Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Travel Tips & Trip Ideas (
-   -   What's the best accommodation comparison site? (

nomah Oct 10th, 2014 10:45 AM

What's the best accommodation comparison site?
I generally use Expedia, and have found some different offers on sites like Kayak in the past.
However, there are these new ones popping up that seem to have even more content. I was using Room77 which is a pretty nice site and offers a virtual concierge. Then I looked around at AllTheRooms, which actually seems to have hotels, vacation rentals like AirBNB, even hostels. I'm going to use that and let you guys know what I think.

Anyway I'm curious what everyone else uses. I'm researching how I'm going to book stays on the fly as I travel across the country in December.

SandyBrit Oct 11th, 2014 06:24 AM


For last minute I look on however repost your question on the United States forum for many replies.

Welcome to Fodors.


Sojourntraveller Oct 11th, 2014 08:19 AM

As you travel across WHAT country?

I don't use any third party sites at all. Common sense should tell you that since they all advertise that they are the only one you need to use to find the best deals, all but one at least must be lying to you. I tend not to want to do business with people who I know lie to me.

I rarely book ahead since I have no way of knowing how long I will want to stay in any given place beforehand. I often wonder what kind of crystal ball people have that tells them they will only want to stay in Rome for 3 nights out of their 2 weeks vacation for example. To me, it is putting the cart before the horse. I might get to 3 places or I might get to 4 but I can't know beforehand, it might only be 2 if those 2 turn out to have enough to see/do of interest to me to keep me there.

I conducted a 'controlled' experiment some time ago to see if just showing up and finding a room was really costing me more money. I was able to do that because for once it was a trip I was taking that would have specific stops in specific places for specific periods of time. Unusual for me.

So 2 months beforehand, I went online and checked what prices I could find using third party sites like Kayak,, etc. I also checked the hotels' own websites and the hotel chain loyalty program websites. This all covered half a dozen hotels in various locations in the USA.

What I found was that for 4 out of 6 hotels, their own website or loyalty reward site gave the best price. The third party sites were only lower for 2 hotels. That's 2 months beforehand remember.

Next I checked for each hotel on all sites again, the night before I planned to be there. Again, the hotels' own sites were generally lower than the third party sites and in all 6 cases the prices had gone down from the prices I had found 2 months beforehand. The third party sites matched once, were lower on 2 and higher on 3.

Finally, I showed up on the day and got a price at the Reception desk when checking in. In ALL 6 hotels, the price I got walking in the door was lower than I had found online the day before, on any website. So what does that tell you?

What it tells me is that nothing is an absolute. No one website will always get you the lowest price regardless of what their advertising says. It also tells me that pre-booking will not get you the lowest prices necessarily either. In my 'controlled experiment', none of them beat the walk in the door price.

No doubt, sometimes there is a deal on one website that beats all others. No doubt also, someone will win the lottery. The point being there is no way to know how to get the best price nor know IF you got it. I certainly didn't 'miss' a great deal from what my experiment showed.

TC Oct 11th, 2014 08:53 AM

I don't know if I can completely go along with this program, ST. I do a lot of last minute travel in the US. While your method may work in some instances, I know of many where it won't. Hotel room pricing is all about capacity. If the hotel is empty, you can get a good price. If the hotel is's a whole other set of rules. For instance, I booked a great hotel (my favorite) in NYC for the weekend after New Years. A month ago, a deluxe room was $239. The very next day, it was $379. Now it is well over $400. The hotel will sell out before we arrive, so we feel lucky to get a great price...and to get a room in the hotel we want. I think that's a major key....if you're willing to take any hotel, or if price is the only criteria, a walk up may work. However, I am rarely (never) willing to stay just any 'ol place. So like others, I shop around a lot in preparation so we won't be turned away at the door.

I agree that third party booking sites are rarely a better deal than the hotel's own. If I find a better price, I just call the hotel directly and ask them to match it. I've never had that method fail, since the hotel gets to keep all the profit from my booking instead of splitting it with Expedia or the like. I dislike third parties...too much trouble if something changes or goes wrong.

annhig Oct 11th, 2014 01:07 PM

I agree TC, I have got some great deals by booking a long time in advance.

But I only do that on a "free cancellation" basis in case something crops up.

