Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, F...
Edited by: Juan Ruiz
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Travel is fun, right? But it can get expensive if you don’t know where and how to find the best deals. That’s where we can help.
Getting a great deal on a hotel room can save you hundreds of dollars. Sure, you can always reserve a hotel room on the hotel’s website, but is that the best way to do it? How about all of the popular online travel agencies (OTAs)? Which one offers the best pricing?
We’ve gone through all of the best and most popular websites (plus a few that aren’t so popular) to find out once and for all: where is the best place to book a hotel at the cheapest price?
There are lots of times when it makes sense just to keep things simple and book on the hotel’s website, whether it’s Marriott, Hilton, IHG, or any other. If you’re a member of a hotel’s loyalty program and are trying to earn or maintain elite status, you will most likely want to book direct.
By booking directly, you can take advantage of discounted member rates and will be sure to earn loyalty points and elite night credits. Many hotel chains offer promotions that allow you to earn lots of bonus points.
If you don’t book direct, the hotel may not recognize your elite status!
For example, if you have Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status and you book your room through Orbitz, you could easily miss out on your lounge access (and free breakfast) perk.
Hot Tip: If you hold elite status with a hotel, it’s generally best to book direct. In addition to not earning points and elite night credits when booking through an OTA, your elite status might not be honored by the hotel.
Kayak is not an OTA; it’s a metasearch engine for travel deals. This site will look at all the other sites and show you where the best deals are.
One of the things to love about Kayak, in addition to the great filtering options at the left of the screen, is the map feature.
On the search results page, you will see a map on the upper left-hand side of the screen. When you click on it, you will get a detailed map of your destination city, including hotel locations as well as popular areas for eating, sightseeing, shopping, and nightlife. Each dot on the map represents a hotel. You can click on any of them to get more details about the hotel, along with price comparisons.
You can also use the price slider to narrow your search to only inexpensive options.
Also, keep an eye out for Pricebreakers. These are opaque fare deals, which means you won’t know all of the details of your reservation until after you book. When searching for a cheap hotel on Kayak, you can select Pricebreakers in the filtering options for your search.
You’ll then see deals that give you the price and 3 hotel possibilities, but you won’t know exactly which hotel you’ll get until after it’s booked.
Hot Tip: For more information and how to find great deals on hotels, flights, car rentals, vacation packages, cruises, and more, check out our in-depth guide to Kayak.
We’ve shown you how to save money on flights by booking through Expedia, but how does this OTA compare when booking a hotel room?
Hot Tip: While you won’t earn points through the hotel’s loyalty program when you book through Expedia, you can earn credit card points. Look for cards that earn points in the general “travel category,” like the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or the Citi Premier® Card, all of which earn 3x points on hotels.
Searching for a hotel on Priceline is straightforward, and prices are similar to other OTAs.
One of the areas where Priceline can offer a deep discount is through its Express Deals. These opaque bookings keep details of the hotel secret until the booking is complete. These are prepaid, nonrefundable, and nontransferable bookings. If your plans aren’t concrete, it’s best to avoid this type of booking.
These Express Deals also have a much more generous best-price guarantee than standard bookings (for VIP members). When booking a traditional hotel room through Priceline, you will receive a refund of the price difference if you find a better price within 24 hours of booking.
However, if you book an Express Deal and find a better price anytime up to midnight before you travel, you will get a 200% refund of the price difference!
The reservations must be identical in all aspects, and the rate must be available to the general public (no member rates) to qualify.
If you like the idea of Express Deals but want a little more certainty, check out Pricebreakers. These opaque bookings will show you 3 hotel options before you book. You still won’t know which one you’ll get until after you book, but you’re guaranteed to get 1 of the 3 options.
The last thing you’ll want to know about Priceline is that it has a loyalty program called Priceline VIP. This free program comes with 4 levels of membership offering perks like best price guarantees, hotel discounts, and Express Deal coupons.
Hot Tip: If your plans are flexible and you are comfortable booking an unknown hotel, Priceline Express Deals and Pricebreakers can certainly save you some big bucks!
