The hospitality industry has been steadily growing for nearly a decade as more people become global travelers. And no matter where you decide to go, there seem to be numerous lodging options, whether you want a rooftop pool and state-of-the-art fitness center or just a bunk bed in a hostel. So, how do you narrow down the choices and walk away with the best deal?
Hotel booking sites provide tools that can help you select the amenities you need, read reviews and check star ratings, and of course, find the best prices. That convenience and functionality might be why 88% of U.S. adults prefer to book their hotel rooms online.
But which hotel sites are the best? We’ve chosen our top five out of dozens of options after considering factors such as:
- Ease of navigation and booking
- Variety of lodging options available
- Availability of package deals
- Opportunity to earn rewards
- Variety of search tools and booking options
- Available deals and coupons
- Presence of a low-price guarantee
Let’s take a look at how each of our top five picks work, what you’ll be getting when you use each one, as well as a few of the best travel credit cards that can get you some rewards when you book.
What we like about Agoda
Agoda has a gorgeous interface and even lets you change the background color of the site. It’s easy to enter your destination and dates, and once you see your results, you can filter by star rating, price, neighborhood, and more. There are even tabs for family-friendly properties and homestays. You can find a variety of property types, from private homes to hotels to serviced apartments.
The best part about using Agoda is the availability of discounts that you won’t find on other booking sites. While Agoda won’t always come out on top, there are frequently savings opportunities unique to this hotel booking site. There are also daily deals, which are coupons for certain destinations, and secret deals, which allow you to book a hotel without knowing the name and save big. And Agoda’s Best Price Guarantee ensures that if you find a better deal elsewhere, you’ll either get a matched rate or credit for the difference.
Furthermore, a free Agoda membership earns you 4% to 7% back in points with each booking you make on the site. You can redeem your points to save money on future reservations or even get free nights at hotels. You’ll also get exclusive discounts when you sign up.
Where Agoda falls short
While Agoda allows you to book flights, car rentals, and activities, it doesn’t offer package deals for booking all your travel needs at one time like some other sites. And it doesn’t search other online travel booking sites to compare prices.
Who should try Agoda
Frugal travelers looking to snag exclusive deals.
What we like about Hotels.com
Hotels.com has a simple search function similar to other hotel booking sites. You can filter your results based on star rating, guest rating, distance from certain landmarks, and more. Hotels.com displays a featured deal at the top of your search results, but you can also sort by price.
The site offers a variety of accommodation types, from apart-hotels to houseboats. You can also search for package deals on hotels and flights. You’ll even see last-minute bargains and other discounts on the home page.
The best part about this hotel booking site is its generous rewards program. For every 10 nights you book on Hotels.com, you’ll receive a credit equal to the average per-night cost of the hotels you booked. This reward will appear in your Hotels.com account 72 hours after checkout on your 10th hotel stay, and you can redeem the reward for a discounted or free night on your next booking.
Hotels.com also features a Price Guarantee. If you see a better deal on another site, Hotels.com will refund the difference if your booking was refundable or offer a coupon for the difference if your booking was nonrefundable.
Where Hotels.com falls short
Hotels.com doesn’t search other booking sites or hotel websites directly for comparison, so you’ll need to shop around yourself.
Who should try Hotels.com
Frequent travelers who want to rack up maximum rewards.
What we like about Orbitz
It’s easy to search for rooms as well as a variety of package deals on Orbitz. You’ll also find daily deals, coupons, and last-minute specials. Recommended (and often sponsored) hotels appear first in your results, but you have the option to sort by price. There’s also a variety of filters to narrow down your choices, and you can search homes and apartments in addition to hotel stays.
Like Hotels.com, Orbitz has an impressive rewards program. If you book using the Orbitz app, you’ll receive 5% back in Orbucks instantly, which you can redeem for future hotel stays. You’ll earn 3% back if you book with Orbitz on your desktop. And it’s one of the few sites that offers points on package deals — you’ll get 1% back on flights and vacation packages.
Plus, when you join Orbitz Rewards, you’ll rack up benefits as you book more nights. If you book 12 or more nights in a year, you’ll even get free TSA PreCheck and up to $50 back in Orbucks for travel expenses such as bag fees. All of that plus exclusive deals and promotions definitely makes it worth joining.
The Orbitz Price Guarantee covers hotels as well as packages. For hotels, you’ll be able to submit a claim up to 48 hours before check-in, which is extremely generous. And for packages, you can submit a claim even if you found a lower price by combining deals on multiple other websites. If you do find a lower price elsewhere, Orbitz will refund the difference.
Where Orbitz falls short
We’re not crazy about the fact that sponsored deals appear first in the search results and the overall order is determined by what Orbitz is paid.
Who should try Orbitz
Travelers who want simplicity and value rather than complicated policies and rewards systems.
What we like about HotelsCombined
There’s a lot to love about HotelsCombined, and we’re not just talking about the cute white bear pointing you toward your search. HotelsCombined compares most top travel sites along with deals from hotel websites, so you can confirm you’re getting the best price. It also offers a Best Price Guarantee; if you find a lower rate at a site not included in the HotelsCombined search within 24 hours of booking, you’ll get a refund for the difference.
