Read Those Review Sites Carefully
TripAdvisor is the biggest player, but many other travel sites offer consumer-based opinions and reviews about hotels and destinations. Deciding which comments to trust isn’t always easy:
Consider the source: Anonymous reviews may still be the norm, but reading a poster’s previous critiques, travel interests, and biographical details can help weed out phony, overly flattering comments sparked by hotel marketers or diatribes written by competitors — and give a better sense of whether your tastes are compatible with those of the poster. Many sites provide contact information for registered users, as well. One potential warning signal: gushing or negative comments written by someone who hasn’t posted any other reviews.
Size matters: As Consumer Reports notes, much travel information created by consumers “is just plain wrong,” and “many reviewers are either very happy or very unhappy. The truth is probably in the middle.” Sites with critical mass can help you discount the extremes. (TripAdvisor.com, the industry’s 800-pound gorilla, posts one or two new reviews a day on the most popular hotels in major destinations.)
A picture can be worth a thousand words: Notes Mark Ashley in his blog Upgrade: Travel Better, “I’m more likely to trust detailed reports that include both the good and the bad (no stay is perfect) and user-generated photos.”
Be leery of outdated reviews that may not reflect current conditions: Expedia.com, for example, requires that reviews be posted within six months of a hotel stay and removes them after one year. Many other sites, Expedia-owned TripAdvisor among them, keep reviews online indefinitely.
Don’t discount the experts: Some travel sites, such as LonelyPlanet.com, post professional and user reviews side by side.
Thoughts// A good collection of tips and thoughts from the USA Today about using UGC when planning a trip.