As with the best flight booking sites, there’s no shortage of resources available when you need to book a cheap hotel room. From metasearch engines that send you to company sites, to bookable OTAs (online travel agencies), to corporate hotel sites, the options for the best hotel booking sites can be overwhelming. But when doing your hotel search, deciding which sites to compare should depend on how often they offer the best hotel deals, and how you prefer to view and filter search results.
The Best Hotel Booking Sites for Comparing Prices
For most travel planning, the best overall strategy is to compare prices from multiple sources including the hotel’s own website, as it will sometimes offer deals not shared with third-party sites, or offer the same rates as third-party sites minus pesky booking fees. Hotels sites will also offer package deals—bundled amenity inclusions and the like—that aren’t shared with third-party sites.
Bottom line: Whether you search with a hotel site on this list or a preferred hotel search engine of your own, always check the hotel’s actual website as well, or call its reservations line, to make sure you really are getting the best hotel deal.
If you’re trying to figure out how best to search for cheap hotels: First, scan this quick list of the best hotel search sites, in no particular order. Then, scroll down to read in-depth summaries of each.
- Expedia (which owns Travelocity and Orbitz)
No list of the best hotel booking sites is exhaustive, but these 11 represent a combination of great crowd favorites mixed with some newer, similarly performing hotel search options that you might not know about.
All of them fared well in tests: Prices for the same dates and destinations were fairly consistent from site to site, but the volatility of results may vary based on your destination, how far in advance you’re looking for the best hotel deals, and the time of year you visit (i.e., high season vs. low).
With that in mind, here are the best hotel booking sites to compare prices with for your next trip, plus the best feature of each one. If any hotel sites are missing that you think should be included, please mention it in the comments.
Check out SmarterTravel’s roundup of the best in booking sites for 2020. Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!
Insofar as keeping your options open goes, Booking.com returns the most eclectic search results by far, with a healthy mix of hotels, apartments, and hostels. But whether this is a good or bad thing depends entirely on your preferences. If you’re not a fan of hostels, for example, hotel search results like this mean that you have to filter them out, creating an extra step that other hotel booking sites don’t require. That said, Booking.com offers something for everyone. And its handy hotel search engine displays the total cost up front (except taxes) which, like HotelsCombined, is helpful when comparing cheap hotel rates; being able to see that total hotel cost up front helps you quickly determine which hotels actually fit into your budget.
Best feature: The variety of property types and blended search results. Booking.com is a good hotel search site for a wide range of budgets.
Like its flight search, Kayak‘s hotel search offers a clean, easy-to-use interface with many available filters. It also shows other hotel booking sites’ rates so you can compare them all in one place. But the first hotel price result is often higher than better rates farther down the list, unless you specifically filter by price. Kayak’s hotel search results are automatically sorted by the vague factor of what’s “Recommended,” which is true of many hotel booking sites. Often, higher rates populate first while scrolling results, and sometimes that lead price is much higher than other comparable hotel options. It’s hard to see how this is useful, especially if the point of hotel search engines is to help you find the best hotel prices. The site’s minimal look is nice, but does have a downside: The option to sort by price is a hard-to-find, gray drop-down menu atop the list. Kayak presents strong options and price comparisons, so long as you’re willing to scrutinize or sort by prices.
Best feature: Clean, easy-to-use interface. It’s also one of the best hotel apps you can download onto your phone.
Priceline has one of the more visually appealing design layouts of the major hotel search engines, and is definitely among the easiest hotel sites to navigate. None of these hotel search sites is dramatically different from the others in terms of rates or price comparison, so usability can go a long way toward improving the experience of searching for the best hotel prices. Unsurprisingly, Priceline’s prices are on par with the other online travel agencies (OTAs), and its results are largely focused on downtowns and tourist-friendly areas. The big draw of Priceline has always been its unique “Name Your Own Price” and “Express Deal” options: The former allows you to submit a final hotel price you’re willing to pay, which a hotel can then accept (with a nonrefundable booking). The latter is a flash deal that hides the name of the hotel until after you book. While somewhat gimmicky, these hotel search options can offer significant savings.
Best feature: Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” and “Express Deal” features are major differentiators from other discount hotel sites. They’re a big plus if you’re looking for the best hotel deals and are open to not knowing exactly which hotel you’re booking.
Hotels.com helps you find the best hotel deals via tons of filters that let you narrow down your search. Its initial results tend to show a healthy balance of lower- and upper-end hotels, mostly in or around city centers. That’s what most travelers want in a hotel search engine: a robust, easily refined list of well-located options. Prices were on par with other OTAs. On the downside, the hotel search results also included a lot of grayed-out hotels that are “fully booked,” which serves no purpose for the customer aside from generating urgency that screams: “Look! Some hotels are already sold out! Better hurry!” Like many cheap hotel websites these days, Hotels.com includes lots of non-hotel properties too, including condo hotels, guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts.
Best feature: Hotels.com offers more hotel search filters than most travelers could ever use, but it’s nice to have those options.
HotelsCombined, one of the best hotel booking sites, is a metasearch tool that searches a wide range of sources to find the best hotel deals, including OTAs, as well as the hotels’ own sites. Search results include multiple options from the same source, allowing you to compare different room types (for example, “queen bed” vs. “room chosen at check-in”). You can also toggle between hotel prices that either include or exclude taxes. HotelsCombined included a lot of airport hotels in the top results, and defaulted to the total price for your entire trip, instead of the more common nightly rate. Neither of these is a problem in and of itself, but it does complicate the price comparison process when most other hotel sites display only the nightly rate.
