Coming out of the closet with Trip Advisor

The Gate Hotel, Asakusa

Coming out as a reviewer on Trip Advisor is, in my mind, one degree away from blogging on the scale of things-people-might-judge-you-for. So, with nothing left to lose, here it is: Something I like to do in my spare time is putting reviews of hotels and other places I stay on Trip Advisor.

I’ve been doing it incognito for quite a while, over the years racking up 45 reviews in around 50 cities. Beyond being a contributor, I also use Trip Advisor when I’m planning a holiday and deliberating on where to stay and what to visit. It’s a useful tool, but, like all things on the internets machine, it should be approached with an element of caution.

Columns in the room can lead to upset on Trip Advisor, even when it's clearly stated in your booking that the room has a column in it.

Columns in the room can lead to upset on Trip Advisor, even when it’s clearly stated in the booking that the room will have a column in it.

There are some standard features I think we can safely say that people expect to find at their accommodation – essentially a bed and a bathroom, both being generally clean and in good repair. The trouble is that people, quite often fellow contributors to Trip Advisor, get confused and disappointed, sometimes angry, by the fact that beyond this, every place is different: offering different services, with different facilities, are in different locations and have different staff. My point being, be wary the reviewer who complains about lack of 24 hour concierge in a family-run Bed & Breakfast.

Sakura Ryokan, Kyoto

Beautifully simple, traditional Japanese accommodation in Kyoto.

Of course, everyone has their own standards, likes and dislikes, and the point of sites such as Trip Advisor is, I believe, to gather a range of opinions and insights you might not get from the place’s own website. Personally, I’ve got some pretty standard criteria I apply when booking a hotel or other type of accommodation as well as some other more specific ones that probably no-one else cares about.

1. Generally clean – goes without saying really. Lots of reviewers make a big deal about finding ‘hairs’. A lot of hair is gross, but in a practical sense, what can realistically be done about the odd stray? It might be the cleaner’s. It might be mine. I don’t see this as a deal breaker when you’ve probably just spent 24 hours sharing the same recycled air and tiny toilet cubicle with 300 other passengers on a long-haul flight.

It's the little things that count, like having the choice of padded or wooden coathangers.

It’s the little things that count, like having the choice of padded or wooden coathangers.

2. Close to the train station and/or main part of town. The point of this for me is to cut down on incidental time spent in transit. I’m generally happy to pay a little extra to be somewhere central and saving time ‘commuting’ to get to the main attractions.

3. No ugly soft furnishings. This is a deal breaker. If I see a picture of a bed with a floral or otherwise disgusting pattern it’s a no. Terrible curtains. Maybe. But only if the bed cover is plain and nothing else in the room clashes.

I like interior design, but not when it leads to weird art installations in the hotel toilets.

I like interior design, but not when it leads to weird art installations in the hotel toilets.

4. Some overall sense of style. Refer point 3. above. Of course I’ve stayed in rooms that are just rooms. Comfortable and practical is fine sometimes. But, given the choice, I’ll likely choose a place which has rooms which have, at some stage in their development, encountered someone familiar with the principles of interior design. Shallow as that may seem, it’s just who I am.

5. Staff and hosts who aren’t that interested in you. Personal service isn’t that important to me. To be honest, I like as little contact with people as possible when I travel. I don’t need a concierge, I can google. I don’t need my host at a holiday rental to pop in and see how my day was. In fact, I’d prefer not to meet them at all. Just leave the key.* There’s a lot of time taken up on Trip Advisor complaining about this and that staff member who was disinterested, rude, slow or otherwise. I often wonder, from the tone of the review and circumstances described, whether that old saying ‘it takes two to tango’ doesn’t sometimes apply.

It's not all about fancy hotels.  My favourite dog-friendly holiday rental, Top of the Range in Jindabyne.

It’s not all about fancy hotels. My favourite dog-friendly holiday rental, Top of the Range in Jindabyne.

6. Free wifi. Standard just about everywhere else around the world yet not standard in Australia. There are more and more hotels here that are offering it now but it’s been a long time coming and makes it even more  nonsensical that there’s still hotels which don’t.

With all this in mind, I’ve managed to stay in some unique, some standard, some excellent and some not so excellent, places around the world and in Australia. For most of them I’ve written pretty positive reviews, aiming mainly to give other travellers an idea of what to expect beyond the gripes of some and the hype of others. I’m going to start sharing some of my reviews on my blog in the future, but if you’d like to have a look at some on Trip Advisor in the meantime please check out my Trip Advisor profile.

* While I am aware of, and can appreciate, the local knowledge that one can sometimes get from hosts, on balance I’d rather not risk getting embroiled in a lengthy and otherwise unhelpful conversation during the limited time I have allotted to holidaying. Again, that’s just me.

5 thoughts on “Coming out of the closet with Trip Advisor

  1. I’m a Trip Advisor reviewer too, and now have done over 250 reviews, mostly restaurants rather than hotels/accommodation, as that’s where my interest lies. I laughed when you said that ugly soft furnishings are a deal breaker for you. I hadn’t really thought about what was a deal breaker for me in terms of accommodation but that wouldn’t be it, though it wouldn’t attract me. I think the main issues for me are comfort of the bed. I tend to look at photos to see if there’s a bit of space – I do like space. But that depends on whether I’m staying one night or a few.

    I think, like you, that the trick with Trip Advisor is not to just rely on the overall rating, but to read the reviews and try to assess the bias of the reviewer. If they complain about small serves or slow service or expensive wine and it’s a fine dining place, then I know that their expectations are mismatched with the place they’ve gone to. I know a lot of people criticise TA, and there are issues, but, as you say, if you use it intelligently, then it’s really helpful. (BTW, I’m not too keen on lots of advice from concierges either – unless I have a question, I prefer to be left alone as I usually know why I’m in a place and what I want to do there.

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    • You’re right, whisperinggums, the pictures are just as helpful as the reviews sometimes.I don’t trust the glossy staged ones on the hotel websites and they rarely include views of useful things I like to know such as the tea/coffee facilities set-up and what the bathroom looks like!

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      • Exactly, funnily though, while I love to look at the photos and while I post quite a lot of restaurant photos on TA, I rarely do of accommodation. I should do that more often.

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  2. Right there with you – one shot of a floral bedspread or worse, a floral couch (most frequently seen on Stayz) and I’m out! Of course that then tends to significantly increase the price of the accommodation… But for me, it’s worth it. However with a newborn I suspect my financial profligacy in pursuit of relaxing interior design may have to go out the window very soon 😦

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    • HelenD you’re a girl after my own heart! Stayz is another great source I use, but you’re right, it’s even more dangerous territory for offending (offensive?) patterns.

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