How much do reviews influence your plans?
I wanted to write this post because I almost always check reviews of places before I visit. It took me a long time to not allow them to heavily influence my plans however. Why bother reading them then eh?? Hopefully I'll answer that throughout this post.
Well one of my mottos is 'each to their own'. I firmly believe that you should do your own thing. I gave up on film reviews years ago because I just read too many that had a completely different opinion on the film to me. After all, such opinions can be influenced by so many things. For example who is the reviewer? How old are they? Who are they conducting the review for? Are they being paid? I think it can even come down to what mood they are in when they watched the film!
When it comes to travel we are all looking for something different from our trip and we need to bear that in mind when reading reviews.
Obviously the most popular review site is Trip Advisor, with many hotels and attractions actively soliciting reviews from guests and visitors to boost their rankings.
I used to spend ages researching my hotel only to go on Trip Advisor and find a few reviews that were less than glowing. Back to the drawing board. A few years ago, I booked a trip to Turkey and for some reason I hadn't read any reviews before booking. It was only a few days before that my daughter read some and was horrified at some of the comments people had left such as "letchy locals" and "noise at all hours from the brothel in the back lane". Oops! Needless to say I was a bit concerned in the preceding days. However when we got there, we saw no local letches and definitely no evidence of noise from a back lane brothel! Just shows you. When we got home I read some of the other reviews and there were actually only a handful of bad ones out of hundreds. How terribly British of us to focus on the negatives and forget about all the nice things people say!
I think we need to be a bit more discerning in how much we take from reviews to keep a balanced view. As I said earlier, there are so many variables affecting the kind of reviews someone leaves. And let's not forget, some people are just out and out whingers!!
Here are my top tips for utilising review sites:
1. When reading a review of a hotel or attraction try to pay attention to who has left the review. Some people will mention in the review who they were travelling with etc so you can work out if they were a family, older couple, solo traveller etc. Some sites such as Booking.com will actually tell you under the name of the person leaving the review if they were solo, family, couple etc. This can have a huge bearing on what someone has to say about a place. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out that a family may have different expectations for their trip than people travelling without children for example.
2. Try to separate the practical stuff from the opinion. For example, after years working as a District Nurse and going into numerous people's houses every day. I learned that cleanliness is very subjective!! What one person deems as acceptable may certainly not be for another. This is fine. Each to their own, remember? Just try to be sensible about it. Obviously if they are saying that walls were crumbling or the bathroom hadn't been cleaned in weeks then this may warrant further research, however, if there was a bit of dust on the headboard or some paint peeling in the bathroom. Is this a deal breaker? I know it's not for me. I find reviews about the restaurants the same. When it comes to food, it is massively subjective. Just pick out the practical stuff such as were there vegetarian options? Other practical information to look for is the wifi for example. Is it decent? Available in all areas? Is there a room you can use to freshen up and change if you have a late flight? Is it an easily accessible location? Is the area safe? It is hard sometimes not to let strong opinions affect how you feel about somewhere but I rationalise it by remembering that I mostly use my hotel rooms as a place to sleep and wash. Which leads me onto my next point....
3. Realistically how long will you spending in said hotel room? Honestly sometimes people go on about hotels and every minute detail but really they're barely in there anyway so what does it matter? If you've gone on a trip to spend the majority of your time in a hotel room, I'd question the point of the trip. If you want a spotless hotel with top notch facilities then be expected to pay the premium for that. However, don't complain when you spend £50 on city centre hotel and it's not luxury! Think about exactly what you want from the hotel while you're there. If people are complaining about the food, were you even planning to eat there? They gym doesn't have many machines. Did you even want to go to the gym? As I said, people want different things so just remember to keep perspective and ask yourself if they are things that concern you overall.
How do you feel about reviews? Is it something you pay a lot of attention to? I'd love to hear your thoughts as ever. Thanks for reading :-)