When you're booking a hotel, there are many different options out there... and we're not just talking about where you physically want to stay. Choosing the best hotel booking site online is almost as important as the destination, because you need to get the best deal possible when choosing your accommodation. It can be hard to know where to begin, and where you're guaranteed the lowest prices and the best service. We've selected the six top-rated hotel booking sites out there, with each catering to a wide variety of needs to ensure there's something for everyone.
Many hotel booking services are owned by the same firm with the likes of Expedia owning numerous travel agencies, and Priceline also owning multiple other booking sites. While that might suggest that you'll get the same price wherever you go, there's no one size fits all solution here. Different sites offer different benefits before you consider how comfortable each booking service is to use. When choosing your hotel, it's a smart idea to try a few other hotel booking services and compare them.
Overall, you want a simple to use experience while gaining the best price before your trip too. That's where we focused our efforts when evaluating the best choices here. We also concentrated on hotel booking sites that let you complete the process through one site, avoiding sites that simply aggregate results. And we also looked at which ones had the best user ratings, and scores for customer satisfaction. If you need further advice on travel, check out our guide to the best travel insurance services, and our look at the best car rental sites.
1. Hotels.com: Best hotel booking site overall
Hotels.com keeps things reasonably clear from the outset. Enter your destination and the site offers up a selection of hotels sorted by the service's featured recommendations. A quick tap and you can change that list to cheapest, the highest rating, or pick out hotels according to the distance away from your destination. Filters go even further with a vast array of options that mean you can really home in on the best choice for you.
In terms of value for money, Hotels.com offers a price guarantee, although you'll have to submit a request for the site to match the price you've found elsewhere, meaning you probably won't bother. However, its reward scheme means if you stay ten nights through the booking service, you get one night free, so it is worth your while sticking with the site. Special 'Secret' prices can also be unlocked by -- you guessed it -- handing over your email address in exchange for regular deals. It's possible to track down Flight and Hotel bundle deals too if you'd prefer to go to one site to arrange most of your travel needs.
2. Expedia.com: Best for arranging a package trip
Expedia owns many different online hotel booking services including Hotels.com, Trivago, and Hotwire.com, but we're fans of the actual original of Expedia.com. It offers similar results to Hotels.com which makes sense but its interface is a little brighter and cleaner. Crucially, you're only ever one click away from adding a flight or car to your stay with the site also keen to suggest popular locations relating to what you're searching for.
Like Hotels.com, Expedia encourages you to sign up for exclusive prices, but you also get discounts for merely using the service although you'll have to dig around to work out what that's compared to. As a side bonus, you can even use Expedia to arrange cruises or set up multiple places to stay if you're planning on a more long-term vacation.
3. Booking.com: Best for eclectic stays
Booking.com doesn't offer just hotels - it also provides hostels, guest rooms, and entire houses and apartments. That won't be of any use if your heart is set on a hotel room (and that sweet room service), but it's great if you want some flexibility. Comparing prices so readily between different types of stay is a useful feature here, and you can still search for flights or car rentals separately.
Filtering options are relatively extensive so you can always choose to cut out the unneeded options anyhow or even narrow things down to specific preferred chains. One neat feature is that if you're unsure where you want to go, you can search for today's deals with Booking.com, suggesting great offers for various locations. If you're simply feeling wanderlust, it's a good way of discovering some new. Travel rewards are available with discounts at hotels and free breakfasts at some locations depending on how often you use Booking.com.
4. Priceline: Best for special offers
A lot is going on at Priceline which can initially feel a little overwhelming. Stick with it though and you'll soon appreciate how much it can save you. At its simplest, you can merely search for a location and pick out the hotel for you (after filtering down the options), but you can also opt for a Pricebreaker offer. This has Priceline group together three hotels under one price. All you do is click Choose and the site checks you out with one of them. The trick here is that you don't know which one you'll get. The discounts are substantial so it's worth trying if you're able to be flexible. Other offers include Express Deals which are an exclusive collection of low prices, albeit of the non-refundable variety. Also, again, you don't know what you've got until you've booked.
Besides the almost gambling-esque nature of Priceline (although the results are generally pretty good), it also offers bundle deals of hotels, flights, and cars, or a combination of those plus flexible bookings. It has all the basics there at heart, but we appreciate the ability to get an even better deal with a bit of daring.
5. Agoda: Best for niche options
Not quite as feature-rich as others, Agoda instead picks a different route when helping you find a hotel. It has filters for things such as if you want a free breakfast or if you need to book without a credit card. It also looks consistently colorful with appealing pictures of the hotels, clear to see quick descriptors of why you might want to consider it, along with if Agoda believes a specific location is a particularly good choice.
That all makes it a tempting proposition even if we do wish that it had more easily accessible support options and the prospect of bundle deals. Just look out for its occasional moments of over-enthusiasm as it tries to lure you into booking fast, just in case the room becomes unavailable.
How we chose the best Hotel Booking sites
We’ve been reviewing hotel booking services for eight years. We also review other travel services, including travel insurance and car rental services. We know how much goes into planning travel, and we look for and recommend services that make the process as easy as possible
For our evaluations, we focused on booking sites that let you complete the process through them, which means we did not include popular services like Kayak which aggregate results.
Most of the services we reviewed are owned by either Expedia or Priceline, so you may not find many differences in the hotels you find. If you’re a frequent traveler, look carefully at the rewards programs offered by each service. Many let you earn points for each dollar you spend, and frequent travelers can move up to different tiers.
Our testing process
We looked at how easy each site is to use during our testing, such as how quickly the site loaded and how easy it was to find a hotel without being overwhelmed with options. We also looked at what potentially good value each site offers compared to the competition and whether there are any reward schemes or hidden fees involved. We also considered how easy it is to get in touch with the company when something goes wrong, and we checked if cancellation policies were clearly laid out or tricky to decipher.
Finally, we took a look at any bundle deals hotel booking services offered for those times when you want an all-in-one solution to your traveling needs.
During testing, we looked at booking information for hotels in Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami before comparing the prices and information we were given. We also looked at more obscure destinations to see what the range of coverage is like for each provider.
Best ways to save on hotel bookings
Finding the right hotels for the right price can be tricky. Here’s some things to look for when booking your hotels.
Bundle: If you’re flying to your destination or plan on renting a car, see if the booking site will let you book those all at the same time; usually you’ll be able to save quite a bit. In some of our test runs we saved as much as 50%. We especially saw large savings on rental cars.
Rewards programs: Many of the sites we reviewed offer rewards programs that let you earn free stays after accruing enough points. You can also get special members-only prices. Many hotel chains offer rewards programs as well, which are more generous than those offered by the booking sites. However, the booking site’s programs work regardless of where you book your stay.
Search for other hotels: Check out the area you’re staying to see if there are other hotels in the area. Not all hotels want to partner with the booking sites. You may be able to get a better rate by calling and negotiating directly with the owner.
Try the hotels directly: Hotel booking sites are middlemen, and in some cases you may be able to get a better deal from the hotel directly. Also try to book for non-peak times. For resorts, book during the week, and if you’re looking at a business hotel, book during the weekend.