Testing the best hotel booking sites for families: which sites come out on top?

Find the best hotel deals and flexible search options with these top hotel booking sites.
Side angle view of hotel pool with beach chairs and umbrellas on deck
(Photo: Jerffrey Francisco via Unsplash)

If it feels like there are a lot of hotel comparison sites to choose from, it’s not your imagination—by my count there are dozens, all claiming to be the best. But while there’s no shortage of options, some hotel booking sites are clearly better at displaying the most useful combination of price, availability, and amenities. And if you’re booking a hotel for your family (or for any group), you’re going to want a booking site that allows you to find the right rooms and filter for perks like pools and breakfast.

Every few months, I retest these top picks and add newcomers as they prove themselves, so you can feel confident in my recommendations.

A note on how to use this story about hotel booking sites

  • Click on any of the hotel booking sites in the list below to go straight to the site and start your search for the cheapest hotel rates. 
  • Scroll down to read my review detailing the strengths and weaknesses of each of these hotel booking sites.
  • Read my hotel booking tips (click on the link to jump down to that part of the story or just scroll down) to get more advice and clever tricks for maximizing your savings on hotels.

How we review these hotel booking sites: Read our methodology for selecting and recommending booking sites.

The best hotel booking sites for families

My reviews of hotel bookings sites for families

1. Kayak

Screenshot of Kayak search results for hotel stays near Honolulu, Hawaii
Kayak is a hotel booking site with a sleek look and helpful filters (Photo: Kayak)

What Kayak does best

Kayak has a sleek design with search result displays that are easy to understand. It shows multiple accommodations types, allows you to see the total price easily, and has filters that let you drill down to specific types of rooms—for instance family-friendly accommodations.

What I like about Kayak’s hotel search

As a metasearch (a tool that pulls from a bunch of hotel booking sites and displays all of them in one place), Kayak offers an easy way to compare prices across online travel agent sites (OTAs) with listings that call out the lowest price but also let you see nightly rates across multiple hotel booking sites.

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For being a hotel booking site that’s delivering quite a bit of information on a single screen, Kayak is remarkably easy to understand and navigate. You’re automatically shown results across a variety of accommodations types including hotels, rentals, resorts, and guest houses. (If you want to narrow your lodging choices down, you unselect those you don’t want included.)

Note that the default search results style doesn’t show you the cheapest hotel rates first; if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll need to select “Sort by Price.” You can also choose how you want prices displayed: by nightly base rate, nightly total rate, or the price of the whole stay including taxes. In my opinion, it’s that third option that’s the best one to use.

You’ll have to dig a bit to craft your perfect search, but the tools are there if you’re willing. Kayak also offers price alerts (toggle the switch at the top left to on when you’re browsing listings) so you can monitor prices across days, weeks, or months.

Note that hotel booking sites Booking.com, Priceline, Kayak, and Agoda are all owned by the same parent company, but they don’t necessarily offer the same prices for hotel stays. It’s worth putting in the extra effort to check one or more of these sites individually.

2. Booking.com

Screenshot of Booking.com website showing New Orleans hotel options
The mix of lodging options makes Booking.com a useful one-stop hotel booking site (Photo: Booking.com)

What Booking.com does best

Booking.com is great at allowing you to see a lot of different accommodations types in one search while also layering on filters that help you drill down to the amenities, layout, and offerings you want. It’s strong on both family-oriented filters and accessibility filters. And it gives you the standard option to filter by neighborhood, or, intriguingly by “guests’ favorite area” in a city, which offers an easy way to get a sense of central, pleasant neighborhoods.

What I like about Booking.com’s hotel search

Here’s what I like best about Booking.com: this hotel booking site mixes hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, vacation homes, and even apartments into its search results. You can sort by price, reviews, and even fun things to do on-property. And you can filter results by budget, hotel chain, star rating, location (distance from city center), and property type (apartment, hotel, hostel, etc.). There’s also an option to highlight hotels that focus on sustainability.

Booking.com also has an extensive filter list including accessibility options like elevators, wheelchair accessible rooms, roll-in showers, raised showers, bathroom emergency cord, and more.

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Once you click through on a property, you can see property and hotel room amenities, reviews, questions and answers about the property, and the price comparison by room type all in one abundant-but-still-pretty-easy-to-read location. There’s also easy-to-find information about things like prepayment, cancellation, and booking flexibility.

3. Hotels.com

Screenshot of Hotels.com search result for the Times Square Edition hotel
Discounted rooms are flagged clearly in search results on Hotels.com’s hotel searches (Photo: Hotels.com)

What Hotels.com does best

Hotels.com has a ton of different property types (including castles!). The system clearly flags less expensive and discounted hotel rooms in search results, and if you want, you can limit search results to hotels that offer free cancellation.

