We all want to get the best deal on hotel bookings. It’s just common sense. The more we save, the more we can spend on other things. To help you find the best deal we made a shortlist of the best hotel booking site. But before I get into that…

The hotel booking industry is like a very small village where everyone is related. Most of the ‘competition’ is artificial. To put that into figures, 95% of online bookings in the US are made through just two companies.  Here’s a graphic with the various holdings of Priceline Group and Expedia Inc.

I could have included Hostelworld Group in the graphic (they own hostelworld.com, hostels.com and hostelbookers.com). You could say they run the hostel niche. And that’s the thing, when you search on Google for almost any hotel related term you’re choosing between just two companies who create price variations to make different branches of the same company look more attractive (or am I being too cynical?)…

At this stage you might be left wondering, does it really make a difference who I use? This is where the loyalty programs that the booking engines run come into play. For frequent travellers the programs normally offset the small fluctuations in price between the different booking platforms.

So the real question for most travellers is what site has the best loyalty program. Well here’s my top 5 list of the best hotel booking sites.

My 5 Favorite Hotel Booking Sites

1: Agoda

I use Agoda for all my hotel bookings. It’s the sister site of Booking. In most ways the sites are identical. Agoda and Booking have a huge range of hotels, though you get more customer feedback and better photos on Booking. The loyalty programs are also very similar. One big difference is that you can pay up front with Agoda. More about that in a bit…

2: Hotels Combined

Hotels Combined is one of the only large independent booking platforms online. It’s a price comparison site that aggregates results from different booking platforms letting you choose the hotel for the best price. If you don’t travel often Hotels Combined is the best hotel booking platform online. They’re also a good bet for more isolated places.

3: Hotels

The reward program for Hotels is a bit like the one you’ll find in Starbucks. If you book 10 nights through Hotels you’ll get one night for free. It’s a nice touch that offers clear benefits for regular travellers. They also offer special prices and other similar incentives for people on their reward program. While I don’t use hotels.com, I think it’s one of the best hotel booking sites.

4: Booking

Ironically Booking is my favorite hotel booking platform. I like the layout, the photos are great and you’ll find lots of reviews by travellers. What I don’t like is the booking system. For much of the world you’ll see the cost of the hotel in the local currency and then get a receipt in dollars. The hotel will then use it’s own exchange rate to charge you in the local currency, which inevitably makes your room between $3-$10 more expensive per night.

If you have the energy, use Booking to review the hotel and a second booking platform to make the reservation. It will save you money in the long run.

5: AirBnB

Ok. So AirBnB is not a hotel-booking site… Yet I use it a lot. AirBnB is one of the best (and often cheapest) booking sites for much of Africa and it’s competitive when you’ve got the budget to book more expensive accommodation. If you’ve never used AirBnB before you can get a $25 discount on your first booking using this link. I’ll get some referral credits if you make a booking and you’ll save some money.

Final Thoughts

You’ll find a lot of articles online recommending one hotel booking platform over another. I hope that I’ve shown you, that with only three big players in the industry, there’s not a big difference between most of them. Though there are differences between the platforms, it’s worth picking one and sticking with it if you’re a regular traveller. Otherwise Hotels Combined is a good option.

Do you have a favorite hotel booking site? Did I miss something from the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.