Friday, August 10, 2007

Probably the most useful travel resource there ever was for those to whom picking the right hotel is paramount. Use it!
A few tips/thoughts:

*Don't just look at the star rating--actually read the reviews--as many as you can. I see so many people on there who don't do their research, then complain about things that would have been easily discovered by even a quick scan of previous reviews.

*Keep in mind that the hotels ratings are user ratings--not necessarily indicative of the level of luxury the property may offer.

*Also keep in mind that the overall tripadvisor rating of a property may be skewed if the property has recently gone through major changes--for better or worse. By looking at recent reviews, you may find that while the hotel has only a 3* overall rating, the reviews over the past year are all 4* and 5*. This can be due to management changes, renovations, a new chef, etc. Conversely, a hotel may have a 4.5* overal rank, but changes on site may mean that recent rating are all 1*. The rating itself does not tell the whole story.

*Be sure to look at the candid traveler photos--these will generally give you a much better idea of what the resort actually looks like now, rather than what it looked like 20 years ago or after extensive photoshopping.

*You may not agree with this strategy, but I always immediately disregard any review that reads as though written by a 5-year-old. If someone is not even intelligent enough to have a firm grasp on proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, I don't believe they are intelligent enough to form a worthy opinion of a hotel.

*Click on reviewers' names and take a look at other reviews they have written. Unless they ave only written a single review, this tactic will give you an idea of the type of properties the user generally visits. In my opinion, the best/most telling reviews come from those who are used to staying in the type of property they are currently reviewing--whether it's a low-end chain motel, a local boutique hotel oozing with local charm, or one of the top luxury resorts of the world.

On the other hand, reviews from those for whom this particular hotel experience was a one-off can often be skewed by the writer's experience and perspective. For example, I have noticed that people used to staying in motels who splurge on a high-end luxury resort will often review the property in one of 2 ways:
-they will pronounce it the most amazing hotel in the world, no matter what they experienced during their stay, as the hotel was so much better than what they are used to--or b/c it was so much more expensive that they assume the experience MUST have been great.
- they will find fault with everything and feel ripped off; because they have no previous experience with luxury travel, they expect that a $500/night price tag means they'll vacation like royalty. When the experience is somewhat different from their expectations, they exact revenge in the form of a bad review.

There is another side to that coin, though: the traveler who is used to staying solely at large 5-star American-chain style properties, who gives a terrible review to a mid-range boutique hotel. Just because he hated the fact that the smaller hotel had no room service, TV, or pool butlers does not mean that you will feel the same. Depending on your personal travel style, you may be thrilled to find a hotel with tons of regional culture, no other choice than to get out to explore and enjoy local restaurants, and a chance to really disconnect from the media monster!

*Take advantage of the forums for your destination! They tend to be very active and informative, and I find them easier to search and navigate than many competing forums.

*Make sure you do other research as well. Tripadvisor is great, but it does not list every single hotel in the world, and information on many less-touristy areas is scarce.

*More sites to check out when researching a trip: -- tons of information and reviews on cruises -- hotel, restaurant, and site-seeing reviews and advice -- just what it sounds like--full trip reviews from real travelers -- information and advice from the publishers of the guidebooks of the same name, as well as deals and user forums -- information and advice from the publishers of the guidebooks of the same name, as well as deals and user forums -- online site for Conde Nast Traveler magazine -- online site for Travel & Leisure magazine -- online site for Islands magazine -- online site for Caribbean Travel and Life magazine -- travel reviews, photos, forums, deals, and articles -- Reviews for some hotels, as well as everything else from electronics to cars

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