And I do find in particular useful if I am booking a number of places on a trip - very easy to book, all the bookings in one place, and very easy to change or cancel.

for price comparisons i use TA to start with, then look at and the individual websites.

Sojourntraveller Oct 11th, 2014 09:12 PM

If there is a major event going on somewhere then yes, getting a room in the hotel you prefer may be a problem TC but I consider that just common sense.

However, I also know what the average occupancy is for hotels. That tells me that it isn't really all that likely you won't get a room if you just walk in the door. Have a look here for example.

I also know the average number of 'no shows' that hotels have is 10% and often some of those roooms have already been paid for with no refund to the customer which makes them available for 'negotiation' when you walk in the door.

I also know that THE cheapest room in any hotel is the last room they have available which lets them hit that 100% occupancy goal every hotel wants. They will not let you walk away if you walk in and that is the case. Getting the last room as a walk-in is like winning the lottery. Name your price.

I also know that any industry insider will tell you that people who book through third party websites will get the lousiest rooms in the hotel.

I also know that Reception can do a lot for me if they decide they want to. Upgrades in various forms can be had if you know how to ask the right way. Learn to mention it is a 'special occassion'. I've been upgraded to suites on more than one occassion for example. Free parking (in places where it is charged for), ditto free internet or 'resort fee'. There are a lot of things they can do.

I also know that hotels today use 'dynamic pricing' just as the airlines do. If you understand dynamic pricing then you know that NO ONE including the hotels themselves know when the lowest price will be offered. It is determined by a complex algorithm and in many cases can change at any minute. You might get a good price (your $239)a month ago, someone might pay $400 today and I might show up on the day and pay $199. NO ONE knows. Your ASSUMPTION is that no room will get rented for less than your $239. One may or may not but my chances just walking in are exactly as good as your chances a month ago. Watching those prices change during my little experiment showed just that. All six of those hotels went DOWN in price TC. No doubt because they were around that average 60% occupancy and were trying to fill rooms.

Knowing how to get the most out of the hotel industry as a guest in a hotel, is about much more than which website to look at for a cheap price.

TC Oct 12th, 2014 06:05 AM

Yes, ST, that is all true. However, most people aren't willing to go from hotel to hotel at the last minute to find the right mix. For example, I travel to Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA about once a month. I make these trips on very short notice. On only one out of five trips will I be able to get ANY hotel room, at any price in Palo Alto......or anywhere near there. If I'm lucky, I can find a room near the SFO airport for the night. If not, I book a return flight and come home to sleep.

I certainly am not going to spend a lot of time and money in a taxi going from place to place hoping for a room for the night from the cancellation pool. When I show up on the door at say, 1:00 PM, the hotel won't even know if they have no-shows for that night yet.

Knowing I have a place to lay my head at the end of the day is more important to me than saving a few dollars. I have dear friends, seasoned travelers, who slept in their rental car on more than one night while driving around Europe because they did not book ahead and there were no rooms anywhere.

Even with a prepaid, confirmed reservation, I've been "walked"........turned away at check-in because the hotel is oversold. I don't want to be the last one in the door and "walked" to whatever hotel the front desk can find for the night. Not a good feeling. So I've learned how to protect my reservation from that, too.

If we're just discussing the price of rooms, then one can probably find deals at the last minute. in fact there are web sites devoted to that very thing. Your's is a good theory, but in practicality it's a bit more complicated. However, to each his own. If it works for your lifestyle....go for it.

Sojourntraveller Oct 12th, 2014 08:34 AM

OK TC, I hear you. If Palo Alto is sold out most of the time, there are some lucky hotels there. More heads than beds obviously.

Also, if those are business trips which I assume they are, then you know when and for how long beforehand so I see no problem with booking beforehand. Separating business travel from leisure travel has to be done when discussing this topic.

I just don't like to pre-book when on vacation and when I have no way of knowing how long I will want to stay in a given place before moving on.

For example, I often check-in to a hotel and in answer to the question 'how long will you be staying' I will say 'Maybe a week.' If I end up staying less than that, I simply tell them the night before that I will be checking-out the next day. That's never been a problem.

Re your friends in Europe, I have spent a whole lot of time travelling in Europe (totalling years) and never once been unable to find a bed quite easily. But there are some things I don't do.

