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A friend of ours is getting married next summer and already daydreaming about the honeymoon to far away, exotic places. Doing a search for a trip to Bali, they discovered the airfare to be far out of their price range (traveling in summer from an airport that is not a major hub). Also, with so many hotels boasting to be the best or most romantic, they were feeling planning fatigue before ever really getting started!  Because we travel 365 days a year and are always trying to find the best deals on transport, tours and accommodation, we were able to help them out by looking into several different flight options and giving advice on how to find the right honeymoon hotel. For them, the travel websites we recommended were completely new, and others they just hadn’t thought to check.

That got us thinking – what travel website could we NOT live without? We came up with several, and below are our top five:

Hotwire.com

Maximizing our Great American Road Trip experience from New York City to New Orleans this summer was an intense undertaking. Between planning the route, researching hidden gems and main attractions in each destination, booking hotels and then actually enjoying ourselves in each place, we often left certain things until the last minute. And by certain things, we mean hotel bookings. This resulted in some surprising accommodation experiences – some were incredible while others were itchy, stinky and terrible. That is where our love of Hotwire really began.

Hotwire.com is a travel deal aggregator which finds users great deals on hotel rooms/cars/flights that would otherwise go unbooked. While Hotwire does have international deals, we find using it in the U.S. yields the best deals. The most heavily discounted rooms, up to 60% off, came when we booked ‘mystery’ rooms. This means that you aren’t able to see the actual hotel, but you know the neighborhood, how many stars and what other hotels are similar. We were able to book into three-star hotels in the downtown city center for $49 a night and even a trendy four-star spot for $79 that we absolutely loved and never would have considered for ourselves for just a couple of nights on the road trip. If you are willing to take a risk and are not loyal to a certain hotel brand, Hotwire.com makes some incredible hotel deals available. You can also use this site for rental cars and flights, too.

hotwire.comhotwire.com deals

Bookingbuddy.com

This is our ultimate price comparison website, we use it constantly for travel planning. Depending on what type of search you are doing (flights, rental cars, hotels, and even vacation packages) BookingBuddy.com opens up to seven travel websites into tabs, allowing you to compare prices across sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Booking.com, etc all in one place without you having to actively search each of these sites yourself for the best prices. BookingBuddy.com also searches sites you may be less familiar with. Here’s an example: when we were looking for flights from Lisbon to Toronto in the summer, we found, and booked, $299 flights on AirTransat, one of the flight comparison site results in our search on BookingBuddy.com, that had not come up in any other searches. We’ve used BookingBuddy.com to compare and book car rentals as well, including our road trip car rental this summer.

Bookingbuddy.combookingbuddy.com comparison

Booking.com

When we are looking for hotels, we are usually happy when we can book with Booking.com. We get great rates, even on hotels in some of our more far-flung locations, we like the search filters we can sort the results by (price, stars, amenities, kind of hotel, certain chains, review score) and the map where the hotel is located which also shows nearby attractions and landmarks. What we like best about Booking.com are the quality follow-up reviews. Just after checking out of a hotel you had booked on booking.com, you will receive an email asking you to rate your hotel on a scale from 1 to 10 and offer a quick paragraph on highs and lows of your stay.  Because of the survey’s timely delivery, while the hotel is still fresh, we tend to review almost all of our stays through Booking.com, and if most people are like we are, then that means that these reviews are both accurate (albeit opinionated) and trustworthy, as they have been provided only by people who have stayed at the hotel. Reading these reviews is easy and so useful when deciding between hotels in any given location.

Booking.com website & reviews

Tripadvisor.com

We do not book hotels without reading the TripAdvisor review, period. Unlike Booking.com, TripAdvisor can’t prompt you to review the hotel as they don’t actually know whether you have been a guest there. This means that, based solely on self-motivation,  more people tend to get on TripAdvisor to review a hotel negatively than positively. That is alright with us. There is something to be said for knowing the worst case scenario of the accommodation. In short, knowing what you are in for. If there are two reviews that are polar opposites (This is the best hotel we have ever stayed in vs whatever you do, do not stay here) we just check out both people’s profiles and previous reviews. Does one look like they work for that hotel (sneaky!) and are trying to promote it? Does the other look as they they might work for a rival hotel and are trying to trash the competition (even sneakier!).  Taking these reviews with a grain of salt is necessary, but at the same time, if a hotel has 58 five-star reviews and two negative reviews, we feel pretty confident when making that booking. Tripadvisor is also great for info on destination-based tours and tour operators as well as general travel info for each location.

