Travel’s back–and it’s better than ever. A turbulent couple of years for international travel has allowed the industry to bounce back with new and improved processes for helping you get from A to B.
Global travel spend in 2020 was $2.37 trillion. That’s right, trillion. Plus, that’s down 49% from the year before.
There’s plenty of money to be made in the travel industry—meaning travelers have a wide variety of travel tools and solutions to make their trips simpler and easier.
We’ve compiled the top ten best online travel agencies to help you make the most of your next trip. Whether you’re traveling for leisure or for business, we’ve got you covered.
First thing’s first, let’s take a look at what online travel agencies do.What are online travel agencies?
An Online Travel Agency (OTA) is a website that sells services related to travel. It enables customers to make hotel and travel reservations from one single platform. They’re the digital equivalent of a travel agent.
Examples of online travel agencies include Expedia, Booking.com, and Agoda. Some OTAs—such as Kiwi.com—specialize in one single service. Others—like Skyscanner—do it all.How do online travel agencies work?
Online travel agencies can be used by the general public for leisure travel, and by organizations for business travel. The platforms differ in what they offer, but the premise remains the same: to facilitate travel and its associated admin and costs.
Hotels, airlines, and car hire companies pay online travel agencies to appear on their website. On the other hand, the advantage for the service provider is the added visibility that OTAs can provide.
OTAs work by providing a streamlined approach to all things travel. It involves the customer accessing a website or platform on which they’re offered a wide variety of travel options from a number of different travel and accommodation providers.
If the airlines and hotels are the sheep, OTAs are the shepherd—they gather and present all the necessary details for consumers to make a travel decision.What are the advantages of booking through an online travel agency?
Here are Travel some of the benefits of booking travel services through an OTA:Access to comparison toolsPeer reviews to help you with your decisionsFlexible cancellation policiesAll your travel in one placeLocal flights and dealsRewards programs
Thes benefits are why OTAs are so popular with travelers worldwide, and why you want to consider finding the one that works best for you. Here’re the details you need to consider before choosing an online travel agency to make your bookings:Comparison tools
The main advantage of using an OTA is that you can quickly and easily compare the prices of accommodation, flights, and more. Most have search filters and comparison tools so you can target your search and find exactly what you’re looking for.Peer reviews
Another benefit to booking through an online travel agency is the review system, whereby users leave ratings and written reviews for future customers. The option to leave a review is usually only available after a user has booked a service, so they’re a reliable source of feedback.Flexible cancellation
To be featured on an online travel agency, hotels, airlines, and other service providers often must adhere to the OTA’s cancellation policy. All of the information is clearly laid out for the customer in an email or on the website upon booking, which makes it very user-friendly and customer-centric.
Take note: not all OTA’s have their own cancellation and changes policy—some, like Skyscanner, take you to the vendors website to confirm your ticket. This then means your subject to the vendor’s cancellation and changes policy, which may not be all that flexible.One account for all of your travel needs
You can also use one account for all your different travel planning, saving the hassle of entering details over and over again. Remember: a good OTA is an intuitive OTA—you want to be able to easily navigate your options without the need for constant support.
Again, some platforms—mainly aggregator sites—will send you to a third-party website for booking. This means you’ll need to liaise directly with the third-party for any changes.A local approach to global travel
OTAs personalize things like measurements and currencies to improve the individual user’s experience. Consequently, independently run establishments that may not have the resources to adapt their website internationally are unable to compete.
You’re offered the best deals for your area in a currency you know—making sure everything’s crystal clear when it comes to booking.Rewards programs
Lots of online travel agencies offer reward systems, such as Booking.com and Expedia. These offer frequent users access to special deals and discounts—much like the rewards programs you get with an airline or hotel.The top 10 online travel agencies
First, let’s separate our top ten online travel agencies into leisure travel and business travel solutions. They offer different solutions to different customers so there’s little point in grouping them together. Here’s who we’ll cover:
OTAs for leisure travel:Booking.comAgodaLastminute.comExpediaHotwireSkyscannerKiwi.com
OTAs for business travel:TravelPerkSAP ConcurMyCWT
Let’s get this show on the road.Best online travel agencies for leisure travel
First, let’s take a look at online travel agencies for leisure travel. These are websites used by the everyday user to book their next big holiday or family vacation—whether that’s to New York or the Caribbean.
Note: We’ve included our top picks for OTAs that specialize in flights at the bottom of this section—if you’d prefer to jump ahead.1. Booking.com
Booking.com is the world’s largest accommodation booking website, and it also offers customers the chance to book their travel and car rental, too. It enables travelers to explore different accommodation types, destinations, and deals. It’s a comprehensive OTA for the everyday traveler.
Main offerings and features: Intuitive booking tool and websiteFlight + Hotel booking for easily planning trips with no cross-referencing travel websitesSimple car rental options and taxi hireAvailable in over 40 different languages and offers over half a million properties across 207 countriesYou can book experiences in your destination city to entertain you on your travelsGenius rewards program
Overall, booking.com is a comprehensive online travel agency with hotels and flights anywhere in the world. That being said, you’ll need to concentrate—it often gets criticized for its overwhelming UI.2. Agoda
Agoda is a fast-growing OTA that’s especially popular in Asia—and for good reason. The platform—which specializes in providing accommodation—employs Market Managers dedicated to ensuring the best deals for the markets Agoda serves.
Agoda doesn’t offer much in terms of flight booking, but it’s a great platform for finding accommodations—especially private homes and apartments.
Main offerings and features: Simple interface and booking toolDeals when making more than one booking38 different languages and offers a 24-hour, multilingual customer support serviceFree cancellation within 24 hours of bookingMillions of reviews to help make your decision
The flight booking tool isn’t as comprehensive as some others, however, so you may want to look for a tool with wider coverage.3. Lastminute.com
Lastminute.com is one of the top three travel companies in Europe, where geographic proximity makes city-hopping a popular choice. This OTA is a mix of what we’ve seen before—hotel bookings are made through an OTA, and flights are booked through an aggregator site.
Lastminute.com specializes in finding flight-and-hotel packages and all-inclusive vacation packages at great prices for last-minute travelers. If you’re brave enough to play chicken, lastminute.com is where you’ll find the golden egg of travel experiences.
Main offerings and features: Filter hotels according to budgets, star ratings, guest ratings, board types, and moreATOL protection on flight + hotel bundlesFlash sales for last-minute dealsPayment plans to spread out the cost of travelExtra entertainment booking for your trips, like theatrical productions and day tripsGift cards for gifting travel
This is a great OTA for travelers who prefer to leave things to the last minute in pursuit of the best deal. You’re sure to find it here, plus a wide selection of other flight and hotel deals.4. Expedia