I don't arrive in a place after dark if I can help it. In those cases I do tend to pre-book the first night at least. I don't go walking around with a big suitcase on wheels behind me looking for a room. I use various methods to find a room after I arrive. I may sit having a coffee and do an internet search. I may sit having a cofeee and ask the waiter about places to rent. Visit a Tourist Office, etc.

Re being 'walked' due to overbooking, I hope you are getting that other hotel for FREE. If you have a reservation and are walked, the hotel you have a reservation with should be paying for the hotel room they send you to. I consider that a bonus situation. It should also be a comparable hotel, not some dump motel. You should also expect to be given a free night in the future at the hotel which walked you which means you actually receive 2 free nights. One at the hotel you were walked to and another future night at the hotel that walked you. You may also find you are treated better when you arrive at that hotel you were walked to as they will try to steal your future business. You may also find that if you return in the future to the hotel that walked you, you will be given an upgrade and/or some freebies to make up for having walked you. All in all, being 'walked' should actually end up being quite positive.

Read here for what industry insider advice is to the hotels doing the walking.

Of course being walked when on business travel can be a plus but may not be as desirable when on leisure travel. It's a hassle vs. benefit question that differs depending on the situation. In some cases being walked is a plus in others it is not. Arriving at 1pm or getting a phone call from the hotel in advance can make being walked no big deal. But arriving at 11pm tired and irritable, only to find out you are being walked is another story.

Belonging to all the hotel loyalty programs is fair insurance against being walked. Most likely to be walked are third party website bookings. They're always bottom of the barrel for everything.

For any readers not familiar with 'walking' here is an explanation:

annhig Oct 12th, 2014 09:19 AM

perhaps I'm lucky but I've never been "walked".

I actually agree with you SojournT that on holiday, pre-booking may not be the best idea. It depends very much on the sort of holiday though. On a 3 night break in Paris, I don't want to waste valuable time trying to find a hotel. if I'm working, I don't want to spend time at the end of the day schlepping round a load of hotels [and the Best Western Group I habitually use allow cancellation up to 4pm on the day of arrival which makes it a no-brainer for me to pre-book].

but if I'm touring round France or Spain, say, I might well only book the first night or two. However, on our recent trip to Germany we prebooked and we were glad we had; hotels were very busy and knowing that we had somewhere to lay our heads enabled us to spend the whole day sightseeing instead of having to start to look for somewhere to stay at about 4pm.

Sojourntraveller Oct 13th, 2014 08:47 AM

Yes, common sense says if you book a 'destination' break like 3 days in Paris then there is no advantage to not pre-booking. The same applies to business travel as I have already said.

But pre-booking leisure travel when you do not how how long a place will hold your interest and you may visit more than one place, has never made any sense to me. How anyone can say we plan on 3 days in Paris, 3 days in Rome and 2 days in Venice, etc. simply seems ridiculous to me.

I understand people want to see a list of places and having X amount of time, they divide the time by the number of places in the list. However, I prefer to say 'here are 5 places I would LIKE to visit in the 3 weeks I have available. I will start in A and see how how it goes.' I may never get beyond B or maybe C, who knows.

It is a basic difference in approach. Do you want to tick a list or do you want to spend as much time as you need in each place you do visit?

Re looking for a place at 4pm, I would make two comments. First, I rarely go looking for a place but when I do, I don't think I've actually spent more than a half hour finding one. There are many ways to go about finding a room other than tramping from one hotel to another. Most of the time I find a room while sitting somewhere having a coffee or glass of wine believe it or not.

When you become used to not pre-booking, you develop strategies for finding a room that differ from those pre-bookers use. After a while, you get good at it, just like anything else.

Second, in my opinion, most tourist move far too frequently. If I go to A and spend half an hour finding a room, then stay there for 6 nights, the half hour has little meaning.

If someone pre-books and arrives in A, they will take a half hour no doubt getting to their room anyway. What differs is they will spend that time and more, every time they move. In fact, moving less means spending more time seeing/doing things IN a place.

So I don't sightsee for a day and then look for a room at 4pm every day. I would suggest that I LOSE less time moving than most people who pre-book do.

You are suggesting a theoretical worst case (stop sightseeing every day at 4pm to look for a room)as a reason to pre-book. The logic is flawed.

Re being walked, as I have suggested, it can be a real plus in some cases. Again, it depends on whether your strategy is flexible or not. Bump me on a flight (and provide me with a free round trip ticket as compensation) no problem. Walk me from the hotel (and provide me with 2 free room nights) no problem. Both events are a real plus IF your travel strategy allows for it. There is no one best answer that fits every situation.

