Last Updated: 8/28/23 | August 28th, 2023
As much as I love hostels, there is something nice about the luxuriousness of a hotel: the clean room, comfy bed, desk, iron, strong shower, and bottled soap for the taking (errr…I mean borrowing). They are a quiet, relaxing respite from the world.
But luxury comes at a price.
Hotels aren’t cheap and I hate spending money on a room I am only going to be in for a few hours. It’s why I mostly avoid hotels — I don’t think they are a good use of money. I would much rather stay in a hostel, which costs less, has more social interaction, and doesn’t make you feel as removed from the destination you’re staying at. (I always feel hotels are isolating, like a concrete bubble keeping out the place you’re visiting.)
Way back in 2014, I was staying in a lot of hotels and decided to see if I could find the best hotel booking site on the web.
The conclusion? Well, there wasn’t really a great conclusion. Some sites were better than others depending on location and hotel class but there was no clear winner.
I decided to do another search to try to find the best site to book a hotel in 2018. This time the clear winner was Booking.com.
Though it didn’t return the largest number of total places, Booking.com returned the largest number of cheap places — and that’s the most important thing for budget travelers. The second-best hotel booking website was Agoda, which had a lot of results, though its strong suit was in Asia.
Fast forward to today. What’s the best booking site now? Google.
But, Matt, how can Google be the best hotel booking site when it’s a search engine?
Well, let me explain!
How to Book Cheap Hotels
Here is how to find the cheapest hotel in one simple step:
Go to Google and type in where you want to go. For example, “New York City hotels.”
That’s it. Google will pull results from all the major booking websites and tell you what site is the cheapest. You just go there and book your hotel. That’s why it’s the best booking site because, rather than searching every website individually, you can just go to Google, find which website has the cheapest rate, and book there. It saves a lot of time!
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Click on the “View hotels” button at the bottom of the first result section to go to Google’s hotel searching hub.
Next, put in your dates and filters to narrow your search until you find a hotel you like in your price range. You’ll be able to sort by lowest price and look at the map to book by location. You can even see typical pricing trends for your dates by clicking on “what you’ll pay.”
Click on the “view prices” button for a hotel and you’ll be presented with all your booking options. Find the lowest price and head to that website. Just keep in mind that the top results are usually ads, so scroll down to make sure you aren’t missing out on any deals.
Once you’ve found the lowest price, book at that website!
But, before you actually book the room, there are a couple of other hacks you need to know about to ensure you get the best price possible:
1. Contact the hotel directly – Find the hotel, call them up, and ask them to match the offer (they usually will since it saves them on commission). If they are a big global brand, the big benefit to direct bookings is that you only earn loyalty points and status when you book direct, so if you love travel hacking, don’t book their rooms elsewhere!
2. Use discount rates like AAA or AARP – If you are part of the AARP or AAA you can get special rates that are cheaper. Fun fact: Anyone can join the AARP. I’m a member. They have amazing travel benefits (including deals on hotels and British Airways flights). It’s well worth the membership.
3. Use Mr.Rebates or Rakuten – If the lowest rate is through a major booking site like Booking.com, Expedia, or Hotels.com, go through Mr. Rebates or Rakuten. By using their links, you’ll get 1-10% back. It’s a little extra savings that can add up over time. I never do any online shopping without going to these sites (they have deals for everything).
4. Check HotelTonight – This hotel-booking app is perfect for last-minute bookings. If you have a flexible schedule and wait until after 4pm on the day of, you can find hotels as much as 50% cheaper.
5. Book a mystery deal – Both Priceline and Hotwire offer cheaper rates on hotel bookings where you don’t get the full reservation details up front. On Hotwire’s Hot Rates and Priceline’s Express Deals, you’ll see the general neighborhood as well as star rating of the property and amenities offered, just not the exact hotel itself. With Priceline’s Pricebreakers deals, you’ll be guaranteed one of three hotels that they group together (you just won’t know which one until you book). You can save 30-60% off with these deals if you can tolerate a bit of the unknown!
6. Sign up for Booking.com and Hotels.com loyalty programs – Hotels.com and Booking.com offer members 10-20% off bookings. They definitely helped a lot. Before you sign up for their loyalty programs before you book with them!
7. Get discounted gift cards – You can book major hotel chains with hotel gift cards. Check out a website like Giftcardgranny.com for discounted gift cards and use it to book your hotel. (Gift card purchases also count toward point earnings and status.)
8. Buy someone else’s reservation with Roomer – Often people can’t go on a trip and can’t cancel the reservation, so rather than lose the money, hotels put these rooms on Roomer, where they sell it at a discount to earn some money back. I’ve never used this website, but I’ve heard good things about it.
Hotel pricing is a lot more set than airline pricing and tends to fluctuate less. I wouldn’t spend hours searching hotel websites or days tracking prices like people do with airline prices. I’d spend, at the most, 30 minutes on booking a hotel.
Just follow the steps above to get a cheap hotel by using my favorite (and what have been shown to be the best) hotel booking websites listed here so you get a good deal and enjoy your trip quicker.
And if you find yourself staying in a lot of hotels, it might be worth looking into getting a hotel credit card so that you can start earning points towards free stays (free is always better than cheap)!
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.