My family travels as much as we can with our full schedule. While we have our favorite destinations, before we hit a new location, I do my research. By research, I mean that I Google it, hit various travel review sites and, of course, read blogs. In fact, I have a whole category for travel blogs on my RSS reader so I can live vicariously through the words and photos of other travelers.
Like product reviews, I tend to trust reviews on blogs more than on sites that allow anonymous reviews. I feel that people are more honest when their name -- or online persona -- is directly attached to what they’re saying. Perhaps that’s the fear that a hotel manager had when he ousted a couple after a less than satisfactory review was posted (by someone) on TripAdvisor. Maybe he read about the potential lawsuit against the site. I think he overreacted, but his actions bring up a big point about online reviews: People read them and base purchases and travel decisions on them.
While the ousted couple has not (yet?) said whether or not they actually posted the review, the whole incident brings up a good question: How much credence does the public place on a good review? Or a bad one? And how many bad ones outweigh the good ones? In the end, good and bad, the public has made it known that they crave this kind of information. Product reviews are big, with Kmart acknowledging their place in society by posting them in store. I know quite a few of my real life and online friends are researching Emerald Isle based on my glowing reviews, year after year. This manager was apparently quite upset at the prospect of a bad review. Of course, now the bad publicity isn’t helping his cause.
So how is a traveler to make decision about travel based on a review?
I think, as with anything, the best idea behind researching potential trips is to research thoroughly. Don’t just use one site or one blog’s word. Make good use of Google. Ask about the area, hotel or airline on twitter and Facebook. Hit up sites like the now-infamous TripAdvisor -- there are many! Look through sites like TravelPod and find other bloggers who have stayed in or around the area in which you are planning to visit. And then, perhaps, take it all with a grain of salt. Some people are going to hate things you’ll love and vice versa.
After you get back from your trip and you wade your way through the laundry, do the web a return favor and post about your experiences. I suggest picking one travel site and utilizing your own space, whether that’s just a mention of your review on twitter and Facebook or a cross-post with more pictures and information on your own blog. If the travel site allows for customizable profiles or extra links on your review, link to your blog or the specific URL of your review post. At some point, someone with similar interests to yours is going to be planning a trip and finding your blog might clue them in to whether they really would like the destination... or not.
But don’t be afraid to be honest. As long as you are honest, you shouldn’t be afraid to give a bad review. Don’t make up things. Don’t embellish. Just be honest about the good, the bad and the stuff in between. Reviews that are overly emotional are easily discounted. State facts and share pictures. You shouldn’t have to worry about being ousted (or sued) for an honest review. Now if you say that the manager is wielding a knife and holding you hostage when he’s really not, well, you might want to have a backup plan for your lodging.
Here are some posts about traveling, online resources and tips for reviewing.
Backpack to Buggy wrote a great post entitled Know Before You Go: Travel Guides. She talks about utilizing review sites, blogs and, gasp, good ole’ books. Then she throws a tech-twist on it that I loved.
A recent twist is availability of guide books on an e-reader. Since discovering the Kindle for iPhone app (free), the idea of not bringing any extra weight along is very enticing (not even an extra electronic device). Not all publishers have e-book formats available and photograph-rich guides won’t work on the current generations of e-readers.
If you want some good tips on how to write a hotel review, check out this post at Travel Writers Exchange. Written by Nancy Brown who admits that she gets paid to sleep around (as a lodging editor), the tips are key for casual reviewers and serious travel bloggers alike. She’s big on pictures, too!
If your room looked onto a vacant, trash-laden lot, mention that – better yet, take a picture of the view. How many times have you stayed at a place, based on pictures, only to find that they had photo-shopped the image? Please, people – be real with your photography and lodging reviews.
Speaking of photos, if you want to see an example of using photos to prove your point on your review, check out this post by Sarah at Peas and Thank You. It’s full of great photos that give potential Disney resort goers an idea of how their families might like the stay.
Tell us: Do you review hotels, airlines, car rental agencies or other travel places or services? Where do you review them? And, more importantly, do you research your travel destinations and services via review sites or blogs before you make a decision?
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