There is a lot of controversy surrounding hotel reviews, especially on TripAdvisor where anyone can leave a review for any hotel, regardless of whether they’ve even been in that country or not. But still, it’s especially critical to read reviews when you are booking a resort vacation at a low price.
There are many incredible deals out there, and this site tries to bring you the best of them each week, but there are also terrible deals disguised as good deals, and learning how to avoid them is important. Especially when you are booking for a full week in the Caribbean or Mexico, you don’t want to arrive to discover the place is far less than you expected.
The lower the price, the more suspicious you need to be
This seems pretty obvious, yet when you read reviews of some of the cheapest resorts you keep seeing the same criticisms over and over. In other words, the people writing the recent reviews could have read about the problems, but they didn’t.
When reading reviews it’s important to look for patterns. If in the last 10 reviews, one says their room was filthy, one says their TV didn’t work, and one says the location isn’t ideal, then the place is probably okay. But if in the last 10 you have 4 or 5 saying the place is outdated and falling apart, you have a problem.
Know the average scores to look for
You might be surprised to know that the average score on TripAdvisor is 4.1 out of 5, so half the hotels score higher than that. When looking for a cheaper Caribbean resort, you’ll come across many hotels with reviews around 3.2 out of 5, which is actually pretty bad. The problem comes when some travel sites sum that score up as “good.” If you don’t know the average, and especially if you assume the average is 2.5 or 3, then you could fall into this trap.
The hotel booking sites obviously want to make each place you are looking at seem to be a winner, and if you only look at one or two places you might not know the context. They also know that if you book at a disappointing hotel you will blame the property rather than the website, so they don’t have much to lose.
Sort by review score and compare at least a few places
Let’s say you want to find an all inclusive resort in Cancun or somewhere in the Dominican Republic, hopefully for around US$200 per night in high season. The normal way to do it is plug in your dates and then sort by price, but a better way is to plug in your dates and sort by review scores. Almost certainly you’ll have to scroll down past all the $500 per night places, but you will hit a $200 sooner than you might expect.
Once you find the best-reviewed resort in your price range then you still need to read the reviews, and compare them to at least one or two more places. At least this way you will be considering places that are probably among the best in their category instead of resorts that continue to disappoint people each year.