This list of alternatives to TripAdvisor is not a TripAdvisor put-down or in any way meant to bash them. I LOVE TripAdvisor and have benefitted from the hundreds of millions of user-submitted reviews for many years. I’ve even left my own travel reviews on the site.
However, TripAdvisor has evolved over the years; it’s expanded into booking homestays, flights, and more. Its restaurant review section is massive as well. What that means is, TripAdvisor offers both information and services that are matched by many other online sites. When it comes to getting informed, booking services, and leaving reviews, it’s good to know your options… and options is what this is all about.
Here’s our list in no particular order (although I’m admittedly a huge Expedia fan and user).
For the travel booking lists, I’m biased having been a long-time Expedia user. However, for this article, I did a round trip flight price check (non-stop) from Vancouver to Maui for November 3 and returning November 10, 2018. I also checked prices for a 2 bedroom partial ocean view unit at the Honua Kai Resort (my favorite Maui resort in part because of the amazing 2 and 3 bedroom units which are great for families). I set out the prices generated by each booking service. Prices checked on September 21, 2018.
Please note that one flight price comparison is certainly not indicative of which service is best or cheapest. I did it merely as an example.
TripAdvisor flight and hotel cost quote:
Cost of sample non-stop flight (Vancouver, BC to Maui, Hawaii): $519 CAD
Cost per night for 2 bedroom suite at Honua Kai: Merely provides a list of other providers including Otel, Priceline, and HotelQuickly.
Expedia is my go-to travel booking website. Just yesterday I booked a hotel in Bellingham, Washington and to my delight, I had accrued sufficient Expedia Rewards so that the hotel was free. It was a Best Western, while not luxurious, would have cost me a tad above $100.
Thanks, Expedia. Plus, I always book everything on my American Express card which accrues loads of points for trips.
Expedia is another comprehensive trip planning site that can help with booking airfare, reserving hotels, and identifying things to do.
Cost of sample non-stop flight (Vancouver, BC to Maui, Hawaii): $519 CAD
Cost per night for 2 bedroom suite at Honua Kai: $610/night CAD
Pros of Expedia:
- Expedia features a robust airfare search function. Airfare can be searched on Expedia and purchased directly through Expedia’s website.
- Expedia offers a range of bundled packages, allowing you to book a hotel, buy a plane ticket and rent a car simultaneously.
- I love the itinerary system so I can see all my upcoming travel details very quickly.
- Once your account is set up with payment details, it’s super easy to book your travel.
- I live in Canada and all travel bookings report price in Canadian dollars which is great so I know how much the trips cost me in my currency.
Cons of Expedia:
- Expedia does not have a robust review system as TripAdvisor does. While Expedia does have some reviews, this is not the website’s specialty and the number of reviews for any given property is typically much lower.
Cost: Expedia is free to use; however when making reservations Expedia may charge a service fee depending on the product.
2. Hotels.com (“Hotels”)
Hotels.com is a tripadvisor.com alternative that focuses on hotels. This website allows you to search for hotels in any given city and provides comprehensive reviews of hotels in any given area with easy-to-understand side-by-side comparisons.
Cost of sample non-stop flight (Vancouver, BC to Maui, Hawaii): not available
Cost per night for 2 bedroom suite at Honua Kai: $610/night CAD
Pros of Hotels:
- Hotels have a comprehensive booking system that makes it easy to reserve hotels directly from its website.
- Hotels offer an internal point system that competes with hotel property-level rewards points. After every ten nights spent at a hotel, Hotels will pay for the tenth night free. This eliminates some of the downsides of booking hotels through a third-party agent.
Cons of Hotels:
- Hotels focus only on hotels, so to comprehensively plan a trip you will need to visit more than one website.
- Hotels do not have as prestigious and robust a review system as Trip Advisor. Hotels.com offers reviews but they are typically fewer in number and only come from Hotels.com customers, unlike Trip Advisor where many hotel properties solicit their reviews from all guests.
Cost: Hotels are free to use although the website may charge a service fee when booking hotels.
3. Booking.com (“Booking”)
Booking.com is an excellent resource for identifying non-chain hotels and lodging. The website features over two million hotels, motels, pensions, bed and breakfasts and hostels around the world which is a great resource when planning trips.
