Best hotel booking sites – and the cheapest

Looking for a cheap hotel stay? Our research shows it’s often cheaper to book directly – provided you’re willing to pick up the phone. However, Which? members who use hotel booking sites rate Booking.com the best of the platforms. 

Booking.com topped our table of accommodation booking sites with a 73% customer score. It also gained four-star ratings for how easy a site is to use (functionality) and how transparent it is over fees. 

However, when we compared the cost of 30 overnight stays across nine different booking and comparison websites, Booking.com found the best price just once. 

Calling the hotels directly secured us the cheapest price on 15/30 occasions. This was the best way to find bargains.

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Best accommodation/hotel booking sites 

Members of the Which? Connect panel were asked about booking sites they used between September 2021 to September 2023. Accommodation survey results based on 3,008 experiences. A dash (-) in the table means not enough responses to give a rating.

Our snapshot pricing research

Best hotel booking site overall: Booking.com

Customer score: 73%

Booking.com was the only accommodation booking site to gain more than three stars for functionality. It also got four out of five for transparency, so you shouldn’t be stung by hidden extras. But it did badly in our pricing analysis. It’s a shame, given that Booking.com is the best-rated accommodation booking website overall. It’s clear then that a good site and a cheap site don’t always go hand in hand. But join Booking.com’s free Genius program, and you get 10% off thousands of properties. 

 Should you book? Easy to use, but direct is better for price.

Search for hotels and accommodation on Booking.com

Second best accommodation/hotel booking site: Airbnb

Customer score: 71%

For apartments, lodges, villas, shepherd’s huts and everything in between, Airbnb is a solid choice. Filters help holidaymakers find flexible stays and the four-star ‘description matching reality’ rating means you’re unlikely to turn up at your Airbnb accommodation and be disappointed.

Which? verdict: Plenty of choice for quality holiday rentals anywhere in the world. 

Search for accommodation on Airbnb

Third best hotel booking site: Hotels.com 

Customer score: 70%

The other big-name hotel booking site is a subsidiary of Expedia, but while Hotels.com was better rated and better at finding the cheapest rates than its parent company, it was expensive overall. It offers free reward stays, so once you’ve booked a total of 10 nights, you get one night free at eligible properties, plus member discounts on subsequent bookings that will bring the overall cost down. 

 Should you book? No, it didn’t find the cheapest rate often enough. 

Find accommodation on Hotels.com.

Other hotel booking sites

bed in hotel room

Should I book direct to get cheap hotels in the UK?

Which? research has found booking directly with the property is the cheapest. So, after our price comparisons, we checked the hotel site directly. If we couldn’t find a better price there – even after joining a free member scheme – we phoned them. This resulted in us getting the cheapest price at 15 of 30 properties. It was the best standalone method of finding the best price.

Why do I need to call a hotel to get the cheapest price?

Key in lock of a hotel room

Some booking sites only list hotels if they agree not to advertise lower prices on their own websites. This is called a parity clause. Hotels get around this by having member-only prices or offering better rates over the phone. Even when they won’t lower the price, hotels often throw in a freebie. When we called the Mercure Cardiff North, it matched the rate we found and offered a free breakfast. Be sure to find a quote online before calling, then ask them to beat it.

What is the difference between a hotel booking site and a comparison site?

When booking accommodation, you have three options: book directly, search and pay through a booking site, or use a comparison site.  Hotel booking sites such as Hotels.com and Booking.com allow you to search for a hotel in a specific location and then book and pay for your stay on that site. Comparison sites, such as Trivago, trawl the web for hotel price options. It might return prices for a single hotel across multiple websites allowing you to find the hotel you want to stay in potentially for the best price.

How did comparison sites fare in our price checks?

Although booking through the hotel directly secured the best offer (provided you call to price match/beat), comparison sites proved useful. Kayak returned the best price 12 times, Trivago 10 times and Skyscanner 11 times – meaning that between them, they found the cheapest price 27 out of 30 times.  As a trio, they were almost unbeatable. The problem is that comparison sites don’t vet the quality of the websites they suggest you book with. We had never heard of some of the sites suggested, so it’s a gamble to book with them. See more in our best and worst comparison sites survey results.

How we carried out the pricing research on booking sites

Separately, we carried out pricing research on 3 October 2023. Which? recorded prices of 10 hotels, six weeks and six months before the travel date, totalling 30 price checks across each of the nine hotel booking sites and comparison sites we analysed. We compared the cost of a one-night stay for two people sharing.  If more than one site found the same cheapest or priciest stay, we included this in the count.

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