Accommodation booking sites to try in 2014

By Eveline Harvey

January is traditionally a time for heading back to work ... and beginning to dream about the travel adventures the year may hold. Photo / Thinkstock
January is traditionally a time for heading back to work ... and beginning to dream about the travel adventures the year may hold. Photo / Thinkstock

If heading back to work after your summer holiday has got you down, fear not. We've rounded up 14 accommodation booking sites for you to try in 2014.

Browsing this lot should give you plenty of inspiration for your next trip, regardless of whether you're backpacking around the world, looking for a family-friendly holiday home or planning a once-in-a-lifetime romantic getaway.

1. AGODA.COM

Good for: A colleague recommended Agoda for booking accommodation when travelling in Asia, but it has a presence worldwide, with services available in 38 different languages.

Tip: The website offers a lowest-rate guarantee, so if you've booked through its website and subsequently find a cheaper rate for the same hotel, room-type and dates (viewable and bookable on another website), Agoda will match or beat that rate.

Displays user reviews? Yes.

2. AIRBNB.COM

Good for: Finding unique, privately-owned accommodation spaces for your holiday. From single rooms and apartments to treehouses, castles and boats, Airbnb has some out-of-the-ordinary listings from 192 countries around the world. And if you'd like to make some money out of your spare room at home, consider signing up to host fellow travellers.

Tip: Check out the inspirational and image-heavy Neighbourhood Guides for tips from locals and fellow travellers about what to see once you reach your destination.

Displays user reviews? Yes. Guests review the accommodation and hosts review the guests.

3. AMAZING ACCOM

Good for: That splash-out break when you're after a luxury holiday house or apartment. Many of the website's properties are situated in spectacular locations and though the per-night rates might seem high, a lot of them sleep 10 people plus, so the cost could be split between a group of friends or two families holidaying together. There are currently listings for properties in 21 countries, including New Zealand, Croatia, Mexico and Vanuatu.

Tip: Try the 'Amazing Deals' link at the top of the homepage for the best offers.

Displays user reviews? Yes.

4. BOOKABACH.CO.NZ

Good for: Finding a classic Kiwi bach (or crib) for the holidays. Bookabach has the country fairly well covered, so take a squiz next time you're hankering after a few days' break anywhere in these fair isles.

Tip: Check out the 'special deals' links just above the 'featured properties' listed on the homepage for added bonuses, or click on the 'top searches' or 'top destinations' links further down the right-hand side of the homepage.

Displays user reviews? Yes. Guests review the accommodation and bach-owners review the guests.

5. BOOKING.COM

Good for: Backpackers and those looking for accommodation outside the main tourist centres, all over the world.

Tip: Click on the 'Be the first to know!' link at the top right of the homepage to sign up for Booking.com's newsletter and access its lowest-price deals. You can also select your favourite destinations and receive personalised deals if you wish.

Displays user reviews? Yes. Reviews can also be sorted by traveller demographic (families, couples, groups of friends, solo travellers), so you can better assess whether the accommodation will fit your requirements.

6. EXPEDIA.COM

Good for: People who want to book their entire holiday - flights, accommodation, car rental and activities - in one place.

Tip: Check out the 'Last Minute' and 'Deals' links at the top right of the homepage for special offers. Expedia also has a Price Match guarantee, meaning if you book with them and subsequently find the same hotel, flight or holiday package deal (excluding cruises) online at a lower publicly available price, it will match the lower price by refunding you the difference and will throw in a $50 voucher to use on your next Expedia booking.

Displays user reviews? Yes.

7. HOLIDAYHOUSES.CO.NZ

Good for: Another great site to try when you're looking to secure a privately-owned bach or holiday home for your New Zealand getaway.

Tip: If you're looking for vacation inspiration, try the 'Popular searches' links below the main search box. You can also specify additional search criteria by clicking on the 'more options' link in the main search box.

Displays user reviews? Yes.

