The Best Hotel Booking Sites

Travelocity. Orbitz. Priceline. We’ve all heard of them, and likely booked through them, but what makes one booking site better than another? The majority of the time hotel prices vary little to none between different booking sites.  So does it matter what site you use? While the short answer may be no, tough competition between sites has resulted in perks for travelers.  If you’re not earning a bonus for booking your hotel, you’re missing out.  Below are our favorite sites to book through.

Groupon.com (Getaways).

I know what you’re thinking.  Groupon offers deals at subpar hotels to increase their traffic. While this may be partially true, there is more to the story.  Groupon recently partnered with Expedia to create a new section of Groupon Getaways where you can book a number of rooms at market price.

Why would you book through Groupon if you’re going to pay the same rate as any other travel site? Groupon offers 5% of you hotel cost back in “Groupon Bucks”. In other words, you get 5% as a Groupon gift card to use on future purchases.  So if I spend $600 on 3 nights in a hotel, I’d get $30 in Groupon Bucks.

If you don’t travel very often (or you just love instant gratification, like I do) Groupon is a great option to get a return now, instead of waiting to hit a reward through other programs like Hotels.com’s Welcome Rewards.  So scroll past all those hotels offering Groupons you wouldn’t stay in, and check out the Market Price section.

Groupon Hotels

 

Hotels.com (Welcome Rewards)

Hotels.com offers a program where when you book 10 nights at a qualifying hotel (almost all hotels are qualifying) you get a night free.  The catch, your free night is valued at the average of the cost of the 10 nights you previously booked.  In other words, you can’t book 10 nights at Days Inn then cash in your free night at the Ritz.

While this is essentially a better deal than Groupon (you are basically getting 10% of you hotel cost toward the cost of a future room), if you don’t book a room through Hotels.com within a year from your last stay, you will lose the nights you have built up.  So if you are not a regular traveler, a site with instant rewards is a much safer bet.

Hotelscom

 

Rocketmiles.com

Relatively new to the scene, RocketMiles let you earn frequent flyer miles for booking your hotel through them.  You can earn thousands of miles from booking a room through them, the earn rate varying between hotel chain, room price, and selected airline miles. For example, a 2 night stay at the $120 Holiday Inn in San Diego will earn me 2,000 Rapid Rewards points (Southwest), while staying at the Hard Rock will earn me 6,000 points.  If you like to use airline miles, it is definitely worth checking this one out.

rocketmiles

 

TheSuitest.com

If you’re in to getting a great deal, be sure to check out thesuitest.com, which will let you know what you should be paying for a given room. The site surveys the price of the room over time and tells you the fair rate, any recent changes, and how much you’d be saving on any certain day.  It will also let you know if trends suggest the price may decrease in the coming days.  A great tool for booking rooms far in advance! You may want to book through another site after checking the value of rooms at the Suitest since they don’t offer perks for booking.

The Suitest

 

Trivago.

To know you are getting the lowest price available, check Trivago.com. Trivago compares the prices of the same hotel room across almost 200 different sites and shows you where the lowest price is available.  As I stated earlier, there is typically very little different between the prices of a hotel from site to site, but there are exceptions, and often these exceptions are on obscure sites you would have never checked. While the site doesn’t offer an incentive to book through them, it’s a great place to search.

Trivago

 

Bonus Rewards.

Hotel Points.  Unless you frequently stay at the same hotel chain, hotel points can be fairly useless. However, many airlines have partnered with some hotel chains such as Hilton, Starwood, and Hyatt to allow guests to earn frequent flyer miles in place of hotel points.  Create an account to earn points at your hotel of choice, then switch the earning style to your favorite airline in your profile.

Additional Points.  Many airlines also offer shopping portals where users can register their frequent flyer numbers and gain miles while purchasing goods online.  Groupon is commonly offered on these sites, so you can gain a fairly significant amount of miles when you book your hotel through them.  I earn 3 miles per dollar spent through the Southwest portal and MILES through American Airlines. Here are some of the more common airlines:

-www.aadvantageeshopping.com/

-rapidrewardsshopping.southwest.com/

-www.mileageplusshopping.com/

Likewise, many credit cards (especially travel cards) have shopping portals where you can earn extra points per dollar at Travelocity and other major travel booking sites. 

How to Choose the Perfect Hotel Room

So you’ve decided to take a trip and you need to book a hotel room.  Choosing a hotel room can be incredibly overwhelming, especially with hundreds of hotels to choose from and thousands sites you can research and book through.

To me, there are three main important things to keep in mind when booking a room: location, rating, and price.  These may seem obvious, but finding a room to fit the criteria can be quite the task.  Below are some steps and resources to help you find and book a room without wanting to pull your hair out.

The location of your hotel can make or break a trip. In an ideal world, I would plan out all of the things I wanted to do and see in a destination and look for a hotel close to as many of those as possible. However, if you’re a procrastinator like me, you’ll need to book your hotel before you’ve even thought about your activities.

 

Look at a map of hotels to find prime locations.

Typically, from looking at a map of hotels in a city you can judge good locations from noticing where there are groups of hotels. This will give you a good idea on the areas to look into. If a hotel is not near many other hotels, it is likely it is not in a good spot to access attractions.

Map of hotels from Hotels.com

Map of hotels from Hotels.com

While booking a room on the outskirts of town may save you quite a bit, add the cost of coming in and out of town and the amount of time that takes and I think you will likely find most of those savings have disappeared.

 

Check out the neighborhoods in your destination.

Often there are multiple groups of hotels, grouped in different neighborhoods.  Certain neighborhoods may be quieter at night and thus better suited for families, whereas other parts of town may have a lot of nightlife.  It is helpful to look into the different neighborhoods of your destination to determine if the spot you chose fits what you are looking for.  You can view descriptions of each neighborhood on sites like travel.usnews.com/ (also my favorite site to check for the best time to visit a destination).

Check travel.usnews.com Neighborhood descriptions.

Check travel.usnews.com Neighborhood descriptions.

Zooming into your selected neighborhood and filtering the options with a price range or star rating should narrow your choices down to a manageable level of hotels to research.

 

Read the Negative Reviews:

There are a number of sites to read reviews of hotels from including the well known TripAdvisor and Hotels.com. Wherever you choose to read reviews, you are likely to find similar positive reviews on most hotels.  The negative reviews (and the date which they were written) often have more insight of the flaws of the hotel.  The negative reviews may be concerns that members of the staff were not helpful, which may not be of much concern.  On the other hand, negative stories can contain stories of uncleanliness, the rooms being misrepresented, or recent construction issues.

Reviews of recent constructions issues may be cause for concern.

Reviews of recent constructions issues may be cause for concern.

 

Check out the User Photos.

Most hotels can look high quality in professional pictures.  Sites like TripAdvisor offer photos from users, or “traveler photos” to see what the rooms look like when they aren’t photographed by professionals.  Great place to get an idea of what your expectations should really be.

traveler photos

 

After reviewing user photos and ratings of the hotels in the area you would like to stay in, you should be ready to book yourself a room! Look for our article about the best sites to book hotel rooms tomorrow.

 

Have any other great resources fellow travelers should know about? Let us know!