I’ve heard a bit of controversy over the use of TripAdvisor, so I’d like to take the opportunity to explain why I use them when researching my trips. The most important thing to remember about any trip research tool is that you shouldn’t rely on only one source. I personally like TripAdvisor for reviews and their Trip Planning Alerts.
To use Trip Planning Alerts, you need to decide on the places you are interested in visiting. I cast the net pretty wide; the more flexible you are the better deals you’ll get. Then alerts can be setup for each destination. Once setup, TripAdvisor will send an email every time the price drops for the chosen destination(s). While I love this feature, I don’t book my tickets via TripAdvisor. If there is a deal I’m interested in, I figure out what airline is offering it and book directly with the airline.
Here are a couple of recent deals I found using TripAdvisor’s Trip Planning Alerts:
- I traveled round-trip from Seattle to Belize City for $366 in January/February.
- They had a deal to travel from Seattle to Ireland for $400. I had just purchased my Belize tickets, but I passed this on to a friend who is there now for the Saint Patrick’s Day holiday.
These are not the type of emails that get sent every week and when sent are not usually deals that have to be jumped on immediately. When they do come the savings are usually better than I’ve seen from other sites.
Note: To get to the Trip Planning Alerts, setup an account with TripAdvisor. Then under ‘Your TripAdvisor’ (upper right) choose ‘Subscriptions’
Trip Research (Reviews)
I have a few tips I use to ensure that I’m getting the best quality information. I do not take every review at face value. If there are just a few reviews, I will scan them but I don’t let them influence me either way. If there are quite a few reviews, I look at the establishment’s over-all rating. Then I have some additional tips to ensure I’m getting the best possible information:
- I start with reading the negative reviews.
- In a lot of cases, reading the negative reviews allows me to immediately rule out reviewers whose expectations were too high. For instance, if the place says they don’t have air conditioning and that is upsetting (and a bad review is written), it’s not the establishments fault; it’s the reviewer’s fault.
- I watch for statements I would consider deal-breakers. Each of us will have our own lists of deal-breakers, so think ahead and come up with yours before starting your research.
- I read the positive reviews next. I immediately skip any review that doesn’t have substance to why they’ve given a positive review. Something that says “it was the best place I’ve ever stayed” and then doesn’t say why is not useful.
While reading the reviews, I keep an eye on the number of contributions (reviews) a particular reviewer has written for TripAdvisor. If they’ve written one review, I’m much more skeptical than someone who has written many. In the end, after reading a lot of reviews, I go with my gut. The reviews need to be considered information and not hard facts. And, if I do go to an establishment I write a review when I get home.
Establishment Owners Responses
In some cases, owners of the establishments will post responses to negative reviews. Here is where you can really get some good information.
- You can tell a lot about an establishment by the way they respond to both positive and negative reviews. If they are courteous and treat their customers with respect that is a very good sign.
- However, I’ve read some responses in which the owners are rude in their responses. I can understand their frustration of getting a negative review, and in some cases the negative review is even unwarranted. But the owner, regardless of frustration, should never be rude in their response. I will immediately dismiss any establishment in which the owner’s response is anything but professional and apologetic.
When I decided to write about my TripAdvisor thoughts I reached out to them for a response to those that believe their site is useless. The argument is that the reviews cannot be trusted. I do understand their concern, which is why I follow the tips above. I really appreciated Amanda Johnson, Public Relations Specialist, responding to my request for a comment regarding this controversy. Here is her response:
Thanks for reaching out.
We take the authenticity of our reviews very seriously and have numerous methods to ensure the legitimacy of the content on TripAdvisor. We also know that our users approach TripAdvisor with common sense, and make an educated decision based on the opinions of many. According to a recent PhoCusWright study commissioned by TripAdvisor*, 98% of respondents have found TripAdvisor hotel reviews to be accurate of the actual experience. The integrity of the content on TripAdvisor is fundamental to our success. Without it, we wouldn’t have the loyalty we enjoy from the 50 million visitors who use our site each month.
I hope this information is helpful.
My Final Piece of Advice
When using TripAdvisor, or any online research tool for that matter, you must use commonsense. If a review seems too fluffy and doesn’t have enough supporting details ignore it. It’s all information. When it comes down to it only you can know for sure whether you like the establishment or not. And in either case, when you get back write a review so that others can learn from your experiences.
My TripAdvisor profile: http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/AlaskaGirlAtHeart
My TripAdvisor reviews: http://www.tripadvisor.com/members-reviews/AlaskaGirlAtHeart