Travel booking sites for hotels, flights, car rentals, vacation rentals, cruises and more.
The below picture gives an overview of some of the main travel booking sites, probably you already know them and even used them. Reading further down this page will provide some insight on the travel sites classification and some important tips, our preferred method, to exploit the travel sites and get the best travel deals from them.
Online Travel Agency or Travel Metasearch Engine
We can classify most travel sites into 2 main categories: Online travel agencies and Travel metasearch engines.
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).
Online travel agency websites sell travel products and services as: Hotel rooms; Flight tickets; Car rentals; Vacation rentals; Cruises; Tours and activities; Travel insurance. Some OTA websites focus more on a core product while other OTAs focus more on travel packages. They mainly sell their own inventory, having direct contracts with operators (hotels, etc.).
When you make a booking you are booking with the OTA.
Travel Metasearch Engines (also called Travel Aggregators).
A travel metasearch engine gathers and compare prices from various OTAs and if the case from other sources as hotel distribution systems and air companies. These websites too can focus on one area of travel or on a wider range of travel services.
When you make a booking you are not booking with the metasearch engine but with the OTA or provider you selected on the metasearch website.
There are substantial differences between travel booking sites categories but it's not black and white. In fact some websites are a mix of OTA and metasearch engines, for instance: A OTA may be selling its hotel inventory and searching other OTAs or air companies to add a flight to the package.
The end product for the client is the same: a travel reservation.
Is it better to use an OTA or a travel search engine?
It would be nice to conclude that a booking website category is the best fit for any travel arrangement. Our experience tells that there is no such easy conclusion. Each trip reservation is a unique case, affected by various, behind the scenes, factors and commercial agreements.
Our conclusion is to use both OTAs and metasearch engines and base our search for travel deals only on: Website ease of use; Booking conditions; Price.
How to find the Best Travel Deals using Online Travel Agencies and Travel Metasearch Engines
Our preferred method to find travel deals unfortunately requires some leg work:
- Search travel rates on both OTAs and Metasearch websites.
- Why wasting time looking for travel rates on Online travel agency websites if Travel metasearch engines can do that for us? The reason is that Travel metaserach engines, or travel aggregators, are not always as good as they claim in their ability to find, or access, the best OTAs deals. Visiting both OTAs and Metaserach websites is still required.
- Don't be too loyal to one website.
- Of course we have our preferred websites but it's always worth comparing offers. We would search for travel prices using at least two different metasearch engines and two different online travel agencies.
- Get to the real price.
- Some travel sites are slippery when it comes to prices. They will show the true price - with additional commissions, expenses or taxes - just one step before sending your credit card details. When comparing prices, don't just look at the price in the front page, go deeper in the selection/booking process to make sure you are looking at the real price.
- Understand booking conditions.
- Booking conditions can make a huge difference to your trip and wallet so make sure the booking conditions suit your travel needs. When comparing offers, the booking conditions should be clearly identified and understood. A reservation can be refundable or not, have cancellation fees applicable to it or not, can be inclusive of additional services or not (hotel breakfast, hotel shuttle bus, hotel parking, air seat selection, air baggage allowance, etc.), just to mention a few cases.
- Change travel dates.
- If travel dates are flexible, try different dates. Rates may change significantly depending on weekdays, seasonality or concurrency with local events, fairs or festivals.
- Compare with direct prices.
- Double check price and conditions of reservations directly with the operators (hotel official website, air company official website, etc.). Certain discounts, conditions, offers, fidelity programs, upgrades and other opportunities and bonuses may only be available booking directly with the operator.
Where to make online reservations.
Our site provides useful lists of travel booking sites of all types and sectors. For each one we summarize the main features so that you can decide if worth giving it a try.