Here are some of the best and most popular sites if you’re looking to book a room for the night, plus a few you’ve probably never heard of.
Hotels.com One of the world’s biggest hotel sites, searching 290,000 hotels worldwide. Listings include links to Tripadvisor reviews and a local map. Constantly tweaks you with prompts that say “five people are looking at this hotel right now”. Are they really? Book 10 nights and you get one night free.
Expedia This big-name site has a vast catalogue of hotels all over the world, and lets you combine them with air flights to save money — though you don’t save much. A handy drop-down menu lists hotels in major cities. Links to Tripadvisor reviews.
Travelocity Another of the major travel sites, with a wide variety of offerings, though the emphasis is on hotels. Lets you build your own package, and supplies both its own hotel reviews and Tripadvisor scores (but no links). Has a comprehensive collection of destination information
Booking.com Claims to search through more than 532,000 hotels, apartments, villas and other types of accommodation. You book through the site but pay the hotel directly when you arrive. Has its own reviews, and a good stock of properties. Also has a mobile app, Booking.com Tonight.
Hipmunk This another generalist site, but its hotel side has a powerful search engine with a great interface. The listing of hotel choices sits side by side with a map that shows the hotel locations and the concentration of restaurants, tourist sights and night life using a “heat map”. It’s also the only U.S. site that shows Airbnb offerings along with the hotels.
Priceline One of the original “auction” sites where you can name your own price and field offers for a hotel room. However, you don’t find out which hotel you’re getting till the auction is over.
Trivago An aggregator site for hotels, Trivago lets you search using a number of criteria including size of the hotel, amenities and type of trip. Results show competing bids and ratings with cute smiley-face icons.
Getaroom Has a good stock of hotels around the world, and includes Tripadvisor ratings. It features flash sales to U.S. cities, and has a 1-800 number that promises unpublished rates that are lower than those online.
Into History A unique site that offers a great selection of historic inns, cottages, hotels and even castles around Europe where you can stay in the lap of history. You can search based on location. your own criteria, or themes such as “historical landmark”, “celebrities” or “tight budget”.
Hotelscombined Surveys 5 million hotel deals and thousands of travel sites to find the best value. This site says it offers the best online price guaranteed or “we’ll refund the difference“. Claims to add no booking fees.
Besttravelcoupon An aggregator site that searches well-known travel sites such as Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com, as well as smaller travel sites and travel agencies.
Room77 Another aggregator site, but with a great-looking interface that shows your hotel choices on a map. Gives frank assessments of each hotel, strategic tips on rooms and location, and in some cases floor plans and views from different rooms. However, only fragmentary user reviews.
AllTheRooms.com This aggregator site claims to offer “every room on the planet”. It searches a wide spectrum of booking sites for hotels, hostels, B&Bs, rent-by-owner sites and homestays. It claims to list 2.4 million homes and apartments and 12,000 cabins, boats and who knows what else.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World The name says it all — this is not for budget travellers. The site searches for small, independent luxury hotels from a list of more than 520 in 70-plus countries.
Stayful Allows you to bid for stays at boutique hotels within the next month. It negotiates with the hotel, then accepts your offer, rejects it or makes a counter-offer.
Cuba Junky A site dedicated to hotels in Cuba. It doesn’t always have the best price compared with the package tour sites, but it’s a good source if you want to do Cuba on your own. Also has good information on the different vacation spots on the island, and an app for finding casas particulares.
Hotel review sites
As well, there’s a few sites that can help you check out the room you’re booking.
Tripadvisor This crowd-sourced hotel review site has grown into a travel essential, and a global giant: it claims to be the largest travel site in the world, owning a herd of other sites. You’ll find reviews for most hotels offered online, with contributors’ photos and tips. Reviews can vary wildly for the same hotel, and there are claims that some are fake. Best strategy: read them all to get an average view.
Oyster.com This Tripadvisor spin-off calls itself the hotel tell-all site. Its scouts do a thorough inspection of hotels, listing all the amenities, the positives and the negatives. Features lots of photos, including the amenities and different types of rooms. Not the most encyclopedic listing — mostly the better-known hotels.
ResortFeeChecker More and more hotels are hitting guests with a resort fee on top of the room rate. This Canadian-based site tracks more than 2,000 hotels around the world, including popular U.S. sun destinations like Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Oahu. For each hotel it reports the fee, what services it covers and what other fees are imposed.
The Bedbug Registry Hate to bring up an icky subject, but some hotels have bugs. This site says it’s devoted to giving travellers and renters “a reliable and neutral platform for reporting their encounters with bed bugs”.