All I am suggesting is that people think a bit more out of the box they are used to livinng in. We live in a society that is ruled by the clock. We have schedules, appointments, etc. and so when going on a vacation, most people will automatically think in the same way. 'I have to PLAN each day'. NO, you do not have to, that is or should be what a vacation is about. Freedom from your normal highly planned daily life.

You are free to get up each morning and say, 'what will we do today? Something here or move on to somewhere else?' When people CHOOSE to self-impose a pre-planned itinerary, they are losing that freedom. Where is the sense in that?

TC Oct 13th, 2014 11:15 AM

I'm happy to hear that this stategy works for you. I can see a lot of flawed logic for most travelers. If one is backpacking across Europe with unlimited time, its lovely to drop in somewhere and stay a few days before moving on. However, if like most people on holiday, the traveler only has one week and intends to see three cities, then some sort of plan needs to be made in advance. Most people are first and foremost limited by the arrival and departure dates and locations on air tickets.

I also think that with a little bit of work, its quite easy to figure out if one will be entertained for one day or three in a particular city. I know what we like to do and I know, in advance, if the city we're visiting offers enough to keep us busy.

Regarding the hotel "walk" or the airline "bump"....<i>just ain't what it used to be</i>. For instance, the legacy airlines now ask for people to register to voluntarily be bumped on oversold flights. This question pops up when one checks-in for the flight. You are then asked to "bid" on how little you will accept in compensation. So the lowest bidder gets the bump. Its usually a hundred dollar voucher with so many strings that its nearly impossible to use. No more putting one on the next flight with a bump to first class.

The hotel walk compensation is also a lovely idea, but doesn't happen in real life. Lets ask ourselves why the link you provide is selling a seminar on how it <u>SHOULD BE</u> done? Because in the real world, it is rarely handled that way. Nice idea though.

Here's my some research ahead. Book a lovely hotel at a good price. Stay put. Get to know the people. Eat in tiny, hole in the wall places. Talk to strangers. Enjoy the area. Don't try to see all of Europe on one trip.

I just spent 10 days in Lyon, FR. I am delighted that we booked a wonderful little hotel overlooking a central square complete with amazing fountain. I booked it far enough in advance that we had a big corner room - unlike those who popped in at the last minute and got the tiny room with no window. With a little advance reading, I learned of a cooking class and signed up on-line months in advance. I was one of only six to get in to the class. The waitlist had 15 additional people on it. However, we did not book ahead for the 6 person trip into the wine country. We got shut out and had to make lesser arrangements. I made dinner reservations each day for a place to dine that night. Every single time we sat happily while many were turned away. I'm not saying they would go hungry....but they weren't eating in their first choice location and we were.

So, calling a truce on this debate, I think there is room for both methods of travel. I agree that one should be flexible. Some of our best travel encounters have come from happy accidents. But I think a little pre-planning (and, yes even pre-booking) is a wise use of time.


TC Oct 13th, 2014 11:27 AM

I also want to comment on this statement so no one is mislead:

<i>"I also know the average number of 'no shows' that hotels have is 10% and often some of those roooms have already been paid for with no refund to the customer which makes them available for 'negotiation' when you walk in the door."</i>

I make a hotel reservation and <u>guaranty or pre-pay it with my credit card.</u> That hotel is obligated to hold that room for me. Often I show up at 1:00 or 2:00 AM. I have even shown up at 6AM for my room. I expect it to be there - ready and waiting for me. Yes...if I never show up and don't cancel, they have the right to keep my deposit. They do not have the right to determine when I show up. I paid for the room and its mine until check-out whether I sleep in it...or just brush my teeth and depart.

While "no shows" used to be a bigger problem, the use of guaranteed or pre-paid reservation have really slowed the practice of booking and never arriving without notice.

Sojourntraveller Oct 13th, 2014 04:07 PM

"If one is backpacking across Europe with unlimited time, its lovely to drop in somewhere and stay a few days before moving on. However, if like most people on holiday, the traveler only has one week and intends to see three cities, then some sort of plan needs to be made in advance. Most people are first and foremost limited by the arrival and departure dates and locations on air tickets."

