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Tips for Using Hotel Reviews to Find a Great Hotel

When you’re searching for a hotel to book, do you quickly scan the first few reviews and make your decision? If so, you’re missing out on a lot of important information and could end up at a hotel where the mattress is uncomfortable, the rooms are loud, and the stay is all around miserable—not an ideal way to spend your hard-earned vacation time and money.

Frustrated woman sitting on bed in hotel room while on vacation
Antonioguillem | Adobe Stock

Fortunately, there are a few hacks you can use to utilize hotel reviews effectively and ensure a truly enjoyable stay. Follow these tips to use reviews to your advantage so you make an informed decision about a hotel before booking. 

Sort by Lowest Review First

Review sites generally use an algorithm to display whatever reviews they deem as the “most relevant.” Disregard that order, and instead sort by lowest-rated reviews first. Read through the reviews for legitimate complaints that would impact your stay, but be sure to disregard reviews that won’t impact your trip or are just plain ridiculous.

For example, suppose several low-rated reviews are from people who complain about expensive parking, but you’re not planning on driving to the property. In that case, you can ignore those reviews when deciding whether or not to book. Or, if a one-star reviewer complains that they didn’t stay at the hotel but couldn’t get a reservation at the resort’s restaurant, you can also dismiss that. 

However, if a legitimate complaint frequently surfaces among bad reviews, calling out things like uncomfortable beds or unclean rooms, it’s likely that you’ll encounter the same issues when you stay. 

Consider Management Responses

Reading the lowest-rated reviews can provide valuable insights beyond just the specific complaints themselves. It can also reveal how the hotel management handles criticism and addresses guest concerns. Be on the lookout for red flags, such as management responding in an unprofessional or angry manner to negative reviews. Such reactions may indicate how they would handle any issues that arise during your stay.

Similarly, if the hotel fails to respond or acknowledge negative reviews altogether, it could be a sign that it is unwilling to go the extra mile to rectify problems and ensure a positive experience for its guests. 

Keyword Search Reviews

Most booking sites allow you to filter reviews by specific keywords, a feature that greatly aids your hotel search. The first keyword I always look for is the word “bedbugs” because reports of those will be an immediate dealbreaker for me. 

If there are aspects of a stay that are particularly important to you, like location, noise level, or even shower pressure, take advantage of the search field to find out what other travelers are specifically saying about those factors. 

Use Reviews Request Specific Rooms

Ever got stuck in a room above a noisy hotel bar and had the music keep you up all night? Reading the reviews might have prevented that. For instance, some may caution against booking rooms on the street-facing side due to disruptive traffic noise throughout the night. 

Drobot Dean | Adobe Stock

These detailed reviews offer an opportunity to proactively request particular rooms when making your booking. Most hotels are willing to accommodate such requests as long as the room is within the same category that you originally booked.

Pay Attention to the Dates

Check the date on the reviews you’re reading, and pay more attention to reviews written in the last two years (but don’t completely dismiss older reviews). 

Reviews from several years ago may no longer accurately portray the hotel, as the property may have undergone renovations, impacting the resort’s condition. This also applies to lower reviews for complaints that happened a year or two ago—if an old review complains about construction noise, it’s unlikely that it will still be a problem today. 

Watch Out for Fake Reviews

Reading reviews of the same hotel across multiple platforms can help weed out fake reviews. If you see the same glowing review posted across numerous sites, it’s likely to be fake.

Remember that anyone can leave a hotel review on a site like TripAdvisor or Yelp, but hotel booking sites like Hotels.com or Booking.com only allow people who have booked through them to leave a review, helping to eliminate the risk of fake reviews. 

Look for Real Photos

The photos posted by hotels are similar to the ones people use on dating sites—flattering and edited to show the subject in the best light. User-generated pictures captured by amateur travelers often offer a far more realistic portrayal of what the hotel truly looks like.

young traveler taking photo of hotel room on smartphone
LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS | Adobe Stock

Before finalizing your booking, take the time to browse through these candid snapshots and compare them against the polished images on the hotel’s website. 

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