It’s the time of year when I start thinking about a family vacation. Once I narrow down the destination, I start researching hotels. Now the tricky part begins. I often start with a search of “Best Hotels in XX.” And then I start looking at what each hotel has to offer. My husband and daughter enjoy snorkeling, so I might look for a hotel with a nice beach. Often the hotel’s websites don’t give much information about what the beach is like, so I start searching guest reviews. It may take some digging, but I can usually find someone who mentions if the beach is rocky or the current is too strong or if there’s amazing snorkeling right at the hotel.
While I’m looking at reviews, I read what people have to say about recent stays. I try to take reviews with a grain of salt, though. Frequently, people tend to take to websites like TripAdvisor only to complain. While some of the complaints are valid, others just had a bad experience that really doesn’t reflect the everyday operations or conditions at the hotel.
Reviews I skip are those that had a room mix-up or those that complain about the room being noisy because it was near a pool. Other people might complain about the buffet at an all-inclusive but say they didn’t actually try the à la carte restaurants (which are usually better). I also avoid the reviews where a guest complains about a specific person who was rude. I also discredit reviews of guests who didn’t like a hotel for a reason they should have known by doing their research about the hotel, such as if the hotel is too far from the airport or it doesn’t have certain amenities, like a 24-hour fitness center. (I actually read a review where the guest took away a star because the floor wasn’t carpeted and her feet got cold!)
The reviews I find most valuable are from guests who stayed at a hotel multiple times. Return guests must have enjoyed their first stay and liked it enough to return. And they can tell if the property is kept in good condition year after year. Also, they usually focus their reviews on good tips and useful information, like which restaurants are great or nearby attractions or excursions to try, in addition to the general atmosphere of the hotel.
Red flags for me are multiple recent complaints about the cleanliness of a hotel or if someone stayed at the hotel in the past and it has gone downhill and needs a major update.
Happy vacation researching!
— Tracey Cullen, art director
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