TripAdvisor's user-generated reviews are an obvious benefit for travelers heading to hotels unknown. According to the latest tally on the TripAdvisor homepage, the site has clocked more than 60 million reviews to date. But because the site is so comprehensive, TripAdvisor also functions as a veritable encyclopedia of lodging—it lists smaller, hard-to-find properties that sometimes don't even turn up in search engines. Ergo, you can use TripAdvisor to find unconventional places to stay that might not be available anywhere else on the Web.
I've personally used the site to find the following: A spacious, perfectly located apartment in the French Quarter in New Orleans; a room in a B&B in Amsterdam with a heart-stopping canal view; and a room in an old, remote chateau in France's Loire Valley that I will never forget. Each place fit well within my measly budget. And each place was galaxies away from your typical nondescript hotel.
What's my secret? The first place I go when searching for a rental is TripAdvisor's Specialty Lodging listings. Even if you're a regular TripAdvisor user, you may not have noticed this on the site before. It's a subtle search function available under TripAdvisor's destination pages. The pathway to the page is, regrettably, a bit obscure.
To get there, type the name of your destination in the search field under "Plan the perfect trip" and click "Find hotels." You want to get to the hotel page for your destination, so if you see a "New York hotels" or "London hotels" link on the next page, click on it. Next, scroll down, and on the left-hand menu, choose "Specialty Lodging" under "Property type" to refine your search. Keep in mind that not all destinations will have specialty-lodging options. Less-traveled or less-populated locales might not show anything.
But for big cities in particular, this search function is gold. It'll turn up a rich mix of B&Bs, apartment rentals, hostels (some more upscale than others), guesthouses, and so on. The search results for specialty lodging in New York City include the West Townhouse, a guesthouse in the Upper West Side with apartments with kitchens from $240 per night—an incredible price for that kind of lodging in Manhattan.
Have you used TripAdvisor to find hotels? Tell us about it!
(Editor's Note: TripAdvisor is our sister site, but my thoughts on its specialty lodging listings are my unbiased opinion as a travel writer.)
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