6 Tips for Using TripAdvisor Effectively

Believe it or not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use TripAdvisor.

If you really want to make an informed decision when choosing a hotel, you need to do more than what most people are doing. You need to do more than log on to tripadvisor.com, enter the name of the hotel you’re considering, read through a few pages of reviews, and then make your decision based on said reviews.

Otherwise, there’s no way you’ll get an accurate depiction of what you’re getting into. Time and time again you’ll choose a hotel that receives glowing reviews on the first few pages you skim through, but time and time again you’ll walk away disappointed, wondering what went wrong – after all, the TripAdvisor reviews were amazing.

So let me share a few tips on how best to use TripAdvisor to ensure you choose the hotel that’s perfect for you.

1. Rating and Ranking

Let’s say, for instance, you’re considering a trip to the Majestic Colonial resort in Punta Cana. Go to TripAdvisor and type in the name of the hotel in the search box.

When you get to the hotel’s review page, you should look at two things right away: the hotel’s star rating and its ranking in comparison to other hotels in the area.

TripAdvisor screenshot

Here, you’ll see that Majestic Colonial is rated 4 stars and ranks 17th out of 100 hotels in Punta Cana. It’s up to you to decide at this point if these numbers appeal to you. If you’re looking for a higher ranking, you might want to move on. You can simply click on “#17 of 100 Hotels in Punta Cana” to see a list of all 100 hotels and their rankings.

2. Statistics

Before heading straight to the reviews, you first need to look at and understand a few numbers. Just above the reviews, there’s a very important section that contains a snapshot of the hotel’s statistics. Check it out:

TripAdvisor screenshot of statisticsTraveler Ratings: In the first column, you’ll see a breakdown of traveler ratings. You can click on each category to read corresponding reviews. For me, reading the “Terrible” reviews is just as important as reading the “Excellent” reviews. Click on the name of each category and read at least a handful to get a true sense of what people are saying.

Reviews by Demographic: The second column is a breakdown of reviews based on the type of traveler. As you can see, this hotel is popular among couples and families, so if you’re just reading the reviews on the first few pages, chances are you’re seeing reviews mainly from people who traveled as part of a couple or family. But if you’re traveling alone, you’ll want to see reviews from other solo travelers. Click on “Solo” and you’ll see corresponding reviews – reviews that matter most to you!

Service Ratings: In the third column, you’ll see a breakdown of ratings by hotel offerings or services. For this hotel, the ratings are very similar across the board, with a high rating for all categories.

Note that the first two columns work in conjunction. If, for instance, you’re a solo traveler, you can select “Solo” in the right-hand column and you’ll get a breakdown of traveler ratings by solo traveler in the left column. Here, you will see that the majority of solo travelers gave the hotel an “Excellent” rating.TripAdvisor screenshot, statistics

3. Choose the Season

There’s one more filter you should check out before heading to the review section: the season.

TripAdvisor screenshot of season filter

I think most hotels will tell you that the demographic changes by season. In the summer months, you’re more likely to see young kids than you would see in, say, mid-January. Similarly, in February and March, you’re likely to see more spring-breakers than you would see in September.

If you’re reading through reviews in February for a trip you want to take the kids on in the summer, most reviews will come from recent travelers who will likely comment on things completely irrelevant to your trip. They may talk about the slew of twenty-something drunkies they were surrounded by, not the kid-friendly atmosphere you were hoping to read about.

So it’s very important you read reviews from travelers who have visited the hotel the same time of year you’ll be visiting. You’ll find this filter right above the reviews.

4. The Reviews

When you’re reading through the reviews, there are a two things you should pay attention to and analyze.

The Reviews and Reviewers

The Reviews: First, we all have different tastes, and we all react to situations differently. Some people are quite dramatic and reach for the anger button a lot quicker than others. Some people will let a bad meal ruin their entire week, while others will see the best in the darkest of situations. And that’s human nature as we know it.

Your job is to really dissect the reviews and consider if the grim reviews are legit, or if these people are simply sulking over the slightest of imperfections.

Is it really the resort’s fault that the mosquitoes were out and about that week? Would the temperature of the sand really ruin your week? If it would, then take these reviews seriously. If not, continue on.

The Reviewers: When you’re reading a review, you should also pay attention of the reviewer’s information, listed to the left of the review:

TripAdvisor screenshot of reviewer infoIn this example, the reviewer has given 17 reviews and has reached the status of Contributor. S/he has also received 53 helpful votes. That means s/he has taken the time to give thoughtful, candid reviews, and many TripAdvisor members really look for that when dissecting a review.

You can also click on or hover over the reviewer’s username to see other reviews and contributions along with rating distribution. It can be helpful when determining the merit of an extremely negative or positive review.

5. Traveler Photos

When you’re considering a hotel, of course you want to look at photos. You can spend an entire day checking out photos of any one resort or hotel on TripAdvisor. There are roughly 20K photos of Majestic Colonial on TripAdvisor, for instance.

TripAdvisor screenshot of photo section

My biggest advice is to go through the traveler photos to get a true sense of what to expect at the resort The professional photos are often edited to make the resort look much nicer than it actually is in reality.

6. Engage

If you’ve read through all the reviews you can handle and you still have questions, there are a few ways to get answers.

Connect with a Reviewer: At the end of every review, TripAdvisor gives you the option to ask that reviewer a question. The question gets sent via a private message and all responses are private.

Post a Question: You can also post a question on the hotel review page. All questions and answers are public. Be sure to read the questions and answers before posting, to make sure that same question hasn’t already been asked and answered. You can find this option along the menu bar above the reviews section.

TripAdvisor Screenshot QA

Participate in the Discussion: You are sure to find an answer to any question on the Travel Forum. And if you can’t, you can post the question very easily, and you’ll likely get answers from community members very quickly. You can find this feature at the top of the TripAdvisor menu bar.

TripAdvisor screenshot of travel forum

Select Travel Forum and then drill down to the city or town your hotel is located in and then either search a topic or post a question. You must be a member of the TripAdvisor community to post.


So get to know TripAdvisor and all its features and filters, and I think you’ll have more success choosing the perfect hotel! Be sure to check out my posts, How to Choose an All-Inclusive Resort and How to Choose a Caribbean destination for tips on planning your next tropical getaway.

Any TripAdvisor tips you want to share? Comment below!


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