Most travelers, whether they are seasoned or just planning an annual family vacation, will go online to start their planning. For both seasoned travelers and infrequent travelers alike, the #1 mistake to avoid is not looking at reviews. It seems simple, but reviews can be complicated. For example, are self-published reviews on the property’s website valid? What about the validity of reviews on travel websites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking.com, Yelp, etc.? If you search these websites, which site is best for your type of travel? How do you evaluate the reviews when they differ from website to website for the same property?
TripAdvisor has the highest traffic among all travel websites. TripAdvisor is a comprehensive booking engine that not only allows you to book lodging, but it also includes substantial customer reviews about hotels, vacation rentals and restaurants.
You may visit TripAdvisor because you want to stay in a specific town, but you don’t know what type of lodging options are available in that location. For example, you want to visit Evergreen, Colorado. You go to TripAdvisor and you enter Evergreen, CO in the search bar. This is a typical way to use TripAdvisor:
- The first thing you see is hotels in Evergreen Colorado, and you discover there is only one hotel in Evergreen, CO. It’s located right off I-70, and you don’t want to be that close to the highway.
- Now you need to know what other options are available. So, you click on Specialty Lodging or Vacation Rentals. Searching for Vacation Rentals in Evergreen, CO gets you some interesting search results, one of which is the discovery that you can rent a cabin in Evergreen.
- The search result shows Colorado Bear Creek Cabins. You look at the property to see how much it costs, if they have availability for your travel dates, what activities are suitable (or accessible?) in and around the property, etc. It looks like a great place to stay.
- The next step is reviews. You’re not sure what it’s like to rent a cabin in Colorado, and you want to see what other people have said about it. You click on reviews for Colorado Bear Creek Cabins and read the comments. TripAdvisor reviews can be both good and bad, and you will see raves and rants.
- Make your selection and book it.
Let’s look more closely at TripAdvisor reviews. If you see a 1-star review and it is the only complaint, it’s safe to assume it was an isolated incident that prompted the reviewer to give it 1 star. However, if you see a lot of complaints about the same issue, such as dirty bathrooms, this indicates the property may have problems with their cleaning staff or procedures. Additionally, take the time to read the owner’s responses to both good and bad reviews. This will give insight into how involved and proactive they are with managing this property, and how they will treat you when you are a guest.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you see all 5-star reviews that sound fake or forced, these could be written by people who are incentivized to write them. Don’t rely solely on TripAdvisor for reviews, but utilize other services like Facebook, Yelp, or Expedia. Lastly, ask for referrals or talk to a travel agent about the property. This will give you a more balanced view of the place you want to stay.
Bottom line: Don’t make the #1 mistake of booking a property online without looking at independent, 3rd party reviews that appear on TripAdvisor, Facebook, Yelp, Expedia, Booking.com, etc.