TripAdvisor is one of my favorite travel-related sites.  It’s kind of the Wikipedia of traveling, in that it’s people like you and I who are writing reviews and feeding information.  It’s a place to see actual photographs of a hotel or place taken by real people, not the company itself.  It has all the information about the top destinations, sites, cities, beaches, hotels, and more.  Not everything on it is trustworthy, and not everything on it will be useful.  However, it can be a great way to gather lots of information for your next trip.

I think one of its best features is the actual reviews.  As people review a place, those with the best reviews get numbered at the top accordingly. In order to write a review, you have to have a profile.  This profile allows other travelers to see your age and find out what type of traveler you are.  Therefore, if they’re writing a review about a hotel and they gave it a low grade, you can find out the kind of expectations they have.  (ie. if they are a luxury traveler, and they gave a low rating to a budget hotel, you can deduce that it might not be a bad hotel, but just not their “cup of tea.”)
If you don’t have a profile, you should create one.  That way you can write reviews and keep track of all the wonderful places you’ve visited on your personal travel map.
Now you’re ready to use TA.  Let’s pick a destination and go through some of the lesser known features.  
Let’s go to Barcelona.
It’s pretty self explanatory that each header will bring you to look at either hotels, attractions or restaurants.  But one thing you may not have noticed is that last box that says “Travel Guides.”
Not every city will have Travel Guides, but those that do can give you some great insider information that you may not have known otherwise.
One of the travel guides is called “Barcelona Off the beaten path.”  In here, there is a recommendation to visit one of the parks there.  And under that park are the following tips:
  • Guided tours are available with a reservation.
  • The best way to get here is by metro. Take the green line L3 to Mundet, and from there it is a 10 minute walk.
  • There is an entrance fee, but if you visit on a Wednesday or Sunday it´s free.
This is quality information that you may not have known otherwise.  So be sure to scroll through the different guides and see if any one peaks your interest. 
Did you know you can see prices of hotels right from TA?  Enter your dates of travel through the hotel tab and then you can see the highest rated hotels and their prices all the way down.  You can book directly through, Orbitz or Expedia.  (Depending on which sites the hotel is listed on.)
I really like this feature because I’m always looking for the best deal on the best hotel.  I can read reviews, see actual photographs of the hotel, before proceeding to, where the photographs are the hotel’s stock photos which may not be accurate.
At the top of the site, there is a “Best of 2014.”  This lists the top-rated destinations by country or by the world.  There are also other “best ofs” including “best beaches,” “best islands,” and “best restaurants.”
If you’re not sure where you want to go, this can give you some great ideas.  Travelers share why that destination is a winner in their book.
Did you know you can directly message someone who wrote a review?  This has proven to me to be extremely helpful.  Yes, there are forums on TA where you can post a question and hope someone answers.  But if you see that someone just stayed at a hotel where you want to stay, and you have questions about something very specific, you can message them directly and they can respond to you through your TA inbox.  (Another reason why having a profile is helpful.)
Simply click on their name and under there you can see what kind of reviews they’ve given, and you can click the “Message” part to send them a direct message.  It also tells you details about what kind of traveler they are.  If they seem to match your profile, then they’re a similar traveler to you.  The more similar a traveler to you, the more their reviews should line up with how you would feel about a place as well.
TA maps are very helpful to finding out where the hotel is in relation to the top sites and restaurants.  If you’re considering a hotel and want to know if you’ll have to walk ten miles to the site, look to the right hand side of the hotel you’re reviewing and click the map under “Browse nearby.”
The map allows you to browse where the restaurants and sites are and where other hotels are located.  As you zoom in, you can click on a place and go directly to it to see other reviews on TA.  
There are many other secrets of TA, and I will post more about those.  Hopefully these few little tricks will help you in planning your next trip.

Nina Thomas

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