When do you book directly through the hotel and when do you book through a third party site? In this day and age, what are the best hotel booking sites when there are so many to choose from?
This is a subject that sometimes gets people a little confused! The answer is, it depends on what your objective is. Let’s dive in and I’ll explain.
the pros and cons
So, let’s start with the obvious. When you don’t book directly with the hotel or through their website, you will not receive points for your stay. And even if you hold status with that hotel, they generally will not recognize or let you reap any of the benefits associated with your status (ie: lounge access, free breakfast, free wifi, etc.) if you book through a third party site.
Even though that can be a bummer, there are times when it’s more beneficial to book through “third party” sites like Expedia or RocketMiles.
Here are some of the reasons you might choose a third party booking site versus direct booking:
- The cost of the room is less
- You are receiving reward points from the third party rewards program
- You want to earn other types of points (ie: airline points) instead of hotel loyalty points
Best Third Party Hotel Booking Sites
I’ve broken the best (in my opinion) third party sites down into demographic locations so it will be easier to digest and maybe less confusing.
A need to know fact is for the most part 2 companies own this market.
Expedia and Priceline own most of the “discount” or “third party” sites so you are going to get about the same deal no matter which you book from.
- Trip Advisor
Though these sites are owned by the same company, some of them are incredibly more useful than others especially when it comes to research.
I generally like to begin with Tripadvisor.com. I prefer their layout. It’s easy to quickly scout out the approximate cost of a hotel room and initial reviews. I also like Tripadvisor because it rates the hotels in each city.
Granted, some reviews can be bogus but it can definitely be useful If you are going somewhere unfamiliar. It just gives you something to gage where you might want to stay for the night.
If you are looking to earn some quick blocks of points, then Rocketmiles could be for you. You can choose which airlines you want points for and depending on length of stay and cost of hotel, points earned are assigned.
There are several things you should know before booking with Rocketmiles:
- It is an advance purchase rate which means you cannot get a refund if you can’t stay for your booked night(s).
- The rates at Rocketmiles can sometimes be a little more than a rate you can find elsewhere on the internet.
It is worth noting that a big block of miles can contribute heavily to your next dream trip (using airline miles to travel for free!) It’s pretty much up to you whether it’s worth it to incur the extra cost to get a big block of miles.
If you want to learn about how to go on your dream trip for less, check out my FREE 5 Day Bucket List Travel Challenge here!
If you are travelling internationally, the following are what I use.
Japan – Rakuten
Europe and South America – Booking.com
Australia – If you live or are visiting Australia, Wotif or Travelpony are my two best recommendations.
Asia – If you are travelling or living in Asia, Agoda is the best app to use for hotel bookings.
Hotels.com has their own rewards program and can definitely be a good way to go if you like to stay at a lot of different hotel brands. It’s pretty simple to navigate and I have always found their customer service to be very helpful.
For every 10 nights you stay at any participating hotel in the Hotels.com network, you get 1 Free night to use at ANY participating hotel. The value of the Free night is based on the average price of your past 10 stays. Pretty easy, right?
I also really like Booking.com. Rates may not be less than other sites but I have found that they have more room configurations (ie: queen, king, etc.) available than other comparable sites. That can be really helpful when travelling with more than 1 or 2 people in your group.
Best Hotel Booking Sites for Last Minute
I like to use Hotel Tonight or Hotels.com (Ebates– who is now rebranding to its parent company name Rakuten, gives you 4% cash back so it is my preference!) for last minute bookings. If you haven’t already, sign up for Rakuten for free here and get a bonus $10 off of your first $25 purchase!
“Everyone loves cash back, right?!”
One last tip!
As mentioned in my recent post about booking hotels for less, one of my best kept secrets is to call the hotel directly. Choose the front desk option NOT reservations. That routes you straight to the hotel and you can usually negotiate a better price with the front desk agent before you arrive.
What are your favorite sites to book on? Let me know in the comments below!