Playa Del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Tips for Planning a Vacation via Trip Advisor

Travel sites like Trip Advisor, have become one of the most essential social networking and travel planning sites for travelers and for businesses in travel, leisure, and restaurant industries. Monitoring and participating to keep Trip Advisor reputations as favorable as possible may be the most vital online function any travel and leisure-based business can practice. Smart businesses tap into what their customers are telling them to improve their product and neutralize negative experiences. Stay Tuned! In a future blog, I’ll review how businesses can use Trip Advisor to make their business soar, but let’s start today with simply planning a trip.

For me, even the trip planning is one of the most fun parts of a vacation. Researching and learning of places you will visit builds anticipation and can stretch that vacation from a one-week stint to a months long, live-your-dreams extravaganza! Or for many, it can just be a pain–in-the-ass task that you want to finish as quickly as possible. Either way, sites like Trip Advisor can help. Their social networking aspect and traveler reviews are well known and have quickly become the ‘go to’ sites for direction on deciding among travel choices.

Started in 2000, TripAdvisor.com is now the most popular travel advisory website and is used by millions of travelers around the world. It has given consumers a voice, and potential guests an educated choice when making decisions on where to go, stay, eat and what to do once they arrive.  This method of travel planning is so much better than methods used in the past of choosing based only on online face value and promotional pushes from the destinations and properties. This new transparency has simply changed the way the travel and leisure industry works.

Looking closely at Trip Advisor, the potential vacationer can scan countless areas of the world or zoom in to very specific and often, virtually unknown spots. It has become a vital resource for those wanting to ‘travel off of the beaten path’.

The real power of TripAdvisor.com comes with the great tools available upon joining the site. Joining is free, although you’ll need to part with your personal info.

Don’t even know a destination that you want to visit? Start out with ‘Travel Inspiration’. Find it under the ‘More’ section of the main page menu, then the drop-down selection of ‘Trip Ideas’. Here you’ll find a smart search engine that allows you to narrow your search to what you like. Well, theoretically anyway. First, select the type of vacation that suits you and your traveling companions. Then pick a general destination you’d like to visit. I tested this to see if it would find a destination that I know very well, Tulum, Mexico. I entered ‘Beaches & Sun’, then ‘Mexico, Central & South America’. Guess what? It didn’t even bring Tulum up as a top five choice, which it should have. I found that very disappointing, as Tulum beaches were just rated by Trip Advisor last spring as one of The Top 5 Beaches of the World! That aside, most people will find this a valuable travel planning tool.

Getting Started

Still don’t know where you want to go? Check out the other headings under the ‘More’ section, particularly the forum and the guides. You can get broad information from the guides and then go to the forum for first hand knowledge and answers to specific questions.Playa Del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

After you’ve picked out a city or area to visit, you will see a new menu drop-down, second from the left, specifically about your destinatin choice. It is also located in the left-hand column in a slightly different format.

Hotels, Flights and Restaurants -Time to explore, shop and plan.

Hotels

With Trip Advisor’s search tools you will be able to locate hotels by time, date, amenities and other criteria based on traveler experience.

Read the guest reviews. This is the real ‘meat and potatoes’ of Trip Advisor. Select any hotel and read randomly through the reviews. My favorite method is to pick some top-rated and some of the lower-rated reviews. The key with reading the lower-rated reviews is to see if the factors that created poor reviews resonate with you and your travel needs. Is it someone that is complaining needlessly? Is it out of line with common expectiations? Is it someone exercising a grudge? As you read through lower-rated reviews, it usually becomes apparent if they are legitimate or not. The same can be said of the ‘glowing’ reviews. Do they really appear to be written by a guest? Or maybe the owner is behind the overly generous review? Things like that do happen, even though Trip Advisor tries to vet each review.

Flights

Search tools for flights can help you compare prices on different travel booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline. You don’t book on Trip Advisor you will link to these other sites for the actual booking. My favorite feature in Trip Advisor for flights is the Trip Alert feature that you can set up that sends you an email when fares dip between airports you specify.

Restaurants

The reviews for restaurants are a foodie’s dream. Watch what local establishment is trending in an area. Choose among the countless ethnic choices, by location or by rating. If that’s not enough you can also pick by price, options and based on their strength of obscure things like ‘good place to do business’ or ‘outdoor seating’. The google map let’s you see exactly where the restaurant is and pops up details as you hover over the map icon.

Trip Advisor badges

Earn a Badge

Similar to becoming a ‘mayor’ on Foursquare, Trip Advisor contributors earn badges for their reviews. Your badge level is determined based on the number of reviews you have, plus the rating your review receives by readers. Looking for badges is also a way of determinng the amateur travel advisors’ experience.

As you can see, Trip Advisor is a must have for travelers. Check out their mobile apps and ‘save a trip’ so that you can access this information, as you need it, while traveling. After all, finding your way around smoothly helps you live that dream well.

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