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The best hotel booking sites

To the point What is the best hotel booking site to consult? Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Trivago, Hotwire or Airbnb?

On the milesopedia facebook group, Frank asked a question that got a lot of responses:

I would like to know what are the best sites for booking hotels without using our points (I keep them for flights)… I use Hotwire, Expedia, Trivago… any other suggestions?

To begin with, let’s develop the advantages of buying your hotel nights, before comparing hotel reservation sites.

 

Why pay for your hotel room

To earn points

For rewards program junkies like us, there is a benefit to paying for your hotel room. This way, we can earn points through our stay and take advantage of promotions!

marriott rewards avantages
Benefits of booking with Marriott as a Marriott Bonvoy member

Also, by using the credit card linked to the hotel’s rewards program, you will be able to earn more points!

In Canada, there are 2 rewards programs offering credit cards:

bonvoy aec2

  • Best Western Rewards through the Best Western Rewardscard , which earns 5 Best Western Rewards points for every $1 in eligible purchases at a Best Western property

mbna best western rewards card

I detail in this article my strategy on how to easily earn points through the application bonuses offered by these cards.

And on these two pages, you will find a presentation of the two cards:

To assert its status

By booking directly with the hotel, you will get the benefits of your status. At Marriott Bonvoy for example, as a Platinum member, you are entitled to free breakfast at most hotels.

jw marriott phu quoc pdj 82
JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa – Breakfast

A benefit that can save you tens or even hundreds of dollars!

the st regis bahia beach resort puerto rico 101

While booking with a third party site for a stay in a chain hotel, you will not be able to take advantage of your status, in the vast majority of cases. In fact, in order to encourage guests to book directly at the hotel, the hotel gives them advantages. This prevents them from giving a commission to the third party site.

In an attempt to obtain a status

Frequent travelers are well advised to stay in hotels belonging to the same group (Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton, Best Western…). Thus, they earn nights that eventually allow them to reach a higher status.

Best price guarantee

Most major hotel groups have a best price guarantee policy: if you find a cheaper price elsewhere within a certain time frame, you will get a compensation gesture.

Marriott Best Rate Guarantee
Marriott Best Rate Guarantee

As Caroline notes:

With Marriott Bonvoy, we have the guarantee Look No Further of the same price -25%. It happened to me 2 times recently to book with Marriott, make 2 requests because I had seen the same room at a lower price on the sites above and to have them accepted. So it costs you even less! For example, a $141 room on Marriott, seen at $139 on Hotels.com and that Marriott makes me at $104!

Shopping around and seeing price differences is a good way to save on your hotel room. You can even choose between this discount or 5,000 Marriott Bonvoy points! Simply fill out the form to claim the Best Rate Guarantee. Remember that the analysis of your best price guarantee will be done within 24-48 hours after booking. Therefore, the price may fluctuate slightly.

Marriott Best Rate Guarantee Terms
Marriott Best Rate Guarantee Terms

Paying for your hotel room with an online reservation site

In the jargon, they are called OTA for Online Tourism Agency. That is to say, online travel agencies that essentially market tourist/travel services provided by third parties. There are hundreds of them so the most famous are: hotels.com, booking.com, Expedia, Hotwire and Airbnb!

We are not talking about hotel groups here. The vast majority of the hotel offer is present on these sites. Booking.com is certainly the one that offers the greatest variety of accommodations. From palaces to Bed & Breakfasts, youth hostels or consumers rentals, you will find everything!

Here is a testimony from Julie on the Facebook group:

I always book on Booking.com! But I must say that I am not very “hotel” either. In Bali it was ONLY through Booking.com and for my trip to Morocco this summer only through Booking.com too! The advantage is that you pay once on the spot (so no deposit or payment in full at the time of booking (like Expedia for example), and that you can cancel without charge up to 1 to 7 days before your arrival, which leaves you flexibility (…) I don’t like to stay in big hotels, I prefer smaller places, closer to the local population

Let’s take a look at the caractéristiques each of these sites by doing a booking test in Montreal:

On the Marriott website, this hotel is listed at $383.18 including taxes for Marriott Bonvoy members (free registration).

The hotel reservation website : Hotels.com

hotels logo logotypeIt is undoubtedly the best known… it must be said that the domain name helps greatly to its popularity!

Hotels. com is actually owned by another major player in the industry… Expedia, which also owns Trivago!

expedia inc group
The Expedia Group

The rates will therefore be mostly identical between all these platforms.

Hotels.com Rewards Program

Hotels.com sets itself apart from the competition by offering a rewards program: Hotels.com Rewards. This program is very simple to understand.

Accumulate 10 nights, receive 1 as a reward:

hotels com rewards
10 nights purchased = 11th night free

The value of your reward night is equal to the average price of the 10 nights you have accumulated. The advantage? No date restrictions, you choose the hotel where you really want to spend your reward night!

