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 and butter at ViaTravelers – 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.
However, 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:
Expert Picks: 5 Best 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
Choosing the Best Hotel Booking Site
Many hotel booking sites exist, but these are the best of the bunch. All the major hotel booking sites have advantages and disadvantages, and I’m going to tear them apart to clue you in.
The best hotel booking site for you may depend on your situation and personal preferences. In general, however, the best sites offer cheap hotel deals, the opportunity to book hotels and other aspects of the trip in one spot, and easy online reservations.
Some excellent hotel booking sites also have loyalty programs that can provide access to even greater deals. Some offer the opportunity to book now and pay later. Some will get you deals on car rentals and flights and others even offer free travel insurance!
Here’s our guide to the best hotel booking sites and how to maximize the potential of each of them, based on our personal experience, and the way we scour the web for other user’s experiences, too.
Our Best Hotel Sites
Dutch-based Booking.com is an online flight and hotel booking site and mobile app that tops this list for good 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
- Lack of comparison pricing
- Uneven customer service
- Booking.com does not control cancellation policies
Making the Most of Booking.com
To get the most out of your use of Booking.com, you must 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 tells you each property’s policies, so you must read these policies carefully before you book. Booking.com also cannot help you much if you need to cancel close to your checking-in time.
Using your filters properly can vastly improve your search results, and I have found great hotels and rentals this way. You can filter for many characteristics such as location, accommodation type, number of stars, parking, whether breakfast is included, and free Wi-Fi. I also highly recommend considering the Genius program.
Another way to get the most out of Booking.com is to read those customer reviews carefully!
Finding the Best Deals on Booking.com
You’ll find the best deals if you book well in advance or at the very last minute. When booking, however, read the fine print. Sometimes fees increase the room cost significantly.
Hotels.com is an online travel agency that acts as a go-between for you and the site’s 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 many other booking sites, Hotels.com focuses on accommodations. However, it is part of the Expedia Group, so you can book car rentals on the site, 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. However, 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 of cancellation or refund policies at the properties
- Cannot book flights on the site
Making the Most of Hotels.com
The first way to get the most out of booking on Hotel.com is to understand that the site has no control over partners’ cancellation policies and carefully read the information before booking. Another way is to be vigilant in continuing to search for cheap accommodations at your hotel after booking to take advantage of the price match guarantee.
Also, carefully read the information about each hotel, including the reviews, before booking to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Finding the Best Deals on Hotels.com
As with any purchase, searching for coupons before booking can often save you money. Hotels.com sometimes offers coupons for special discounts or double stamps.
Also, while you can book hotels on the site without signing up for an account, you will save more if you do so. Members have “secret deals” that are unavailable to others.
Agoda is owned by Booking Holdings, which also owns Kayak, Priceline, and Booking.com. It is an awesome online travel agency that allows you to book flights, airport transfers, and activities, as well as 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 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 as a marketing tool.
A “Daily Deals” page includes coupons to discount your stay further. The best discounts are available to those who sign up for an account. Like similar sites, Agoda allows you to filter results based on criteria important to you and provides customer reviews of the properties.
Agoda receives good reviews from most of its customers, although the site is a little more difficult 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
You’ll get the best results with Agoda by using the filters to narrow your bookings, then carefully reading information about the accommodation, including cancellation policies, location, and amenities. Agoda offers an interactive map that provides information on each property’s proximity to landmarks. Also, make sure the photos of the property are clear, and read each review carefully.
You should receive a booking confirmation within 10 minutes, and you’ll have to present it at the property. If you don’t receive the confirmation, contact the site’s customer service department immediately.
Some people prefer hotel accommodations, while others are open to different options. To get the most out of Agoda, you also should understand how the site defines “homes.”
The site defines homes as any individual unit, such as a single-family home or apartment. Homes listings have a green badge at the top to distinguish them from hotels.
Finding the Best Deals on Agoda
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 by effectively using Promo Codes. Promo Codes are of two types: Explorer Deals and Everyday Deals. Explorer Deals range from 5 percent to 10 percent off. Everyday Deals may be discounted as much as 20 percent!
See Related: Best Airbnb Alternatives: Similar Apps & Sites
Expedia is an extremely popular 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.
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 several 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 percent more than nonmembers on hotels. They also save 30 percent more than nonmembers when adding a hotel room to a flight booking.
Customers who like Expedia say it is easy to use and book. Those who give 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*
- Some complain that bookings aren’t as advertised
- Poor customer service
- No price guarantee on hotels
Getting the Most from Expedia
As with any hotel booking site, you’ll get the best results if you strategically use the filters and carefully read the fine print about every property before booking.
You can also maximize the benefits of Expedia by becoming and member and understanding and using its loyalty program. The program gives you points for downloading the app, and you’ll get double points by booking on the app. 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. The program will not reward points retroactively, so you must ensure you login before booking hotels.
Finding the Best Deals on Expedia
One easy way to save money is to download the app. Expedia will give you $25 off your next booking just for the download.
Another way to save is by signing up for the site’s custom newsletter, which includes deals that are otherwise not advertised. Booking package deals also will save you money. Always check for coupons on the app and website and clip them for use later.
