A couple weeks ago I mentioned in my newsletter that I don’t recommend relying on TripAdvisor reviews for hotels and restaurants. I got some questions about this, since it’s a go-to resource for most people when making travel-related decisions.
To be fair, I do think it’s helpful to get a baseline view of hotels or restaurants, however, I don’t advise using it as your ONLY research resource. There are a couple reasons for my stance:
1. You don’t have to stay or dine there to write a review on TripAdvisor
Therefore, there could easily be reviews that are completely false or hearsay. This is one of my favorite stories about how a guy made up a restaurant and got it to rank as the Number 1 restaurant in London without anyone even dining there! It’s a very entertaining read.
2. Some Restaurant/Hotel Owners dispute bad reviews to have them taken down
Obviously this isn’t always the case, but it happens probably way more than you think. A travel blogger I follow had her and her family’s reviews of the resort she held her destination wedding removed for “implied profanity” and “hearsay” – even when there was absolutely no profanity in the review and they had photographic evidence to back up their disappointed reviews showing how the resort ruined their wedding.
Any review site always has the issue of trying to sort through the reviews to understand which reviewers you are most like because some people may hate something another person loves. Each person’s opinions are relative to their past experiences…and very much based on their expectations of that hotel or restaurant.
If someone has stayed at some of the nicest properties in the world and their expectations are extremely high for a luxury hotel, they will likely find something to complain about! However, if someone else has never stayed at a place anywhere near as nice, they will be over the moon ecstatic with the experience and write a glowing review.
One thing to watch out for on any review site is the date of the review. You may be looking at old reviews and things could have changed since the reviewer have stayed/dined with that establishment.
Here’s what I would recommend referring to instead of and/or in addition to TripAdvisor:
- Booking.com requires you to complete your stay before you can write a review, so I generally trust those reviews much more than TripAdvisor. I can’t say for sure if there is any monkey business such as “disputing” reviews like on TA, but at least you have to pass the barrier of actually staying there!
- There are other sites like HotelGuru that have a consistent team of hotel reviewers all over the world – this site is particularly good in Europe.
- Eater is my favorite food site to refer to if it’s in the city my clients or I am visiting.
- OpenTable is also pretty good because I believe you have to actually complete a reservation to write a review, however, it’s also not in every city.
- If a big review site like Eater, Zagat, OpenTable, etc isn’t in a city you are going to, then I recommend referring to local food blogs. Sometimes I do this anyway for big cities to cut through the noise of ALL the options!
- Tourism Board websites for the destination usually have unbiased recommendations for where to stay, what to do, where to eat, etc.
- Magazines and other trusted and unbiased news or travel publications
But of course the VERY best option for determining how to experience a new destination is personal recommendations from people you know that understand your interests and preferences. This includes a travel advisor, like myself, that gets to know you throughout the planning process and is essentially a matchmaker of experiences.
For clients, I usually work together with a local Destination Management Company (DMC) that specializes in that city/country to get recommendations tailored for their budget, interests, and itinerary. They are my local experts that provide amazing suggestions for things like local festivals happening in the destination during you visit or be able to pull strings to make things happen that you can’t even book online. It’s like being connected to a bunch of friends all over the world!
Let me know – what are YOUR favorite resources to check when looking at places to stay and eat in a new destination? Comment below!