Hotels com Accumulate
Hotels com Accumulate
Hotels com Exchange
Hotels com Exchange

This is a formula that Michel appreciates very much:

I use Hotels.com a lot because of their rewards program which ultimately gives a 10% discount (11th night free). They also equalize prices, but I have never used them. To note: when you are registered they present “secret prices” lower than those posted to all.

Secret” prizes for members

In addition to this rewards program, Hotels.com offers secret prizes only for members.

hotels com prix secrets
Secret prices for hotels.com members

Our test hotel on hotels.com

Our test hotel costs $403.43 including taxes on hotels.com, about $20 more than on Marriott.com.

Château Champlain with Hotels.com
Château Champlain with Hotels.com

 

  • Benefit: You earnone night in the Hotels.com Rewards program.
  • Disadvantage: you will not be able to obtain the benefits of your Marriott Bonvoy status or earn points for your stay (and take advantage of ongoing bonuses)

 


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Our opinion on hotels.com

The hotels.com rewards program makes a difference. It’s like getting a 10% discount on each of your nights, which is not insignificant.

On the other hand, for the big chains (Marriott, Hilton, Best Western…) do not expect to make a bargain: the price will be identical or higher than the one proposed by the chain.

Recommended use of hotels.com: Non-chain hotels or hotels where you do not have status or do not wish to earn points (hotels.com’s rewards program will be more beneficial).

The hotel reservation site: Booking.com

logo booking comBooking.com has a wide range of offers. The site is particularly well established in the most remote areas as well.

Like Hotels.com, Booking.com is in the same group as other booking platforms such as Priceline, Agoda or Kayak.

booking holding

Again, the prices will be similar between these different sites.

Previously, Booking.com had a referral system. This allowed for rewards to be received. But, of sponsorship program ended on October 15, 2019.

Beware of taxes

Depending on the country, the price will be indicated including all taxes… or not! Be sure to check the terms and conditions to see what is included and what is not included to avoid any inconvenience once you are there.

Our test hotel on booking.com

Our booking.com hotel costs $403.41 including taxes, a few cents less than Hotels.com. But it is more expensive than a direct booking on the Marriott Bonvoy website.

Château Champlain with Booking.com
Château Champlain with Booking.com

Our opinion on booking.com

Booking. com has a similar price to the other third-party sites in our test. However, it does not have a rewards program like hotels.com. On the other hand, it offers a much greater variety of accommodations than the entire competition.

Recommended use of booking.com: hotels / accommodations outside of large chains.

Booking with Airbnb

When I can’t use points for hotels, I’m increasingly using Airbnb instead of any hotel. Maybe it’s because we have kids and the accommodations Airbnb offers provide all the comforts of home.

airbnb featured

Just because you rent an apartment doesn’t mean you’re completely out of the rewards program!

In fact, many credit cards allow you to apply points to travel expenses… like Airbnb!

This is the case for the Scotia Rewards program with the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card

scotia passport visainfinite fre

…or the American Express Membership Rewards program with a card like the American Express Cobalt™ Card.

american express cobalt card

Here, to offset the $454.41 Airbnb expense, I would need to use 45,441 American Express Membership Rewards offered by the American Express Cobalt™ Card.

airbnb points privileges

Find out on this page why the American Express Cobalt card is the travel hacker’s favorite credit card !

Use your travel points… for this type of reservation

Some travel points rewards programs will allow you to apply your points to travel bookings made on any of these travel sites. Examples include Scene+ and American Express Membership Rewards…. in the same way as reservations on Airbnb.

So this can be a backdoor way to still use points!

For other rewards programs such as BMO Rewards, you can use your points directly on the booking site, which are mostly managed by the big players in the market such as Expedia. The price will therefore be the same as what you could find elsewhere.

All the more reason to apply for for the BMO World Elite card , especially when it’s on special offer with the first year’s fee and many points!

Conclusion

The offer of all these sites is vast. But in the end, there are only a few players who share the hotel reservation market. In addition, the prices are ultimately very similar.

Hyacinth sums it up well on the group:

Preferably, I always book directly with the hotel. Then I look at prices elsewhere to see if I can beat the price offered by the direct hotel. Most offer a best price guarantee so if you find a better price elsewhere, the hotel may offer you a discount.

It will be up to you to make your “small calculations” in function:

  • your status within the different hotel groups
  • bonus points that you could get with a direct booking with the hotel
  • the place of your stay
  • the type of your stay (professional, personal, with family, friends…)

And as Sylvain rightly points out

You should also know that you will always get the best rooms by booking with the hotel directly, especially if you make specific requests. It is quite well known in the hotel business that “Expedia” customers are given the most ordinary rooms. Booking comes second (because we usually pay at the beginning). Hoteliers always favor their good customers and that is perfectly honorable!

Feel free to join the discussion in the Facebook group on this topic, which is very lively !

Cards to obtain numerous points and/or statuses in hotels

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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