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 is 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 several 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
Customers tend to be the happiest if they choose flexible hotels with no cancellation fees. Because Trip.com has so many hotel partners finding hotels, even a cheap hotel, that allows cancellation up to two days before arrival is easy. Just read the terms and conditions of the cheap hotel deal carefully.
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.
Also, read all the fine print about the hotel before booking. Check its location on Google Maps to be sure you’ll be close to the action.
Check to see whether the hotel gives a free breakfast. Often you can ask them to cancel the free breakfast and receive an even greater discount. You can eat elsewhere for less money and still save.
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.
Finding the Best Deals on Trip.com
One way to ensure you receive the best deal is to compare. When your hotel search results come up, check other hotel sites to be sure you’re getting the lowest price. Another way to save is by being flexible about the destination and time of travel.
If you have the nerve to wait until the last minute, you can usually find significantly discounted rooms. You do run the risk that rooms in satisfactory hotels may be fully booked. If you can, try to book all aspects of your trip at the same time to take advantage of bundling deals.
Booking Holdings, which owns multiple booking sites, owns Priceline. Priceline is an online travel agency that allows you to search for various travel services. As with other sites, 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 percent on a hotel stay. Mobile exclusive deals can help you save even more.
However, read the fine print carefully because some of the cheapest options are nonrefundable. One challenge is that taxes and fees aren’t included in the prices you see in the hotel search results.
Be 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 offer 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.
Priceline’s customer service receives mixed reviews, with some people praising it highly and others expressing dissatisfaction. The inability to receive a refund for a canceled booking is also a common complaint.
- 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
To get the most out of Priceline, you should download the mobile app. Many of the best deals are available through the app.
Find the Best Deals from Priceline
Those who are willing to commit and prepay without knowing the exact details can save as much as 60 percent. You can also save by booking on a certain day, according to researchers. They say the best day to save is Sunday, with Monday being the second-best day.
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 fairly 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, as well as hotel options.
Its competitive advantage is offering particularly good deals on holiday bundles. It also offers 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 also 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
Hotwire provides a rating system for hotels. To get the most from Hotwire, you need to understand the system. Hotwire includes its own ratings and those of Trip Adviser.
However, you need to view the 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. Check to see that you’ve entered the dates correctly and find each hotel on the map.
When comparing prices of hotels with different locations, be sure to factor in transportation costs. You may actually end up saving money by paying more for the hotel if the cheaper hotel room is far away from attractions. 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.
Also, while Hotwire can offer great deals on some hotels, some of the largest US brands offer better deals to their loyalty members than they do on Hotwire. These hotel chains include Hyatt and Marriott.
Finding the Best Deals at Hotwire
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. You can save money on Hotwire in two additional ways.
The first is through bundling. The second is through notifications. If you want to watch for the lowest prices on a specific itinerary, use Hotwire’s alerts feature.
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 percent 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.
However, some customers report receiving bad customer service. For example, some hotel rooms are not cancellable. You should always read the fine print.
- Ease of use
- Loyalty program that rewards you with up to 4 percent
- 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
Participating in the excellent loyalty rewards program will help you get the most from Orbitz. You can join the program for free by providing some personal information and just by joining you receive some discounts on hotel bookings. Then, you earn 3 percent on every hotel booking that you make on the website and 4 percent for each hotel booking made on the app.
You earn 1 percent for every package booked on the website and 2 percent for every package booked on the app. You can redeem the rewards just as you would use cash. A particular feature of Orbitz’s program is that 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 simply reduce the cost of your next booking by 15 percent. Using the rewards immediately after earning them is actually a smart idea 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.
Finding the Best Deals at Orbitz
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, you simply submit a claim.
Another way to get good deals at Orbitz is by using 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. While you may check the page once or twice and find nothing interesting, checking it regularly could yield you an excellent deal on a great destination.
Why Should You Use A Hotel Booking Site?
It should be pretty obvious by now, but if you’re wondering why you should use a hotel booking site, it boils down to this: because they gather search results from so many sites, they find prices that are considerably cheaper than if you booked the room directly with the hotel.
The booking sites also present you with multiple accommodation options that you might never have considered if you just tried to book through your hotel chain’s loyalty site. Unique options can make the difference between an exciting stay and a routine one. Using a hotel booking site also gives you a good idea of competitive prices for certain types of accommodations.
Hotel booking sites are particularly helpful if you are booking at the last minute. Some specialize in great last-minute hotel deals. At worst, the booking site provides you with all the rooms available at the last minute, saving you from researching each hotel brand separately to find a vacancy!
Many hotel booking sites also allow you to book airfare, transportation, and some tours at the same time, which is very convenient. Most sites also offer discounts if you bundle accommodations and flights.
Hotel booking sites also provide hotel reviews from customers. Customer reviews are arguably the most reliable and important piece of information when it comes to putting your money behind anything, especially hotels!
However, it’s important to note that no matter which site you use, if you don’t book direct with a hotel, you might run into trouble with cancellations and customer service. If you’re using third-party booking sites, always be sure you have adequate travel insurance to cover your stay. We love SafetyWing and AIG Travel Guard, but you can also look at TravelInsurance.com to compare offers.
What is the best hotel booking site?
The best hotel booking site depends on several 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 do not 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.
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.