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Thanks to booking aggregators, you can find a travel deal in seconds. Punch in your approximate dates and desired destination, and let the websites spit out results that help you find the best fit for your needs, destination, and preferences.
- What Are The Best Travel Websites?
- What About Hotel Tonight, Hotwire, Orbitz, Kayak, Travelocity, TravelZoo & Trivago?
- Travel Sites: A Matter Of Preference
- Looking For More Inspiration?
What Are The Best Travel Websites?
There are many options for planning and booking a trip, so we’ve reviewed the best travel sites to help you find the right one for you.
We evaluate each site based on our research and personal experiences and give you a detailed summary of our findings along with the pros and cons of each. Most companies we reviewed also have smartphone apps to book on the go. Read on to learn the best ways to book the adventures that await you.
Expedia wins overall for best travel deals because, in addition to great everyday low prices, it is an excellent resource for finding last-minute bargains at shockingly-deep discounts, including cruises and bundles that include flights plus hotels and car rentals.
Expedia is easy to navigate and offers the most comprehensive way to search for any trip. Create an account, and once logged in, you can save your search history to your “Scratch Pad” and get alerts for pricing updates on your desired itinerary. Then, review your booked itineraries at any time, which is extremely helpful no matter how often you travel.
Another unique feature is the Expedia Rewards program (it’s free) which gives you incentives, special offers, and rewards the more you book through Expedia.
|Extensive inventory of flights, cars, hotels, and tour providers with options to sort my amenities and accessibility||Doesn’t always have the best rate. Some deals may only be available directly.|
|Expect more savings when you bundle, booking more than one product in a single transaction||Working with a third party like Expedia can cause delays if problems arise in your flight or itinerary|
|Shows the number of seats/rooms left at your price point||The cancellation policies can be challenging to navigate, and you may have to pay cancellation fees|
|Expedia Rewards Program to earn points on travel bookings||Hotel and airline loyalty programs are typically more rewarding than Expedia Rewards|
|Customer service via chat or call back|
|Offer travel insurance for flights, hotels, and car rentals|
|Offer last-minute deals for flights, hotels, and packages|
As the name suggests, Hotels.com is the go-to place if all you want is to book a hotel in your destination city. A great feature of Hotels.com is the Hotels.com Rewards program that gives you a free night stay for every ten nights you book.
The site is user-friendly and allows you to choose a city, then narrow your search by specific neighborhood or suburb, landmark, type of hotel (Bed and Breakfast, Resort, etc.), amenities, accessibility features, and trip purpose (business or leisure).
Hotels.com has a price match guarantee, allowing you to pay a lower price or cancel without penalty if you find the same hotel room cheaper elsewhere.
|Price Match Guarantee||Suitable for hotel bookings but not as strong for flights, rental cars, etc.|
|Hotels.com Rewards: Book 10 nights and get 1 free||You can’t earn points or use loyalty rewards for your hotel stay when booking with Hotels.com|
|Filters to sort by property type, guest rating, payment type, neighborhood, amenities, and more||Complaints from customers regarding customer service|
|Price and hotel name is visible (with some competitors, you have to click through first)||Working with a middleman like Hotels.com can cause delays if problems arise in your flight or itinerary|
|Free cancellation on some hotels|
|Phone support and booking via phone|
Priceline acts as an aggregate, showing you available flights at various airlines: United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. This allows you to compare flights without going directly to each airline’s website.
It also has Express Deals, where the price is shown, as well as a rough itinerary. Until the transaction is complete, you won’t know the exact airline, flight time, layover time, or extra costs for seat selection and checked bags. The company claims to negotiate rates up to 50 percent off for travelers.
Priceline also offers deals on hotels, cars, cruises, experiences, and bundles.
What Is The Best Price Guarantee?
Priceline’s Best Price Guarantee policy is for Priceline VIP members, which is free to join. You’ll be refunded the price difference if you see a better deal within 24 hours of booking. If you find a better price on an Express Deal® up to midnight before you travel, they’ll refund you up to 200% of the difference.
The Best Price Guarantee applies to:
- Rental Cars
- Air Tickets
What Is Pricebreakers?
