Use a better booking engine
Don't use the most famous booking engines; use the ones with the largest selection and lowest rates
It's sad, but the best booking engines can often undersell the rates the hotel itself charges by a good 5% to 15%.
Notice I wrote "the best booking engines." This rarely means the big three (Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com) or the major hotel sites (like Hotels.com).
You need to use a true specialist booking engine like Booking.com or Agoda.com—which offer far more types of lodging, including many cheaper ones—or a budget specialist like Hostelworld.com or Hostelz.com (which actually list more inexpensive hotels than they do hostels).
I'm serious. That's why I've partnered with these sites.
More on booking lodging
- Booking.com - We have done extensive testing, and Booking.com is hands-down the single best booking engine, with by far the largest number of hotels (and other lodging options) in all price ranges.Partner
- Agoda.com - This booking engine, once just an Asia specialist, has recently rocketed to second-best all around the world.Partner
- HotelsCombined.com - An aggregator looks at the results of all the booking engines and presents the prices it finds at each side-by-side. It's a great concept (and works well for airfares), however in our tests the actual booking engines themselves often offered better deals on more properties.Partner
- Hostelz.com - A booking engine that specailizes in hostels and cheap hotels.Partner
- Hotels.com - Since Hotels.com absorbed its Venere.com sibling, it has been performing much better in Europe than it once did.Partner
- Priceline.com - Priceline not only offers decent deals on standard hotel bookings, but also "Express Deals" in which you only get to know the hotel's star rating and neighborhood before you pay for it—but the savings can be substantial (usually 18%–20%, though occasionally much higher).Partner
- Hotwire.com - Like its competition Priceline, Hotwire offers both straightforward hotel bookings as well as "Hot Rate" deals that save you 25%–65% on hotels that you book blindly, knowing only the neighborhood and star rating before booking (and paying) for it.Partner
- Trivago.com - Depsite its aggressive advertising camapaigns, in our tests Trivago does not actually perform all that well as an aggregator (and it has gotten worse as time goes on). Still, it can be handy.Partner
- Booking.com - One of the best general booking sites out there, and one of the few that includes B&Bs (filed variously under the categories of "Bed and Breakfasts," "Guesthouses," and "Inns"). By the numbers: 282 B&Bs in London, 151 in Edinburgh, 76 in Bath.Partner
- Bedandbreakfast.com - B&B specialist listing more than 5,500 bed and breakfasts across the U.K., with more than 300 in London alone, 153 in Edinbugh, and 23 in Bath, starting at £19 ($30). User reviews help you make informed decisions.Partner
- Hotels.com - Another generalist lodging booking site with a huge representation of B&Bs: 135 in central London, 130 in Edinburgh, and 37 in Bath.Partner
- Airbnb.com - Famous network of both official and unofficial B&Bs, homestays, room rentals, and apartment and house rentals. So many I can't even post total numbers here, but for an idea: There are more than 300 private room offerings in Central London for under £35 ($54) alone. The idea of someone inflating the old air mattress for you is just a metaphor. Usually, you stay in a guest bedroom, futon, or fold-out couch. Its rates are among the lowest around, averaging £59 ($91), though charging anywhere from £15 to £160 ($24 to $247) per night, with a handful charging more. Airbnb.com is less regulated than most official or online resources, and many of the places to stay are not registered with the local authorities—which helps make them cheaper, but they are not inspected, or subject to official compaints, and certainly do not pay taxes. Buyer beware.
- Bedandbreakfastsguide.com - Online catalog that, depsite its name, lists hotels, self-catering (apartments), and pubs/inns as well. In the striclty B&B category: 118 in London, 206 in Edinburgh, 84 in Bath.
- Wolseylodges.com - A collection of 155 premier B&Bs installed in manor houses, Georgian mansions, Victorian country rectories, and the like across England, Scotland, and Wales (with a smattering in France). Just a handful in any given destination—3 each in London and Edinburgh, 2 in Bath—but all stunning. Even at this level of luxury, prices still range around £95–£140 ($146–$216) for a double (though rates on the site are presented, annoyingly, per person).