What I like about Hotels.com’s hotel search

The Hotels.com interface is easy to understand and quick to navigate. The hotel search engine has a remarkably robust mix of property types, including hotels, condo hotels, castles, B&Bs, vacation rentals, and more.

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Hotels.com allows you to narrow your search to family-friendly properties or by amenities like childcare, bathtubs, pools, and cribs. The hotel booking site clearly labels how many people (including number of kids) can fit into a particular hotel room type. You also have the ability to search for hotels that offer free cancellation. Overall, the search experience here is user-friendly and prices are competitive with other hotel sites, putting it near the top of my recommendations.

4-6. Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity

Screenshot of Expedia's website showing hotel options in Asheville, North Carolina
Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity all offer a similar user experience, but sometimes prices fluctuate among the sites (Photo: Expedia)

What Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity do best

Longtime giants in the space, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity deliver easy to use search interfaces plus similar experiences across all three hotel booking websites. They’re known quantities that offer competitive prices and comfortable familiarity.

What I like about Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity’s hotel search

Among the best-known of all hotel booking sites, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity have something else in common as well: They’re all owned by Expedia, Inc. Prices fluctuate a bit, but the overall design, prices, and experience across all three is very similar. Which in a way is freeing: All you need to do is choose your favorite of the three and include it when you’re looking for a hotel deal.

Filters include hotel star rating, property type (hotels, vacation rental listings, apartments, B&Bs, and more), neighborhood and proximity to popular attractions (an easy way to gauge how close to a city center you’ll be), and more. You can specify the number of bedrooms you want in the case of vacation rentals. You can also specify that you’re looking for a family-friendly list of properties (though you’ll need to scroll to the bottom of the list of filters on the left side of the page to find the option in the “Traveler experience” section).

7. Priceline

Screenshot of Priceline search results showing hotels in Savannah, Georgia
Priceline has some great steep discount options if you’re willing to book without knowing the exact hotel (Photo: Priceline)

What Priceline does best

Priceline lists a good mix of hotels and other accommodations types, has some standout steep-discount finder features, and flags properties displaying with lower-than-average prices.

What I like about Priceline’s hotel search

Priceline was one of the first OTAs and it still has a devoted following and an easy-to-navigate site layout. Filters are not extensive, but include the ability to narrow by price, search by amenities (including swimming pool and free breakfast), hotel star rating, neighborhood, and hotel brand. In addition to listing hotels, Priceline also lists alternative accommodations types like apart-hotels, bed and breakfast properties, and rental apartments.

Priceline’s ExpressDeals and Pricebreakers are two ways Priceline offers even more significant discounts. In both cases, you find out the name of the hotel only after you reserve. ExpressDeals are the most deeply discounted, but you have to book knowing only the neighborhood, star rating, review score, and amenities. With Pricebreakers, you get discounts up to 50% off and can see three hotel names in advance. One of the three named hotels will be revealed as the one you get after you complete the booking.

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ExpressDeals can be adjusted to include more than two people per room; however, Pricebreakers are only available for double occupancy, which is fine if you’re booking rooms of two people each, but won’t work if you’re looking for a single room that will hold more than two people. To get access to either of these discounted options, enter all your search parameters and then in search results, scroll down until you see the “ExpressDeals & Pricebreakers” checkbox under the Deals section on the left.

8. Tripadvisor

Landing page for St. Lucia on Tripadvisor
Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor

What Tripadvisor does best

Given its strength in the user-review space, it’s no surprise that Tripadvisor offers a useful mix of past-guest reviews along with metasearch comparisons that show you prices across hotel booking sites.

What I like about Tripadvisor’s hotel search

Tripadvisor is best known for its massive (and always growing) collection of user reviews, but in recent years it’s also become a go-to site for comparing hotel prices across different booking sites.

On each hotel page, there’s a box that shows rates for the hotel (if available) on various hotel booking sites. Here you can also input specific travel dates and numbers of people to get the most accurate pricing. And in some cases, you might see a note with a link if a hotel is willing to match prices offered elsewhere. Keep scrolling and you’ll get to the hotel reviews, making it a pretty complete one-stop-shop for browsing hotels and comparing prices.

9. Hotwire

Screenshot of Hotwire search result for hotels in Boston
Hotwire is best known for its extra-cheap hotel deals at hotels you don’t know the name of until after you book (Photo: Hotwire)

What Hotwire does best

Hotwire stands out with its cheap hotel deal finder and handy price alerts. It’s also a good source of last-minute hotel deals.

What I like about Hotwire’s hotel search

Hotwire offers the simplicity of a classic hotel booking site layout, but still has a number of the filter options people expect on today’s best hotel booking sites. Many people love Hotwire’s Hot Rates, which offer cheap hotel deals at undisclosed (until you book) hotels.

