How to Use TripAdvisor for Choosing the Right Hotel
Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda (Italy) - Malat hotel and winery (Krems, Austria)
TripAdvisor is one of Bunny’s most essential travel tools. She would probably suffer serious withdrawal symptoms if TripAdvisor ever suddenly became unavailable.
Bunny uses TripAdvisor mainly for selecting the right hotel in her chosen destination. Occasionally, she also checks reviews of restaurants, attractions and services that she is considering. She rarely books anything before she has first had at least a cursory look at its TripAdvisor reviews.
Despite all of its virtues, TripAdvisor is not perfect - you need to know how to use it to your advantage. Read Bunny’s tips below.
Skip the “Best Value” Hotels
When you first do a search for hotels on TripAdvisor, it presents you with hotels that it deems to be the “Best Value” for your chosen location. Chuck that.
Who makes the evaluation about “value” and how is not at all clear to Bunny. That is why she always changes the setting: on top of the page, check the box “Traveler Ranked”. This is the real list of the best hotels in any given place, as reviewed by independent TripAdvisor users.
Select the Highest Rated Hotel You Can Afford
This is usually Bunny’s next step. The most expensive hotels don’t always feature at the top of the list (perhaps because they attract more discerning travellers) but the first two pages of results usually include the more expensive establishments.
Bunny scrolls though these and selects a handful that she can afford and that have great reviews, look interesting and fit her requirements. Then she starts digging into them in more detail.
Four Rosmead (Cape Town, South Africa) - Uma Ubud (Bali, Indonesia) - Belmond La Residence Phou Vao (Luang Prabang, Laos)
Read the Bad Reviews First
Bunny always likes to receive the bad news first. So, she first checks the 1-star and 2-star reviews of her chosen hotels.
Very quickly, she will learn whether there are any dealbreakers. And just as often, she does not really care about the bad reviews. Another person’s complaint might be a blessing for her. For example, some people might rate a hotel badly if there are no facilities for children. For Bunny, this is a definite plus!
Check the Reviewer Profiles If You Have Concerns
If some of the reviews seem extremely negative and worrying, Bunny checks the reviewers’ profiles. Naturally, if a majority of the reviews are bad, it is clear that there is something wrong with the establishment. But if there are only one or two rotten apples, it pays to check the reviewers behind these comments.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of nutcases out there, people who are never satisfied, people who complain just for the sake of complaining, and people who leave fake reviews…
Check the Reviews for Details That Interest You
TripAdvisor reviews have a search button that Bunny makes good use of. When she has established that a certain hotel might be a good fit for her, she usually searches for any reviews that mention 1) vegetarian food, 2) carpeted floors (she loathes them!), 3) a pool (if any), or any other particular detail that is relevant for her in that location.
Her criteria may change from one occasion to another but rather than read dozens of pages of reviews (sometimes she does that too!), she checks the most important details first.
Check the User Photos of the Hotel
Then it is time to check the photos of the hotel on TripAdvisor. When Bunny is serious about booking a hotel, she always checks the hotel’s own website for more detailed information, pricing and photos. But those photos are always done by professionals and (naturally) picture the hotel in the best possible light.
The user photos on TripAdvisor are much more revealing, certainly not as glossy or inviting as the professional ones, but much more useful for scouting and planning purposes.
Park Hyatt Toronto (Canada) - Naumi Hotel (Singapore) - Aria Hotel Budapest (Hungary)
Use a VPN to Check TripAdvisor Again
It is sometimes a good idea to use a Virtual Private Network, VPN, to check prices on TripAdvisor. A VPN easily makes it seem that you are visiting their website from a different geographical location than your current one. This can have a surprising effect on the prices displayed by TripAdvisor. Bunny is known to have made savings this way.
If you don’t know what a VPN is, get up to speed at this useful website.
Compare Prices Outside TripAdvisor
When Bunny is sure about the hotel to choose, she compares the prices displayed on TripAdvisor on the websites of the various travel clubs of which she is a member as well as on the hotel’s own website. Obviously, Bunny then nabs the best deal among them.
TripAdvisor is essential for her research but she does not often use it for the actual bookings themselves. She goes wherever the best deal is! (Sorry, TripAdvisor but them’s the breaks).
Don’t Forget About TripAdvisor Forums Too
Bunny is a fan of TripAdvisor’s forums as well.
There is often very useful and specific information about the destination, and sometimes about the hotel as well, in the country and city-specific forums on TripAdvisor. Bunny has even posed some questions in the forums when she hasn’t been able to find the information elsewhere.
Word of Warning
Sometimes nothing is like it seems in today’s world. As much as Bunny likes TripAdvisor, she admits that it can be misused as well. Check out the funny video below on how The Shed at Dulwich became London’s number 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor - when it didn’t even exist!
Bunny is yet to find a better tool for checking independent hotel reviews than TripAdvisor. It has its shortcomings, but the sheer volume of reviews on TripAdvisor provides a degree of comfort. Using Bunny’s tips above, you can be confident in making the best use of what TripAdvisor has to offer.