While review sites help travelers make smarter booking decisions, you can’t always trust what you read.
While community review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp help travelers make smarter booking decisions, you can’t always trust what you read. So, how can you make an informed decision without being duped?
1. Look at the overall trend. If a business has 100 reviews, 90 of which are positive, you can typically assume the negatives weren’t the norm (and might even be left by competitors or schemers looking to get something for free). I’ve seen several travelers threaten a bad review on a hotel if they didn’t get a free room upgrade or discount.
2. Read business responses. While some businesses genuinely don’t have the time to respond to reviews, the ones who do deserve some brownie points, because it shows businesses are genuinely interested in feedback and improving the experience. How do they respond to negative reviews? Are they working to correct issues? Are they apologetic or hostile? This provides a clue into the business’s customer service.
3.Read the reviews in depth. In Slovenia, I did a countryside homestay while cooking, crafting and drinking wine with a local family. Most of the TripAdvisor reviews were glowing, but there was an angry traveler who gave a 1-star review…due to the lack of Wi-Fi. Not only was this fact clearly stated on the homestay’s website, but this person was missing the point of such an experience.
4, Look at the reviewer. Dianne Hall, owner of GoWalkabout Travel Agency, adds it’s worth noting the nationality of the reviewer. “Many nationalities have different expectations when it comes to travel and the quality of the accommodation. Star ratings are not the same all around the world. A 5-star hotel in Paris may be totally different than in the USA.”
Too many negative hotel reviews by the same person is also a dead giveaway the reviewer was either paid to write them (if they’re in the same destination), or just likes to complain a lot.
5. Get what you pay for. Many times it’s easy to see what reviewers are high maintenance or just completely clueless to the concept of value. If you have a $20 experience in a $15 hotel, hey, you got an excellent deal. If you pay $100 for the same experience well, then, that’s a problem. As a backpacker, I’m constantly amazed at the negative reviews I see for hostels for having a hair in the sink or the free breakfast not having eggs Benedict with a side of caviar. Seriously?
6. Stay in the middle. Many travel agents advise their clients to keep an eye on the 2-4 star reviews, as 1-star reviews, unless numerous, tend to be disgruntled customers seeking revenge, while 5-star reviews may be travelers who are too easily impressed.
7. Opt for social media. Dedicated review sites aren’t the only places to find reviews. Travel writer Kelly Mazur finds social media to be a more reliable source, as most insight comes from travelers being candid with friends and followers.
“On TripAdvisor people are often there to either rant or rave; however, on Instagram a traveler is just sharing their experience,” she says. “Searching a hotel hashtag might get pictures of a bed with a caption like ‘this is the best mattress ever,’ or a snap of a rooftop pool with a caption about the awesome view.”