Best feature: The sheer volume of results makes this a good place to start your hotel search, but do be sure to scrutinize prices and options when you land on the actual hotel booking site to make sure they match.
Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz
Short of the color scheme and fonts, you’d be hard pressed to find much difference between these three legacy hotel booking sites. Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz are all owned by Expedia Inc., and all three use the same layout, with a few minor tweaks. Interestingly, the hotel search results do vary slightly. The top hotel result for each test search was the same across all three of these hotel booking sites, but the order of the list of hotels below it varied. Prices, of course, were the same, since they’re all powered by Expedia. These perfectly fine hotel search engines are not all that different from Hotels.com: They’ve got plenty of options, prices that are usually good but not always great (as with any hotel booking site), and useful hotel search filters. That might be faint praise for discount hotel sites, but there’s something to be said for consistency, right? Keep an eye on these hotel sites’ deals and limited-time offers, which is when any of these three hotel search engines are more likely to substantially beat their competition.
Best feature: Dependability. Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz are the Honda Accords of hotel booking sites. You’ll reliably find what you need, at the best prices, and with minimal hassle. Just be sure to compare prices to a hotel booking site that’s outside the Expedia family.
Agoda began as a hotel booking site with a focus on Asia, and that focus remains apparent on the home page, where properties in Malaysia, Thailand, and other Eastern destinations get prominent real estate. But now that Agoda has come to the U.S., it delivers a hotel search experience that matches some of the best hotel sites on this list. There are even instances when Agoda had better hotel deals than its competition, including one hotel search result in which the total booking cost was more than $200 less than the same hotel on Priceline (with a coupon code). Don’t expect that sort of result every time, but it shows that Agoda, like all the rest of these hotel booking sites, is well worth checking for the best hotel deals.
Best feature: A good selection of well-located places to stay, with some of the best hotel prices around.
Like HotelsCombined, TripAdvisor‘s hotel search displays some of the very best hotel deals from a range of sites. The tool is built right into TripAdvisor’s general search function, letting you browse the site’s vast library of reviews, then begin your hotel booking seamlessly. The initial list of hotel search results displays the lowest price and shows the source of that price, so that you know where (off TripAdvisor) your hotel booking is going to happen. TripAdvisor searches most of the major hotel booking sites, as well as some lesser-known ones; when applicable, it also includes the hotel’s own website. You can also book directly with TripAdvisor, though its rates are provided by Booking.com. TripAdvisor doesn’t surface results from Agoda, meaning that it would have missed the deal mentioned above—further proof that there’s no perfect hotel booking site, and that hotel search results depend on your destination and the site’s partners. (Full disclosure: TripAdvisor is SmarterTravel’s parent company.)
Best feature: TripAdvisor gives users the unique ability to simultaneously research hotel reviews and compare prices from hotel booking sites.
Another metasearch hotel booking site, Trivago did surface that low price coupon found on Agoda. However, it did not lead with that price, choosing instead to prominently display a higher price from Booking.com in large, green text. Odd. The lower-priced Agoda deal was listed second in the hotel search results, displayed in small gray text along with several others. In fact, Trivago found multiple hotel deals lower than that Booking.com price, but none received top billing for some reason. This happened in several other cases too, where the lead price ended up higher than best hotel prices that Trivago could find. The good thing about conducting a hotel search on Trivago is that Trivago searches several lesser-known hotel booking sites, including Agoda, in addition to the usual suspects like Expedia, Priceline, and Booking.com. But travelers should take a close look at Trivago’s hotel search results to make sure that Trivago isn’t hiding a better deal farther down the list.
Best feature: Trivago’s mix of hotel sites searched is strong, and includes hotel sites that travelers may not have otherwise known about, which could result in finding some of the best hotel deals out there.
Google’s hotel search engine works by simply entering “hotels in (insert city here)” right on Google.com. (You can also go straight to the Google Hotels page.) This feature is integrated into Google Maps, which makes it very different from any of the other hotel booking sites listed above. On Google, hotel locations are marked by prices on a map, rather than by name or any other identifying characteristic. From there, Google’s hotel search tool is fairly price-forward, which is what metasearch should be. Clicking on a price displays the hotel’s name, features, and booking options. Overall, it’s no surprise that Google offers a powerful, no-frills hotel search engine for travelers who don’t want all the hard-sell aspects of cheap hotel sites and more commercial hotel search engines. (And yes, Google did surface that low-with-coupon hotel deal from Agoda.)
Best feature: Location is usually pretty important when choosing a hotel, and Google Maps integration—with satellite and street view—allows you to easily factor that into your hotel search.
One of the best hotel booking sites for last minute deals and “Hot Rates,” which hide the hotel name in order to give you a better rate (similar to Priceline’s Express Deals), Hotwire is a great option if you don’t mind a limited-details final booking; and you probably don’t if it’s short notice. Hotwire’s Hot Rates descriptions feature so many details about the property, as well as a pretty narrow location radius, that you can sometimes figure out the hotel you’ll be booked in, although it’s still somewhat of a gamble. Hotwire also is partnered with reliable global hotel brands like Kimpton and Hyatt, so you can be more confident that you won’t end up with a ramshackle property.
The savings vary depending on the destination, but Hot Rates are consistently much more competitive than the standard Hotwire rates, which aren’t always the best price compared to other hotel booking sites. The main qualm that most customers have with Hotwire is their “24/7 support,” which apparently can be pretty unhelpful despite always being available to you.
Best feature: Hot Rates that will put you up in a comfortable, if not four-star hotel, and for a two-star price.
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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
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