What are hotel booking sites?

Hotel booking sites are essentially search engines that help users find and book hotel rooms or alternative lodgings online. They pile up hotel room offerings and present them in list form, generally at discounted prices. Many sites also offer additional travel options such as flight bookings, car rentals, tours, admission tickets, fun activities, and vacation packages, all of which can be booked from one simple site. After inputting the location, date, and amount of guests, the search engine will comb through the best options in the market for your needs. Afterwards, you can further narrow down your results by using the page’s multiple filters, which commonly include price, neighborhood, and amenities, as well as property class and customer rating.

Why use a hotel booking site?

Hotel booking websites can offer huge advantages to anyone planning a trip without specific lodgings in mind. They streamline the process of looking for rooms and types of properties, and can help you plan your trip from start to finish, due to their multiple other offerings. Bundling every aspect of your trip (flight, car rental, and hotel bookings) through one site can also help you save. Payment is simple, simply requiring a credit card for payment at the moment of booking, although many booking sites also provide the option of paying at your accommodations upon arrival. Some booking sites even have their own rewards programs, which can get you nights off or better discounts at the hotels affiliated with them.

What should I look for in a hotel booking site?

When choosing a hotel booking website, there are two major factors you should look for: transparency and usefulness. If you have any doubts whatsoever about a booking website’s legitimacy, make sure to contact the hotel you are booking a room for before taking further steps through the booking site. If you ask the hotel representatives whether they’re affiliated with the site, and they either can’t tell or issue a flat out denial, immediately cease any dealings with the booking site. Likewise, if the booking website you are using doesn’t have filters for needs you’ll have during your stay, or if the interface is clunky and confusing, consider looking at other, similar, competitors.


Top 10 Companies

#1
Our Partner
9.8 / 10
  • In business since 1996
  • Discount and loyalty program
  • Search for hotels by type of experience
  • Book cruises and vacation rentals
  • Over 590,000 properties available
  • Earn double points when booking with the Expedia app
  • Customer support available 24/7
#2
9.6 / 10
  • Browse hundreds of travel sites at once and find the lowest rates.
  • Join the Private Deals email list and save up to 35% on travel opportunities.
  • Shop for vacation packages and sign up for price change alerts.
  • See price trends and explore destinations, activities, and attractions.
#3
9.5 / 10
  • Find deals on hotels, flights, and more
  • Plan and book tours all over the world
  • Subscribe for membership and receive 10% off
  • If you find a lower price, they'll match the difference
  • Update travel plans with no change or cancel fees
  • Search over 321,000 hotels worldwide
#4
Our Partner
9.1 / 10
  • Massive amount of listings, over hundreds of websites and 195 countries
  • Competitive rates
  • Comprehensive rating system lets consumers know what they're getting into
  • Minimalistic design helps customers navigate the website effortlessly
  • Mobile app is simple and well designed
#5
8.7 / 10
  • Browse listings in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries.
  • Millions of unique listings, from couches to castles and treehouses.
  • Book lodgings and discover experiences or to engage in while abroad.
  • Connect with a community of world citizens and live as a local would.
  • Read several Airbnb publications on travel, design, and engineering. 
#6
Our Partner
8.6 / 10
  • Huge amount of listings available worldwide in over 127,753 destinations
  • Hotel loyalty program members can filter search results by hotel chain
  • Some of the best deals on the market
  • Excellent 24/7 customer service, support offices in a large number of countries
#7
Our Partner
8.4 / 10
#8
8.1 / 10
  • Browse over 2 million rental properties in over 190 countries
  • Kid and pet-friendly accommodations available
  • Book quickly with instant confirmation
  • Tips, resources, and a convenient mobile app
  • HomeAway's "book with confidence" guarantee
#9
Our Partner
7.9 / 10
  • Uncomplicated, user-friendly rewards program
  • Several payment options, including gift-cards
  • Can find special group rates for events
  • Option to filter search results by neighborhood and landmarks
  • Secret prices help members get even lower rates

 

#10
7.9 / 10
  • Over one million rental listings in over 190 countries.
  • Flexible accommodations and 25,000 pet-friendly properties.
  • Search by price, type, location, features, and booking options.
  • Dedicated customer support and a "book with confidence" guarantee.
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How We Compare Hotels

Customer Experience

30%

A positive customer experience is essential when booking hotels over the internet. Since the customer completes the transaction fully online, without interacting with a service representative, the process must be seamless and straightforward. The website must be user-friendly, and the information that consumers need to complete the transaction must be clear and readily available. Information such as payment options, additional fees, and the site or hotel's cancellation policy should be easy to find, and give users a clear understanding of the processes, without having to read an excessive amount of fine print. Having an app will add to the convenience of the experience, allowing customers to plan and book their trip on the go. Moreover, it is essential for customer service representatives to be available to quickly resolve issues that arise during the booking process by phone, email, or chat.

