You are headed to a new vacation location and naturally don’t want to book a week in a roach-infested room in a high-crime area. For that matter, you’d like to sleep in a comfortable bed on the drive to and from your destination as well. Most of us head to TripAdvisor to look up what other travelers have to say about specific hotels. But where do you turn when the reviews are inconsistent and the overall rating is three stars out of five? Here are our five top options.
Superior Small Lodging
If the hotel is independently owned (aka not a chain name such as Holiday Inn) in Florida, you are well served to check Superior Small Lodging to see if the property is a member. These hotels, which have 50 rooms or less, don’t merely pay a fee to belong — they must adhere to a high-standard quality assurance program that requires all members to go through a formal, rigorous inspection annually.
The White Glove Award goes to hotels that receive a perfect housekeeping score of 100% during that inspection. Your odds of avoiding the ick factor with these properties is high.
“There is no more coveted ranking in the hospitality industry than to be rated No. 1 in your market by TripAdvisor,” says Donna Boucher, executive director of the Florida Superior Small Lodging Association. “So we’re proud that 17 of our member properties throughout the state are currently ranked first in their individual markets there.” That list includes her own property, Manta Ray Inn in Hollywood.
Even with the Internet, a good hotel can be hard to find, says Oyster co-founder Elie Seidman. So he started a tell-all journalistic review site on hotels that bases its reviews on its own investigators’ firsthand research and analysis; the site does not rely on user reviews or third-party information.
Oyster’s reviewers stay in hotels anonymously to evaluate the properties on more than 70 dimensions, and take hundreds of photos. They sleep in the beds, swim in the pools, eat the food and interview other guests at the hotel to ensure an objective, comprehensive analysis.
Oyster has expert reviews of hotels in 188 cities around the world, so while it’s not as comprehensive as TripAdvisor, it is a different opinion to weigh when your preferred hotel is listed. The site tends to cover big-name chains and resorts, so this isn’t a “should I take a chance?” resource as much as it is a place to compare amenities.
Virtual Tourist describes itself as a worldwide travel community where travelers and locals share real travel advice and experiences. This really translates to “we look like TripAdvisor” and with good reason: The site is part of the TripAdvisor Media Group.
VT reviews are linked to a profile so you can check out the person’s background if you need more information to determine credibility. True, people lie on the Internet, but with 1.2 million registered members from more than 220 countries posting 1.8 million travel tips on more than 72,977 locations worldwide, there’s enough balance to weed out the bad advice.
Raveable’s tagline, “hotel rooms without the extra baggage,” reflects the fact that this site analyzes millions of traveler reviews to give you one rating. If you hate skimming through pages of vacationers praising the mattresses or complaining that the front desk clerk was rude, this concept saves you those gory details and cuts to the chase.
These folks also run a bed bug watch page that is useful to anyone spending the night in someone else’s bed.
If you book your vacation through a travel agent, ask if he or she can tap into the Travel 42 database and send you a detailed review of your choices. The 137,000 hotel reviews here are written by travel agents to help their colleagues make recommendations, so the details on these reports are from people with a vested interest in steering you away from the duds.
“It’s pretty powerful to bring all these substantial resources together for the first time,” said Tom Cintorino, executive vice president of digital media for Northstar Travel Media, which owns Travel 42.