Thursday, July 5, 2012

How Do You Use Online Review Travel Websites?

This week’s travel tip 

 is that I don’t obsess too much over online hotel and supplier reviews.  I know as I write this, I may not be too popular with many review websites.  Please know I will quickly scan reviews looking at the comments so I know what people are saying and if the supplier is still in business.

Sure, I have a few unusual experiences – like finding a really funky older bed and breakfast hotel in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska and getting a tiny room you could barely move around in with a balcony and the 'best view ever' of the river and downtown Luzern, Switzerland.  

I have learned from my past trips, sometimes in the most uncomfortable way, to make sure I understand what I want from each trip first. 

Remember these items when planning:
  • Create my own goals and expectations of each trip, as I do with my life and business plans.  Why am I really going? 
  • Plan. Research. Hire and talk to a local person. Don’t obsess too much with reviews by others. Do learn the weaknesses and prepare solutions for yourself. Thin walls?  Turn your radio on to soft music or run the water in the sink. A supplier or hotel may not be perfect in every aspect.  If your goal is to hike, you may only need the convenience of a bed, shower, and breakfast.
  • Do communicate on the trip.  If you are upset about an incident, it is most likely because this one item is important to you and was an integral part of the initial list of reasons why you want to go on this trip.  Tell the leader, supplier manager, or person in charge. And, approach them with friendly conversation and your smile. I find people like to help solve problems, let them help you.  Don't be stubborn.
Be patient with other travelers. Don’t rush people. Each person has their own focus and speed – they want to have their own unique experiences.  

Remember what may be important to one person may not be at the top of the list of another traveler.  Don't skip the experiences you want to do because of friends dislikes. 

Fairbanks, Alaska 

I have fun memories of staying in a fun, funky, friendly, and a really inexpensive hotel in downtown Fairbanks.  The hotel was located in the center of downtown close to all shops, restaurants, activities, and information center.  This gave me a chance to walk back to my room to relax and re-energize when I became tired. 

Would you stay here?
When the shuttle driver dropped me off at midnight (summer has 24 hour daylight) the day I arrived, I was a bit nervous when I saw this place and wondered if I should be staying here on my own. 

I wasn’t used to these Alaskan wilderness characters roaming the halls in this small hotel. I knew there was a modern, updated hotel across the street, I could check into if I wanted to switch.  The next morning I went down to have coffee in the lobby, chatted with the hotel owner who shared inside tips with me, and spoke with other travelers.  I was set to explore.  

My goal, was to experience the Alaskan Summer Solstice festival and go to their midnight baseball game without lights.

(Editor's Note: Unfortunately, this hotel was torn down because of the downtown expansion of Fairbanks. A real shame!)

Luzern, Switzerland

My second memory is wandering through Luzern on my own. After my friends and I that I traveled with said good-bye, I went solo to Luzern, Switzerland by train. I felt like a detective when searching for my hotel upon arrival.  I crossed the wooden bridge located along the main river in town and started walking.  

"Oh yeah, head down the street 'behind the hotel' to get to the main entrance!"

It was a great downtown European hotel in a safe area.  I walked upstairs and into my room. As a single traveler sometimes you are placed in smaller side European hotel rooms.  It was bigger than a cruise ship cabin, long and narrow, and I could stretch my arms out and almost touch both walls on each side.  I know the older European hotels have smaller connecting rooms they used for children or for hired help long ago. 

The best part was sitting on the balcony gazing at the view of the city of Luzern. I watched people below me in the sidewalk cafes, photographers on the covered wooden bridges and river activities. I was almost close enough to jump into the river.  

My goal, was to see as much as I could in 24 hours. The view was more important and not the size of the room. I wanted a place to relax after my city walks. 

I am careful with the information I find from online travel reviews.  Be sure to follow what is important to you and extract only the information helpful for your own trip.  When in doubt, ask a local person to help during the trip.
Why do you really want to go on your trip?  The Fun Tour Guru  


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