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I have a confession to make:  I LOVE using TripAdvisor!

Because I enjoy using it so much, I also post a lot of reviews on their website.  When I read through other people’s reviews, it is clear to me that people are not using TripAdvisor to their benefit.

Here are a few tips to make your TripAdvisor search more useful so you can have a successful experience.

TripAdvisor award trophies
Photo by Ariel Besagar on Unsplash

Understand the TripAdvisor ratings

This really threw me for a loop at first – how can a fast food restaurant rank high on the restaurant list or a completely run down kitchen receive high marks?  The ratings are not “stars” or “classes.”

Let’s take my hometown of Durham as an example.  If I search “Chipotle” in Durham restaurants, I see that it has a rating of “4.”  Meanwhile, Nana’s Restaurant has a rating of “4 1/2.”  But Nana’s is a fine dining establishment while Chipotle is fast food.

Use the subcategories!

Within each category, there are subcategories that can help you find what you are really looking for.  For example, when you look for “restaurants” in a specific town, you can pick “fine dining,” “cheap eats,” or by food type (pizza, seafood, etc).  The more specific you can be, the more likely you are to find a good match.

TripAdvisor Google analytics screen shot
Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash.

Rankings are constantly changing

The rankings of “best” within any category are constantly changing.  Why?  Because the rankings are determined by some mathematical allocation of the rating and number of reviews.  Within 60 minutes that I looked for best restaurants in Durham, Nana’s Restaurant rose from 4th to 3rd place.  Go Nana’s!

Look at the number of reviews

A low number of reviews generally means that the place is newer.  That is not a bad thing, just keep in mind that 5 people rating a restaurant as a “5” is not quite the same thing as 400 people rating a restaurant a “5.”  It could be that the new place has great service, food, etc.  But it certainly means that the place with more reviews has been consistently providing great service for a longer time.

TripAdvisor red double decker sightseeing bus
Photo by Jeff Smith on Unsplash.

Read the reviews with a critical eye

This is probably my number one tip on making TripAdvisor work effectively for you.

Do you detect a trend in the reviews?  TripAdvisor allows you to look at all reviews, generally placing the most recent first.  But you can also click on each rating category individually to see what people said.  I generally click on the Excellent (5) category first.  I then click on the Terrible and Poor (1 and 2) categories together.  The first thing I look at is whether there is a time pattern – are great reviews within a certain period while the bottom reviews are in a different time period?  This could mean that there was a change in chefs (or management or policies) that lead to a general improvement or decline in service.  I want to make sure that the most recent ones are generally good or great reviews.

What does the terrible or poor review actually describe?  Is it something that was within that business’s control?  For example, when we went to New Orleans, I saw lots of reviews against one tour company because they did not provide refunds for their walking tour if the weather was bad. But it said that on their policy.  Other companies had the same policy, but since they had fewer customers, these negative reviews did not crop up as often.  I tend to discount bad reviews that were not due to something a business did.

Does the terrible or poor review describe something that does not apply to your situation? Is the reviewer complaining that accommodations were not made for their young children but your group only has adults?  Is the reviewer unhappy over something that turned out to be more adventurous (like swimming with sharks) but that is something you would love?  Not everyone enjoys the same things.

TripAdvisor letter tiles spelling Travel The World
Photo by Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

If you like a reviewer, follow them

If you are visiting a particular city and have found a TripAdvisor reviewer that seems to have the same likes and tastes as you, follow their other reviews.

Here is the link to the TripAdvisor website.

Those are my top TripAdvisor pointers.  Let me know in the comment section about your favorite ways to use TripAdvisor!

Happy Travels!

Annick, The Common Traveler