Hotwire also offers price alerts (available as a button in search listings), which is helpful if you’re hoping to wait to book until the nightly rate drops. And it’s a good place to search for last-minute hotel deals. Also of note is that Hotwire is pushing its app and says that its best deals are always reserved for bookings made through the app.

10. Agoda

Agoda hotel booking website homepage screenshot showing features and search box
Agoda allows you to easily search for hotel rooms for groups of all sizes (Photo: Agoda)

What Agoda does best

Agoda has an easy-to-navigate design with plenty of ways to search. Of note is the ability to specify family size and room preferences, and its small and large group booking functions.

What I like about Agoda’s hotel search

Agoda’s homepage has a simple but customizable search box that allows you to specify family travel (or group travel if you’re a multigenerational travel group or are multiple families traveling together). In the family hotel search, you can give preference to family rooms, and in the group hotel search, you can find group rates if you’re booking more than 10 rooms.

Like Agoda’s no-nonsense homepage search box, the results page on this hotel booking site feel easy to read but don’t skimp on important details. There’s a property type filter that lets you search hotels, resorts, vacation homes, and so on (depending on what’s available at the destination). Within each of these groupings, you can easily dig down to search by the cheapest hotel rooms, top-reviewed hotels, and distance from popular landmarks in a city. You can also see highly discounted hotel rates using the Hot Deals tab with deeper discounts. This tab also sometimes includes Secret Deals that show you neighborhood and hotel star rating, but not hotel name (until you book).

11. Google Hotels

screenshot of google hotels homepage
Google mixes hotel listings, maps, and destination information in its hotels search (Photo: Google)

What Google Hotels does best

Though it doesn’t have quite the following that Google’s airfare search has, Google Hotels offers a nice combination of helpful destination information and hotel listings, location-centered hotel listings, and metasearch hotel pricing listings.

What I like about Google Hotels’ search

To access Google Hotels, you have two options: navigate directly to Google’s Hotel page (integrated with Google Maps) or just do a Google search using the word “hotel” and your preferred destination. The hotel tool is integrated with Google maps, so if you’re a visual person looking to find a hotel in just the right location, it can be great.

Google Hotels, like Kayak, is a metasearch, and once you click through on a hotel, you can see prices across different hotel booking sites. There aren’t many filters in general, though if you click on Amenities you’ll see filters like “Pet-Friendly” and “Pool.” But, as a straightforward hotel booking metasearch option, it’s a solid choice, and one that displays automatically with a Google search. 

12. Momondo

screenshot of Momondo hotel booking site results page
(Photo: Momondo)

What Momondo does best

Momondo delivers metasearch results that pull from hundreds of hotel booking sites. Its simple interface makes browsing pretty straightforward, and reviews are built into the listings so you can see what other travelers think before you book.

What I like about Momondo’s hotel search

Momondo is a metasearch engine, so it collects hotel prices from hundreds of other sites and displays them in your search results. And since it’s a metasearch, you don’t actually do any booking on the site itself; instead, Momondo routes you back to the specific hotel booking site when it’s time to reserve a room.

Of particular interest is Momondo’s assurance that the prices displayed aren’t affected by your searches, so you don’t need to worry about cookies upping the price of a room once it’s clear what you’re browsing for. Like many of these other hotel booking sites, you aren’t limited to just hotel rooms—there’s also the option to browse aparthotels, inns, and vacation rentals.

Bonus: Tips on finding the best hotel deals

There are a lot of hotel search engines out there, all purporting to be the best site to book hotels. The truth is that no single website is going to offer the best deal every time, so comparing at least a few sites will be an important part of the pre-booking process. Price aside, there are other important reasons why certain sites make it onto this list and others don’t. Some offer better ways to search and filter results. Others offer a wider variety of hotel rooms. A few really do offer better hotel deals more often than the rest.

That’s a long way of saying that the best hotel website for you may change depending on your particular needs for a given vacation, so it’s worth not getting in a rut and just using the same booking site every time without first considering your needs for that trip. Here’s a fail-safe method for finding the best hotel room for every trip.

1. Start your search far enough in advance to be able to identify pricing trends.

Advance planners, this is your moment. Start comparing hotel rates a few weeks or month before your personal booking deadline (this deadline will vary depending on how comfortable you are leaving things open-ended until the last minute). This way, you’ll have the data you need to identify when a hotel room is getting cheaper, or more expensive. This is a big one, especially at a time when the going rate for hotels varies wildly by city and season.

