Shall I compare thee? Our Quest to Find the Cheapest Travel Booking Website

Updated November 18th, 2017.

It seems new flight/hotel comparison search engines are popping up every day all claiming to be the cheapest travel booking website. We’re all familiar with the big names like Expedia and lastminute.com, they’ve been around for a while now. But what can newer, lesser-known alternatives have to offer? Is it worth trying something new?

We were recently contacted by one of the new names on the scene. They asked us to feature them in an article. We decided that the most honest way to do so would be to include them in a comparative review against their competitors. As it happened, they came third. They decided to pull the article unless we removed the first and second place winners from the list. We did not consider that to be ethical behaviour and have instead removed their name from the list and decided to present you with the rest of the findings.

If truth be told, this was not a fun article to research. Many of the sites reviewed below are infuriating to use, to say the least, especially when you’re running the search on the rather unreliable Nepalese internet (we´re currently in Pokhara). What’s more, I now have hotels and flight ads for Bangkok decorating the wall of every website I look at. Bloody Google! Anyway… All in the name of journalism…

Our Hypothetical Trip

To make our comparison, we planned a hypothetical budget trip.

One imaginary person will be travelling from London Heathrow (LHR) to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) on 05/06/2017, returning 12/06/2017 and booking themselves into a private room.

(This article was written several weeks before it was published, prices will almost certainly have changed since then)

As this person will be on a budget, they’re interested in the lowest price each site offers in each category. That said, any flight options that take over 24 hours, or involve more than one connection have been counted out.

Our Quest to find the Cheapest Travel Booking Website – Where We Looked:

We ran the search on the following sites which all offer flights and hotels through the same site:

  • Lastminute.com

  • Kayak

  • Skyscanner

  • Momondo

  • Expedia

  • Hipmunk

  • Tripadvisor

The Results (Listed from most expensive to cheapest)…

7. Tripadvisor

Return flight with China Southern Airways

Out flight – 1 stop, 16h 15mins

Return flight – 1 stop, 17h 40mins

512.98 USD

Private room at Four Sons Place – 77.91 USD

TOTAL PRICE – 590.89 USD

Notes – On the TripAdvisor flight search I was taken to a 3rd party site where I had to re-enter my flight details. The Hotel search page involved opening 3 new windows via a stream of redirects. Grrr.

6. Hipmunk

Return flight with China Southern Airways

Out flight – 1 stop, 16h 15mins

Return flight – 1 stop, 17h 40mins

421.93 USD

Private room at BS Residence Suvarnabhumi – 133,35 USD

TOTAL PRICE – 555.28 USD

Notes – Even though Hipmunk found a very cheap offer for the same flight as many of the other search engines, I was surprised to find that the cheapest hotel it offered me was so expensive. I was, on the other hand, delighted not to work my way through pages of dorm rooms which caused much frustration on other sites. I don’t know if dorm rooms were anywhere to be found on the page, if they were, thankfully I didn’t come across them.

5. Expedia

Return flight with China Southern Airways

Out flight – 1 stop, 16h 15mins

Return flight – 1 stop, 17h 40mins

470.98 USD

Private room at New Siam I 67.62 USD

TOTAL PRICE 538.60 USD

Notes – Good search options on flights. It was easy to filter out flights with too many stops, or that took too long. Both flights and hotels could be booked without going to 3rd party pages, which is appreciated. No option to search for private rooms only.

4. Lastminute.com

Return flight with China Southern Airlines.

Out flight – 1 stop, 16h 15min

Return flight – 1 stop, 17h 40min

471.45 USD

Private room in Siam I Hostel 63.90 USD

TOTAL PRICE – 535.35 USD

NotesNo option of searching for private rooms only. I had to spend a long time clicking on every hostel it offered me before finally finding a private room. My advice? Don´t leave it to the last minute to book on lastminute.com, you’ll need more time than that!

3. IN THIRD PLACE: Kayak

Return flight with China Southern Airways

Out flight – 1 stop, 16h 15mins

Return flight – 1 stop, 17h 40mins

465 USD

7 nights in private room at Charoendee Boutique Hostel 57 USD

TOTAL PRICE 522 USD

NotesKayak had a particularly infuriating page. Every accommodation option you click on seems to fire a pop-up upon your return to the page. Again, no option of showing private rooms only. There were options to show price per night, total price and total price including taxes and fees, but this option didn’t work properly, meaning you often found yourself linked to pages with rooms that were much more expensive than they were supposed to be. Bizarrely, they don’t offer kayaks on their page, cruises are as close as they come.

2. IN SECOND PLACE: Skyscanner

Return flight with China Southern Airlines

Out flight – 1 stop, 19h 55min

Return flight – 1 stop, 17h 40min

425.34 USD

Private room at Bluefin Guesthouse for 60 USD

Total Price 485.34 USD

Notes – Again, no option of filtering out dorm rooms, but this time there are even more to work your way through than on any of the sites I’ve looked at. Skyscanner’s strength may also be its weakness. I found myself fuming whilst looking for a private room and had to eat lots of chocolate digestives to keep myself sane through the process!

1. THE WINNER! Momondo

Return flight with China Southern Airways

Out flight – 1 stop, 16h 15mins

Return flight – 1 stop, 17h 40mins

416.33 USD

Private room at Bangkok House Guesthouse 52.60 USD

TOTAL PRICE 468.93 USD

Notes – I had to re-enter my travel details once I’d followed the link on the flight, which was irritating. That said, the flight was cheaper than any of the other options. As with almost all of the other sites, it took me a long time to find a private room. However, the price was very low once I did.

Conclusion…

I was very surprised by some of these results. I’d very much expected either Tripadvisor or Expedia to be the cheapest travel booking website. However, they worked out at over 100 USD more expensive than our winner, Momondo.

One interesting discovery I made during this process was that flight+hotel packs work out as more expensive than booking flights and hotels separately. As not all the pages I looked at offered this option, I didn’t include it in the data. I was thoroughly surprised to discover that it wasn’t the cheapest option (the pages themselves invariably assure you that it will be). Perhaps the hotels offered in such packs belong to a higher category, they all looked dull and suspiciously close to airports from what I saw.

As you have probably been able to tell whilst reading this article, the biggest irritation (among many) I suffered during my research came from the lack of the option to remove dorm rooms from the hotel searches. From past experience, I know that Booking.com do provide that option, perhaps when it comes to booking your accommodation, you’d be better off doing it through them.

However, my personal recommendation would be to try and simply turn up in the place you’re visiting and find accommodation once you get there. Obviously, there’s a risk in doing that, so if you’re going somewhere particularly busy, please ignore that advice. Mostly though, you’ll get much better prices if you are willing to take that risk. What’s more, you avoid those awful moments when you remember that photos don’t tell you anything about smells, noise, rats or cockroaches (and in some cases, of course, the photos are of a completely different place altogether!).

My own habit is to reserve one or two nights through a booking site in advance then spend a bit of time exploring my options in the place I am visiting. If time permits, this works very well…

My final thoughts

I won’t be rushing to search through one of these pages without actually having a trip to go on anytime soon. Now I’d better run some searches for things I’d actually like to see on my Facebook feed before Google ads finish with my will to live once and for all!

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One thought on “Shall I compare thee? Our Quest to Find the Cheapest Travel Booking Website

  1. Barefoot Brunette says:

    Hi! FYI, Hipmunk’s default sort is not by price, so that may have been the reason why it did not offer the cheapest room first.

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