Priceline’s website offers Pricebreakers, where travelers can view three similar hotels listed under a single low price, up to half off published rates you can find elsewhere. This website-only feature allows you to get a deep discount on one of the three highly-rated hotels, but you won’t know which hotel you get until you book. Travelers are guaranteed to secure a room at one of the locations at the price presented, and the winning hotel is revealed immediately after purchase.
|Tells you the availability of rooms/seats at the listed price||Transactions can be complex and time-consuming|
|Best Price Guarantee (VIP members only)||All sales on “Express Deals” are final|
|“Express Deals” for flights and hotels||There may be additional costs for baggage|
|Website offers Pricebreakers for deeply-discounted hotel prices||It’s not always the best rate|
|App features Tonight-Only Deals for last-minute discounts or Road Deals for hotels along your driving route||The website and app don’t offer the same features|
|Bundle & Save options|
|Customer service via web chat, SMS text, WhatsApp, or call|
What About Hotel Tonight, Hotwire, Orbitz, Kayak, Travelocity, TravelZoo & Trivago?
Although those are our top choices, we also reviewed a handful of other popular booking engines.
Note that some travel sites (like Priceline and Hotwire) use an opaque sales model for hotel booking—meaning that customers do not know where they are staying until they have paid for it. This arrangement is requested by the hotels to protect the integrity of their brand but gives them the option to get rid of unused inventory and pass along savings to customers.
We wanted to point out that Southwest Airlines is not included in the reviewed companies’ results as they do not list their fares on third-party company websites.
Jump to the website you wish to learn more about by clicking on the name below or read on to view them all.
HotelTonight, launched in 2010, is an app for iPhone, Android, and Windows devices that provides a curated list of discounted hotels for that day (or up to 100 days before your check-in date). In 2019, they were acquired by Airbnb, the peer-to-peer home booking service to offer an end-to-end experience for all travelers.
Once you download the app to your phone, HotelTonight can geo-locate your area, or you can type the city you are looking for a room in. It will pull up a list of available hotels, your discounted price (vs. the regular price), photos, rating, and amenities.
After you book your room, you will be connected with a HotelTonight travel concierge who can help request any special needs and answer your questions.
|Discounts on quality name-brand hotels||You must sign up to book|
|Price is visible before booking||No refunds|
|Great for spontaneous travelers and last-minute booking||Hotel search and bookings only|
|HT Perks loyalty program for special deals and credits|
Hotwire allows travelers to bid on hotel accommodations by choosing a general area in the destination city, star rating, and price. The website then brings up results with the necessary information and exact prices.
This site uses an opaque sales model (see above), so customers do not know what hotel they are booking until their credit card is charged. Hotwire claims to have only brand-name partners, so its clients can expect a general standard of quality and service for all products purchased, regardless of the name brand. Customers can also shop for car rentals, flights, or cruises.
Hot Wire also offers deals on activities and attractions. Hotwire is the same, if not better than Priceline if you’re up for a gamble to save a few bucks.
|Sign up to get savings alerts when the best deal for a specific destination becomes available||Can’t choose hotels by brand|
|TripStarter feature to view the history of prices, most popular time to visit and average temperatures, and more||All reservations are non-refundable and cannot be changed|
|Customer service call, text, and email support for help with booking|
Orbitz is one of the leading online travel companies and one of the oldest. Founded in 1999 by six major airlines, Orbitz works very similarly to Expedia, and their site is almost identical (because they are part of the same parent company).
Travelers can look up pricing and book flights, hotels, cars, activities, cruises, and more. You might find many of the same search results here as you will on other sites, and some third-party sites like Kayak and Hipmunk will show you Orbitz pricing in their results and take you to Orbitz to book.
We feel you are better off starting your search elsewhere and booking through Orbitz when it’s time to purchase. You can also join their Orbitz reward program to earn points on your booking and instantly redeem them.
|Recognized by many users as the best website for general travel booking||Limited customer support for questions or changes|
|No fees for changing hotel reservations||You can’t earn brand-specific loyalty points when booking through Orbitz|
|Orbitz Price Guarantee provides a refund if you find a cheaper flight, car rental, cruise, or activity within 24 hours||Orbucks expire after 1 year|
|Earn Orbucks through Orbitz Rewards for discounts on hotel stays|
|Can change tickets or reservations via Orbitz directly versus contacting airline/hotel|
We love using Kayak specifically for hotel stays. Give Kayak your dates and number of guests, and it uses algorithms to find the best deal based on the highest-rated hotel, then book directly from the hotel chain or other deal sites (like Expedia).