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Some sites will flag pricing trends for you, but if you’re looking for the best price on a hotel room, nothing beats keeping tabs on pricing fluctuations on your own. It’s a little extra work but means you can jump on savings when you see it. Plus, it’s an excuse to think about your vacation well in advance of taking the trip, which adds to the excitement of going.

2. Compare prices across hotel booking sites.

Wouldn’t it be great if one hotel booking website offered the cheapest hotel rooms all the time? Until there’s a single best website to book hotels, it’s up to you to compare prices not just week to week, but also across hotel sites. You don’t have to be too extreme though: Include two to four sites in your search (and make sure one of them is a metasearch that will do some of the heavy lifting for you) and you’re very likely covering your bases enough to be able to see fluctuations.  

3. Always check with the hotel, too.

Hotels (really) want you to book directly with them, so sometimes you can get a hotel brand to match or undercut the price you’ll see by looking at an online travel agent (OTA) like Expedia or metasearch site like Kayak. This approach can be worth the extra legwork, since it means you can work directly with the hotel if you need to adjust your reservation or have a problem with your hotel booking. 

4. If you’re a points person, check with your credit card travel portal.

If you’re not a credit card points person, save your sanity and skip this explanation, but if you do collect credit card points with an eye toward using them for travel, don’t forget to go to your preferred credit card’s travel portal (such as AmEx Travel or Chase Travel) and see what they’ve got on offer. Not all hotels are in the system, and hotels vary a lot depending on the destination, but if you can get a hotel stay with points instead of cash money, that can make up for a certain amount of additional hoops and minor frustrations.

Just remember to do a quick comparison of what you’d pay in points versus what you’ll pay in cash. In some cases, points are undervalued so you have to decide if it’s a good use of points or if you’d rather save them for a hotel (or flight) that will get you better per-point value.

4. Be sure to compare the total price.

Some hotel sites always include taxes, fees, and resort fees. Other may not include those fees in the price they display. If you’re seeing a particularly cheap rate at a hotel, check both the room type and the total cost to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples in your price comparison across hotel booking sites.

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5. Don’t forget to read the fine print.

There’s a lot of fine print when it comes to hotel stays. If you need to cancel, how much of your money will you be able to recover? Will you be surprised by sneaky resort fees or other price hikes at checkout? Before you book, zoom in on the fine print so you know what you’re signing up for. It’s boring but super important.

6. Consider special travel booking needs.

Families and groups have different hotel needs than other travelers. Adjoining rooms, suites, kitchenettes, and other layout options can make a big difference when traveling with kids or a group. So do amenities like swimming pools. Some hotel booking sites are better for families and groups than others, so be sure to take advantage of the OTAs (mentioned below) that offer these features.

More Hotel Booking Questions, Answered

What are the best hotel comparison sites?

Start your search with any of the sites I’ve reviewed above and you’ll have a solid foundation for your hotel search. But also keep in mind that there’s no substitute for comparing prices across a few different sites (including the hotel’s own website) over a period of time. By keeping an eye on price fluctuations, you’ll be able to act on a good rate when it surfaces and feel confident about the price you book.

What hotel booking sites offer the cheapest deals?

No single hotel booking site offers the best price all the time. When you’re comparing hotel rates, make sure you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison of the same room type that includes the same taxes and fees. When it comes to finding the best price on hotel stays, there’s no substitute for comparing prices and starting your search far enough in advance that you can watch prices for a bit before making your buying decision. Signing up for price alerts is an easy way to keep tabs on hotel prices as they change as well.

Why is it important to look beyond price when deciding on a hotel room?

When it comes to booking travel, it’s easy to fixate on finding that great flight deal. But airfare is not always the biggest ticket item, since the total you’ll pay for a hotel can add up fast.

In my own travels as a journalist and a vacation-loving human I’ve learned (and relearned) the importance of a good hotel room. I can deal with a few hours in a cramped seat on a plane, but when it comes to a hotel room—a place I’ll be spending at the very least eight hours each night—it has to be a good fit and within my trip budget. That motivates me to do the legwork of comparing prices across hotel booking sites.

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Christine Sarkis
A traveling parent and longtime travel writer and editor, Christine Sarkis is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of FamilyVacationist. She is the former Executive Editor for TripAdvisor travel magazine SmarterTravel.com, she has spent nearly two decades finding and sharing the best places to go with an audience of enthusiastic travelers. Her stories have appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her expert advice has been quoted in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, Here & Now, Life Kit, and California Now. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008, and she is working on a travel memoir. Christine and her husband first met in Paris, and travel remains a big part of their shared experience. With their two kids in tow, they have piloted a barge down canals in France, befriended llamas in Peru, tended olive trees in Italy, and gone snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii. The family lives in California and loves traveling around the state. Their California favorites include Yosemite National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, and the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.