Hot Tip: For more information about finding the best deals and saving money, check out our complete guide to booking travel with Priceline.
Momondo is an easy-to-use travel metasearch engine that sorts through deals on other websites to help you find the best price. Once you find a deal on Momondo, you’ll be transferred to a booking website (an online travel agency or a hotel’s website) to book. You won’t ever actually book anything on Momondo’s website.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our detailed guide to using Momondo.
Booking.com is an easy-to-use site where you can search for and book hotels, hostels, B&Bs, apartments, and vacation homes.
One thing that stands out about this site is its generous low-price guarantee. If you find a lower advertised price for the same reservation available to the public (not a member or special rate), Booking.com will refund the difference up to 24 hours before your check-in date. The offer needs to be online and available at the time Booking.com checks.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is the Genius discount. When a room type is marked as Genius discount available, you’ll save 10% off the base price by logging in to your account. We’ve tested this and sure enough, the price was adjusted just by logging in.
In addition to discounts, the Genius Loyalty Program offers perks like free breakfast and room upgrades. There are 3 levels to the Genius program based on the number of stays you complete in a 2 year period.
Hot Tip: For lots more information, check out our definitive guide to Booking.com.
One of the best things about Hotels.com is its rewards program, One Key. It allows you to earn and use points, called OneKeyCash, through Hotels.com and its partner sites, Expedia and Vrbo.
If you have a Hotels.com account, be sure to log in to access member pricing, which saves an average of 15%.
Unfortunately, as with most OTAs, you will not be able to earn loyalty points or elite nights with the hotel’s program when booking through Hotels.com. If you generally aren’t loyal to a single brand or don’t have hotel elite status, this probably doesn’t need to be a factor in your decision of where to book.
Hot Tip: You will not earn hotel points or elite night credits for nights booked through an OTA.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our guide to booking travel and saving money with Hotels.com.
Orbitz is another easy-to-use OTA with a strong in-house loyalty program. You can earn Orbucks on hotels, flights, travel packages, and activities.
The Orbucks earning rate is much better for hotels than flights, and Orbucks can only be redeemed for hotels. The only catch is generally, you can only earn Orbucks on prepaid hotel stays.
Orbitz has its own version of elite status that can earn benefits like Wi-Fi and breakfast at select hotels after only 4 stays per year. After 12 stays per year, you’ll earn Platinum status, which comes with benefits like free TSA Precheck (a $78 value).
While Orbitz’s prices are right in line with other OTAs, some of the ongoing benefits it offers might make it a great choice for the casual traveler.
However, if you can stay consistent with a single hotel brand, booking directly with the hotel to receive elite benefits might be a better deal.
Another way Orbitz can save you money on a hotel is if you book a hotel and flight together. When searching for a 7-night hotel stay in San Francisco plus a flight separately or as a bundle, the bundle saved over $100!
Hot Tip: Learn more in our detailed guide to booking travel with Orbitz.
Hotwire has been around a long time and is probably the go-to OTA for many travelers, but is it the best place to book your next hotel stay if you’re looking for the cheapest price?
If you have some flexibility or aren’t particular about the exact hotel you stay in, Hotwire’s Hot Rate hotels could be a way to save you some money. These are opaque bookings, which means you won’t know the exact hotel until after the booking is complete. However, you’ll be able to see the hotel’s rating, neighborhood, amenities, and Tripadvisor ratings, as well as the exact hotel the person previous to you got.
Hot Tip: Hotwire Hot Rate hotels could save you money. These are bookings in which you won’t know the exact hotel until after the booking is complete, so these properties are best for travelers with some flexibility.
Another way to save some money when booking through Hotwire is by booking a vacation package. Booking a hotel and flight together can save hundreds of dollars. To take advantage of this, go to the Vacations tab in the top search menu.
Hot Tip: For more information about booking travel and saving money with this platform, check out our complete guide to Hotwire.
American Express offers more than just credit cards. AmexTravel.com is a travel portal operated by American Express, and it operates much like an OTA. It’s even available to those who don’t hold an American Express credit card, although you will get more benefits if you have an Amex card.
