Using Trip Advisor to Plan Your Travel

woman with cellphone
••• Even on the go, travelers can access Trip Advisor via its app. Getty Images.

Trip Advisor arrived on the web as a travel opinion aggregator, where anyone who'd visited a hotel could post a review, pro or con. As such, it was a unique resource to independent travelers for planning a trip. Since it launched, Trip Advisor has grown astronomically, adding airline reviews, vacation rentals, restaurants, activities, and more including a Trip Advisor Store

As of the date at the top of this page, Trip Advisor features 385 million reviews of more than 6.6 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions.

 Today it is now an umbrella company that consists of almost two dozen websites that make it the largest travel community in the world, reaching 350 million unique monthly visitors. 

Pros of Using Trip Advisor

  • Trip Advisor is a unique, timely, populist resource with both reviews and photographs posted by travelers
  • Trip Advisor enables a variety of opinions to be voiced
  • Functionality has been added so users can now book hotels, flights, vacation rentals, restaurants and directly from the site
  • Hotel managers have the option to respond to reviews, good and bad

Cons  of Using Trip Advisor

  • Widely diverse opinions ("Loved it!"..."Hated it!") can make it hard to objectively evaluate a place
  • Dissatisfied guests use Trip Advisor as a venue to broadcast bad experiences
  • Trip Advisor has many poorly written trip reviews
  • Bogus positive reviews posted along with honest ones can confuse users
  • Hotels with less-than-glowing reviews have been known to try inducing guests with discounts, free nights, gifts, and other bribes to post positive reviews that counteract negative statements. Some also encourage staff members to post bogus positive reviews. While Trip Advisor aims to monitor and remove fakes, there's no way the service can totally eliminate them.

    Find Out More

    • Cities and hotels, restaurants and attractions are covered in the Trip Advisor database, making it useful in planning multiple aspects of a vacation
    • Trip Advisor's Hotel Popularity Index provides a ranking of the top hotels in a city and can be filtered by star rating
    • Got a question? Nearly 2/3 of Trip Advisor forum posts get an answer within 24 hours
    • Candid photos by Trip Advisor members provide fresh perspectives
    • Free Trip Advisor apps are available for mobile phones and tablets. Other apps from the company include SeatGuru and GateGuru
    • Smart Deals on Trip Advisor indicate highly rated hotels at good prices

    The Bottom Line

    Trip Advisor features millions of reviews and opinions, including both rants and raves about destinations, hotels, attractions, and restaurants.

    If you're like most travelers, when planning a trip you appreciate hearing or reading others' opinions before you choose a place. Yet a surfeit of (often conflicting) voices can create cacophony and confusion. I received an email that said:

    • I am so happy I came across your info on About.com. I am trying to plan a destination wedding, but get so discouraged after reading negative reviews on Trip Advisor about every place I look in to. (Except for Four Seasons and the Ritz, which are too expensive for me).

    Here's my advice to get the most from Trip Advisor:

    • Take what you read on Trip Advisor with a grain of salt. If you see a scathing one-star review but no other writers complain about the same problem(s), it's safe to write it off as an isolated incident.
    • However, if you encounter the same complaint about a hotel repeatedly on Trip Advisor (e.g. "terrible service," "dirty bathroom"), I'd trust it.
    • Conversely, a glowing, this-place-couldn't-be-better report on Trip Advisor — especially when it's surrounded by others' complaints — could have been written by a ringer.
    • Use Trip Advisor as one — but not your only — resource for travel information. You can get a balanced picture by speaking with trusted friends and acquaintances, talking to a travel agent, and visiting other travel sites in addition to a property's own Web site.

    To Post a Review

    Share your impression of hotels you stay in and restaurants that you eat at to help other travelers who use Trip Advisor.  You will need to sign in to create an account, but avoid using your full name or posting a selfie to avoid unwanted attention. Be honest in your review, pointing out both the pros and cons of your experience.

    Bet You Didn't Know this About TripAdvisor

    TripAdvisor is a friend to animals.

    Thanks to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and others who care about sentient beings, TripAdvisor announced that it will no longer sell tickets to tours and activities where wild animals are forced to come into contact with the public. These include elephant rides, tiger "encounters," and swim-with-dolphins excursions. As tempting as these attractions sound, they stress animals and take them out of their natural habitat. TripAdvisor deserves to be commended for this humane decision.