Getaway Compass

The Best Sites for Booking Your Stay

Airbnb Escazu

An important part of planning a trip that could make or break your vacation is where you decide to stay. There are many factors that go into choosing where to stay, such as price, location, and amenities. If you are planning to spend most of your time exploring and not much time at the accommodation then you will care more about being in a good location and less about the amenities included. However, if you are planning to spend a majority of your time the hotel you may prioritize the amenities offered over price and location. To make finding a place to stay on your travels less overwhelming I put together a guide with the best sites for booking your stay, when to use which resource, and tips for booking with that site. 

Booking.com

Booking.com is best for: Apartments, Boutique Hotels, Guesthouses, or B&B internationally (especially Europe and Central/South America)

With Booking.com you can find a large range of options outside of the United States, ranging from hostels to luxury resorts. Booking.com shows you the price for the total number of nights, and gives you the option to filter by your priorities such as location, amenities, budget, review score, and more. When searching for where to stay I always start by filtering to accommodations with a review score of 8 or more.

Waiheke Island Booking
House on Waiheke Island, New Zealand that we rented through booking.com
Waiheke Island Booking Views
House on Waiheke Island, New Zealand that we rented through booking.com

Booking.com Loyalty Program

Booking.com has a loyalty program called Genius that is free to sign up for and can get you discounts starting at 10% off on participating properties. This program is great for people who travel internationally and like to stay in boutique hotels, apartments or guesthouses. You can automatically get a discount and continue to grow your discount and additional benefits as you book more stays with booking.com

When you first join the program you are automatically Genius Level 1 which gives you 10% discounts on participating properties and car rentals. Then you have the opportunity to move up to Genius Level 2 and and Genius Level 3 if you book a certain number of stays in a 2 year time period. Once you reach a Genius Level you keep that membership level for a lifetime. 

In order to move up to Genius Level 2 you need to make 5 bookings in 2 years. At this level you will get 10-15% discount on stays, free breakfast on select stays, and free room upgrades on select stays. To qualify for Genius Level 3 you need to make 15 bookings in 2 years. At Genius Level 3 your discount on stays can be up to 20%.

Tips for Booking with Booking.com

  • Make sure to join the loyalty program with Booking.com before booking 
  • Download the booking.com app to get easy access to all your stays on your phone
  • How to Find the Best Deal: Start by sorting by lowest price and select “Only Show Available Properties” on the left hand menu. Restrict the review score to 8 and above to make sure that you are looking at the most highly rated options. Continue looking through the properties starting with the lowest price until you find an option that you are comfortable with to ensure you get the best deal.
  • While browsing for places to stay, create a list for your trip and save the properties you are interested in by selecting the heart icon next to the property name
  • Always read the cancelation policies as they vary by accommodation
  • If you do end up having to cancel, Booking.com gives you the option to send a message to the property owner and ask for a refund, even if the cancelation policy was strict. The property owner can then approve/deny your request if it is outside of the cancelation window. It is always worth a try!
Santorini Cave House
Our cave house in Santorini booked with booking.com
Santorini Balcony
The terrace outside of our cave house in Santorini booked with booking.com

Airbnb

Airbnb is best for: Unique places to stay around the world

Airbnb is an online marketplace that features unique accommodations around the world. One of the things that I love about Airbnb is that it allows you to stay in areas where there might not be hotels and are more off-the-beaten-path. You can find a range of accommodation options from a room in a house with a shared bathroom to an entire villa. 

We have stayed in many Airbnbs while traveling internationally including on a vineyard in New Zealand, in a Tuscan Town in Italy, at a lodge on an Alpaca farm in Ireland, and in a Cycladic house on a Greek Island. The reviews are important to Airbnb hosts since one bad review can really hurt their rating, unlike a large hotel chain that has countless reviews. This is shown through the extra effort and care Airbnb hosts put into their accommodation. At many Airbnbs that we have stayed we were welcomed with a note, snacks, and a bottle of wine.

One big downside of Airbnb is that there is no rewards program. Another is that the platform doesn’t let you sort by total price, which can make it more difficult to ensure you are getting the best value.

Airbnb in Marlborough WIne Region
Airbnb in Marlborough Wine Region, New Zealand

Tips for Booking with Airbnb

  • The best options get booked fast, so make sure to book as early as possible. 
  • Focus on the total price, not just the nightly price. Now Airbnb shows the total price in the search results (finally!). However, keep in mind that if you choose to filter by price it looks at the nightly price before taxes and fees.
  • The most important thing when choosing an Airbnb is the reviews. Always look for a review score of a minimum of 4.8 stars.
  • Make sure that there are several positive reviews and that they are recent. We stayed in a room in an apartment that had great reviews but didn’t realize they were from over 8 months ago. Turns out that 8 months prior the family had twins! Needless to say, we had to find a hotel.
  • If an Airbnb has no reviews that can be risky- but you can look at the profile of the person and see if they have reviews on other properties they manage.
  • As always, be respectful and treat the Airbnb like it is your own home!
Airbnb Joshua Tree Inside
Inside of Airbnb in Joshua Tree, California
Airbnb Monteverde
View from Airbnb in Monteverde, Costa Rica
Milos Airbnb
Airbnb in Milos, Greece

Expedia

Expedia is best for: Hotels in the United States and internationally, especially if you want to book a package or book multiple aspects of your trip (rental car, flights, activities) in one place.

You can find a range of hotels, vacation rentals, apartments, and guesthouses on Expedia making it a good option if you want to compare a range of accommodations on one website instead of browsing multiple sites with specialties. 

Expedia Rewards Program: OneKey

One of the big benefits of booking through Expedia is the new Rewards Program called OneKey. The rewards program is currently only available in the United States. The rewards program spans Expedia, Hotels.com, and VRBO. It is free to sign up for OneKey and members receive 2% in OneKeyCash on each dollar for qualifying hotels, vacation rentals, and more. Members also get 10% off starting out on a large selection of hotels. These savings increase up to 20% as you reach higher tiers.

Your OneKey benefits grow as you get to higher tiers, which is done by collecting trip elements. You collect one trip element with each hotel room night or vacation rental night. Other bookings that qualify for trip elements include a car rental day, a cruise cabin night and an activity ticket. 

Hotels.com

Hotels.com is best for: Hotels in the United States, larger hotel chains, last-minute hotel deals

Hotels.com has endless hotel options in the United States and is my go-to when I am looking for last minute hotel deals as prices on hotels can drop significantly. You can often find great prices on hotels near airports which can be significantly cheaper than hotels in the downtown of a city. If you are flying and arriving late to your destination, you can save a lot of money by booking your first night at a hotel near the airport.

The loyalty program is the same as Expedia’s OneKey explained above. Make sure to sign up for the loyalty program to automatically get 10% savings with the member price and be able to accrue OneKeyCash and trip elements to reach higher tiers.

VRBO

VRBO is best for: An entire vacation rental for a large group

Places on VRBO are perfect for a family reunion or a getaway with a group of friends. You can find VRBOs in 190 countries around the world. VRBO is also part of the OneKey loyalty program outlined above. You can earn 2% OneKeyCash on eligible vacation rentals in the United States that you can use for future bookings across VRBO, Expedia, or Hotels.com.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

GETAWAY COMPASS
Reut and Zack Elopement-5

Travel guides created to inspire and enable people to use their time away from the office to explore the world.

Get Your Free eBook: 23 Travel Hacks to Save Time and Money
Featured