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Consolidation has been the name of the game for hotel booking sites over the last several years, much to the detriment of travelers. Rates are now pretty standard among the major players, and good deals have become harder to find.
Even so, there are still some outliers. Whether you’re looking for spontaneity, member-only deals, or simply the lowest-cost accommodation you can find, there’s a little something for everyone.
These are the best sites and apps we’ve come across for finding cheap hotels, hostels, guesthouses, and apartments right now.
Note: prices checked were for one-night stays approximately six months in advance, unless otherwise noted.
Hotel Tonight is made for booking last-minute travel plans, whether intentional (“Let’s take a holiday this weekend!”) or not (“I’m stuck in this city another night with no place to go.”)
The site promises “incredible last-minute” deals on hotels all over the world. That includes rooms from luxury chains at nearly half-off standard rates.
Hotel Tonight’s desktop site is simple to navigate, but to secure the best prices you’ll want to download the Hotel Tonight app (free on iOS and Android.) It offers exclusive deals, and the more you book through it, the higher your savings on future bookings.
Each time you hit a new level, you’ll receive additional percent-off discounts or credits you can apply towards future bookings.
The biggest caveat of Hotel Tonight is that you can’t select the exact room you want. Of course, this also means you could be in for a pleasant surprise when you’re given a key to a high-floor suite with a stellar view at check-in.
While you can find deals at hotels all over the world, Hotel Tonight’s best offers are generally for US-based properties. Prices displayed are before taxes and fees, which are calculated at checkout.
A 1-night stay at The Michelangelo New York on October 25th was offered for $218 after applicable taxes & fees. That’s at least $100 under the next lowest rate we could find.
This 4-star luxury hotel is situated in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district.
Hopper claims to predict prices with a 95% accuracy rating up to a year in advance and says you’ll save up to 40% by booking at the right time. A key feature here is Hotel Watch, which sends notifications to your mobile device whenever there’s a price drop on a property in your desired destination.
Also worth noting is Hopper’s detailed price analysis on each booking page, which includes information about prospective drops plus rate comparisons to Expedia.
Hopper is only available as a mobile app: there’s no desktop client. The good news is that the app is free, but the bad news is that Android users currently can’t take advantage of Hopper’s hotel deals. This feature is only available on the iOS version for now.
Like Hotel Tonight, Hopper doesn’t allow you to choose which room you’d like to book. Prices displayed are before taxes and fees, which are calculated at checkout.
We found a room at the well-rated Hotel du Triangle d’Or in Paris for $119 after applicable taxes and fees. That’s nearly $150 less than Expedia’s total price for a double room.
This musically-inspired hotel is a stone’s throw away from the famous Olympia concert hall.
Like saving money and being surprised? Then you’ll want to check out Hotwire, an Expedia company that promises “4-star hotels at 2-star prices.”
Of course, there’s a catch. You won’t know which property you’ll be staying at until after you’ve booked your dates. Hotwire does provide a map of the vicinity, though, so you won’t be totally in the dark about where you’ll be spending the night. In some cases you’ll be given a list of possible hotels, and you can at least select the type of room you want.
You can book a stay via desktop browser or mobile app (free for iOS and Android). The Hotwire app offers a more streamlined experience (far fewer tabs to close compared to its desktop counterpart) as well as some exclusive deals. To browse the app, though, you’ll need to create a free Hotwire account first.
Prices displayed are before taxes and fees, which are calculated at checkout.
We found a double room at a 5-star hotel in Seoul’s prestigious Gangnam neighborhood for only $122 after applicable taxes and fees.
Agoda (a Booking Holdings site) is one of the most well-known and trusted sites among the frequent travelers I know. It claims to have the best prices on over two million properties worldwide, including hotels, hostels, resorts, and even homes.
Agoda offers competitive prices already, but for its best deals, sign up for a free Agoda account. You’ll get special “Insider” rates once you’re logged in. Another advantage of Agoda: you have the opportunity to select your property and the room you want!
Book accommodation via a desktop browser or Agoda’s mobile app (free on iOS and Android). While the app is simple to use, it’s easier to filter and manage your search on the desktop version, especially if you’re looking at multiple properties.
Prices displayed are before taxes and fees, which are calculated at checkout.
This property in the Consolacao district has amenities like Wi-Fi, cable TV, and a private pool, but is a bit of a distance from the area’s main attractions.
For solo travelers who want to want to stretch their buck, HostelWorld lets you browse more than 36,000 properties in 170+ countries.
Choose from a single bed in a shared room or an individual room at a (relative) premium. If you’re confident in your booking and don’t foresee any changes being made, save some extra cash by choosing a non-refundable rate.
Book your hostel via desktop browser or the HostelWorld app (free for iOS and Android). The app includes a handy translator function with over 40 languages to help you mingle with locals, but prices stay the same.
Depending on the property, tax is not included in the displayed price. Make sure to read the fine print at checkout to understand what you’ll be paying upfront.
We found a single bed in a 10-bed dorm at Sydney’s Mad Monkey Coogee Beach for $18 after applicable taxes (non-refundable). That’s at least a $3 saving compared to other booking sites. This property is only minutes away from Coogee Beach, with a bar/restaurant underneath.
Unlike the other sites we’ve mentioned, GoSeek is an aggregator. It collects and compares hotel prices from major and lesser-known sites to help find the best deal possible.
GoSeek also provides its own deals through a Premium membership. It promises savings of up to 60% off 200,000+ hotels, along with other benefits like mobile-only discounts, and costs $30/year.
A free two-day trial is available, but requires a credit/debit card. If you book most or all of your travel through the GoSeek platform, though, you can easily make your money back on the subscription.
Unusually, GoSeek does not have a standalone smartphone app. Fortunately, its mobile site isn’t too cumbersome to use, but brace yourself for a lot of pop-ups when selecting a property.
Prices displayed are before taxes and fees, which are calculated at checkout on whichever booking site you choose.
We found a king room at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $29 with GoSeek Premium before taxes and fees. That’s $13 under the going rate at other sites, and an economical way to enjoy a stay on the Strip.
Don’t Forget About Direct Bookings
To compete with third-party booking sites, many hotels themselves offer special online deals that can’t be found anywhere else. Better yet, you can uncover hidden discounts by calling the property directly, resulting in lower prices than anything available online.
If you’re loyal to a hotel chain, join their rewards program. The points you accrue can be exchanged for discounted rates or even free nights. Not to mention, you’ll also be able to enjoy other perks like free upgrades or late checkout.
Many Ways to Save Money on Accommodations
It’s easy to get lost in the homogenous slew of online booking sites, especially since most don’t offer anything different from the standard. With a bit of extra work and flexibility, though, there are still bargains out there.
The sites we’ve listed will not only help you save money, but also potentially provide you with accommodation you never expected on a shoestring budget. You can save significant cash on your next hotel room…if you know where to look.
How do you save money on accommodation? Share your tips with us in the comments.
Main image via Ph B, all others via respective sites.