Cost of sample non-stop flight (Vancouver, BC to Maui, Hawaii): $511 CAD
Cost per night for 2 bedroom suite at Honua Kai: $675/night (CAD)
Pros of Booking:
- Booking features the most comprehensive listing of independent hotels on the internet. If you are planning a trip and are looking for a unique experience, Booking.com offers the most comprehensive directory of lodging to find the perfect hotel for you.
- Booking has a large international presence. If you are looking for a hotel in cities anywhere in the world, Booking.com likely has that hotel listed on their website.
- Many smaller hotels use Booking.com as their primary internet presence. A lot of smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts do not have their own website and exclusively rely on Booking.com to generate online reservations.
Cons of Booking:
- Booking does not act as a middleman when you make a reservation for a hotel. While many competing websites will take your money and pay the hotel on your behalf, Booking.com simply forwards your payment information to the property, and you are held to their policies.
- Booking does have links on their website for flights and car rentals, but you will be directed to another website for search and booking as Booking.com exclusively focuses on hotels.
Cost: Booking.com is free to use but all reservations are subject to the local hotel’s policies and those should be read before finalizing a reservation.
4. Google Flights
I’ve not used Google Flights for actually booking airfare, but I’ve checked it out.
Cost of sample non-stop flight (Vancouver, BC to Maui, Hawaii): $449 CAD (wow… I’m impressed)
Cost per night for 2 bedroom suite at Honua Kai: not available
- Typical super simple interface that Google is famous for.
- Appears to offer good deals (I’m not one to scour the Web for hours trying to shave off every dollar… I prefer getting it done in the least amount of time possible).
- If you have a Gmail account, your account automatically is set up and you’re ready to book. I loathe setting up profiles and accounts.
- It’s fast; blazing-fast – searches load super quickly which is awesome.
- Great mobile phone interface.
- Offers a price tracking service.
- No rewards system.
- You can only book flights. Usually, I like booking everything in one go.
Kayak is a meta-searching booking engine that looks at dozens of different websites to find the lowest price on flights, hotels, rental cars, and more. This can make it an excellent way to find good deals on all types of travel products.
Cost of sample non-stop flight (Vancouver, BC to Maui, Hawaii): $512 CAD
Cost per night for 2 bedroom suite at Honua Kai: routed me to Expedia
Pros of Kayak:
- Kayak will search the internet for you to find the best possible price on hotels, flights and rentals cars. It provides the option to simultaneously search for deals on Priceline, Orbitz, and Expedia which are other competitors to Kayak.
- Kayak offers a clean map interface for viewing the location and availability of hotels.
Cons of Kayak:
- Kayak is very price-focused and offers little in the way of reviews of a given facility. Because of this, Kayak is probably best used when paired with another travel website for more in-depth research.
- Sometimes it is unclear if items are booked through Kayak or a third party. Because Kayak aggregates all price results across the internet and identifies the best available price, it is necessary to read the fine print on every transaction to be aware of that particular deal’s cancellation fees and other terms and conditions.
- Kayak does not offer a listing of restaurants or other things to do.
- I find the user interface way too cluttered.
Cost: Kayak is free to use.
Skyscanner is very much like TripAdvisor in that it lets users submit reviews on all kinds of places – hotels, restaurants, etc. You can also book hotels, flights, etc. It’s your regular full travel site offering.
Cost of sample non-stop flight (Vancouver, BC to Maui, Hawaii): $778 CAD
Cost per night for 2 bedroom suite at Honua Kai: I was routed to Trip.com so not helpful.
- Easy to use (although I’ve never booked a trip with it).
- Lots of photos don’t load. I checked out Bellingham hotels and there were blank photo areas.
Trip Advisor offers a range of reviews on restaurants and things to do. Yelp offers a similar experience, with in-depth reviews and entries on restaurants and other activities, making it one of the best Trip Advisor alternatives.
Pros of Yelp:
- Yelp has great coverage of restaurants. Yelp often offers more reviews and more detail than that of Trip Advisor and has emerged as the go-to website for finding restaurants.
