Travel broadens the mind! It helps us understand different cultures, see the world from a different perspective and marvel at the natural and manmade beauty found all over the globe.
However, travel is becoming more expensive, and hotel prices are rising just like prices in every other aspect of our lives. Yet hotels often comprise a significant part of the average travel budget. Nowadays, if you want to be able to enjoy the benefits of more frequent travel, you need to save money where you can.
And that’s part of our bread, butter, and jam at VT, finding travel hacks to make travel cheaper. So is there a way to save on booking accommodations? Naturally!
Hotel booking sites can save you money when searching for hotel rooms. They can also help you evaluate your options in new places by showing you many hotel options in your destination cities and providing customer reviews of each.
Yet, sometimes people are afraid of using hotel booking sites for the first time. Many hotel booking sites exist, and sometimes we aren’t sure which are legit.
Well, don’t worry. We’ve tried them all and narrowed that vast sea of sites down to an elite few, with our top five right here:
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Top 5 Hotel Booking Sites
|Hotel Booking Site||Pros||Cons|
– Large selection of hotels
– User-friendly interface
– Price match guarantee
– Some hotels require a deposit
– Cancellation policies vary by hotel
– Bundle deals for flights and hotels
– Easy to compare prices
– Loyalty program rewards
– Customer service can be slow
– Hidden fees on some bookings
– Collect 10 nights, get 1 free
– Price match guarantee
– Easy to filter search results
– Some hotels require a deposit
– Cancellation policies vary by hotel
– Exclusive deals and discounts
– Easy to navigate website
– Multiple payment options
– Limited selection of hotels in some areas
– Cancellation policies vary by hotel
– User-generated reviews and ratings
– Price comparison feature
– Large selection of hotels
– Limited customer service
– Some hotels require a deposit
We’ve looked at multiple hotel booking sites. Here’s our guide to the best hotel booking sites and how to maximize the potential of each of them.
Best Hotel Booking Sites
Dutch-based Booking.com is an online flight and hotel booking site and mobile app that tops this list for a legitimate reason; it’s my favorite.
Most online booking sites started as airline booking sites and expanded into hotels, but Booking.com started as a hotel site in 1996. Because of that, the site has strong connections with a wide variety of accommodations, including boutique hotels, local family-owned hotels, and bed and breakfasts. Using Booking.com can provide you with information on accommodation types you may not have considered, and that may be better options.
Booking.com features extensive reviews from hotel customers to help you decide on your lodging. The site also offers package deals where you can book flights and hotels; flights, hotels, and cars; or flights and cars at the same time and save money. The site also offers daily deals.
Booking.com has a genius loyalty program, genuinely called “Genius,” that can gain you additional discounts and perks such as late checkout. Unfortunately, the site fails to offer an easy comparison of hotel room prices, so you’ll need to do that yourself using information from the site.
Reviews are mixed on the quality of the customer service, but I’ve only had good experiences. Some customer reviews of the site complain about the inability to cancel reservations and receive a full refund if you are within 14 days of the booking. Most customers, myself included, praise the site’s ease of use.
- Access to small hotels
- Transparent about hotel cancellation policies
- No fees
- Loyalty program
- On app reviews
- Ease of use
- Lack of comparison pricing
- Uneven customer service
- Booking.com does not control cancellation policies
Making the Most of Booking.com
- Understand what the site is and what it isn’t; Booking.com is primarily a search engine. It sends you to another site to complete your booking and doesn’t control hotels’ cancellation policies. Booking.com also cannot help you if you need to cancel close to your checking-in time.
- Using the filters can vastly improve your search results. Filter characteristics such as location, accommodation type, number of stars, parking, whether breakfast is included, and free Wi-Fi.
- You’ll find the best deals if you book well in advance or at the very last minute. Always read the fine print. Sometimes fees increase the room cost significantly.
- I highly recommend considering the Genius program.
- Read those customer reviews carefully!
Hotels.com is an online travel agency that acts as a go-between for you and its lodging partners. I’ve used them quite a lot, and they’ve helped me save a few pennies when looking for rooms. Now, an online travel agency differs from a travel search engine because you book your accommodations directly on the travel agency site rather than going to a third party.
When you enter information about your dates and destinations, Hotels.com goes to multiple hotel sites to provide you with hotel prices and availability. By default, it sorts the results by recommended, but you can change the filters to sort by other criteria, such as fully-refundable or pets allowed.
Once you choose a hotel, the site gives you options by type of room. It also provides information about attractions and restaurants nearby and hotel amenities. It also offers suggestions for competitors that you may want to review.
