5 of the best hotel search engines
After so many accommodation bookings over the last few years, we are still not entirely clear about which are the best hotel search engines, or at least we do not have a fixed preference.
Perhaps because there is no such thing as the perfect search engine and in the end it is all about comparison, comparison and comparison.
However, there are several that we go to repeatedly to try to get the first one right. Below we show you (and analyse) a selection of 5 of the meta-search engines and hotel search engines that we like the most. And don’t forget to visit our analysis of 5 of the best flight search engines, 5 of the best car rental search engines and 5 of the best tour, activity and excursion search engines.
A meta-search engine is a search engine. Example: Booking is a famous search engine with its catalogue of hotels, just like Expedia or Destinia. What a meta-search engine, like Kayak, will do is offer us the list of results from Booking, Expedia, Destinia and many other search engines on the same website. Usually a meta-search engine will save us time and allow us to compare prices at a glance.
HotelsCombined is a meta-search engine that has been running since 2005, based in Australia. It is the website we recommend the most, although it is not perfect by far. If you like it, you can also choose Momondo, which uses its search engine and has a perhaps more elegant design.
– In favour: The design of the web is clean and nice. The search engine is simple and practical, with a very effective autocomplete function that includes search by hotel. It offers hundreds of results quickly and allows numerous filters: type of accommodation, services, stars, etc. The list of hotels can be ordered in various ways and can be displayed on a map. Compare between hundreds of search engines and many hotel chains. It is available in more than 40 languages and 220 countries, and prices can be converted to 120 different currencies. Although we have not tested it, they offer a best price guarantee with refund of the difference. They are active on social networks, send email offers and have apps for Android and Apple.
– Against: They show a summary of comments and ratings, but they are not their own, so one has to leave the web to read the reviews on other pages. It offers results from hundreds of search engines, but some interesting ones are missing. It does not always show all the hotels available on a website and the prices do not always correspond to the real ones (although the efficiency is very high). As it is a meta-search engine, we will not be able to make reservations directly on your website; we will always be redirected to the search engine we select. Nor does it have an area for registered users where we can manage our search history, favourite hotels, etc.
Hoteles.com is part of Hotels.com, which in turn belongs to the Expedia group. It is based in Texas and was launched in 1991, at which time it must have been one of the first hotel search engines.
– Pro: Reliable and totally trustworthy. Nice and practical web, without distracting elements. The search box is also very simple and allows the name of a hotel to be entered directly. The results page is very clean and does not lack any of the typical options. Like Booking, it has its own comments (many) and a good file for each hotel. Its loyalty program, Welcome Rewards, allows you to accumulate 1 free night for every 10 bookings. It also has a best price match guarantee and, in addition, supports discount codes. On the other hand, they offer free cancellation for many reservations and, unlike Booking or Agoda, you can pay with Paypal, as well as having a wider variety of cards. Like the previous ones, it does not charge for management or card payment. As a note, it should be noted that they have 2 free customer service numbers in Spain. In terms of figures, Hotels.com is available in 34 languages, more than 60 countries and has some 220,000 hotels. They have apps for Android, Apple and Windows Phone and are very popular on social networks.
– Against: In many comparisons we have made, it loses out to Booking in terms of the number of hotels shown and prices, although the latter could be compensated for by its lower rate policy, the free nights program or discount coupons. As for the results page, we consider somewhat scarce the information you see at first glance in the file of each hotel and we miss the breakdown of room prices. We also do not like the scoring system of the hotels on a scale of 0 to 5, as we understand that a scale of 0 to 10 is more intuitive and accurate.
Booking, founded in 1996 in Amsterdam, is the hotel search engine par excellence. It is one of the most visited websites in the world, has almost 7,000 employees and boasts of selling 550,000 hotel nights every day.
– In favour: The most reliable reservation website. They offer a guarantee of the best price and do not charge management or credit card fees. They have very interesting one-off offers, free cancellation in most hotels and access to the user area with reservation management. The website is very easy to use, with a pleasant design and intuitive navigation. The results of the searches are easy to filter and order, with the possibility of being shown on a map. The hotel files and descriptions of the rooms, services, etc. are very complete. It has customer service in Spanish (in Spain) and is available in 40 languages, also showing hundreds of currencies and offering results in almost 200 countries. The best thing about it is the amount of comments and ratings that its hotels have. They are also present in social networks, send offers by mail and have apps for Android and Apple.