- Visitus.co.uk - A mind-boggling array of B&Bs in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland: 210 in central London, 224 in Edinburgh, 86 in Bath. No grouped mapping feature, however, and it is annoyingly database driven, with London sliced into eight geographic sections (for Central London, you'll have to sift through each of London NW, London SE, London SW, and London W; the other four sections are all way outside the center).
- Hostelz.com - Aggregator bringing together from many hostel and cheap hotel booking engines. If you select "Guesthouses" as the Accommodation Type you will find plenty of B&Bs in there.Partner
- Welcomehomes.co.uk - This London B&B agency lists about three dozen budget and value lodgings in London, with per-person rates from £18–£60 per night.
- Uptownres.co.uk - Uptown Reservations is a long-standing agency devoted to, as its name implies, upscale B&Bs in London, about 65 of them, rated at least four stars, and largely in the tonier neighborhoods (Kinghtsbridge, Kensington, South Kensington, Sloan Square, Chelsea, etc.). Frustratingly in the Internet wera, they don't actually give you a selection of B&Bs from which to choose, but rather have you contact them with your requirements. Still, the lodgings are lovely, and charge a flat £125 for a double, which isn't bad.
- Bedandbreakfastnationwide.com - Network of about 550 B&Bs across Brtiain and Ireland, including 43 in London (via a sister agency), 3 in Edinburgh (and another 9 nearby), and 6 in Bath (well, one atually in Bath and five nearby).
- Bedandbreakfast.eu - Massive database of 1.8 million places to stay around the world (more than 1,400 in London alone), but it is more of a classifieds site, with each property submitting and writing its own listing, and many are not, actually, B&Bs in the traditional sense. Still, a good resource for the room hunt.
- Homeaway.com - So many places it doesn't even bother listing rentals past the first 5,000—and that's just in London.Partner
- Vrbo.com -
VRBO stands for "Vacation Rentals By Owner," a worldwide virtual classifieds section devoted to villas, apartments, cottages, houses, and other places to lay your head fromas little as $400 per week in England. There are a stunning 33,761 properties available in England, 4,896 in Scotland, and 5,123 in Wales.
Though designed to allow villa and vacation home owners to rent to the public directly—ostensibly cutting out the extra costs involved in working through a middle-man rental agency—in my experience plenty of small-fry local rental agencies use it as well (not that there's anything wrong with renting through those folks; just wanted to let you know that not every property listed is truly direct from the owner).Partner
- Booking.com - More than 10,800 apartments across the United Kingdom, including more than 4,300 in London.Partner
- Rentalo.com - Another sizeable database for one-stop shopping, with more than 2,600 properties across the U.K. They also handle everything from standard hotels to B&Bs, agriturism, and even castles.Partner
- Hotels.com - Good generalist booking engine with plenty of "Apartments" options in the filter screens for each destination.Partner
- Interhomeusa.com - 966 rentals in the U.K., of which 212 in London. Partner
- Villasintl.com - Around 770 rental homes and flats of all sizes across the U.K., mostly in England (561 in London) with about 100 in Scotland.
- Belvilla.com - 386 holiday cottages across the U.K., inlcuding 15 flats and homes in London.Partner
- Airbnb.com - Tens of thousands of listings—but caveat emptor. Anyone can post a listing, so trust only the ones with lots of reviews.
- Booking.com - Booking.com lists more than 350 hostels across the U.K., with nearly 100 in London alone, complete with verified user reviews.Partner
- Hostelz.com - An aggregator shows you the rates its can find at multiple booking engines at once, so you can find the lowest price out there on hostels and other cheap accommodations.Partner
- Independenthostels.co.uk - A guide to about 400 hostels, bunkhouses, and camping barns all across Great Britain, including England, Scotland, and Wales. It is much stronger in the countryside, towns, and smaller cities than in London (which is pretty much ignores, weighing in with less than half a dozen).
- Yha.org.uk - The official hostelling site, linking to all 158 official YHA hostels and bunkhouses in the U.K. This does mean, however, it ignores the many, many excellent private hostels.
- Hostelworld.com - Booking site with hostels, cheap hotels, apartments, and B&Bs in more than 80 destinations across England, including an impressive 184 in London alone. Partner
- Bookhostels.com - A classic hostel booking engine, offering deals on more than 115 hostels in London alone.Partner