Read between the Lines to Find a Hotel: Hotel Reviews Debunked



The dates have been selected, the location is set, and now all you need to do is find a hotel for your upcoming vacation. This is perhaps the biggest decision that can make or break a trip: Accommodations that are unacceptable (unsafe, unclean, not as advertised, or just not aligned with your expectations) can quickly ruin a vacation, no matter how spectacular the overall destination is.

You pull up a few hotel search engines and begin to browse, and immediately get overwhelmed with all the listings, and especially all the reviews from other travelers. How do you know which reviews to trust? How much weight should you give them in influencing your purchase decision? Which reviews will help you find the best hotel for your upcoming time off?

Don’t worry – I’m here to help you use hotel reviews to find accommodations that are perfect for your next trip.

Before we get started, a disclosure: I’m a former TripAdvisor employee. As such, I’ve worked with the ins-and-outs of reviews and fellow-traveler recommendations, and am uniquely qualified to help you navigate the thousands of reviews out there. All opinions are my own and based on my own experiences, both as a traveler and as a travel industry insider.

Here are the hotel ratings and reviews tricks I use when I’m planning a trip.

Discard the Highs, Discard the Lows

When consulting hotel reviews, I always discard the extremes on either end – in other words, I take both the five- and one-star reviews with a grain of salt. The middle reviews are where I tend to find the most useful information about a given property: These reviews tend to come from everyday travelers who are less prone to platitudes or nitpicking. In some cases, though, you may find a property has an abundance of extreme reviews – and, in such situations, take notice both of the content itself and the number of reviews submitted. If there are hundreds of reviews and the majority go to an extreme, you’ve stumbled upon a genuine gem – or a honest-to-goodness fleabag.

Take the Reviewers’ Preferences into Account

With reviews from other travelers, you’re not exactly getting objective advice. As such, pay attention to the personalities inherent in every traveler review to see if it truly matches what you’re looking for on a vacation. Is the reviewer griping about something that wouldn’t typically bother you? Take note. (For example, I hardly ever order room service. So if a reviewer gives a hotel high or low marks based on the room service quality, that review doesn’t influence my booking decision.) Conversely, does the traveler talk about amenities and activities that would align with your expectations – in other words, does she sound like someone you would travel with and has similar taste? Weigh that feedback more heavily.

Take the Time to Cross-Reference

Variety is key. Do not take the reviews on just one site as the be-all, end-all of your hotel research. When looking to find a hotel, consult at least two or three sites with reviews, including a mix of checking the reviews on the hotel’s own website and third-party sites. It’s also a good rule of thumb to check what the experts think – a few reputable guidebook and travel guide sites should provide worthwhile alternative views to back up what you’re seeing on the review sites.

Do you use online reviews when trying to find a hotel? What trip-planning strategies have worked for you? Share your expertise by leaving a comment!

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Hotel image via Shutterstock