Read Between the Lines at Review Sites - dummies

By Marsha Collier

Travel-booking sites such as TripAdvisor list thousands of restaurants, hotels, and other businesses, which can make choosing among them daunting when you’re searching for a hotel or restaurant in a particular city. You may want to try alternative search methods to adjust the results you get:

  • Use an Internet search engine (such as Google) to narrow down your results. You can search for a specific city name and facility — or a desired service — to get a smaller list of results.

  • If you’re looking for deals from hotels or airlines, also visit Bing travel to widen your choices. Bing scours many different travel sites to get results based on price and ratings. After you find a few possibilities this way, go to these sites to read the reviews.

While you’re reading reviews, keep in mind that conditions someone else considers dreadful may not bother you at all. Here are a couple of examples:

  • One friend booked a trip on the east coast using Bing travel and TripAdvisor. When she and her friend arrived in a lovely hotel in Manhattan, her friend couldn’t stop grousing about how small the room was. (If you’ve ever stayed in a New York City hotel room, you know that almost anything over closet size is acceptable.)

  • For a lovely hotel just off the Champs-Élysées in Paris, the bulk of the reviews on TripAdvisor didn’t come from happy campers. At least the reviews said the room was clean, and the booker was willing to pay the premium to stay at the location.

    When he arrived, he found that the small hotel was just lovely and was very pleased. (Of course, he knew to expect that a hotel in Paris might not have the same amenities expected from a hotel in the United States . . . but in this case, vive la differénce!)

Clearly, if you discover a hotel with a bunch of bad reviews, like the one shown, you might want to steer clear of that property.


Keep an eye out for extra information associated with a review. The review for the hotel shown also included a photo. Clicking the photo reveals what you can see in the following figure:


Want to pay $130 a night for that? Really!

Individual tastes in restaurants can also vary widely. Someone’s favorite restaurant can serves very small portions, which is great for lighter eaters or foodies who want to sample several dishes. But others might post a review complaining that the portion size is too small. Bottom line? Use your good sense and read between the lines when you’re reading any reviews.