Online holiday reviews, should you read them?When you plan a fabulous getaway either with your family, lover, friend or even alone it's tempting, many would say sensible, to read the reviews of people that have gone before. But how to make sense of reviews of the same hotel that range from "it was appalling I would rather sleep under a railway arch, 1 star" to "amazing stay it was incredible in every respect, totally recommend, 5 stars!" ?
Here are my top ten tips on breaking down reviews, and making sense of them.
- Check where the reviewer is from. With a global reach the internet has reviewers from all over the world. Pay more attention to reviewers from your own country as they will usually have similar expectations to you. Americans for example may mark down a hotel with no free ice machine, while the average Brit doesn't expect free ice as standard so may not mention it.
- See if the reviewer has left lots of reviews or just this one. This is particularly relevant if the review is terrible as people are fast to complain but not so quick to praise. On TripAdvisor for example you can look back over other reviews from the same person. If they review a lot and the reviews vary, then it's safe to assume they are probably fairly honest and balanced.
- Check who was in the reviewers party. Reviews for families will vary a lot from reviews for romantic getaways or adventure type holidays. Complaints of noise can be relative and might be due to guests at the time of the visit and thus not an ongoing issue. Moans about a busy kids club on a romantic weekend might translate into the perfect child minding plan for a family with 3 young children.
- Pay more attention if all of the reviews are similar. If everyone mention food poisoning and under cooked chicken over several months then it would raise alarm bells. Constant mentions of dirty rooms etc likewise. While one bad review among a lot of good ones probably just shows the hotel has a bad cleaner or a busy week.
- Read the review not just the stars! Amazingly some people post a glowing review but only give 1 or 2 stars for the experience. I'm never sure if they are just holding back for the really fantastic hotels (for example they may feel a 3 star hotel never deserves more than a 3 star review) , if they clicked the wrong button, or just have no clue how star ratings work! Likewise I've seen 5 star reviews that made the hotel sound awful!
- Think about what you expect in a hotel. I like a clean room, a TV,wifi, a fridge and a balcony. If reviews moaned about a tatty reception area I wouldn't be that fussed. If they said their TV was broken, the wifi didn't work in any of the rooms and the balcony had been unsafe I would be more interested!
- Check the date on reviews. It is really easy to read reviews that are years old and be fooled into thinking the hotel is excellent or terrible based on very out of date information. Sort the reviews by date if you can and read the most recent ones. I have been caught out this way - turning up to discover the 'free' wifi was no longer free and the hot tub was no longer working - sad times.
- Try and check more than one review site. TripAdvisor is a large site but there are others such as Oyster, Holiday Watchdog, and Travel Republic. Also google the hotel name to see if any bloggers have visited and written bigger reviews with extra pictures. Ask on social media too.
- Read plenty of reviews before you book, and avoid reading any more afterwards! Once you have booked, unless you are prepared to change or cancel your booking, don't torture yourself by reading more reviews.
- When you get home be sure to add your own review. good, bad or in between all reviews are useful to the traveller. Be honest, try to be balanced, include facts and examples not just personal opinions, although a summing up of how you did or did not like the holiday can be useful. I always review the places I visit as I know how helpful reviews can be. On TripAdvisor it's not just the hotels you can review but the local attractions and restaurants too - you could even review those that are local to you at home.
Do you write reviews online? Do you read them? I'd love to hear your experiences (good and bad) of using online review sites.
This post is (bizarrely) not sponsored ;-)