You and your partner want to take a spur of the moment trip to the beach for a little relaxation before the holiday madness. You love to plan trips so you google “beach resorts” and are overwhelmed with 2,400,340 results. So you will concentrate on the first 30. But beware: Nothing is what it seems because you are about to enter the world of reputation management.

In the business of rating hotels, travel companies, destinations and services, the opinion of people with first hand knowledge is extremely valuable. It can also be deadly if their experience was negative. The manufacturing, placement and evaluation of customer reviews is the objective of internet marketing.  And we, the consumers, have to make sense of the information.

Trip Advisor is the granddaddy of opinion sites.  We have been told about manipulation that allegedly goes on with bogus reviews. There are travel watchdogs constantly nipping at Trip Advisor’s heels to keep them honest. Reputation management companies are known for being able to bury negative reviews by adding neutral or glowing reviews to the top. We usually just read the first 20 or so comments. The result is that we are less likely to see all the bad comments and more likely to see only the good ones. So go to the last comment and read backwards. Don’t go back further than one year.

Travel: How to avoid being fooled by online reviews

How do you pick the right vacation resort?  Use at least two of these suggestions and your chances for a good vacation selection are greatly enhanced.

When looking at search results, look at the web address line first. Find results from media reviewers, and larger third parties that don’t survive solely by getting your business. Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Formers and Fodor’s are examples.

Do a google search and go to the “more” button on the tool bar just above google’s name. Click on blogs. These are more often than not postings by travelers who are interested in telling about their trip not rating hotels or cruise lines. Read a handful of those blogs to get a good feel for the vendor.

When you go to a travel vendor’s website, scroll to the bottom of the home page. Make sure there is an actual address and phone number. Look over the affiliations and memberships. Do they belong to the Better Business Bureau?  IGLTA (International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association) and TAG are two top LGBT watchdogs. If a hotel is TAG approved, they are friendly to the community and want your business. IGLTA is the international association for approved LGBT vendors.

Travel forums of leading publications like Travel+Leisure or Conde Nast have good comments by smart travelers. You can even ask a question on the forum like, “Who has a good beach resort in Aruba?”  Be as specific as possible with dates, price and style.

Google maps is a super tool for evaluating where a resort is located. Avoid places next to railroad tracks, and trash dumpsters. Take a virtual walk around the neighborhood and see if there are restaurants and clubs instead of strip joints or abandoned buildings.

Even hotels can have a bad day so look over many opinions and then just go with your gut feeling.


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