Gone are the days when travel agents booked the hotels for us.
These days, most travellers make their own arrangements. Thanks to the proliferation of hotel comparison sites (and some added push from Airbnb), prices are lower than ever.
On top of that, when you make your bookings with the right credit card, it's bonus galore as you can rack up more air miles, cashback and reward points for your next trip.
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To get you started, here are some of the top sites for getting good hotel deals:
Agoda was once regarded as the booking site for Asia, as they started with a big network of participating hotels in our half of the world.
These days, it is more international, and the whole “Asia specialist” angle has been expanded to a global perspective.
Agoda often ran a close second to Hotels.com when it came to finding the cheapest accommodations. Agoda, like Hotels.com, seems to include many accommodations that are not actually hotels; you can find hostels and motels here as well.
One notable feature is the use of secret deals. These are the most heavily discounted rooms Agoda can find, but there’s a condition: the name of the hotel remains anonymous until you make a booking.
What makes Agoda stand out is the ease of use. The site can automatically update you via email if there are changes to hotel prices. This comes in handy if you want to lurk and watch hotel prices for a trip that’s months down the road.
Agoda also has a map-based system like Trivago’s, so you can make sure your hotel isn’t too far off the main roads and attractions.
Book via Agoda
We’ve covered Expedia as an airline booking site, and much of what we have to say about Expedia’s hotel bookings is similar.
Expedia stands out because of its rewards schemes. It currently has a tie in with two of the top air miles credit cards, the UOB PRVI Miles American Express Card and UOB PRVI Miles World Mastercard. Every dollar spent on an Expedia booking, through these cards, gives you six bonus miles.
Expedia itself has three rewards tiers:
- Blue, which is automatically given when you create your account
- Silver, which is given after you spend $5,000 on Expedia, or stay seven nights in selected hotels
- Gold, which is given after you spend $10,000 on Expedia, or stay 15 nights in selected hotels
Expedia reward points can be used to get hotel vouchers, plane tickets, and various special deals. These reward points also overlap with any credit card rewards.
With repeat bookings and points accumulation, Expedia can result in bigger long-term savings than the other sites.
Best comparison sites for cheap flights (2018)
Rewards aside, search results on Expedia often found middle-of-the-range prices. Expedia searches were rarely the most expensive, but also rarely the cheapest.
Book via Expedia
Hotels.com consistently provided the lowest prices in our searches. Whatever site we compared it to, Hotels.com somehow found a way to beat it by at least a dollar or two. We even found some rooms priced at $44 per night, something none of the other sites managed.
What’s the trick? If we had to guess, it's because Hotels.com seems to have a wider range of accommodation types. Some of the search results weren’t really hotels, for example, but locally run Bed and Breakfasts.
Hotels.com also has a very straightforward rewards scheme: stay 10 nights, get one night free (in one of their member hotels). This can be redeemed over multiple trips, so it lowers your costs even more.
Book via Hotels.com
Orbitz seems to be the best connected out of the comparison sites. There are simply more hotels available at different price ranges, compared to many of the site’s counterparts.
Besides the variety, Orbitz has a rewards program that can give Expedia a run for its money. You get silver status membership as soon as you join, gold status membership with just four nights stay per year, and platinum status for 12 nights stay per year.
Membership gives you access to special deals (based on your membership tier), which sometimes gives you small rebates for bookings.
You also get Orbucks which are reward points that you can trade for hotel vouchers and room upgrades.
While Orbitz doesn’t always return the cheapest results, the bookings can become the cheapest when combined with the rewards programs.
Book via Orbitz
Yes, Skyscanner. While it’s more well known for its comprehensive flight booking system, Skyscanner has gone the extra mile and integrated hotel booking and car rental within the user flow.
The meta-search engine does more than crawl through the best rates from hotels’ main websites. Once a search is performed, the returned results also include from other hotel booking sites such as Hotel.com and Expedia.
This essentially gives you an advantage in confirming whether the reported rates from the other sites are as accurate and affordable as it should be.
The downside to this? You’re going to be even more nitpicky with the hotel prices. It’s not exactly a bad thing if you are very budget-conscious and have the time to plow through all the options.
But for someone who wants a fuss-free option and just click through with a guaranteed low price, you have your work cut out for you.
Book via Skyscanner
We’ll start with the bad: Trivago was almost never the cheapest, when we compared room rates.
That said, Trivago’s map feature is one of the most useful things we’ve found. Trivago’s map shows you all the hotels in a specific area – and you can use a filter that identifies the ones with the biggest markdowns.
This is great if you have a planned itinerary, as you can ensure the hotel is near key landmarks.
There is one area where Trivago doesn’t lose out with pricing though. We noticed that, if you compare prices between higher-end hotels (e.g. four-star hotels that tend to reach $200 or above a night), Trivago becomes very competitive next to other sites.
We sometimes found hotels at $220 to $260 per night on other sites, that Trivago somehow managed to bring down to $180.
It’s only when comparing between the cheapest hotels that Trivago seems to lose its edge.
Book via Trivago
Getting ready for your next holiday
Booking for your hotel stay is just part of the preparation process. To ready yourself for a fun-filled, fuss-free holiday, you'll need to get quite a few things in order.
Annual vs single-trip travel insurance - how to choose the right plan
Travel survival guide - what to do if you’re robbed while abroad
Travel survival guide - what to do if you’re injured while abroad
Best car rental comparison sites for your next road trip (2018)
Most importantly, we've got you covered where it really matters.
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Additional text by Seow Tein Hee