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For those you who do not know, Tripadvisor is an online review source that lets users provide reviews of hotels, vacation rentals, activities, timeshares and other activities. Tripadvisor is fairly mainstream so I doubt that I am providing any real insight into this tool. However, this is an absolute must for vacation planning. Tripadvisor provides unbiased reviews so you can see what travelers like you and I actually think about a particular resort. Many timeshare properties are located on Tripadvisor so you can see what people have to say about the resort before booking it. Interval and RCI both provide designations for the quality of the resort using designations such as gold crowns or Elite resort which are somewhat useful to understand the quality of the resort. However, Tripadvisor provides real reviews so that you can see what others are saying and provide you with excellent tips and tricks for the resort. Travelers can inform others on room recommendations, nearest restaurants or grocery stores, the availability of tours and activities and so on.
One trick that I recommend doing is to go to the reviews and filter them so that you can see all the "Terrible" reviews. I recommend doing this because a lot of the terrible reviews can actually provide useful information concerning the resort. Some terrible reviews are just people ranting for something uncontrollable or people wanting to receive some type of compensation from the resort for minor inconveniences that occurred while on vacation. However, sometimes, you can review the "terrible" reviews and the same theme will be discussed on each review. Sometimes, they complain that the beds are bad or the location is inconvenient. I personally think that the terrible reviews provide more information that the glowing reviews since you can see the particular problems that the traveler incurred at the resort and potentially see how the resort reacted to the situation. Many times it is the hotel reaction that provides the most insight on the quality of management or empathy of the staff. You can then make up your own mind on whether the traveler was being high maintenance or whether the issue that they brought up is a potential concern. However, I caution everyone that the reviews are just that, reviews and opinions. Opinions can differ greatly so somebody's great experience could easily be somebody's awful experience. Additionally, it is very important to get a feeling of who is writing the particular review. If you have a traveler that stays mostly at Four Season's resorts, their review of a Holiday Inn would likely be poor even if the Holiday Inn was stellar. In contrast, someone who normally stays at a Holiday Inn and goes to a Four Season resort would likely provide a glowing review even if there were inconveniences that a regular Four Season's traveler would find troublesome.
Tripadvisor has also branched out recently and you can now book hotel and vacation rentals directly with Tripadvisor. This is beneficial so that you can see what the "retail costs" are for these types of rentals and see whether booking direct or booking through the exchange company makes economic sense. Before exchanging, you should always do the math as sometimes booking directly instead of using the exchange could be economically beneficial and saving the timeshare exchange for better savings.
I always recommend reading the Tripadvisor reviews before booking. Hotel and timeshare photographs can be extremely deceiving so Tripadvisor provides a good way to get true feedback on the property.
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