HotelHotel BookingPlanning

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As things around the world continue getting back to normal, people are looking forward to booking their postponed trips now more than ever before. With travel prices skyrocketing and the price of hotels increasing every day, comparing prices on the best hotel booking sites can help travelers find the best deal for budget-friendly holidays.

Our Top Picks for the Best Hotel Booking Sites:

CategorySiteReview
Best OverallTripAdvisorReview
Largest Hotel SelectionsTrivagoReview
Best for Vacation PackagesExpediaReview
Best for Budget TravelHostelworld Review
Best for GroupsAirBnBReview

1. TripAdvisor (Best Overall)

Tripadvisor
Tripadvisor

Type: Metasearch engine

Although TripAdvisor is most well known for providing travelers with a variety of activity options in select destinations across the world, this metasearch engine has expanded to include hotel and other travel bookings in recent years. Their hotel search feature allows users to search their online database of more than 1.4 million hotels worldwide for the best variety when it comes to accommodation.

TripAdvisor brings users the latest in hotel accommodation at the click of a button and although rooms are still booked through third-party sites or via the hotel’s website, users have reported finding great deals on this site. Their website is easy to use and allows travelers to select a variety of customized filter options to find the best hotel for their needs.

Pros of Using TripAdvisor

  • TripAdvisor has access to over 1.4 million hotels across the world, making it one of the best websites to compare prices for both domestic and international travel.
  • Occasionally, TripAdvisor has found hotel fares lower than those advertised on the hotel booking site, offering some of the lowest prices for travelers when it comes to accommodation.
  • Most trips can be refunded up to a day before travel (some restrictions apply).
  • Tripadvisor has a great reputation when it comes to customer service.

Cons of Using TripAdvisor

  • In recent years, TripAdvisor has received some negative feedback for paying for fraudulent consumer reviews that boost ratings for certain affiliate companies and hotels, causing users to question the validity of this site’s review base.

2. Trivago (Largest Hotel Selections)

Trivago
Trivago

Type: Metasearch engine

With over 600,000 hotels in its catalog, Trivago is the leading hotel search engine for vacationers looking to compare pricing on a variety of travel accommodations. When searching for hotels on Trivago, this metasearch engine provides access to 150 travel booking sites offering users the largest number of options for hotels all in one spot.

Their simple-to-use layout makes comparing prices a breeze and their convenient mobile application is great for busy travel planners. Comparing prices on hotel rooms is super simple and when customers are ready to book, they are directed to the hotel website or third-party booking site to complete their reservation.

Pros of Booking with Trivago

  • Trivago has access to more booking sites than most other companies and offers users the most options when it comes to accommodation.
  • The Trivago website offers a simple and easy-to-use layout design that highlights current deals and promotions in some of the top United States cities for travel.
  • Very responsive customer service.

Cons of Booking with Trivago

  • Reservations for rooms found on Trivago are directed to third-party sites or hotel websites and in-app booking is not allowed which offers customers very little coverage for things like reservation changes or cancelations.
  • Hotel search results on Trivago may direct users to less-know booking sites that sometimes end up problematic for guests. Trivago applies strict verification to their partners but from time to time these cases still happen. Simply stick to more popular hotels & OTAS recommendations to avoid this issue.

3. Expedia (Best for Vacation Packages)

Expedia
Expedia

Type: Online Travel Agent

First started in 2001, Expedia has been a leading name in travel planning for more than 20 years. During that time, this online travel agent expanded its services to offer customers a one-stop shop for all things travel-related.

Their “fully refundable” filter allows you to easily choose hotels with free cancelation up to 24 hours before your trip. This means no cancelation fee will be charged and you’ll get all your money back. It’s a very useful feature for travelers with dynamic schedules.

In addition to booking hotels, Expedia users can easily plan all aspects of a vacation while enjoying special offers on last-minute deals, customer coupons, and a generous reward program. Their site makes it simple and easy to search for hotels with a variety of filters, like guest rating, star rating, property type, and neighborhood. This allows customers to choose the very best hotel for their needs.

Their “Vacation Package” provides bundled offers of flight, hotel, and even car rental with discounts and option to pay in installments.

Customers can enjoy a variety of payment methods to fund their trip, including Bitcoin. Loyal Expedia customers can sign up for their Expedia Rewards credit card offered through Citi bank to earn points and cashback for travel.