Unlike other booking sites, Hotels.com focuses on accommodations. And as part of the Expedia Group, you can book car rentals here too.
Hotels.com also has an excellent price match guarantee program where it will match a price you find elsewhere up until the date of your stay. Many other booking sites will only match prices within 24 hours of booking.
Hotels.com gives customers a “stamp” for every eligible night they book and stay through the site. When you accumulate ten stamps, you can redeem them for a free night valued at an average price of the ten nights you booked. Sadly, the company has announced that the program will end later in 2023 and merge into Expedia’s loyalty program.
- Good information about each hotel, including location and amenities, and verified customer reviews
- Price match guarantee
- Has no control over cancellation or refund policies at the properties
- Losing the stamp system
Making the Most of Hotels.com
- Understand that the site has no control over partners’ cancellation policies.
- Consider continuing to search on other sites for lower prices at your hotel after booking to take advantage of the price match guarantee.
- Read the information about each hotel, including the reviews.
- While you can book hotels on the site without signing up for an account, you will save more if you do so. Members also have “secret deals” that are unavailable to others!
Agoda is owned by Booking Holdings, which also owns Kayak, Priceline, and Booking.com. This fantastic online travel agency allows you to book flights, airport transfers, and activities, along with lodging.
Agoda differs from other hotel booking sites by allowing you to book longer stays at one location. It also offers various accommodations, including hostels, vacation rentals, and homestays similar to VRBO.
Some hosts will allow you to book without charging your credit card first. Also, lesser-known hotels will sometimes partner with Agoda and offer great discounts too.
The “Daily Deals” page includes coupons to discount your stay further. The best discounts are available to those who sign up to Agoda. Like similar sites, Agoda allows you to filter results based on criteria important to you and provides customer reviews of the properties.
Agoda mainly receives good reviews, although the site is a little more challenging to use than some of its competitors. Most negative reviews are related to the inability to cancel bookings for a refund, which is controlled by Agoda’s partners rather than Agoda.
- Can book your lodging and airfare in one place
- Daily Deals page
- Wide variety of accommodation types
- Ability to book long-term stays
- Offers deeply discounted lodging
- Can sometimes book homestays without having to prepay via credit card
- Concerns about canceling bookings
- Has a higher learning curve than some competitors
- Cheapest flights have long layovers
- Some of the best “deals” on lodging are in remote locations
Making the Most of Agoda
- Use the filters to narrow your bookings and read information about the accommodation, including cancellation policies, location, and amenities.
- Customers who create an account on the site will find the best deals. They’ll also receive additional perks such as earning “Agoda Cash” that they can apply to future purchases. Agoda’s loyalty program also offers rewards tiers; the more nights you book, the higher the tier. The higher the tier, the deeper the discounts.
- You can also get the best deals with Promo Codes. Promo Codes are of two types: Explorer Deals and Everyday Deals. Explorer Deals range from 5% to 10% off. Everyday Deals may be discounted as much as 20%, and you can find these codes just about anywhere!
See Related: Best Airbnb Alternatives: Similar Apps & Sites
Expedia is a top-rated online travel agency that also allows you to search for event tickets, flights, cruises, and car rentals. They are one of the heaviest hitters in the game and one of the top sites on this list.
Expedia’s vacation packages are particularly good deals. One unique aspect of Expedia vs. other hotel booking websites is that you can filter for bookings that offer a “Buy Now, Pay Later” option. The option allows you to book a few months out without needing to commit your money.
Expedia has an awards program known as “One Key,” which allows you to earn a $1 reward for every $1 you spend. You can then use the rewards toward future lodging you book on the site.
Expedia also offers the best deals to its members, who save 10% more than nonmembers on hotels. They also save 30% more than nonmembers when adding a hotel room to a flight booking.
The biggest draw for me is Expedia’s ease of use – their app is fantastic, and you get bonuses for booking through it. Most negative reviews complain of bait-and-switch advertising tactics and poor customer service.
- Good vacation package rates
- Rewards program
- “Buy Now Pay Later” option
- Ease of use
- Price Match Guarantee on Flights
- Ewan McGregor is in the current ad campaign *swoons*
- Great app
- Some complain that bookings aren’t as advertised
- Poor customer service
- No price guarantee on hotels
Getting the Most from Expedia
- Becoming an Expedia member and using its loyalty program will net you the best results, especially if you use the app. This program gives you points and $25 for your next booking just for downloading the app, and you’ll get double points by booking on the app too. You can move up to higher tiers by earning more points. Higher tiers receive double or triple the number of points for each booking and other benefits. You can redeem the points for almost anything on the app at a rate of 0.7 per $1.