- Yelp offers a deep variety of filters, making it easy to develop a custom search query to find the restaurant you are looking for – whether it’s an inexpensive street food cart or a fancy steakhouse.
- Yelp offers a range of sorting features to be as transparent as possible. Yelp sort ranks restaurants with weight given to some of its better-regarded reviewers while other sorting options give weight equally to all reviews to ensure a truly balanced set of opinions.
Cons of Yelp:
- Yelp remains a primarily restaurant-focused website. While it does offer coverage of other services, these typically are lacking in comparison to Trip Advisor or other websites.
Cost: Yelp is free to use.
Zomato is another food review website that serves as a good alternative to TripAdvisor for restaurant identification and selection.
Pros of Zomato:
- Zomato is very concise, with simple and accessible reviews. When you open a Zomato page it contains the key features of the restaurant with a simple numerical ranking.
- Zomato often has a menu posted for the restaurant.
Cons of Zomato:
- Even more so than Yelp, Zomato is limited to just food reviews so it is not as comprehensive as TripAdvisor.
Cost: Zomato is free to use.
Information and Reviews
9. Google Maps
I absolutely love Google Maps. I remember when Google launched it; I thought to myself “why do that?” It turned out that it’s a huge success in that it integrates with search, especially locally-oriented online search and info beautifully.
Google Maps has emerged as a worthy alternative to Trip Advisor. While Google Maps is not entirely focused on trip planning, it offers many of the same features in an integrated interface. Google Maps offers an increasingly robust review platform that allows customers to review and rank businesses and restaurants.
Google Maps offers the ability to view and compare hotels side-by-side. This website also offers comprehensive directions between locations and recommends the best travel mode – be it anything from flying to driving to mass transit to walking.
Pros of Google Maps:
- Google Maps is intuitive to use. Because Google Maps is used by a large number of people already, these users are likely already familiar with the Google Maps interface. With everything located on a single map screen, Google Maps helps users to clearly understand where their preferred destinations lie geographically relative to other destinations. For instance, if I book a hotel and am looking for somewhere to eat, I can easily search for “restaurants near my hotel” and find the best restaurants in the area. No other travel website currently has this function.
- Google Maps helps to identify the most efficient routings between locations. Rather than assume that the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B is to fly, Google Maps offers alternatives such as driving or transit that may be more interesting and less expensive. Google Maps also offers the Google Flights function which contains a very robust booking engine that makes it easy to view and compare a wide variety of flights.
Cons of Google Maps:
- Google Maps is not as catered towards tourists. While TripAdvisor actively seeks reviews from travelers and tourists, Google Maps often receives more reviews from local customers. While this can be an advantage – it may offer users a more localized perception of how good a restaurant is, it also means the location may not be as used to or comfortable with catering to tourists.
- Google Maps does not easily categorize other activities. Google Maps is great for identifying a hotel, somewhere to eat, and the best way to arrive at your destination, but it does not provide a robust way to identify various things to do if you are unfamiliar with the city. If I knew little about a new place I would want to do research on some of the key things to see outside of the Google Maps setting.
Cost: Google Maps is free to use.
If it’s information about a place you seek, WikiTravel is solid. It’s the Wikipedia of travel and locations.
- Lots of information about most places.
- Limited fluff – it’s edited and organized unlike the myriad of repetitive reviews on TripAdvisor.
- Information is more objective. Not a complaint frenzy.
- Not the nicest looking website.
- Few, if any, photos.
TripExpert addresses a big problem with user-submitted review sites like TripAdvisor, and that’s a lack of editorial oversight. TripExpert includes “professionals'” opinions for its ratings. You either like this oversight or prefer to rely exclusively on regular travelers’ opinions.
Oh yeah, you can book trips too.
- Reviews are written by “experts”.
- Lots of places not included. I input “Bellingham, Washington” and nothing came up.
Homestays / Vacation Rentals
TripAdvisor also offers homestay and vacation rental bookings. I’ve booked my fair share of such accommodations, but never on TripAdvisor. My favorite is VRBO.
Instead of repeating everything here, check out this very good article on homestays, vacation rentals, and AirBnB alternatives.