Payment Options

Most hotel booking sites require that their users pay for their reservation with a credit card. Standard acceptable options include American Express, Visa, MasterCard, debit cards with MasterCard or Visa logos, Discover, and Diners Club. Some hotels allow customers to reserve through the booking site and pay in cash upon arrival.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation policies vary according to each hotel booking website, and are completely separate from a particular hotel's own regulations. Before finalizing a booking, we recommend that consumers look into the site's cancellation policy, making sure they fully understand what is and isn't covered.

Ease of Use

To determine ease of use, we looked at the experience of navigating through the webpage. We took into consideration how easy it was to find sections such as amenities, hotel ratings, FAQs, and cancellation policies, for example.

Customer Support

In order to make sure that their customers can clarify any doubts or worries, and can ask any questions or make claims in the event of an unforeseen event, most booking sites provide 24/7 customer support over various mediums (phone, live chat, email, etc).

Transparency

The internet is rife with horror stories of travelers who booked a reservation on the strength of beautiful, well-lit pictures, only to arrive at their destination and find that reality had zero relation to reality. In the interest of avoiding this nightmare, many websites provide guest reviews, photos, and rankings. We also took into consideration whether the sites had any hidden fees, as this indicates a serious lack of transparency.


Search Options

30%

The variety of search filtering options that are generally available on hotel booking sites can help customers find the perfect property for their needs. When booking a hotel room, potential guests usually look for both tangible and intangible amenities that will make their stay more pleasant. These can include, but are not limited to, Wi-Fi availability, air-conditioned rooms, free airport shuttles, and restaurants on hotel premises. Being able to filter their hotel search by neighborhood, nearby places of interest, and type of property facilitates the selection process by only showing the lodgings that meets the customers’ criteria. Likewise, the option of sorting results by popularity, star rating, or price adds to the convenience when searching and booking rooms.

Amenities

Being able to filter search results by the specific things you'd like included in your stay ensures that your stay will be a pleasant one. Common amenities include A/C, pet-friendly rooms, neighborhood or proximity to places of interest, airport shuttles, on-premise restaurants, beach, pool, or spa.

Type of Property

Though hotel booking sites focus mainly on room reservations, some also offer alternative lodgings, such as condos, private vacation homes, apart-hotels, villa, bed and breakfasts, resort, or hostel/backpacking accommodations.

Regional Specialization

By Regional Specialization, we refer to websites that specialize in a specific geographical area. For instance, a website that offers hotels specifically within Europe or Asia.

Sorting Criteria

Common sorting criteria include price, customer reviews or popularity, distance to the search location, and star rating.

Accesibility

Many booking sites provide a specific sorting criteria for people who have specific needs, such as wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, showers, and rooms.


Value

20%

When planning a vacation and booking a hotel, travelers want to be certain they will get the most value for their money. Thus, online booking sites can be the perfect platform for finding deals from the convenience of one single platform. In addition to the savings that these sites already offer as a matter of course, some of them also provide additional discounts, rewards, coupons, or price match guarantees. Rewards are usually reserved for site members, and are added to their savings at the moment of booking. Sometimes, however, sites do not offer additional discounts, but if consumers spend a few minutes searching online, they might save a bit more. Most booking sites also have price match policies, in which the company will match other offers for the same reservation, if a customer can find it at a lower price. This added benefit ensures that travelers get the best value for their money.

Discounts

One of the main reasons to book reservations through a hotel booking site is the discounts they can offer, often saving a considerable percentage of the standard room rate.

Rewards Programs

Most booking sites have rewards programs for repeat users. Usually, consumers must register on the website, and each successive trip or booking can receive additional discounts or perks. These programs are separate from hotel reward plans, which are only applicable when used with a particular establishment of chain of hotels.


Additional Services

20%

Almost every hotel booking site allows users to bundle their room reservations in with their air, bus, or train travel. Many offer discounted rates for packaged trips. This not only saves money, but also time, allowing consumers to plan and pay for their entire trip from one single website. 

Additionally, it must have a section for customers interested in making reservations for things to do or experiences, many of which also have discounted rates. These can include family-oriented activities, tours, excursions, museum or zoo admissions, lessons, food or drink tastings, nightlife, history, social impact, or wellness. This can not only provide a large pool of ideas to make a trip more memorable, but many sites also provide user reviews in order to help customers choose an experience they can be sure to enjoy. 