- Check for coupons on the app and website and clip them for use later.
- Signing up for the site’s custom newsletter includes deals that are otherwise not advertised.
- Booking package deals also will save you money, and if your flight plans are flexible, you can also rack up substantial hotel discounts by taking advantage of the app’s last-minute hotel deals.
See Related: Best Apps & Sites Like Expedia For Travel
Trip.com, owned by the Chinese group Trip.com Group Limited, has more than 400 million customers globally.
It’s a comprehensive online travel agency that allows you to book hotel rooms, flights, trains, cruises, car rentals, packaged tours, and attraction tickets all in one place. I use Trip fairly frequently, and they’ve done right by me so far.
The company has more than 1.4 million hotels in its network, so you will receive multiple hotel options with each query. Bundling saves you money.
You can book flights, hotels, trains, car rentals, cruises, attraction tickets, and packaged tours. It has a loyalty program called “Trip Coins,” which can save you big down the line.
One thing that sets Trip.com apart from other hotel booking sites is that you can set an alert to be notified when the price drops. The site also is far ahead of many in its comprehensiveness.
It has a rewards program that provides discounts and other benefits. Trip.com also passes its commissions along to its customers, meaning it often has the lowest price of its competitors.
- Ability to set a notification alert when the price drops
- Large network of hotels
- Ease of booking everything in one place
- Great rewards program
- Low prices
- The company’s longevity
- Negative customer reviews about the cancellation policies of its partners
- Many customer service team members live in China, which means English is not their first language
- Doesn’t accept Discover and most digital wallets as payment methods
Getting the Most from Trip.com
- Choose flexible hotels with no cancellation fees. Trip.com has so many hotel partners finding hotels, even cheap hotels, that allow cancellation up to two days before arrival is easy.
- Booking hotels that allow cancellation also has additional benefits. If the price drops, you can cancel your original reservation and immediately book one at the lower rate!
- Read ALL the fine print about the hotel before booking.
- Joining the loyalty program also will help you get the most from Trip.com. Signing up is free, and rewards will allow you to save even more.
- If you have the nerve to wait until the last minute, you can usually find significantly discounted rooms.
- If you can, try to book all aspects of your trip at the same time through Trip.com to take advantage of bundling deals.
As mentioned, Booking Holdings owns Priceline. Priceline is an online travel agency that allows you to search for various travel services. As with other sites like this one (and others on this list), you tend to save more by bundling.
Priceline’s competitive advantage is its Express Deals and Pricebreakers, which allow you to save up to 60% on a hotel stay. Mobile exclusive deals can help you save even more. Nonetheless, read the fine print carefully because some of the cheapest options are non-refundable.
One challenge is that taxes and fees aren’t included in the prices you see in the hotel search results. Make sure to allow for them. Also, the best deals are for those who are willing to commit without knowing the exact hotel where they’ll be staying.
Priceline also offers you the option of talking with a phone service agent or booking your room yourself online or on the app. They also provide the option of purchasing travel insurance.
Priceline also has a loyalty program and a Priceline Visa card. Card customers own loyalty points faster.
The site also offers a price match guarantee if you find a better deal within 24 hours of your booking. However, often Priceline will not offer a guarantee if you’ve booked your room through the loyalty program.
If I’ve got one issue, it’s the inability to receive a refund for a canceled booking. But that’s pretty common anyway, so, y’know…
- Loyalty program
- Great deals for bundled services
- Great hotel deals, especially for mobile app users
- Price match guarantee
- Some bookings are opaque
- Many bookings are non-refundable
- The Price Match Guarantee may not be honored if you book through the loyalty program
- You must download the app to get the best deals
Getting the Most from Priceline
- Download the mobile app. Many of the best deals are available through the app.
- Those who prepay without knowing the exact details can save as much as 60%.
- You can also save by booking on a particular day, according to researchers. They say the best day to save is Sunday, with Monday being the second best.
See Related: eDreams Review: Is It Legit for Cheap Hotels?
Hotwire is owned by Expedia Group. When it got started in 2000, it had a somewhat opaque system where it didn’t reveal the property offering the deal until you paid for it.
However, now the site is completely transparent and a great resource. Like most of its competitors, it offers flights, rental cars, and vacations, in addition to hotel options.
Its competitive advantage is offering particularly good deals on holiday bundles. It also provides free travel insurance.
The site also offers the best prices for those who book at the last minute. Hotwire also offers a 24-hour cancellation policy. On the downside, filtering capabilities are less robust than Hotwire’s competitors.
