The weather’s getting colder, and that can only mean one thing—you’re already starting to get the travel bug to get away from the winter blues. Well, I’m here to tell you that going on vacation doesn’t have to cost you your first born child and you can get some pretty amazing deals. That is, if you know where to look.
Most people usually use the same search engines to book travel for their entire existence, without branching off and looking at all of the different booking sites out there. The problem with sticking with just one is that each one usually offers something slightly different to their customers, and home owners that rent out their houses will not be using multiple sites to do so. Therefore, it’s important to know what options are available to you and to weed out all possibilities before making a commitment. There’s nothing worse than booking your holiday only to find it a lot cheaper a few weeks later.
You may be wondering: which websites do you speak of? I thought that Airbnb and Booking.com were the only suitable options? How do I know where to find them? Well the good news is that I’ve done all the work for you! Which site you use depends on your style of travel, how far in advance you are booking, and which destination you are travelling to. There is no best hotel booking site out there, but there is definitely one that is best suited to you.
Booking.com is a quite popular option that is most widely used in Europe, since the company is based in Amsterdam. However, there are deals for pretty much every destination in the world, so it shouldn’t be pushed aside whilst planning your next trip.
Their millions of listings include hotels, homes, apartments, budget backpacker accommodation, and many other unique places to stay across 230 countries. You can get some pretty amazing deals on this site, especially last minute or in off-season.
Agoda is a great site that can save you a ton of money on hotels, resorts, hostels, homes and more. You can get savings up to 80% off, with free cancellation on most rooms. You can also book a hotel room without paying a cent, allowing you to pay upon arrival. There is also a page featured on the website that shows you the day’s top deals in destinations around the globe. You can also search for flights and airport transfer options on Agoda.
TripAdvisor is a very well-known by many, as you’ve probably visited the site’s forum when googling a travel question or looking up a review for a hotel or restaurant. Because of this feature, it’s a great way to read a number of reviews from past visitors before you book it for yourself. Once you have found a spot with raving reviews, you can easily book it on the site.
TripAdvisor is not only great for booking hotels, but also with restaurant reservations, flights, and excursions.
RoomKey gives its members access to loyalty rates from 60+ hotel chains. While you are paying a fee to join the loyalty club, in reality you are saving a ton of money on luxury hotel chains, since the website compares more hotel brands than any other travel site.
The site also allows you to book directly with the hotel at the discounted price, which avoids any problems that might arise by booking with a third party.
You can also rack up points from booking hotels which can give you an even bigger discount when you cash them in.
HotelsCombined is a search engine that produces more than 2 million deals from hundreds of travel sites and hotels. The company prides itself on ensuring there are no booking fees or big markups that a lot of other sites seem to have—because who likes hidden fees?
The site also provides a number of hotel reviews and rating from external sites, so you can see all of the reviews in one place and make your decision quicker and easier.
Hotels.com is based in the U.S., but offers hotels, B&Bs, condos, and other accommodation options in approximately 19,000 locations. The website offers an exclusive deal where you book 10 nights and get 1 night completely free, which makes them stand out from other hotel booking sites.
It’s a no-brainer if you are booking accommodation for an extended period of time, because who doesn’t like free stuff? They also offer a top-rated mobile app that makes booking on the go, easier than ever.
Priceline was once a bidding site where you could ‘name your price’ and snag some amazing deals on hotels, car rentals, cruises, and flights. Although they got rid of this auction feature on their site, however they will refund a flight or room if you happen to find a cheaper deal, since they are confident they have the lowest price possible.
The site also offers its customers a Priceline Rewards Visa Card, with a $50 credit to use after your first purchase.
Calling all budget backpackers! HostelWorld is a great website where you can compare thousands of backpacker accommodations, with booking on their mobile app throughout your trip as easy as ever.
The best part about HostelWorld is that each hostel is rated on a number of factors including location, staff, cleanliness, and atmosphere—so each place has a rating out of 10.
Because of this handy tool, it is so easy to find the right place for you to ensure you have the best stay possible. You can read past reviews, see where the hostel is located, and browse their amenities.
Groupon is for all of the crazy coupon ladies in us. You can score up to 70% off vouchers on activities, spa services, restaurants, fitness classes, and of course a number of accommodation options. The website offers a lot of ‘packages’, meaning you can find all exclusive resort accommodations at a huge discount.
Some of these deals sell out extremely fast due to popularity, but there are still a ton of different options to go around. For pretty much any good or service you want to buy—you should check Groupon first!
Airbnb is a very well-known option that offers accommodation through individual’s homes, where you are dealing directly with the homeowner at all times. Anyone can offer their home on Airbnb, which means there are a ton of unique options to choose from in thousands of locations.
The best part about Airbnb is since you are booking with a local host, you are usually provided with a very local experience with from the homeowner and personalised tips. AND you get a $40 credit for just signing up!
Similar to Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) offers over 2 million rentals worldwide, focusing on entire homes and apartments. From beach houses to a cabin in the woods, this site offers a ton of different options depending on what you’re looking for. Why book a hotel room when you can have an entire place for yourself? AND at a cheaper price?
VRBO is a no brainer when looking for a home rental for a big group of people, or simply a quaint apartment for your weekend away.
Booking a hotel last minute? Well, that’s pretty much exactly what LateRooms was made for. While the company is based in the UK, it offers accommodation globally. You can get good deals as late as the day of your stay, but can also book far in advance and still get a discount.
