I have been busy planning all our trips for this year...you know...Prague, Paris, Budapest, Cyprus, the Alps, St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, Salzburg and Mallorca.
Or maybe I'm just dreaming. Anything to avoid tackling Mt. Laundry.
I do it all on TripAdvisor. My favourite site in the world. They have travel guides, discussion forums (with the added bonus that they're often hosted by people living in the destination city), things-to-do-lists such as "3 days in Rome", plus great deals on trips and hotels.
The feature I like and use the most is the Review section. That's where people who have already been to wherever I want to go write about their experiences. I type in the name of the city, hotel or restaurant, and voila, a long list of reviews is at my perusal. Everything from brand new boutique hotels to small obscure restaurants can be found.
The first thing I do is browse through the list to see how many "stars" the place gets on average. If I'm looking at a 4 or 5 star average, I'm pretty sure I've hit the jackpot. But if I see several reviews with only 1 or 2 stars, I do a little more research.
That's really when the fun begins: When I try to figure out whether these reviewers think along the same lines as I do, or if their needs are totally different. Bad reviews have made me rethink places I've been planning to go to, and sometimes they are more enlightening than all the good reviews.
Things that make warning bells go off:
- If you are planning to go somewhere warm in the middle of July, and reviews state that there's no or poor A/C in the hotel you're considering. Vice versa is also bad - no or faulty heating in the middle of a cold winter. Not my first choice.
- Ditto when someone writes that they booked a hotel room with two queens and were given a single queen bedroom. That's a problem if you are a family of four looking to share a single hotel room.
- If you go by their websites, all hotels are located in "the best area of town". Reviews are helpful here.
- If you are planning a holiday with your kids, you might also want to avoid hotels where all the pools are undergoing renovation. I can only imagine the expression on my boys' faces should that even happen...and it's not a pretty picture.
Then there's the people with requirements that are clearly different from mine, and whose reviews I really only read for a laugh:
- People who were disappointed because there was nowhere in the bathroom to put down their toiletries. Gasp of horror.
- I understand that a poor selection of brew in a famed pub can be a disappointment to some, but I'm fine with it.
- The breakfast buffet sausages were mild, and not spicy. Hmmm...I think I might be OK with that one, too.
- Finally there's the reviewer whose primary complaint was that the beautifully renovated hotel room was missing a suitcase stand, or did not have enough drawers.
Heck, those are the places I WANT to go to - if the only thing missing is a suitcase stand, I'm good!
The only reviews I completely ignore are the ones from honeymooners. They just loved, loved, loved it all! And I'm not sure they were outside their hotel room door!