The company receives largely positive reviews for its easy booking. Customers have mixed feelings about the quality of the customer service. Some customers even say they saw hotel rooms advertised that didn’t exist.
- Great last-minute deals
- Good holiday bundle deals
- Ease of booking
- Free travel insurance
- 24-hour cancellation policy
- Fewer filtering options
- Many bookings are nonrefundable after the 24-hour cancellation period
Getting the Most from Hotwire
- Understand Hotwire’s rating system. Hotwire includes its own ratings and those of TripAdvisor. View these ratings with caution, especially the number of reviews that created the rating. Sometimes a hotel will have a five-star rating, but based on only one review. Likewise, a hotel could have a low review based only on one dissatisfied customer.
- Review everything carefully before making your booking. Remember, most Hotwire bookings are nonrefundable.
- Also, even though you typically save a lot by booking at the last minute, Hotline does allow you to book months in advance. In some cases, booking in advance is a better option because the best hotels in some cities fill during the high season.
- Creating an account will give you access to the best deals on Hotwire. Hot rate deals also offer you the opportunity to save big money, but you have to be willing to be flexible about which hotel you stay in.
- Bundle your flights, car rental, and other vacation packages to save on accommodation.
- Watch for the lowest prices on Hotwire’s notifications feature, Trip Watcher (which totally sounds like the name of a finance bro).
Originally conceived as an airline-owned alternative to Expedia, Orbitz is now another member of the Expedia Group and provides access to the same good deals as others in the group.
Its competitive advantage is its Orbucks rewards program. You can earn up to 4% for bookings and can even apply the Orbucks to prepaid hotel bookings. Most of the bookings you make on Orbitz also are flexible, although you may receive a travel credit instead of a refund.
Orbitz generally receives excellent customer reviews, and Sitejabber honored it with a Customer’s Choice award in 2018. Customers like the ease of booking rooms through the app and the ability to receive credits or refunds for cancellations.
Yet, some customers report receiving bad customer service. For example, some hotel rooms are not cancellable. So always read the fine print!
- Ease of use
- Great loyalty program that rewards you with up to 4%
- Most reservations are flexible, although you need to read the fine print to be sure
- Rewards points expire after 12 months
- Customer service isn’t always good
- Cancellations are often for credits to be used later rather than cash
Getting the Most from Orbitz
- Joining their excellent loyalty rewards program will help you get the most from Orbitz. Joining is free and just by joining you receive some discounts on hotel bookings. You’ll earn 3% on every hotel booking that you make on the website and 4% for each hotel booking made on the app. You earn 1% for every package booked on the website and 2% for every package booked on the app.
- You can redeem the rewards just as you would use cash, and you can redeem your rewards immediately. You don’t have to have a certain minimum amount. If you’ve earned $15 in rewards, you can reduce the cost of your next booking by 15% – bam. Try to use these rewards ASAP after earning them because they expire quickly.
- You can also advance through a tier system in the rewards program. As you advance through the tiers, your discounts increase, and you can receive reimbursement for travel expenses such as checking baggage.
- If you use a travel rewards credit card to book hotels, you’ll receive the credit card rewards in addition to the Orbitz bucks.
- Orbitz has a price guarantee. You can save more by comparison shopping with other hotel booking sites or with the hotel itself. To claim a refund through the Price Guarantee program, simply submit a claim.
- Use Orbitz coupon codes, which you can find on the website. Just choose “enter a coupon or promotion code” when checking out and enter the code.
- If you’re flexible about your destination, you can save money on the Orbitz deals page. Checking it regularly could yield an excellent deal on a great destination.
Kayak is one of our favorite booking and price comparison travel websites. As described, it’s genuinely a one-stop shop for deals on flights, transportation, excursions, insurance, and accommodations. You can find them online or download their user-friendly app.
Now part of the same huge company that owns Booking.com, Priceline, and Agoda, Kayak was started in 2004 by Steve Hafner and Paul M. English. This mighty metasearch engine is one of the biggest and most popular of its type, being available all over the world.
What started as a travel comparison site, over the years, Kayak has focused on comparing and offering the lowest travel price possible. This includes finding better hotel deals.
Kayak partners with a plethora of individual hotels and popular chains, so users can find cheap hotel rooms when planning their trip. Today, Kayak is one of the top hotel booking sites, without being an actual hotel booking site.
- Ease of use, with a great app
- Good global coverage
- One-stop shop for other travel needs
- Safe and reliable
- Not the best customer service
- Not always up to date with the best deals
Getting the Most from Kayak
- Bundling other parts of your vacation will save you big.