Experiences

Experiences can include culturally rich tours, sports-oriented activities such as kitesurfing or white-water rafting, pub crawls, family-friendly events, admission tickets, yoga lessons, wellness seminars, adventure tourism, and day trips. The ability to book experiences through the same site as your hotel room makes the process not only easy, but you may find suggestions you may never even have thought of, and at a discounted rate.


What's important to know about Hotels?


Why use a hotel booking site?

Hotel booking sites make looking for and reserving lodgings an easy, streamlined experience. Booking sites are able to filter through a large selection of features such as amenities—pool, spa, complimentary breakfasts, neighborhood, and high-speed internet—, pet allowances, types of lodging/property, among other things. Booking sites also let you sort their search results by price, distance from the airport, popularity, and star rating. This lets you pick and choose what your priorities are, and tailor your results to your needs.

Hotel booking sites also offer a wide range of room rates discounts. Some even have a price matching system, in which they will equal their price or refund your original hotel booking, if shown a publicly available rate lower than theirs.

Lastly, booking sites are one of the best alternatives for planning a trip from start to finish, as many of them can allow you to search for car rentals and flights that match your dates, aside from your hotel accommodations. A few sites also offer booking for activities and events near your hotel like skiing, concerts, or hiking.

Can I book a hotel without a credit card?

Most hotel booking websites require payment with a credit card. However, many have agreements with the hotels in their network to provide customers with the choice of booking first and then paying once they arrive at the hotel. Booking sites notify customers when a certain hotel from their search results doesn't have a “book now, pay later” policy, requiring guests to pay beforehand, right at the moment of booking. Under those conditions, a credit card would indeed be the only way to pay online.

What do hotel star ratings mean?

Hotel star ratings are a way to know what to expect when he or she goes into a hotel. Generally, star ratings range between 1-5 stars and represent the quality of any given hotel: the overall presentation of the hotel, the types of available facilities, the standard of their customer service, if they have variety in room availability, and their entertainment or activity alternatives, among many other things. For example, a 1-star rating is awarded to lodgings where only the bare minimum expected of a hotel is present. A 5-star hotel, on the other hand, would offer no shortage of luxury, be filled with additional facilities, and have an aura of opulence to it. Naturally this means that the more stars a hotel has, the higher the price tag.

Since there is no global standard for hotel ratings, many countries or regions use their own grading system. In Europe, the European HotelStars Union is in charge of issuing ratings to hotels in 17 countries. Their rating standard is thorough and highly regulated, and is built on a large catalogue of elements that help determine a hotel’s final classification. In the USA, though there is no central rating agency for hotels and other lodging alternatives, an assortment of firms and critics, such as Forbes and Expedia, review the industry and publish their ratings according to their own guidelines.

Do hotel booking sites offer refunds?

Most hotel booking sites do not offer direct refunds. Instead, because responsibility for rooms that are occupied when customers arrive usually falls on the hotel itself, they may offer reimbursements or alternative options to make up for the sticky situation. In the case of natural disasters or other phenomena outside of the hotel’s control, booking sites might be willing to convert the money you spent into credit so you can use it again in the future with them.
An exception to this policy is the refunds that are offered when the booking site has a price-match offer. This means that if a customer books a reservation through the site and then finds the same room for less, the webpage will match that lower price, usually by refunding the difference.

Can I take my pet with me to my hotel?

As pets have become a staple member of the American family, some of the larger hotel chains have opened up to the idea of allowing our furry friends to stay with their owners. Still, some hotels do not allow guests to bring pets with them, caged or otherwise. There is an exception to be made for guide or service dogs, who are of course necessary to those traveling with them by their side.

Many booking site filters let you choose if you want to search exclusively for pet-friendly hotels. The exact definition of “pet-friendly” differs from hotel to hotel however, as many properties will allow them, but with certain restrictions. For example, it's commonplace to let dogs into hotels, but not cats. Pets are also usually not allowed in common areas like restaurants and the pool, and they must never be left unattended in guest rooms either. Moreover, most hotels will charge you an additional “pet-fee” on top of your nightly rate. Make sure to ask your hotel about their pet policy before booking with them if you are considering taking your pet with you.

Do hotel booking sites also offer alternative lodgings?

Many, if not all, hotel booking sites provide search filter options for alternative types of lodging. This means you can use them to find accommodations other than traditional hotel rooms. Vacation rentals, bed & breakfast, condos, villas, resorts, and apartments are some of the most common search options. Other kinds of booking sites specialize in finding these kinds of lodgings and typically provide additional experiences as well, to make the trip as a whole more interactive and fun.