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Best hotel booking sites

There are so many hotel booking sites servicing the Australian market these days. It’s no longer good enough to just come up with a list of available accommodation.

For a site to really deliver, it needs to tick all the expected boxes and work in a way that distinguishes itself from the rest.

First, there are the workhorse sites like Expedia and Zuji. These sites are basically third-party travel agent sites that also book hotels, which does yield the convenience of being able to organize a flight and somewhere to stay at the same time.

They offer a perfectly functional method of finding accommodation, but the local range is lacking slightly. Listings are presented as, well, a list, and are often too long to encourage scrolling past the first page or so.

Both sites offer a comprehensive rating system (Zuji 5 point, Expedia 25), and, to their credit, listings can be ordered according to their rating or price, a fairly standard feature that does make browsing slightly less painful. Also, possibly owing to the fact that they are international companies, both sites offer much more extensive overseas options than their Australian competitors.

Quickbeds is a considerably more to-the-point service that is specifically tailored to the Australian market. It belongs to the wonderful genre of last-minute hospitality websites that have emerged and rapidly proliferated over the last five years.

The idea is that hotels can’t always fill rooms, and prospective customers may need somewhere to stay at late notice, so the two find a halfway point in the form of cheap accommodation.

The site has cleverly included a button in its search engine to specify either ‘last minute’ (an immediate 28-day window) to ‘year round’ prices, allowing customers to use the site as a simple straight-up hotel booking service should they wish to.

For the best range of possibilities, it’s difficult to ignore the larger ‘hypothetical, last-minute travel plan’ sites. If you’re willing to keep an open mind about exactly when you need to travel and where you want to stay, sites like these prove to be invaluable resources.

The aptly named WotIf is the best known, and with good reason. Customers enter their desired travel destination and date, and WotIf regurgitates an enormous grid of listings over a ten-day window, along with their prospective prices, allowing direct price comparison between tens, sometimes hundreds of different accommodation possibilities.

Inevitably, having to visually process all of the possible outcomes at once can be daunting, and the best fares are often snaffled up by obsessives.

If not seems too much work, it might be worth paying a visit to LastMinute instead. It operates on the same principle as the former, but with fewer options, resulting in a slightly less overwhelming method of browsing.

And if you happen to be the type of person who becomes unsettlingly excited about organizing itineraries, and you happen to think WotIf is for featherweights, give NeedItNow a spin. It’s the same again, but much larger, focusing on hotels, but offering car hire on the side also. This site also caters almost exclusively to the Australian and New Zealand markets and covers only a handful of major civic hubs worldwide.

Overwhelmed yet? You needn’t be. With these sites, some steely determination, and a resolute clicking finger, you’ll make the perfect reservation in no time.

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