Pros of Booking with Expedia

  • Vacation Package feature allows you to book everything in one go.
  • Expedia offers free cancelation up to 24 hours before your trip with no additional fees on hotels with “fully refundable” note on its details.
  • This hotel booking site offers some of the most generous discounts and loyalty programs with up to 25% savings and double points earned on hotels booked through their mobile app.
  • Many luxury hotels are available so that customers can get a good deal on luxury stays.

Cons of Booking with Expedia

  • Huge amount of ads making it a bit of a challenge to navigate the website.
  • Users have reported that prices on Expedia may sometimes be higher than rates offered when booking directly through the hotel website, although prices from competitor sites are often comparable.

4. Hostelworld (Best for Budget Travel)

Hostelworld
Hostelworld

Type: Online Travel Agent

Although staying in a hostel is not everyone’s cup of tea, budget travelers looking for shared accommodation can find plenty of options with Hostelworld. This simple travel booking website and mobile application connect travelers to hostels all across the world with access to 36,000 properties in 178 countries around the world.

Their easy-to-use mobile application allows users to plug in their desired location, property type, room specifications, number of beds, facilities, and more. Once all filters have been applied, results will be displayed from lowest to highest price and the site will display reviews from previous travelers to provide future travelers with all the information they need before booking.

Pros of Booking with Hostelworld

  • Hostelworld is one of the best budget friendly accommodation services on the market and travelers looking for an inexpensive holiday can stretch their dollars by saving tons of money with hostel accommodations.
  • This site has access to thousands of properties all across the world, making it a fantastic resource for international travelers and backpackers.
  • Hostelworld has other great functions in the app, like the ability to chat with other people staying in the same hostel!

Cons of Booking with Hostelworld

  • Hostelworld is a website tailored specifically to hostel guests, so visitors are unable to book stays at resorts or luxury accommodations.
  • Hostelworld users do not receive any reward points or access to loyalty programs and special discounts are rare due to the already low prices.

5. Airbnb (Bet for Groups)

AirBnB

Type: Online Travel Agent

Although Airbnb is a bit different from typical hotel booking sites, this online vacation booking marketplace is a great place to find unique rental properties for a fraction of the price of traditional hotels or vacation rentals. This site features a variety of housing including budget friendly shared living, luxury accommodation, one of a kind housing, and more.

Airbnb is a great option for groups or families traveling together, as many of the options listed are whole homes, cabins, or other accommodations instead of just a room. Customers can use the filters to search for whole homes and add the number of people traveling so that the best results for the group are listed.

Although Airbnb does partner with well known affiliate companies, this site is most known for its privately owned and operated accommodation options. In addition to lodging options, this website also includes options for additional tourism activities to be added to any booking for a one stop shop when it comes to booking a vacation.

Pros of Booking with Airbnb

  • Airbnb offers travelers a whole host of unique travel accommodations and experiences for vacationers looking for a memorable experience that is different from traditional hotel or resort stays.
  • Because Airbnb allows property owners to list accommodation independently, prices are often lower than hotels or resorts and can be a great alternative to traditional hotels, especially when booking long term travel.

Cons of Booking with Airbnb

  • This travel marketplace site often charges high service fees including cleaning fees, booking fees, taxes, and more that are not displayed in the initial booking price so users are often faced with a much higher rate for booking than originally anticipated.
  • You can’t expect a ‘standard’ like you do with hotel brands since every property owner has their own standard in running things.

The Difference Between Metasearch Engines and OTAs

Before beginning to look at booking online travel, it is important for travelers to know the difference between a metasearch engine and an online travel agent, or OTA. Both business models can be included in top hotel websites but there’s a significant difference. While both of these search options offer users details and information on hotels and travel, the main difference is that metasearch engines display a more comprehensive list of results, but can only be utilized for comparing prices, not booking actual flights.

When using a metasearch engine, users who have found the best flight or hotel deal for their budget can select the option via the search engine, but will then be directed to either the airline or company website or a third party travel booking site like an OTA to finalize their booking. Metasearch engines can be a valuable tool for users to find and compare the best prices as they search across multiple platforms, but online travel agents do all the leg work when it comes to actually booking a vacation.