Kayak allows you to sort by type (trendy, luxury, boutique, budget, family-friendly, etc.) or by whatever criteria is important to you (price, location). One great feature is the ability to display results on a map, complete with a color overlay that shows where popular bars, attractions, and restaurants are around (and public transportation, if applicable, in the city you’re traveling to).
If you want to book more than just a hotel, Kayak provides all-inclusive travel deals, including flights, car packages, and more. You can also sign up for travel alerts for notifications when your trip has a sale and see a price history chart for any route.
Creating an account allows you to share your trips with friends and get flight status alerts via email or SMS.
|Search vacation properties in addition to hotels||Annoying pop-ups windows|
|Travel alerts when a hotel or flight is available at a lower price||No phone support|
|Pricing trends to know the best time to travel and fare and rate fluctuation over time|
|Compare any search to other search engines like Expedia or Priceline|
|Flexible dates to see a matrix of pricing options with advanced filters and search options|
Travelocity is one of the largest online sites with a long business history. Like Orbitz, it’s an Expedia company, so it looks similar to Orbitz and Expedia (along with the same great deals).
Travelocity gives travelers search options that allow them to select only transportation, activities, hotels, cruises, or a package combination. Travelers can also choose a destination and find out what is on sale at that time in their desired location, adding spontaneity to the travel planning process.
Travelocity’s Price Guarantee will match any price offered by another company.
|Price Guarantee matches competitor pricing||Transactions can be complicated and time-consuming|
|Established business with an excellent reputation||Poor customer service|
|Name and address of hotels known before purchase||Cancellation policies can be difficult to navigate and are not clearly defined|
|Friendly customer service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week|
TravelZoo is unique from other travel booking sites in that it promotes and shares travel experiences from across the web versus searching for a particular destination and date (not limited to travel but also experiences, food, and service discounts). Its “Top 20” showcases a weekly list of the best travel, entertainment, and local deals from more than 2,000 companies worldwide. They even use your location to show you deals unique to the closest airport.
While Travel Zoo has many great travel ideas on how to score a great price on a vacation, they are more limited in searching and booking than other sites.
|Top 20 list of best deals updated weekly||Required to create an account to see deal details|
|Last-Minute Deals for discounts on vacations, entertainment, hotels, cruises, flights, and car rentals||Not a booking engine|
|Geo-targets you to show offers and ideas based on your location||No “contact us” info is listed on the website|
Deal Experts research and recommend deals from 2,000+ companies
|Ideal for last-minute or impromptu travels|
The Trivago app compares hotel prices from over 180 booking sites for over two million hotels worldwide. Enter the destination and desired travel dates, and you’ll be served up several options in seconds.
You can also specify your search and filter results by price, distance (e.g., from the beach), star category, facilities, and more. When you find a hotel you like, click on the “view deal” button, and you will be forwarded to a booking site where you can book your room.
|Extensive database of hotels to choose from||Hotels only|
|Easy to search and clean, uncluttered interface||Bookings done on third-party sites|
|Compares prices for various booking engines||Limited descriptions of hotels|
TripIt Booking App
Once you have booked your trip, we recommend using TripIt, an easy-to-use app, to manage and organize your travel plans.
Create a free account, and they automatically put all your travel bookings from your email into one easy-to-read itinerary—complete with confirmation numbers, phone numbers, and seat details.
You can share your saved itinerary with travel mates, family, and friends and use their app to check arrival gate information on the go.
The pro version provides gate change information and estimated flight arrival updates (often faster than the actual airlines do).
Travel Sites: A Matter Of Preference
When it comes to booking travel online, every person has different preferences. For some, an airline or brand name makes a big difference in loyalty programs, and the price isn’t a significant consideration. Still, for others, it doesn’t matter what airline or chain as long as it’s the most affordable price or best schedule. You might be looking for a one-stop-shop package or prefer to shop a la carte.
After deciding what is most important to you, shop around at two or three travel sites based on the above summaries and compare as prices fluctuate over time.
Looking For More Inspiration?
If you’re more adventurous (or have a bigger group), staying in a rental property might be a better fit for you. And if you’d like a seasoned professional traveler to organize your itinerary for you (and you enjoy making new friends on your travels), check out our best adventure travel companies comparison. No matter where you go, happy trails to you!
What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to? Let us know in the comments!Tagged With: Comparison