According to Harvard Business Review, in 2012 Trip Advisor had 65 million monthly "unique visitors" and the website has been around since 2000. This has become an incredible resource for people who enjoy traveling as you can literally look up anything that you want to know. There are forums where people discuss restaurant recommendations and answer questions about specific places, and of course, there are pages for every hotel, restaurant, and resort with all of the information that you could want.

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But just like your sister could tell you to go to a pizza restaurant because she absolutely adored it and you could be totally disappointed with the experience, it can be tricky to know if you should believe things that strangers say online.

Read on to find out why Trip Advisor reviews can (or can't) be trusted.

Negative Reviews Aren't Always Relevant As Mistakes Do Happen

Should you trust the reviews posted on this site? What about the negative reviews?

Sure, if each review says that a place is terrible, it would make sense to believe them. But it seems like not all of the negative reviews tell the story of what travelers can expect every single time. For example, there are several posts about the food at an all-inclusive resort in Cuba called Villa Tropico Jibacoa. One review says, "Cold food, rice, and mystery meat, very little vegetable choices.. either plantain or squash. Never salad ingredients. The food bins were always half empty." Another says that more food was always being put on the buffet and continues, "This buffet is not as large or as extravagant as the ones we have been to at other resorts, but good enough."

Based on these two opposing reviews, it seems like perhaps the first guest visited on an "off week" and the rest of the time, the food is better. It's important to remember that no one is perfect and mistakes do happen sometimes (even though, of course, that's frustrating when you're on vacation).

If The Majority Of Reviews Agree, Travelers Can Trust Them

On the other hand, it seems fair to say that if the majority of reviews are saying the same thing, then travelers can trust them. The best way to use Trip Advisor as someone who loves to travel is to find a hotel, resort, or restaurant with many reviews and go through them. When there are more positive than negative comments, you can be comforted knowing that most people have a good experience there.

At the very least, if you read 100 Trip Advisor reviews saying that there are dirty bathrooms or bad food at an all-inclusive resort or cruise ship and then you book with that company, it can't be a huge surprise when you experience the same thing in person. The same thing is true if five of your friends recommended a new restaurant in town to you. If they all love it, you would think that it was worth going to.

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The Reviews Are Helpful For Painting A Real Picture

Ultimately, it's impossible to know whether you will have an amazing or terrible time on your vacation as so many things can be left up to chance. Everything from the weather (if it rains the whole time you're at a resort, that's not great) to the people staying near you (they could be super loud but the rest of the hotel is quiet) is truly up in the air.

With that being said, Trip Advisor reviews are helpful for painting a real picture. You're going to get the gritty details that aren't included in fancy brochures or flawless websites with retouched photos. If something is wrong, a traveler will post about it, and you can see that a certain hotel's rooms face a brick wall and not the beautiful sea, for example.

The reviews can also be helpful in more positive ways. A review of Hilton Playa del Carmen praises how seriously the place takes guests with food allergies. A mom of a son who can't eat eggs, soy, or dairy wrote, "When we arrived at a restaurant, the manager and chef came to meet us and discuss what items on the menu they could customize safely for my son. He ate safely and deliciously the entire week." That kind of information might be hard to get from a website, so personal reviews really matter here.

While it's not a perfect system, reading some reviews that travelers have left of the place that you want to go can definitely be helpful. It's good to remember that this is just one piece of the puzzle of planning a vacation and that some things can be taken with a grain of salt. It's ultimately up to each person to choose their own (travel) adventure.

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