- Turn notifications on in the app and keep an eye out for price alerts. Kayak will let you know if a particular hotel or hotels in a certain area are seeing discounts.
- Check out their Travel Hacker page for more tips, tricks, deals, and trending destinations.
Established in 2010 in San Francisco, California, HotelTonight got its start as a same-day booking website to find last-minute hotel rooms in three major U.S. cities: Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. You’d think that restricting themselves to just three cities in one country would be a recipe for failure, but they’ve gone from strength to strength.
After seeing huge success right after launch, the platform extended its reach to other cities across the globe. They now enjoy a presence in the rest of North America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, and Japan. As a testament to their success, they were recently bought out by Airbnb, and they also have a handy-dandy app.
Now, I’m always about coming up with plans, and itineraries and getting all my ducks in a row before traveling, which includes finding a place to stay. But there are some folks (oddly enough, a lot of younger whippersnapper types) who find a lot of this prep stage as onerous and will leave things like finding flights or a place to stay till the last minute. And, I will say there’s something particularly “jetsetter” and rewarding about finding somewhere cool to stay on the day you arrive at your destination.
HotelTonight was made around this concept. It finds hotel rooms that often remain empty, such as luxury rooms and suites, and acts as the middleman between the hotel and the customer. This way, you have the chance to find an exquisite hotel room for the price of a cheap hotel room! In fact, prices on HotelTonight can be almost 20% lower than traditional hotel comparison sites and hotel booking sites like Expedia.
- No planning ahead required for great deals
- Find luxury rooms for as much as 50% off their regular rate
- User-friendly app
- No extra fees
- No guarantee of room type (they can’t all be the presidential suite)
- Bookings are non-refundable
- Not the largest range of hotels
Getting the Most from HotelTonight
- Keep an open mind about where you want to stay, or at least what you can tolerate. Remember, the less flattering the room, the smaller the fee!
- You’re likely to find the best results by booking between 4 pm and 8m.
There’s no way to search for anything vacation-related online without running into TripAdvisor, one of the biggest names in the travel industry. Created in 2000 as a means of making vacation planning easier, TripAdvisor is another one of those one-stop-shop types where you can research, plan, and book an entire vacation through one site.
TripAdvisor’s strengths lie in its reach. Whether you Google hotels, cafes, museums, airports, roadside attractions, or anything else from anywhere in the world, big or small, popular or niche, there’s a good chance you can find it on TripAdvisor, and you’ll be able to book through it.
If nothing else, TripAdvisor is a huge resource when it comes to finding a great hotel deal. It may not always have the cheapest deals, but it has one of the most extensive lists of accommodations to search through and the all-important customer reviews. In essence, TripAdvisor is very much the Yelp of the travel industry and is the number one place for travelers to express their opinions about locations – and upload their own photos!
- You’ve already heard of them and used them
- Vast catalog of hotels to peruse
- User reviews and images can help paint a more complete picture of hotels
- Safe booking
- No hidden fees
- Not always the best deals
- The site is a little dated and can be confusing
- TripAdvisor won’t help you if something goes wrong with your hotel
- Numerous reports of shady review practices
Getting the Most from TripAdvisor
- Using TripAdvisor purely as a research tool is invaluable, especially if you’re looking to price-match hotels or see images customers upload.
- Signing up with TripAdvisor means you can have notifications and suggestions sent to you about hotels – and you can upload your own images!
What is the best hotel booking site?
The best hotel booking site depends on multiple factors. First, the best site for you may be one you’ve used before. Many of the best sites have loyalty programs that give progressively deeper discounts the more often you book with them.
The best booking site also depends on when you are booking because some sites offer better deals on last-minute flights than others. It also depends on how flexible you are. Some sites provide huge discounts if you’re willing to book a hotel without knowing its name; others have deals pages that provide great deals for those who have flexible destinations.
Also, some sites have the lowest hotel prices but don’t allow cancellations. If you’re sure of your plans, they could be a great deal, but if you’re unsure, you’ll lose your money.
But if you’re asking me, then it’s the hotel search engine Booking.com.
Are hotel booking sites reliable?
While some unsavory sites are out there, all the sites we’ve listed are reliable and reputable. They have millions of customers, and most have existed for years, some decades.
Of course, you should read all the fine print and conditions before booking, just as you would do your due diligence before making any business agreement. However, these sites are transparent about what they are offering and their terms and conditions. As long as you use common sense, you can save money with hotel booking sites.
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- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.