As mentioned in several of my prior blog posts, my go-to website when booking hotels is TripAdvisor. (Once again they are not paying me to say this, but I wouldn't turn down the cash if they were!). TripAdvisor is an extremely simple website to use, and millions of real reviews have been posted from users and for hotels all over the world. With that in mind, I have come up with a few tips that will help you get even more out of this fantastic travel resource.
1. You can't please everyone
Even the top rated hotels will have nay-sayers. Have a closer look at the small handful of people who gave a bold one-out-of-five rating to a strongly reviewed hotel, chances are these reviews will have a singular focus. For example, they may say that the hotel was overpriced, or that their reservation was lost. These are valid grievances don't get me wrong, but alone are they enough to discredit the entire stay? Some people will dish out a poor rating in anger over a single issue, and forgo mentioning the many ways in which the hotel succeeded.
2. Prioritize the most recent/relevant reviews
Hotels can change management, they can degrade (or improve) over time. The more recent the review, the more likely it is to be reflective of your upcoming stay. Are you planning on going to a particular Punta Cana resort in January? Try to focus on reviews during that time of year, as factors such as crowdedness, beach quality and even food selection can be very dependant on time of year.
3. Check out the photos
You know how the photo galleries on hotel websites always look fantastic? Don't be one of the many who claim "the website photos were misleading". TripAdvisor allows reviewers to post their own photos, which all accumulate in the "Photos" section for each particular hotel. These can be sorted based on category and each photo has a link to the review it came from. Nothing gives you a better idea of what to expect that an actual traveller photo.
4. Identify your demographic
TripAdvisor keeps track of what type of traveller submitted each review. This can be useful when tracking which demographic is most often staying at the hotel. A hotel with a majority of "couples" reviews will most likely have different amenities and a different vibe than one with a majority of "family" reviews. Also, you can select a specific travel demographic and view only reviews by that type of traveler.
5. Read the management responses
Hotel managers have the opportunity to respond to reviews. These response can sometimes be key in evaluating the credibility of the initial review. While some responses may simply be a generic "We are sorry you had a bad experience, we hope you give us another shot.", sometimes you will get detailed insight about what management did to try and solve the issues that were mentioned. Managers will also respond to positive reviews and give their thanks for the kind words. While these responses are no easier to validate than those of the customer, it's always beneficial to see both sides of the coin.
6. Give back to the community
TripAdvisor is a community, and it grows stronger with each review. Remember all those reviews you read before booking your dream vacation? Spend some time and submit your own experiences for your fellow traveler!
Click here to see my collection of TripAdvisor reviews! Have any questions/comments regarding TripAdvisor? Post in the comments below!
Mike @ Palms & Pints