One of the downsides to using AmexTravel.com is you have to create an account and log in to see the final pricing. The prices shown do not include taxes and fees, so it can be a little misleading if you aren’t logged in.
Pricing through AmexTravel.com tends to be in line with other OTAs. However, if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, you can earn 5x points on prepaid hotel stays booked through AmexTravel.com. Booking fees for flights through AmexTravel.com are also waived if you have one of these cards.
If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, you might be tempted to use them to book travel directly through AmexTravel.com. As a general rule, this isn’t a good use of points because the redemption rate is poor. You’ll often get less than 1 cent per point, which is much less than what Amex points are worth. You can get so much more value by transferring your points to one of the American Express transfer partners.
Hot Tip: For more details, check out our complete guide to using AmexTravel.com.
Agoda doesn’t offer much when searching for flights, but if you’re looking for accommodations, it’s worth checking out. In addition to traditional hotels and resorts, Agoda lets you search for hostels, private houses, and even monthly stays.
It has great filtering options, as well as a map feature so that you can view all of your options by location.
Agoda is another OTA that now offers its own rewards program. You’ll earn AgodaCash on every eligible booking. Then you can redeem your AgodaCash for all or part of any hotel booking.
Additionally, Agoda offers the AgodaVIP program, an elite status program that allows you to earn additional discounts and perks.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our detailed guide to using Agoda.
Travelocity offers many different products to book, including flights, hotels, cars, cruises, travel packages, and even activities, so it can be a little overwhelming if you aren’t sure exactly what you’re looking for. When searching for a hotel, you’ll see the option of adding a flight, a rental car, or both to your search.
Like most other OTAs, you can save money by booking a flight and hotel together.
We did a test booking and found that booking a flight and hotel together was $35 cheaper than booking them separately. While you could save more or less on your specific travel plans, if you need a flight in addition to a hotel, it’s always a good idea to check the prices on a travel package.
Travelocity advertises lower rates of 10% or more on select hotels if you create an account. Member rates will be highlighted, but unfortunately, these discounts are only available at certain hotels, so you will need to have some flexibility to take advantage of these deals. In addition, when we did a test booking, the savings by creating an account was only $1.61.
Hot Tip: For more information about booking hotels, flights, and more with Travelocity, check out our guide to booking travel with Travelocity.
Tripadvisor is known for its great reviews. It’s the place to go if you want to get a feel for a hotel or activity, complete with amateur photos taken by other travelers that show what things really look like. Did you also know you can use Tripadvisor to search for and book hotels?
After searching for your destination, you’ll see a typical list of all the hotels available. In each box, there will be prices from a few websites listed. You can see a full list by clicking on the small drop-down menu in the search results. Doing so will give you a good overall feel for where you might find the best pricing. Clicking on the price will take you to the specific website to complete your booking.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our guide to using Tripadvisor.
Did you know that you can search for hotels directly on Google? Like Kayak and Tripadvisor, this is just a search engine. You won’t actually book anything on Google — it’s just another way to find the best hotel prices.
To search, just type in “Hotels in ____” in the main Google search box or go to google.com/travel/hotels.
You can easily search by location using the map, or use the filtering options above your search results to find exactly what you’re looking for. You can click on any of the hotels listed on the left side or click on the prices on the map for more information.
You’ll be able to see all of the price options for your chosen hotel by clicking on Prices.
To get a sense of price trends in the area you’re searching, click on What you’ll pay right above the search results. This will give you a good sense of what prices are like in your chosen destination during your travel dates.
Hot Tip: Google Flights allows you to plan your flight, hotel, and travel package options all from a single site.
Skyscanner is generally regarded as a flight search engine, but you can also use it to search for hotels. While it’s easy to see the pricing options for each hotel, there aren’t many filtering options available. The map feature is nice if you prefer to search for a hotel by location.
Once you find a hotel and price you like, you’ll be sent to another website to complete the booking.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our guide to booking travel through Skyscanner.