http://www.tripadvisor.com

Wikitravel.org

This is our most recent go-to-site in our travel bag of tricks, but easily one of the most useful. Wikitravel is literally the Wikipedia of travel. In contrast to Wikipedia, where you can also find all of the cities & countries that are listed on Wikitravel, the site focuses on the travel aspect of a certain location and rather than including an entire overview, history, politics, etc., it focuses on topics every visitor needs to know: How to get there, how to get around, what to see, what to do, where to shop, where to eat, where to sleep and possible dangers or scams. The site is a constantly updated crowd-sourced travel guide updated by travelers for travelers. Even if you have your trusty guidebook or read hundreds of travel blogs (which we do), Wikitravel is much more detailed. Find out the cost of taxis and buses in each destination, a full listing of hotels in three budget ranges (backpacker, mid-range and luxury), as well as the same three tier food/restaurant breakdown. For some destinations, there are little known bars you wouldn’t have found otherwise, while for other destinations there are photos or facts about attractions and tours (including which ones you might need to watch out for in terms of scams or shady deals). Because this information is crowd sourced and content is not written by one single provider, anyone can go in to change/add to it. While that could possibly mean the entries contain certain untruths, we have found the information we get from Wikitravel to be so accurate, that this site has really become our first and last information source on the destinations we have traveled to in recent months – from Canada, through the U.S. and now in South East Asia – small towns, big cities and everything in between.

Wikitravel Singapore

What websites can you not travel without? Please add your recommendations in the comment section below.

Tags : BookingBuddyHotwireTripadvisorWikitravel

32 Comments

  1. I’m with you on booking.com and TripAdvisor. Love both of them and use both extensively. I absolutely dislike Hotwire since I’ve had a few bad experiences with them: once the hotel I booked was not ony totally wrongly classified regarding starts, but would have been cheaper on the hotel website. Since a pretty terrible experience with the Hotwire customer service on top of that, I quit them and wouldn’t use them again. Never tried BookingBuddy. I use Kayak a lot and have found some really great deals. I don’t think I’ll switch to BookingBuddy either because they don’t let you search for multi-stop trips which can be really convenient and make the whole trip cheaper. Have you tried Kayak before?
    Sabrina recently posted..Best Ribs: Texas Smoked Ribs Recipe

    1. Yes, we have tried Kayak before but we always found cheaper rates on other sites, that we stopped using it. And bookingbuddy.com ALWAYS checks the rates on Kayak, so it is included in our search anyway. Sorry to hear about your bad experience with Hotwire – something like that can change your opinion so quick! We had a bad experience with Orbitz once which is why it’s not on our top list of sites anymore – hope that we’ll continue to be HAPPY Hotwire customers 🙂

        1. I think you are right about the multi-stopp flights… I didn’t find that option, and we’ve only ever booked direct flights from A to B. But I bet if you look for all the flights you’re looking to book you’d get great deals on bookingbuddy.com 😉

  2. Wikitravel is my favorite website and is also my first stop in researching a new city. My favorite aspect of it is looking at the “Get in” and the “Get Out” sections as it helps me figure out other places I can go from(or to) that city that I might not have thought of. Or just confirming that, yes, I can’t get from Point A to Point B directly.

    TripAdvisor is another one I use too, though not to a great extent. That’s changing though. I’m finding it creeping up my list of most visited websites.
    Corey W. recently posted..Ha Long Bay

    1. Hi Corey, the ‘get in’ and ‘get out’ part is usually most important for us too, and the ‘get around’ section which usually has the prices of tuktuks, public buses, taxis, etc and helps us not to get ripped off 🙂

  3. When I’m planning for a travel/vacation, TripAdvisor and Wikitravel are my go-to sites for reference. My issue with TripAdvisor though is sometimes some reviews are “sponsored” therefore may not paint an accurate picture of a resort or hotel.
    Andersson recently posted..Revalidering og SU

    1. I know what you mean with sponsored reviews on TripAdvisor – that’s why we said we are using it carefully. If a review seems somehow dodgy to us, we’ll ignore it.

