Have you ever booked that dream vacation only to arrive at your hotel and feel like you just stepped into a scene from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, arriving to find your hotel was not at all what was presented…or expected? Here are a few tips to help you navigate the reviews and choose a hotel that never disappoints.

One Ocean Resort, Atlantic Beach, Florida. Hotel reviews rate it well. FWT Magazine.

Photo: One Ocean Resort in Atlantic Beach, Florida, photo courtesy of One Ocean Resort. FWT Magazine.

I tend to go overboard when picking a hotel and get sucked into spending hours upon hours reading hotel reviews on different sites. All this to avoid making one bad hotel decision.

My husband (who doesn’t read hotel reviews) booked a hotel in Napa for our 20th anniversary and we arrived to find the entire property under construction and the gym closed during our stay. Had we read the reviews, we would not have selected that hotel. And then there’s the time we booked a property on the ocean in Greece, only to arrive and learn that it was the equivalent of Spring Break filled with noisy, partying teenagers.

When you’re booking an unfamiliar hotel, how do you navigate the hundreds of consumer reviews out there? If you’re like me, you want your hotel stay to be restful, relaxing and filled with some creature comforts from home (whether it’s breakfast in bed or a gym).

Five top tips for choosing a hotel that never disappoints

  1. Make a list of top three things that are important to you before you start reading the reviews and rate hotels based on those amenities. Are you looking for onsite dining? A quiet neighborhood? An indoor pool? Airport shuttle? Don’t just pick a hotel based on price or location. There are plenty of choices out there so get what you want. This is such a simple tip but you’d be surprised how many people pick a hotel assuming that specific amenities are included and arrive to disappointment.
  2. Make a list of keywords of features that are important to you and do a quick edit→search for those keywords within the reviews. I always search “construction”, “noise”, and “dirty” to see if other reviewers complain about those topics. Sort hotel reviews from best to worst and vice versa since most sites post positive reviews first. Even a good reviewer may comment about something negative that you should be aware of.
  3. Always scroll down and read hotel reviews from the same season/month you’ll be traveling in to understand local events, weather, potential group travel and more. Remember our trip to Greece in the Spring? Had we read reviews from prior Spring months, we would have seen the comments about the partying teenagers. You can also get an idea what to expect of the weather, seasonal events and festivals that could impact traffic and noise around the property.
  4. When reading hotel reviews, make note of what country the reviewer is from. Let’s face it, room size expectations and quality vary greatly from one country to the next. If Europeans complain that the room sizes are small, be concerned.
Omni Amelia Island Resort, Amelia Island, FL. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Omni Amelia Island Resort, Amelia Island, Florida, photo courtesy of Omni Amelia Island Resort. FWT Magazine.

There are tons of great hotel review sites out there, but everyone is looking for something different in a comfortable hotel. It pays to do the research and ensure that your hotel meets or exceeds your expectations and gives you a relaxing place to rest between tours.