels in Tokyo alone.

7. Priceline

Priceline is a great option if you're not particular about staying in any specific brand of hotel. Through the site, you can book flights, hotels, rental cars, vacation packages and cruises.

There's not much that distinguishes Priceline from other OTAs in terms of functionality. You can search based on your travel destination and then filter results.

What does set Priceline apart are its opaque bookings, known as "Express Deals." These results show only a hotel's rating, neighborhood, and amenities but not the name of the hotel itself before booking. Travelers only find out which hotel they're staying at after they purchase a room. It's not too difficult to figure out the hotel you're looking at beforehand, though.

Priceline also has a low-price guarantee that ensures a 100% refund of the price difference if you find a booking you already made for a lower price elsewhere. If you find a lower price for an Express Deal, you'll get a 200% refund. Both refunds are only applicable if you find the new prices within 24 hours of booking on Priceline.

Pros

  • Low-price guarantee
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Significant price savings on Express Deals

Cons

  • No loyalty rewards
  • Same prices as most other OTAs

8. Orbitz

If you're not loyal to a specific hotel brand, Orbitz allows you to build loyalty points no matter what hotel chain you book. Of all the OTAs, Orbitz has one of the widest range of travel accommodations.

Through Orbitz, you can book:
• Hotels
• Flights
• Vacation packages
• Rental cars
• Vacation rentals
• Cruises
• Activities

Orbitz is owned by Expedia, so many of the site's offerings are similar to, if not exactly the same as, offerings on Expedia, Hotwire and Travelocity, among others. The listings themselves aren't as notable as the site's rewards program.

The program has three loyalty levels: Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with exclusive higher-tier rewards like priority access, upgrades, and freebies (Wi-Fi, breakfast, etc.) at VIP hotels. Reward points are distributed in the form of Orbucks, which are earned at different rates for every booking through Orbitz.

The company also has a rewards dining program that allows you to register a debit or credit card and start earning points just for eating at restaurants. If you're clever, it's very easy to build up rewards points through Orbitz that you can then use to pay for travel.

Pros

  • Generous loyalty program with three loyalty levels
  • Earn rewards at restaurants through Orbitz Rewards Dining
  • Booking bonuses—3% in Orbucks when you book hotels on a web browser and 5% through the app

Cons

  • Orbucks can only be used for hotel stays
  • Same offerings as

9. Hotwire

Like Priceline, Hotwire offers opaque booking deals on hotels. Other than that, it works similarly to most other OTAs.

The opaque "Hot Rates" feature lets you search by city and destination. When you find a Hot Rate hotel, you will be able to see its amenities, rating, and general location in the city but not the hotel's name until after you book.

Hotwire's general prices sometimes run slightly higher than other OTAs, so Hot Rates are the way to go to save money. The site does have a low price guarantee up to 24 hours after booking. If you find the exact same accommodations online for a lower price, Hotwire will refund the difference.

Pros

  • Book vacation packages with flights to save more
  • Low price guarantee

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than other OTAs

Las Vegas Hotels: Hotwire vs Priceline
Both websites offer great deals on rooms, especially if you're flexible. Hotwire and Priceline offer deals where you pick the general area and rating but not the specific hotel until after you book.

Recently, Hotwire was offering Hot Rate rooms at a 4-star hotel in the central Strip area of Las Vegas for $23 a night. Priceline's Express Deals showed a 3-star Strip hotel for $48 a night.

10. TripAdvisor

Like KAYAK, you don't book directly through TripAdvisor. When you search for a hotel, it will list each option and show the prices on several OTAs with links to each.

The nice thing about TripAdvisor is that it offers ratings for nearly every hotel, as well as photos from previous guests. Always be skeptical of the ratings and reviews, because fake reviews are easy to create. That being said, the real ones give a good idea of what the property is like that a regular booking site can't always convey.

Since TripAdvisor is a review site first, sometimes the prices aren't accurate after you've clicked through to the actual accommodation's site to book. The listed prices also often don't include any possible extra fees and taxes you may have to pay.

Pros

  • Lots of reviews for every listing
  • Can earn brand-specific loyalty points

Cons

  • Price doesn't always show extra fees and taxes
  • Prices can be inaccurate

Always read the fine print
Each website's policy is different and sometimes the cancellation policies can even differ on the same website depending on the hotel. The booking website or the hotel may also charge additional taxes, resort fees, and other surcharges.

Other Hotel Booking Site Options

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HotelTonight

This simple, user-friendly app can help you find awesome deals on last-minute stays because it sells rooms in sold-out hotels.

You can also book several days ahead of time in certain hotels. HotelTonight also shows rooms that normally have a minimum night stay requirement that you can book for only one night.

American Express Travel

Don't let the name fool you—anyone can access American Express Travel, though AMEX Membership Reward members benefit the most. Simply create an account for this booking portal to see final pricing.

Don't use Membership Reward points through the travel portal. Instead, transfer those points to travel partners to make your points go farther.

Google Hotel Finder

From the Google homepage, type in "hotels in (fill in the blank)" to see all available rooms in that area. You can't book directly through Google, but you can follow the links to other OTAs. The filtering options aren't as strong as other websites, but you can still narrow down your choices to find some great deals. Google also allows you to set up price tracking.

Travelocity

As with other online travel agencies, you can search for hotels and other needs like flights, cars, and cruises.

Trivago

More of a travel search engine than an online travel agency, Trivago compiles hotel deals from all the major websites. It offers lots of information, including rankings, customer reviews, and photos.

Best for Thailand
Trivago is a great option for Thailand (and overseas travel in general), featuring nearly 100,000 Thai hotels.

Skyscanner

Better known for their flight deals, Skyscanner does offer hotel bookings. Be aware, however, that the price listed is for the entire stay, not for one night.

Roomlia

This platform has similar search options as other sites, but charges a $25 cancellation fee up to 5 days before travel and no refund within 5 days of the stay.

GetARoom

A little old-school, GetARoom has a website where you can search for hotel deals. To get an even better discount, you have to call their 1-800 number and speak to a customer service rep. The website also charges a service fee.

Hotel Booking Tips

Use a Travel Rewards Credit Card
Regardless of where you choose to book, always use a travel credit card to pay for your stay. You'll earn extra points or miles on top of getting a great deal.

Book Early to Get the Best Deals
Hotel prices usually rise as you get closer to your stay dates. You may find low-priced, last-minute deals, but it's usually best to reserve your room well in advance.

Trust, but Verify
After booking through an OTA, verify with the hotel that your reservation is in their system.

Bottom Line

You've got plenty of options for booking hotels online. Online Travel Agencies purchase blocks of hotel rooms they sell at a cheaper rate, but watch out for hidden fees and strict cancellation policies.

Travel search engines help you narrow down choices but don't allow you to book directly. If you have elite status with a hotel brand, book directly with them to earn rewards points and stays that will help you maintain your elite status.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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