  4. I’m with you on always reading about accommodations on TripAdvisor before booking. I agree that it’s always good to know about the worst-case scenarios — and how many times they show up in the comments! Of course, you have to take the negative reviews with a grain of salt. But, if a place has nothing but bad reviews, it certainly makes me think twice about staying there!
    Amanda recently posted..New Zealand Cities, Part 3: Queenstown in Photos

    1. Amanda, we’re with you on ‘if a place has nothing but bad reviews, it certainly makes me think twice about staying there!’ – we don’t mind minor complaints by unsatisfied guests (TV not working, breakfast not varied enough, etc) because for some reason people who were not happy with their hotel seem to be more likely to write a review on TripAdvisor than people who were 100 % satisfied, but if a place has exclusively bad reviews, we won’t stay there 🙂

    1. Sophie – we have noticed as well that many hotels we stay at have signs up that ask to review them TripAdvisor (if we had a pleasant stay ;-)) I think most of the hotels and guesthouses have realized by now how important good TripAdvisor reviews are for future guests and how much damage bad reviews can do.

  5. I agree with wikitravel, booking.com and trip advisor. I haven’t used Hotwire but will remember it for next time we are in the US. I have found some good hotel deals in Asia will agoda.com – I don’t really like the site but the price is usually good.

    Kayak is usually my first stop for flight and car hire comparison as I like the layout, and then I will obsessively check as many other comparison sites as possible and drive myself crazy!
    Erin recently posted..Off the Beaten Track in Northern Laos

    1. Hi Erin, thanks for suggesting Agoda.com – it’s actually very similar to Booking.com, but I don’t seem to be able to search by price. I like though that you’re asked to review your hotel after your stay and that the reviews & rating of the hotel are included in each hotel’s description. About Kayak – like I said before, the kayak search is usually included in bookingbuddy.com’s search, but we have yet to find a great deal on there 😉

    1. Natalie, thanks for commenting! We don’t like the booking function on TripAdvisor at all, we only use it to check reviews of hotels / guesthouses we’re planning to stay at. The booking function on TripAdvisor is awful, but we really like everything else on the site.

  6. Agoda is/was a pain in the ass for us. At first I loved it, it had cheap prices and is mainly SE Asia , but after needing to cancel- most bookings are non-refundable. We booked a place one and 2 minutes later realized there were 2 cities with the same name where we wanted to go (Bali has a lot of this all over the island) and we contacted the hotel, who agreed to refund us the money (apparently they get confused with this other place all the time) we contacted agoda and blah blah after back and forth with agoda and the hotel I just gave up. Since then we haven’t used Agoda- but I did review all the places we had stayed at when we did use them, and they do have a nice points system in place- I checked it last night and apparently we have a $40 credit accumulated already through leaving reviews and points acquired when booking. Sometimes I check TripAdvisor and Wiki Travel but not those others, I think those maybe better suited for U.S. travel? Agoda is good for cheap deals in Asia- just check that cancellation policy! Nice write up.
    Mica recently posted..Photo Flashback of the week: Chiang Dao Cave

    1. Thanks for all the recommendations, Mica – we barely know any of these sites, so we’re looking forward to check them out. And also thanks for letting us know about the trouble with Agoda – I think we’ll stick with Booking.com because they usually have excellent cancellation policies (almost all of the hotels can be cancelled for free up to 24 hours before the date of the booking) but I like the idea of the points system and being rewarded for reviewing the hotels we’ve stayed at – that’s great!

    1. Hey Deb, thanks, that’s great we tipped you off to booking.com. We really use the site to at least compare hotels in every place we go to that’s not a village/remote town. There’s not a lot of cheapies on there, but still in the budget range.

  7. The bottom line is that Priceline’s name your own price feature is essentially a marketing gimmick meant to attract budget travelers. But there is real potential there, if you book wisely, to save a considerable amount of money on a great hotel.

  8. I LOVE Wikitravel. Sorry to hear about your bad experience with Hotwire – something like that can change your opinion so quick! Nice write up. Yes, we have tried Kayak before but we always found cheaper rates on other sites, that we stopped using it.

  9. A very under-utilized resource in my opinion. Corey W. I use Kayak a lot and have found some really great deals.

  10. Tripadvisor is absolutely the best for reviews although nowadays you have to sieve out the real reviews from some fake ones. Booking.com seems to be better if you book European hotels. Agoda.com would be better if you book hotels in Asia Pacific. If you like to book direct with hotels, which will usually give you better deals and packages since they don’t have to pay commissions to online travel agents like Expedia or Booking.com, you can go to VacationStayWhere.com which features deals and packages that are bookable at the hotel’s official websites. However, the cities are still quite limited.

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