I think we have already agreed that different types of travel offer different choices TC. But reading the above, I have to ask if you even read what I wrote?

When you write, 'the traveller has one week and intends to see 3 cities, then some sort of plan has to be made.'

That ASSUMES that the traveller has CHOSEN to lock themself in rather than play it by ear. If they have actually made that choice then that's fine, it's their time and their dime. HOWEVER, while as you say, this is what 'most people on holiday' do, I do not believe they actually make a conscious choice between planning and not planning their time. They automatically plan without giving any thought to not planning.

Even in writing it, you write it as if it is a GIVEN, not a choice.

Whenever this topic comes up on a travel forum, the same old same old reasons for planning are trotted out. In fact, what it really comes down to is habit and fear. People plan because they are conditioned to plan and IF they think about not planning where they will stay for a week or two, then fear rears it's head. They get the 'what ifs' disease.

They also when defending planning, use a worst case example as if it was an every day event. Such as your 4pm comment earlier.

you write, 'unlimited time' which is another typical 'why I can't wing it' excuse given that assumes something as if it were a must. Why can't someone wing it for one week? Unlimited time is not a prerequisite for winging your travels.

I don't care if someone chooses to pre-plan or wing it. But any suggestion that someone CANNOT choose to wing it when on vacation is simply not valid.

donotmisslist Oct 14th, 2014 12:22 AM

Hi Nomah,
Since you'll be doing the booking 'on the fly', I'd also recommend It's a lot easier to navigate and you can find some pretty good last minute deals. Hope you have fun!

TC Oct 14th, 2014 06:41 AM's as simple as this, I have more money than time. So I choose to spend a few dollars more (if indeed that is the case) for the freedom to do as I please. In fact, I love the pre-planning portion of holidays. While you think that pre-planning is caused by turn, I think that no planning is just lazy. We each have our set of priorities.

Enjoy your travels!

Sojourntraveller Oct 14th, 2014 07:37 AM

LOL, OK TC. Funny you suggest you spend more by pre-planning. I'm not sure you how worked that one out. In fact, that it cost more to wing it is almost always given as a reason to plan!

You have the 'freedom to do as you please'? That's also confusing. Planning means you follow an itinerary which means you are not free to do as you please mid-stream so to speak. Winging it is all about doing as you please each and every day.

I have all the time in the world and the money to match. I do think that a shortage of time is a major reason why people think they need to plan to 'get the most' out of their limited time. But getting the most out of their time often translates to quantity (of places) vs. quality. It's the number one reason why people try to visit too many places in too little time whe on a non-destination vacation. In fact the way to get the most out of time in terms of travel, is to go to one place and not move till you go home. That provides maximum time IN a place seeing/doing things. No time is lost moving from place to place. They try to 'do Europe' in 2 weeks. Instead of just visiting Paris for 2 weeks.

Donotmisslist, is no better or worse than any other third party, 'we have the best prices' website. But recently, they have started running a series of commercials that is quite offensive. They use the word 'booking' in a way that clearly substitutes it for 'f***ing' in the vernacular.

I have to ask, who is their target audience? Not me.

annhig Oct 14th, 2014 07:56 AM

well, SJ, you clearly aren't their target audience as you don't like to pre-book.

but I watched the ad and frankly, I don't pick up what you did at all, except in a slightly jokey fashion.

There are of course advantages and disadvantages in both approaches, depending on the length of trip, its purpose, one's character etc.

perhaps you and TC can just agree to differ?

TC Oct 14th, 2014 08:04 AM

I don't think we are differing....just not reading.

I posted:
<i>"Here's my some research ahead. Book a lovely hotel at a good price. Stay put. Get to know the people. Eat in tiny, hole in the wall places. Talk to strangers. Enjoy the area. Don't try to see all of Europe on one trip."</i>

ST posted:
<i>" the way to get the most out of time in terms of travel, is to go to one place and not move till you go home. That provides maximum time IN a place seeing/doing things. No time is lost moving from place to place. They try to 'do Europe' in 2 weeks. Instead of just visiting Paris for 2 weeks."</i>

OMG...we finally agree on something.


annhig Oct 14th, 2014 08:13 AM

OMG...we finally agree on something.>>

I seriously doubt it, TC.

TC Oct 14th, 2014 08:56 AM

I tried, Annhig. Hard to find common ground sometimes. ;)

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:04 AM.