8. HOSTELWORLD.COM

Good for: Backpackers and those seeking good-value, non-chain hotel accommodation in major cities all over the world. More out-of-the-way places are quite well covered too. Some listings are simply beds in dorm rooms, others entire luxury apartments.

Tip: Once you've entered your main search you can sort results by price, availability (check the 'property availability' box to the left of the screen if you only want it to find places available for your entire stay), property name or overall rating.

Displays user reviews? Yes.

9. HOTELS.COM

Good for: Booking hotels worldwide. The website says it also specialises in providing travellers with accommodation during sold-out periods, which could come in handy for those last-minute trips.

Tip: There's a 'pay now or at the hotel' option on some listings. Click on the 'deals' link at the top of the page to access special offers, including last-minute sales and deals of the day. Join the Welcome Rewards loyalty programme and for every 10 nights' accommodation you book, you'll be gifted one free night (based on the average value of the nights you've booked), less taxes and fees.

Displays user reviews? Yes.

10. HOTWIRE.COM

Good for: Securing accommodation (but also flights and rental cars) at greatly-reduced prices ... especially if you elect not to find out the name of your hotel until you've booked. Hotwire has properties in various parts of the world listed, but is particularly good for finding accommodation in the United States.

Tip: Once you've filled in your basic search criteria, select the 'Secret Hot Rate Hotels' tab at the top of your search results page to display the best available deals. Hover over the displayed listings with your mouse and the area the secret hotel's in will be highlighted on the map. Clicking into each listing will give an indication of the types of hotels offering secret deals in that category (Eg. A four-star secret hotel could belong to the likes of the Hyatt, Sheraton, InterContinental or Westin brands).

Displays user reviews? Yes. Gives a summary of Hotwire users' reviews in the form of a total recommendation level (out of 100%). For its 'Standard Rate Hotels' listings, Tripadvisor.com reviews are linked to.

11. LEADING HOTELS OF THE WORLD

Good for: Finding the perfect spot for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday. With listings for more than 400 independent luxury hotels from around the world, you're sure to find a unique property that tickles your fancy.

Tip: If the images on the homepage don't put you in holiday mode, use the 'Get Inspired' drop-down menu to search interest categories such as 'leading spas' and 'magnificent journeys'. Movie buffs should check out the website's In The Movies page, which lists 85 of its properties that have been featured in iconic films.

Displays user reviews? Yes, but only those from members of the website's Leaders Club.

12. VENERE.COM

Good for: Booking anything from B&Bs to five-star hotels. Its listings cover properties worldwide but Europe seems particularly well catered to.

Tip: Keep an eye on its specials and seasonal deals which are listed under clickable banners down the right-hand side of the homepage.

Displays user reviews? Yes: Tripadvisor.com reviews are linked to.

13. WIMDU.COM

Good for: One of a number of websites that facilitates the opening-up of people's private homes as accommodation for travellers, Berlin-based Wimdu offers a smart alternative to hotels. Book a penthouse in New York or an apartment in Rome ... or sign up to rent out your own place to other travellers. It gained high praise from a colleague who used it recently during a round-the-world trip.

Tip: Have a look at Wimdu's blog page for destination inspiration as well as travel tips and recommendations from the company's 'Wimdudes'.

Displays user reviews? Yes. Guests review the accommodation and hosts review the guests.

14. WOTIF.COM

Good for: Booking all sorts of accommodation all over the world - from backpacker lodges and self-contained apartments to motels and hotels. Flights can also be booked via the site and package deals were recently added as well.

Tip: Look out for 'Wot Hotel?' mystery deals once you've entered your initial search criteria. You won't find out the name of the property until you've booked, but the reward for your patience is knock-down prices - sometimes on five-star properties. The flame graphics you might see alongside some listings also designate hot deals so keep your eyes peeled for them.

Displays user reviews? Yes.

Thanks to Herald staff for their website recommendations.

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