I remember my first trip to Paris – I think I bought every guidebook my local bookstore had on the shelf! Fast forward a few years and guidebooks are just one of so many options for planning travel. Digital reviews have allowed us to take hundreds or more opinions into account vs those of the travel company publishing those guidebooks. Sometimes it’s almost overwhelming trying to get through all those different opinions! But overall they’ve certainly saved me over the years and I’m usually only sorry when I didn’t read them first.
The funny thing is, it’s only been fairly recently that I’ve started contributing reviews myself. In the past I would add my two cents only if a place, person, or experience was really stellar or an epic fail. I admit that this was mostly due to laziness, but a lot of it also had to do with not valuing my own opinion – I figured if I didn’t have anything new to add then there was no point.
As the popularity of online ratings and reviews has grown, however, so has the practice of online shaming. One slight to one person can create an avalanche that the business, etc. may be helpless to stop, which is just unfair. I’ve realized that I may not have a wordy recommendation to add to the mix, but my honest feedback and at least a rating can and does make a difference – especially to small businesses or remote locations.
I’ve also been lucky enough to find some very off-the-beaten-path destinations compliments of wading through all of those online reviews – and possibly even more importantly, directions on how to get to those locations! When my brother and I went to Scotland in 2013, I was lucky enough to come across directions to the St. Columba’s Isle – a very old cemetery in a remote part of the Isle of Skye. I felt so happy and so lucky to have found that gem! I swore then and there that I would make more of an effort to share my opinions – for better or for worse – and have been slowly getting into the swing of things.
As for as which sites I use…I’d say mostly the mainstream – TripAdvisor is by far my favorite, but I also like Booking.com for hotel/lodging reviews. Most booking sites sport reviews these days but I always like to check against my tried and true (smile). On the rare occasion I’ve come across something that isn’t on any of my usual sites, I find that Google can be a powerful tool. If you’re really lucky, you might even find a blog post on your subject (which, in a roundabout way is how I came into blogging, but that’s for another day). Oh, and if you can’t find a review somewhere on Google, then you should probably leave well enough alone (thank you Brazilian sex hotel for that lesson learned!).
So I guess this post is my PSA to encourage everyone to share their opinion! Whatever your preferred site, whether it’s a full page rave/rant or just a star rating, it can make a big difference to someone’s trip!
And just as a little post-script, here are a list of things I try to remember to include in my reviews. You never know what little detail may help make someone’s decision!
- Date/Season – off season/on season can make a big difference in expectations
- Pricing – great for comparison purposes
- Any special rates received – so the reader knows what to look/ask for
- Operating hours – helpful when there is no website
- Tour options
- Helpful hints
- Specifics – bad or good, your specific circumstances may matter
- Location – and any specific turn-left-at-the-second-green-tree-on-the-right hints for those remote locales are a major plus
- Yay or nay – sometimes a simple “love it” or “didn’t love it” is all you need
- Amenities – knowing where the porta-potty is located can be just as important as how big the whirlpool tub is (or is not)
- Special accommodations – especially good for those with different needs
- Photographs allowed
- Dress code – especially important for religious destinations
Anything I’ve missed? What’s your favorite travel review site??