• How to Read Hotel Reviews

    by  • Planning • 12 Comments

    With so many hotels to choose from, trying to make a decision about where to stay can be daunting. Hotel reviews can be a valuable way to determine if a particular hotel is a good option. You get to see what actual hotel guests thought of their stay, not just the hotel’s description of their facilities. But how can you sift through all the reviews to determine what people are really saying?

    The Score

    The higher the score, the better, right? So look at the rating score and sort your options to show you the highest ones at the top. I usually stick to 7.0 or 70% as an absolute bottom. Sometimes I’ll even limit myself to 8.0 or 80% and higher if there are a lot of options.

    A higher score means past hotel guests generally liked the hotel and enjoyed their stay with few, if any, problems. If you limit yourself to these hotels, you have a better chance of enjoying your stay as well.

    The number of reviews of the hotel on the booking site will be listed, and this is an important number. You will get a much more accurate overview of the hotel if there is a higher number of reviews. This doesn’t mean a hotel with a low number of reviews is bad, but a high score carries more weight if a lot of people gave it a high score instead of just three or four guests. It also doesn’t mean you need to read all 300 reviews the hotel has. The first page or so should be enough.

    What People Are Saying

    Read through both the positive and the negative things people comment on in their reviews, and look for things that might bother you. If you’re easily bothered by noise, a hotel with a lot of complaints about loud street noise might not be right for you. If you’re sensitive to hard beds and there are a few complaints about hard beds, move on. But if there are complaints the TV was too small and you don’t watch TV on vacation anyway, don’t let that factor into your decision.

    Ignore the outliers. If 30 people are raving about the hotel and one person says it was horrible for whatever reason, it was probably just a fluke. Don’t let one negative review outweigh a sea of positive reviews.


    People have certain expectations, and they’re not always met, but it doesn’t mean the hotel is at fault. Consider where you’re going and adjust your expectations accordingly. Are you looking at hotels in a poor country? Don’t expect the same standards as you would at home. Are you traveling to a European city with old architecture? Don’t expect spacious rooms or elevators. Read between the lines. When travelers don’t think about these things, they often end up disappointed and leave bad reviews.

    Don’t let the reviews overwhelm you

    You could spend hours reading hotel reviews. Eventually they will start to run together, you won’t remember which hotel had complaints about noise and which one had compliments about the free breakfast. You might end up starting over if you can’t remember which hotel is which.

    When you’re looking at the different hotels, open each one in its own tab in your browser. If you read too many bad reviews on a particular hotel, ditch it and close the tab. Soon you’ll be left with just a few to choose from. At that point, you should be able to look through the ones you have left and make a decision.

    Picking a hotel is an important part of the planning process. At the very least, the hotel is the place you will sleep at night, and you want to feel safe and comfortable. But choosing a hotel doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Don’t drown in hotel reviews, read them objectively and look for what’s important to you.

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    12 Responses to How to Read Hotel Reviews

    1. Matthew Cheyne
      August 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

      Hi Ali:) This is a good article that in a no nonsense way articulates how to choose a hotel but what websites do you use to find that particular hotel. Is Tripadvisor on its own enough or should we look at other sites as well? And which sites would you recommend?

      • Ali Garland
        August 21, 2012 at 9:55 am

        Thanks Matthew, and thanks for the push! Andy and I are on the road right now, but I promise I’ll work on a list of sites I like when we get home next week. Trip Advisor works, though sometimes the reviews are fake, but the reviews on booking sites work well too.

    2. August 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      All very good tips. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read reviews on European hotels and saw people complaining about the size of a room in a city like Rome or Paris. It’s Europe and buildings are much older and rooms much smaller. Plus as you said, it’s generally a place to sleep and get ready. I really only require that hotels are in a good location and clean as I don’t intend to spend much time in the hotel in most destinations.

      • Ali Garland
        August 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm

        Right, it’s all about expectations and having the right frame of mind for the place you’re visiting. The hotel is usually not the main reason you’re traveling somewhere, and a lot of European destinations just don’t have the space to build hotels with large rooms like we’re used to in the US. Although I have to say, Andy and I are in Carcassonne right now, and while the size of the room is fine (small but fine) the bathroom is so tiny I keep hitting the wall just trying to get out of the shower or stand up from the toilet. But there was no way of knowing it ahead of time.

    3. August 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      Nice post! Sometimes Photos by actual travelers tell more. Did u try oyster.com app? It seems that they have a dedicated team that goes around to take photos and write actual reviews of hotels. The photos that they take are enormous, even the hairdryer are not missed sometimes! ;)

      • Ali Garland
        August 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm

        Thanks Tommy! I haven’t used that app. Sounds like a good service, though I do really like hearing from real customers who have stayed at the hotel. That way I feel like there’s less chance of a biased review. I would love pictures of the hairdryer though, sometimes the ones in hotels are awful!

    4. September 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      These are all good tips, especially the last one. I can spend hours looking at hotel reviews. It’s kind of sad! Also now that hotels can respond to reviews, I also take into account how the management responds to a complaint. If the manager comments in an angry or denial-heavy response, I generally don’t want to stay there. If the hotel has such management that can’t take some criticism and try to fix it, chances are if something goes wrong for me, I wouldn’t want to approach management judging by their reaction in hotel reviews.

      • Ali Garland
        September 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

        Thanks Suzy! So true, if management’s response to a comment is negative, it really doesn’t say much for the hotel.

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    7. November 26, 2012 at 8:29 am

      I also use the tab technique! Not only for hotel reviews, but also when I’m searching for other things. Sometimes I get a bit carried away though and I end up with 20+ tabs to plough through:-)

      • Ali Garland
        November 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm

        Yeah, sometimes too many tabs can make things worse! I try to open a few, check them out, and close the ones I’ve decided against before opening more.

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