No need to be stressed out if you don’t have a place to stay for a night—you don’t have to fork out an arm and a leg to get great accommodation options last minute.
Another great place to look for last minute accommodation, HotelTonight makes it extremely easy to find a hotel room for the night wherever you are. The website’s iPhone app makes searching for a place so easy, since it tracks your location and knows the best places to suggest.
You can book a hotel within minutes and be there a few minutes later, which is something that makes a world of difference when you are scrambling to find a bed for the night. With HotelTonight, they make the process as painless as possible!
Looking for a truly unique local experience? Homestay helps you find the perfect host family to stay with in your destination of choice, usually staying in the host’s house with them in the spare room.
It’s more of an experience than just merely a place to sleep, with the hosts doing more than just handing over the keys. Most hosts genuinely want you to feel welcome and want to help you settle into their city. It’s a great budget option and is especially good for a solo traveller who wants some interaction.
HomeAway is actually owned by the same company as VRBO, so they follow the same concept of focusing on vacation rentals. However, HomeAway is on a much bigger scale, with many more accommodation options, while VRBO is ideal for travellers looking for kid and pet-friendly rentals (since most are houses with a backyard). Comparatively, HomeAway provides anything from a chic downtown apartment to a waterfront beach house.
Whatever type of rental you are looking for, chances are HomeAway has a few options.
Couchsurfing is a way to meet and stay with locals from all other the world. It is less of an accommodation option and more of a community, with the idea being to stay with a local and get to know them and the city they reside in.
It’s a great option if you are a solo traveller who wants to meet people whilst saving a bit of money, since there is no expectation to give any payment. Instead, you have the chance to spend time with a local tour guide where you can get the lay of the land, cook a local meal, and converse in some great conversation.
9 Trusted Housesitters
Yes, there is actually a way to stay in accommodation without paying a penny. Trusted Housesitters allows you to stay in someone’s house in exchange for feeding their pets, watering the plants, and generally watching over the house while they are away. There are houses all over the world to browse, view references, and look at photos.
You generally have to go through a thorough screening process (after all, you are staying in a stranger’s house), but it’s worth it when you get free accommodation in an amazing destination.
Ever wanted to visit California? Well, maybe someone who resides there would like to stay in your Italian villa for the week. HomeExchange is a website that allows you to swap houses with another individual, with listings in 150+ countries. Cool, huh?
You essentially create a profile, send and receive inquiries from other members, and then you can work out an exchange with the other member directly. The website charges a yearly fee, but the savings far outweigh that cost.
This website offers high-end resort timeshare rentals for up to 70% off, and you can also find timeshares for sale if you are interested in buying. You can also sign up for last minute deal notifications, where the website will email you when good deals pop up.
You can browse check-in dates within 60 days or less and not worry about not finding a good deal (depending on if it’s high season or not). There is a huge amount of properties in the U.S., as well as many other locations.
Another great website for the budget traveller, Hostelz provides the largest hotels database on the web. They include direct phone and website contact information for hostels in the listings, something that other hostel databases do not include. They also pride themselves on having the best genuine reviews, not allowing the hostels to censor their own reviews. Good or bad, you’ll get the right information.
The reviews also allow those who have stayed to add their own photos, so that you can see what the place really looks like on a typical day.
Tingo is a new player to the game and is geared towards those who like to book their vacation well in advance. The idea is that when you book your accommodation early, you will get money refunded to you if the hotel rates happen to drop. That way, you don’t have to worry about looking too early and not getting a deal, because either way you will be getting the cheapest price possible!
The site was introduced by TripAdvisor, so you know it’s the real deal in getting a good deal.
Jetsetter is more than just a website to find a cheap hotel room, it’s a platform which showcases trip ideas, travel stories, and cuisine recommendations via their online blog. You can browse articles such as ‘Summer 2018’s Best Flight Deals to Europe’ and ‘Affordable Thanksgiving Flights You Can Score Now’, and then make your travel arrangements accordingly.
Their website has a very sleek and clean design, so you can be rest assured their hotel room choices will be on par.
VillasInternational is the place to go if you are renting a villa or luxury accommodation (so basically, if you’re Kim K). It’s the second oldest international vacation rental company in the U.S., therefore they are a little on the dated side. However, their years of experience means that they know how and where to find the best spots, and hopefully get you an epic deal as well.
It definitely doesn’t hurt to check out your options and branch off from the usual Airbnb, which can sell out quickly since it is such a popular website.
Expedia is a very well-known place to book anything from cheap flights to holiday homes, but a lot of people surpass big names because they think it will cost them more money. The truth is, you can get a lot of different types of deals on Expedia, including their ‘last-minute deals’ section of the website that gives you the absolute best deals in the coming weeks.
You can create the ideal trip without planning months in advance, because following your sudden travel impulses is highly encouraged!
While this isn’t a hotel search engine, it’s a unique way to save money on accommodation. Workaway is a site that facilitates fair exchange between budget travellers seeking a cultural experience and local families, NGOs, schools, and other communities.
The idea is that you volunteer your time for a couple hours a day in exchange for a place to stay, a home cooked meal, and the opportunity to learn something new. There are a range of different activities you can get involved in, and you will leave with new knowledge and a gained respect for a different lifestyle or culture.