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User Reviews, Take Them with a Pinch of Salt?

While online reviews can significantly reduce the chance of an unpleasant stay, it is important to know which ones to rely on and whether they are biased.

Use reviews that have been posted by people who have a similar understanding of what you consider important in choosing a hotel. People’s past experiences of a 4-star stay will be different to yours, the trick is to find a review you connect with.

Sites such as TripAdvisor.co.uk, LateRooms.com and Booking.com allow you to tailor reviews so you can understand what solo travellers, couples, families and even different gender/age groups thought of their stay. If that’s not enough, the dates of the reviews and where the reviewers are from will also help. If you can see that a year has passed since someone said the food was bad then perhaps it’s improved.

Check out the criteria that each hotel is scored on to get a bigger picture (eg, room quality, family friendliness, value for money). Booking.com has a summary of the words most frequently used by customers to describe their stay (good and bad) if you’re stuck for things to look out for. Don’t forget to research the destination a bit too -- Superbreak.com offers customer reviews about a hotel’s destination.

Keep in mind that a negative review from someone who paid double the regular rate is more understandable – they may well have been expecting service that was double the normal standard. Events, seasonal fluctuations and high-occupancy periods can force hotel prices to soar.

People still go through the hassle of posting good reviews. Booking.com has prompted its customers to leave a positive comment as well as a negative one. Sites like LateRooms.com allow for management responses to be posted against reviews. This way you can find out the reason for bad service -- perhaps breakfast was slow due to staff calling in sick at the last minute.

If you really have concerns prior to booking then call the hotel, raise your concern and base your decision on facts. Travelzoo partners with hotels that have good online reputations such as the ones below:

The Wrea Head Hotel in Yorkshire
The Old Ship Hotel in Brighton

Tregenna Castle Estate in Cornwall
Atlantic Tower Hotel in Liverpool

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Tips by
Raphael

Deal Expert, London
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
See more Tips from
Raphael Giacardi