While I adore the vibrant atmosphere of youth hostels, there’s an undeniable allure to the luxury of hotels: pristine rooms, plush beds, desks, irons, powerful showers, and the convenience of bottled soaps (well, let’s call it borrowing). They serve as tranquil havens worldwide, providing a serene escape.
However, luxury comes at a cost.
Hotels are not the most budget-friendly, especially when you consider spending money on a room you’ll only occupy for a few hours. That’s why I often steer clear of hotels—I find them less cost-effective. I prefer staying in youth hostels; they’re more economical, foster social interactions, and don’t make you feel too far from the essence of your destination. (Hotels, to me, sometimes feel isolating, like a concrete bubble blocking you from the place you’re exploring.)
Back in 2014, after numerous hotel stays, I set out to discover the best hotel booking website on the internet.
The conclusion? Well, there wasn’t a clear winner. Some sites excelled in location and hotel variety, but none emerged as the undisputed champion.
Fast forward to 2018. Who claimed the title of the best hotel booking site?
Though it might not yield the highest number of places, Booking.com presents the most budget-friendly options—a critical factor for budget-conscious travelers. The runner-up in the hotel booking arena was Agoda, particularly strong in Asian results.
Now, let’s talk about today. What’s the current reigning champion of booking sites?
Yes, good old Google.
Simply head to Google, input your desired destination—say, “New York City hotels.”
That’s it. Google aggregates results from all major booking sites, showing you the cheapest option. Just hop over to that site and make your reservation. It saves a ton of time compared to individually scouring each website.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Click the “View Hotel” button at the bottom of the first result section to go to Google’s Hotel Search.
Enter your dates and filters, narrowing down your search until you find a hotel you like within your budget. You can sort by the lowest price, view the map for location-based bookings, and even click “Your Rate Type” to see the typical price trends for your selected dates.
Click the “View Prices” button for the hotel, and you’ll see all booking options. Find the lowest price and then head over to that website. Just a heads-up, the first few results are usually ads, so scroll down to ensure you don’t miss any deals.
Before you seal the deal, here are some additional tips to ensure you get the lowest possible price:
- Contact the Hotel Directly: Call the hotel and ask if they can match the online rate. Many times, they will, as it saves them from paying commissions. If it’s a major global brand, booking directly also ensures you earn loyalty points and status, so don’t miss out if you’re into travel perks.
- Utilize AAA or AARP Discounts: If you’re a member of AARP or AAA, you can access special rates. Fun fact: Anyone can join AARP, and they offer surprising travel benefits, including hotel and British Airways flight discounts.
- Use Mr. Rebates or Rakuten: If the lowest price is from major booking sites like Booking.com, Expedia, or Hotels.com, enter through Mr. Rebates or Rakuten. Their links often provide 1-10% cashback, accumulating extra savings over time.
- Check HotelTonight: Ideal for last-minute bookings, this app offers significant discounts if your travel plans are flexible. Waiting until after 4 PM can land you hotels at 50% off.
- Book Mystery Deals: Priceline and Hotwire offer cheaper hotel bookings where you don’t get full details until after the reservation. Hotwire’s Hot Rates and Priceline’s Express Deals provide general neighborhood info, star ratings, and amenities. Priceline’s Pricebreakers ensure you get one of three grouped hotels, saving you 30-60%.
- Join Booking.com and Hotels.com Loyalty Programs: Both sites offer 10-20% discounts for members. It’s a handy perk, so make sure to sign up for their loyalty programs before booking.
- Purchase Discounted Gift Cards: You can use hotel gift cards to book stays at major chains. Check sites like Giftcardgranny.com to buy discounted gift cards and use them for hotel reservations. (Buying gift cards also counts toward points and status.)
- Buy Cancelled Reservations via Roomer: Roomer often features rooms people can’t use or cancel, so hotels sell them at discounted rates. I’ve never used the site, but it’s received positive reviews.
Hotel prices tend to be more stable than airfare, with smaller fluctuations. I don’t spend hours scouring hotel websites or days tracking prices like people do for flights. At most, I devote 30 minutes to book a hotel.
By following the steps above, using my favorite (and proven best) hotel booking sites listed here, you can snag a great deal and start enjoying your trip faster. If you find yourself frequently staying in hotels, perhaps consider applying for a hotel credit card to start accumulating points for free stays (free is always better than cheap)!
Happy travels! 🌍✈️