A Word About Booking Directly Through the Hotel Website

Although it may seem old fashioned to some, booking hotel rooms directly through the hotel’s website or over the phone is still one of the best ways for travelers to take advantage of certain benefits like loyalty programs, special discounts, and more. In addition to saving money on travel, most well-known hotel chains provide a higher standard of customer services for clients booking rooms directly through the company versus through a third party booking site.

Benefits of Booking Direct

Hotel Reward Points and Loyalty Programs

The goal of most major hotel chains is to make their customers happy. One way these companies strive to keep repeat customers happy is through offering generous loyalty programs. Through these programs, customers set up a free hotel rewards account with a certain hotel chain that collects points each time the customer books a stay with that hotel.

While these points may sometimes be available to customers when booking through third party websites, this perk is generally reserved for customers who book rooms directly through the hotel’s website.

Improved Customer Service for Unsatisfactory Accommodation or Cancellations

When booking directly with the hotel, customers tend to have an advantage in the event that they face a cancellation or complications with their stay as the goal of most hotels is to keep their customers happy so that they will continue to make future bookings with the company. For customers that have to cancel or delay their travel plans for unforeseen circumstances, hotels will often strive to reschedule travelers or potentially offer refunds, free stay vouchers, and more to keep customers satisfied.

Pro Tips on Finding the Best Hotel Deals

Although utilizing some of the top hotel search engines is a great way to save money on bookings, travelers can save even more by using these simple tips and tricks to save big bucks.

Apply for Hotel and Travel Agency Credit Cards

Almost all major hotel chains and online travel agencies offer credit cards that can earn customers hefty rewards when it comes to travel. Avid travelers looking to save big bucks should consider applying for a line of credit from hotels like Hilton and Marriott or online travel companies like Priceline or Expedia to enjoy perks like discounted hotel rates, complimentary upgrades, free stays, and more.

For first time applicants, most credit cards offer free introductory reward points that can be used towards a future booking after spending a certain amount of money using the card within the first three months after the card is issued. After the initial bonus, users can continue to earn reward points on everyday purchases like groceries, gas, and more.

Skip the Travel Insurance

Although purchasing travel insurance can make some travelers feel at ease, the majority of travel insurance providers make it nearly impossible to file a claim in the event that a trip must be canceled or postponed. With the cost for most travel insurance plans being between 5-6% of the total ticket price, travelers can generally skip over purchasing travel insurance and put their money towards other things. For travelers concerned about running the risk of illness in another country, purchasing short or long term international health insurance is a much better option for avid travelers looking to gain some peace of mind.

Do not Be Afraid to Book!

While we certainly understand that it may be tempting to keep waiting for the absolute lowest price on hotel rooms, waiting too long to book may actually do more harm than good when it comes to booking travel. Although prices for hotels fluctuate daily, special deals and discounts are available seven days a week and travelers who find a good deal shouldn’t wait to book as the price will likely increase the longer you wait.

Travelers are encouraged to book accommodation in their price range once room prices drop below average as prices fluctuate often and tend to change quickly. If a price seems too good to be true, book immediately! Read here for more about best day and time to book a hotel room.

By utilizing many of the online search engine features like price alerts, recommended travel destinations, loyalty programs, and more travelers can rest assured they are always getting a fair deal on their hotel room.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

When you book a hotel online when are you charged?

Most of the time you get charged immediately but some sites provide leniency to let you book the room and pay a few days before the actual date with option to cancel before that.

Is it better to call a hotel or book online?

Most of the time it’s better to book online, it’s more convenient and you can get better deal. However as explained above you might be eligible for certain perks such as reward points if you’re a member of their loyalty program.

How do hotel booking sites work?

Hotel booking sites partnered with many hotels and have the right to rent a certain number of rooms on those hotels. This is why sometimes you might find rooms unavailable in one site while still available in other sites.

Are hotel booking sites reliable?

Hotel booking sites are inherently business and naturally depending on the management some can be unreliable. But if you at the very least stick to the sites listed in this article, you’re in safe hands.

Conclusion

With so many options for booking online travel, it is easy to get overwhelmed when trying to find the best deal on accommodation. For travelers who are ready and willing to put in a little effort when it comes to booking their own vacation, these top travel sites can offer some of the steepest discounts around for vacationers looking to book a memorable once in a lifetime getaway.

Looking for flights next? Check our best flight booking sites list!

Also contributing: Amanda Lawrence

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