With the ever increasing choice of online booking sites out there, our travel experts are often asked what the best hotel booking sites are. There’s no easy answer to that question because each provider is a little different and takes a different approach to winning your business. So we figured it was time to provide our readers with an overview of what sites to consider when researching any trip. We have taken into account how price competitive they are, what tricks these sites use to make their prices seem like a better deal than they are, and even what loyalty programs they offer.
Go back 20 years and Expedia would still be a Microsoft-owned company very much in its infancy. By contrast, today it is one of the world’s largest travel providers. With that huge global reach comes some very competitive hotel pricing and an impressive global choice of hotels. You can save money with Expedia in a couple of ways. Signing up for their email communications will give you access to all of their latest offers each week – they’ll even personalize the content to feature the kind of hotels that they know interest you based on your site searches. You should also join their member’s club Expedia+ to gain access to prices on some hotels that are at least 10% off what you’ll see on the site, have access to their price guarantee and even be able to start collecting points for redemption on future Expedia bookings. All in all, Expedia are a highly reputable company with a decent member’s club that will unlock some of the best prices on the web today.
Love or hate the booking.yeah TV advertisements, these guys are one of the most innovative travel companies in the world. They are pushing Expedia all the way and though not yet quite as big as Expedia in turnover, they offer an unbeatable range of hotels, resorts, and private accommodation. They do not yet offer a loyalty program, but you can sign up for their special offer emails that will provide you with plenty of special prices that you won’t find on the website. Booking.com tend to be very price competitive and offer an excellent range of ‘pay on arrival’ hotels. We also love that you can make changes to your booking on the site yourself without having to call or email them. On the downside, it is not always clear that their prices do not include taxes that other sites include as standard. When they are offering a price that is a whole lot cheaper than the price you can find elsewhere, be sure to check what’s included in the price as a like for like comparison.
Unlike booking.com and expedia.com, this is an out and out comparison site that can be mighty useful as a hotel booking site too. Although favoring other brands like booking.com, who are also owned by The Priceline Group, you can still get a good feel for who has the best price for the hotels you are interested in. As ever with The Priceline Group you do need to make sure that you are comparing apples to apples paying particular attention to what is included in the price being quoted. Additional charges like a service charge and city taxes are not always included in every provider’s prices. As a price comparison site there are no extra gimmicks like loyalty clubs or other rewards to be had, but as a starting point to compare a few different prices for the same hotel, you’ll get a feel for who is in the ballpark. It is worth pointing out that the hotel booking sites featured on the comparison sites pay to play so they are not being feature by kayak for free. There are hotel booking sites out there who choose not to pay Kayak to be a part of their price comparison engine but still offer great prices. That’s why the price comparison engines might not offer the best price overall – but simply the best price between the companies that they work with.
Started by two guys who launched hotels.com, this company knows a thing or two about bringing you some of the best prices. Now operating out of Dallas they offer a decent website but their best pricing is usually to be had by calling them on the toll-free number on their site. They often have spectacular deals that they are not allowed to feature online and are certainly not available on other hotel booking sites. We estimate that you can save as much as 20% on other company’s rates or the average online prices. We normally do some price research online for a few hotels and then call getaroom.com to see what price they can offer for the same hotel. If you go ahead and call them first it will be difficult to tell just how good their price is.
It’s hard to believe that TripAdvisor was only founded as recently as 2000 when these days so many of us turn to TripAdvisor before we make a hotel booking. They have firmly established themselves as one of the go-to review sites on the web, but they now also sell travel. Yes, TripAdvisor has joined the lineup of hotel booking sites. In fact they have taken in one step further and offer not only a ‘TripAdvisor price’ but also the best available price through other competitors as well as an overview of what all of the other hotel booking sites are offering too. In simpler terms, they have become a player in the same space as kayak, trivago and Skyscanner. It should be noted that the TripAdvisor prices are provided by booking.com, since the two companies signed a partnership agreement in 2015. We give TripAdvisor huge thumbs up for being brave enough to offer a TripAdvisor price and the cheapest price they find which can often be cheaper than their own price. In theory you can quickly and easily get the best available price through a TripAdvisor search, though we still recommend doing a little bit more research if you want to be sure you have found the cheapest price.
Owned by Expedia.Inc, the price comparison engine Trivago works very similarly to Kayak. As you’d expect the Expedia.Inc companies feature heavily on the site but there are non-Expedia companies in the mix too. This means you’ll get a feel for which hotel booking site might have the best price for the hotels that you are considering. As with Kayak, the Trivago site only features competitors who pay Trivago to be featured. That doesn’t mean that the prices on Trivago site won’t be the best available but it does mean that there could be cheaper hotel booking sites out there that simply do not work with Trivago. In any case, it is always important that, when you find a super price for a hotel on Trivago, you go ahead and make sure it is comparable with other prices you have found. That means that you need to pay particular attention to the room type being offered and that all the same taxes are included.
Taking a different approach to the mainstream hotel booking sites, Travelzoo is a travel site that features one of special offers for set departure dates. With over 28 million global members, hotels will turn to Travelzoo when they have a particular ‘need period’ that they need to fill. Undoubtedly better suited to leisure travelers who are flexible on travel dates you can find some red hot special offers on Travelzoo that you will not find on other hotel booking sites. Membership of the site is free and there are no rewards for loyalty. To see some of the best offers membership is essential and there is no catch involved. You can search on the site by destination but not by hotel and that’s because Travelzoo will always have special offers for the destination you are heading to but not regular prices for all of the hotels featured on other sites. If you know where you want a vacation but do have some flexibility on dates and where you stay, you might find Travelzoo will suit your needs very well.
If you are a discerning traveler who still likes a bargain, you might just fall in love with the stylish Jetsetter website. On the surface, the website is a hotel booking site like any other but the reality is a little different. Jetsetter offers an ever expanding range of hotels and destinations but do not have the same range of hotels that a bigger online travel agent might have. And here is where the big difference lies: the range of hotels that Jetsetter sells around the globe is curated. That means someone employed or engaged by the company has personally stayed at the hotels and reviewed it. As a result, you’ll find a lot more honesty and useful information on the Jetsetter site than you will typically find elsewhere. It also means you will find a whole lot less of the 2 and 3-star chain hotels on their site! Jetsetter put their best daily deals on their homepage, tell you what special offers are coming down the pipeline shortly, and also provide great offers in their emails. As a hotel booking site that really cares about what they sell the hotels love them too, so they get some pretty great deals at some pretty great properties.
Though no hotel booking site will ever admit it, sometimes the best prices are available on the hotel websites directly. We have named Hilton, Marriott and Starwood but the same will apply for many hotel chains that you can name, and you should always take the time to see what is available direct. Remember too that hotel chains will reward you handsomely for loyalty and, once you reach the upper tiers of their loyalty programs, they will shower you in decent value adds (things like room upgrades or free club level access). We tell you this because, though booking through a general hotel booking site might save you $10 a night in the short term, add up a few nights with one hotel group and you could save a great deal more than that $10. Controversial though it is, the hotel chains also favor direct bookers. This can be in a few different ways although one of the most popular in recent years has been the provision of free wifi only if you book with the hotel direct. One other noteworthy trend is that hotels tend to allocate their best rooms to those booked directly too. If you spend time reading reviews on TripAdvisor you’ll likely stumble across a few reviews to this effect where the hotel has blatantly told the customer they’d get a better room if they weren’t booked through an online travel agent. As always, check out what the hotel websites are including in their rates checking specifically for like for like inclusions on taxes.
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