HotelTonight is a booking app and website geared towards offering great deals on last-minute hotel stays, although you can book rooms ahead of time, too.
The website is easy to use, but there aren’t many filtering options, so if you have something specific in mind, this may not be the best place to search for a hotel. If you’d like to set up a price deal alert, you can do so by using the toggle button right above your search results.
If you’re searching on the website, you may notice that some deals are only available on the app, so it might be a good idea to opt for the app when using HotelTonight.
Hot Tip: If you’re booking last minute, you may want to check out one of these websites and apps to find a good deal.
Hopper is a mobile app that offers price predictions so you have a better idea of when to book your room. It is so confident in its app it claims 95% accuracy!
You can easily find the cheapest dates for your destination in the Hopper app. After entering the city you’d like to visit, you’ll get a color-coded map that quickly shows you the cheapest and most expensive times for hotels. You can choose your travel dates and set your filters, and then you’ll see what hotels are available.
Another feature that makes Hopper unique is the price freeze feature. By making a small deposit, which can later be applied towards your stay, you can freeze the price for 12 hours, 7 days, 14 days, or 21 days. You’ll save up to $300 if the price increases, and you’ll pay the lower price if the price drops.
Before booking a hotel on Hopper, check the Trip Extras. These are additional fees, including Hopper Tip and VIP Support, that will be automatically added on. If you want to decline them, you’ll have to manually unselect them.
Hot Tip: For more information, check out our detailed guide to using the Hopper app.
Trivago, which is owned by Expedia, is another metasearch engine that scours the internet to show you hotel prices on lots of other websites so that you can easily compare them. It’s easy to use but doesn’t offer any features that differentiate it from competitors.
Be careful because the “featured price” for a hotel might not necessarily be the lowest.
As you can see, there are a lot of websites that all offer what they claim to be the best prices on your hotel room. But which site is truly the best?
We put these sites head-to-head in price comparison, only looking at the price (including taxes and fees) and not taking into consideration other factors like the cancellation policy.
Hot Tip: Many websites show you pricing without taxes and fees when you’re searching. While it might appear you’re getting a great deal on a particular site at first, once you add in all of the fees, the price may be the same as all of the other OTAs.
We priced out the same hotel on every site — a 1-week stay in the least expensive room at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, to see how these hotel booking sites compared.
|Total Price for a 7-Night Stay at a Hilton
|Google Hotel Search
|Hotel’s Own Website
As you can see from the example above, most prices are similar. In this example, the lowest price came from Google Hotels, with Kayak and Trivago close behind. Hopper had the highest price.
When you book directly through the hotel, you’ll be able to earn loyalty points and take advantage of any elite benefits you may have, so it might be worth it even if the price is a tad higher.
Finding the lowest price on a hotel room can be tough, but knowing where to look helps steer you in the right direction.
No matter where you book your next hotel, be sure to use a travel rewards credit card to max out your benefits, and you’ll be on your next trip in no time.
An OTA is a sort of middleman between you and a hotel. They generally offer both searching and booking capabilities. You can book a hotel through an OTA, which acts as your travel agency.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that question. There are many sites offering lots of different prices, even though they all claim to have the best prices. It’s best to check a few different sites before you book or start with a travel search engine like Kayak or Google Hotels. These sites show you prices on many different sites in one place.
Generally, no, you will not earn any type of hotel loyalty points or elite status credit when you book through a third party. However, many OTAs like Hotels.com and Expedia offer their own rewards programs.
Yes, generally OTAs will count towards your travel bonus category on your credit card. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns 3x points on travel purchases, which includes online travel agencies.
Whether or not it’s best to book a hotel through a third-party website versus booking direct will depend on a couple of factors. First, if you participate in a hotel’s loyalty program, it’s usually best to book direct so you can earn points and get any elite status perks. However, if you aren’t loyal to a single hotel brand, you may be able to save money by booking through an online travel agency. These sites can sometimes offer lower prices (especially if you book a hotel in combination with a rental car or hotel) and even may have their own loyalty program.
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