HotelsCombined is different from other sites in that you don’t book your stay directly through the platform. Instead, it compares prices from other hotel booking sites and hotel websites, and you’ll book on the platform offering the best price. That also means you can take advantage of rewards programs featured at other online travel agencies.
Where HotelsCombined falls short
HotelsCombined focuses on hotels, so you won’t find options for private apartments or rental homes.
Who should try HotelsCombined
Travelers who want to save time by searching multiple sites at once.
Google Hotel Search
What we like about Google Hotel Search
Like HotelsCombined, Google Hotel Search allows you to comb through multiple booking sites at once to find the best deal. Google Hotel Search is one of the easiest platforms to use, and you can search both hotels and vacation rentals. Use the price slider to find deals within your budget, and easily filter by guest rating, star rating, amenities, and more.
Our favorite feature on Google Hotel Search is the interactive map. You can see prices dictated on a map of your destination city and place your cursor over the price for more information. Alternatively, when you roll over one of the hotel options in your search results, you’ll see where it’s located on the map. This is an easy way to find the best price for the location you want.
With Google Hotel Search, you’ll see the cheapest options for your booking, then book directly on the hotel website or on a booking site like Orbitz. While there’s no rewards program for Google Hotel Search, you can take advantage of whatever perks are available on the website you choose to book through.
Where Google Hotel Search falls short
Since you’ll be booking your hotel or vacation rental on a third-party website, you’ll need to look into the refund policies and rewards programs at that site before choosing the best booking option.
Who should try Google Hotel Search
Travelers who have a specific location in mind for their stay.
Which hotel booking site comes out on top?
Orbitz rises to the top of our list for a number of reasons. It’s easy to search for a variety of hotels, vacation properties, and packages. The Orbitz Price Guarantee is the most comprehensive on our list, covering not only hotels up to 48 hours before check-in but also flights and packages.
The rewards program is also the most flexible of the hotel booking sites we reviewed, and membership comes with more perks than any other site. You can instantly earn and redeem points, the system is easy to understand, and elite status can be achieved relatively quickly, which gets you benefits like free TSA PreCheck.
Orbitz is a great site for anyone who wants to save money on hotels while earning rewards, but it’s an especially good fit for those who appreciate simplicity and straightforwardness. It’s also ideal for mobile users, since you’ll earn more Orbucks when you book through the Orbitz app.
Which hotel booking site is our runner-up?
Hotels.com is a close second to Orbitz and is an especially good choice for frequent travelers who stay at hotels. Its rewards program has the greatest return of any of the sites on our list; you’ll essentially get 10% back. However, you need to book at least 10 nights to get the perk, so Orbitz is a better choice for less-frequent travelers.
How to use hotel booking sites to find and get the best deal
If you’ve got any trusty travel rewards credit cards, you might be better off searching for deals on one of these hotel booking sites and then replicating the deal in your credit card’s travel rewards portal. That’s especially true if you have a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card from Chase, since your points stretch further when you use them to book travel.
To redeem your Chase points for the best deal:
- Visit Orbitz.com and enter your destination and dates
- Filter your results by adding any necessary amenities, selecting your property type, and choosing your minimum star or guest rating
- On the left-hand navigation, sort by price
- Write down the name of the hotel you want to book and note the price
- Visit the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal
- Select the credit card you want to use
- Click the Travel tab and then the Hotels tab
- Input the same location and dates you used at Orbitz
- At the top of the left-hand navigation, search for the hotel name
- Check to make sure the price is the same or similar
- Proceed to booking with points
The best part of using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is that there are no blackout dates, and any hotel stay that can be booked with cash can also be booked with points. You might even find a better price on the portal than you did on the booking site.
However, you should always do the math to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Check hotel loyalty programs, hotel booking site rewards programs, and any other credit card portals you may have access to in order to compare prices. It’s also a good idea to do some quick research through Google Hotel Search once you find the hotel you want so you can find the cheapest site for booking.
To compare prices, subtract the rewards or cashback amount you’ll receive from the total cost of the hotel. For example, let’s say you found a hotel for $100 per night at Orbitz. If you book with the app, you’ll receive 5% cash back, dropping your net total to $95.
Final thoughts on hotel booking sites
While we’ve chosen Orbitz as our top hotel booking site, prices can be all over the map, so it’s a good idea to check multiple sites to find the best deal. You may also want to check the hotel website directly, especially if you have loyalty status with a hotel brand. But always do the math to see how the discounts and rewards earnings stack up.
If you opt to use a hotel booking site with rewards, such as Orbitz or Hotels.com, make sure to keep track of your earnings and factor that discount into your decision when choosing where to book your next trip. For example, if you’ve earned a free night at Hotels.com, you’ll probably want to book your next hotel stay there rather than using points through a travel portal. These booking sites can be especially useful for booking small hotels that don’t offer their own loyalty programs.
When all is said and done, make sure you’ve done your research. Rates can vary significantly from one booking site to another, and rewards programs make a difference in the total cost of your booking. Don’t get stuck paying more than you have to for your next hotel stay. If you shop around for the best price, you’ll have more money left over for dining and entertainment at your destination.