– Contrast: Sometimes they don’t really have the best rates, although this would be compensated by their best price guarantee policy. On the other hand, despite having a great offer of accommodation, they do not have all of them, so they can always stay out of the search for very interesting hotels. There is no possibility of paying through Paypal, there are only a few credit cards to choose from, they do not offer coupons or discount codes and registered users do not have any extra advantages (no points or balance). One issue we will not touch here is whether it is good that Booking is so powerful and what relationship it has with hotels.
Agoda, based in Singapore, is one of the best search engines for hotels specializing in Asia, although it has an impressive range of accommodation worldwide. It was founded in 1998 and currently belongs to the Priceline.com group.
– Pro: Its main advantage over Booking is that it does offer a Points Program, allowing you to accumulate discounts for future purchases. When making a reservation they inform us exactly how much we will save on the next one (between 4% and 7% of the total amount we are paying). It shares, otherwise, most of the advantages of Booking, usually matching it in prices and sometimes exceeding its number of available accommodations. Among the positive points, it is also worth mentioning its lower price guarantee and the fact that it does not include management or card payment charges.
– On the contrary: For our taste the design is a little less clear and pleasant than other search engines. The search results cannot be sorted by price and do not directly show the room rates, but a «from» corresponding to the cheapest room type. It has far fewer customer reviews than Booking and the hotel records are not as detailed. What it does agree with Booking is that it does not provide discount codes and only offers 3 different cards as a method of payment. Finally, the customer service and contact information is not very handy, and they do not have a phone in Spain.
Kayak is another hotel meta-search engine, launched in 2004 from the United States. Long before it became famous for its TV ads we were already using it to search for flights and now we also consult it in our hotel searches. Since 2012 it belongs to Priceline.com.
– Pro: It has the main advantages of a meta-search engine (comparison between hundreds of websites and hotel chains) and also allows you to make purchases without leaving your website (although we are actually booking through partners such as Booking). That’s why, unlike other meta-search engines, they offer user registration and tracking of our reservations, as well as the possibility of receiving personalized alerts. It has, in terms of design and usability, a very clean interface that allows agile navigation. Another interesting detail is that the different searches are stored in separate tabs (like in an internet browser), so we can quickly go from one search to another without having to close any result list. In addition, the hotel tabs are optionally expanded without opening a new window. Finally, Kayak displays hotels that do not have the possibility of online reservation, but shows us the phone number in case we are interested in calling directly.
– Against: Kayak does not store its own opinions either. Although it shows a good summary and several comments in the hotels file, finally we will have to go to Booking to read more reviews. As for the search results, the information about the hotels and room rates are not shown at first sight, forcing us to expand the corresponding tabs for each hotel. Contact information for Kayak, somewhat hidden, is limited to a form (although it’s true that in theory they don’t need more advanced «customer service» since they are not responsible for reservations). And personally, although it may be a minor detail, I hate to uncheck the «compare other sites with Kayak» boxes and I hate even more to forget to do it (annoying new windows open).
After this brief analysis among some of the best hotel search engines (and meta-searches) we came to several conclusions. If what we want is to carry out general, fast searches with a multitude of results to get an idea of the prices of a city or to compare at a glance the rates of various websites for the same hotel, then we will opt for meta-searches such as HotelsCombined, Momondo or Kayak.
If we want to be on the safe side and not complicate our lives, then we can choose Booking directly, a classic of reservations that is usually the final destination of most travelers who are looking for a hotel.
Finally, if we travel frequently and we like to keep a record of our reservations, two very interesting options would be Agoda and Hoteles.com, which reward their registered users with different loyalty programs (accumulation of small discounts in the case of Agoda and free nights in the case of Hoteles.com).
And remember that the world of accommodation does not end at the hotels. Although these search engines usually also include some pensions, hostels, bed & breakfasts and other types of accommodation, we will rarely find hostels, bungalows, rural houses, campsites, private apartments or other more alternative options.
If you have read this far, we hope you will encourage you to leave a comment with your top 5 or your opinion.