Confessions of a Hotel Review Reading Addict

I have a strange addiction when it comes to travel planning. Deciding the general route is always thrilling. Securing a car rental or other means of transport has its challenges. When I finally click purchase after finding “the deal”, it is no longer a challenge. However I meet days upon days of figuring out just where I plan on resting up for the night. I obsess over the stories of strangers and their experiences at properties so much so that I start to know them by name. I find myself reading their stories of bed bugs, stolen laptops and even neighboring room murders like a page-turning novel. Will they make it out alive? Will they get a refund? I can’t close out the page. I can’t make a decision on where to stay. All of the hotels in town seem flawed.  I am a hotel review reading addict.

The problem with this addiction is that I spend what feels like days booking one night at a hotel, a hotel I will be in for maybe 15 hours. My first motion on any review site is a trip on over to the terrible ratings. Like a mandate, I have to read the terrible tales before the excellent reviews or five star ratings. I want to know why some lone soul found the top rated hotel in New Orleans truly terrible.

These are hours of my life that I will never get back. Some of you may be thinking, “Life is too short. Pick a hotel and stay there, you coward!” I just can’t. It is a problem. Sometimes the hotel that I take a risk on is not as terrible as Luvtravls3429 made it out to be. Other times when I don’t look, when I just book because there is no time, I end up at a smoke infested hotel in the Czech Republic or a hotel FDR stayed at in Texas that hadn’t been cleaned since his stay. How do I get beyond wasting my life away, reading these reviews to ultimately deciding on a hotel? 

Who wants to stay here?

At two in the morning one night, when my eyes struggled to stay open to make sense of the terrible tales on a hotel in Austin, I decided there are certain things to look for in hotel reviews to speed up the booking process. If you are like me, wasting hours of your life reading these hotel stories, I hope we can help each other.

Check Review Dates

If someone in 2005 said the hotel was noisy due to construction outside, I tend to throw these reviews away in my decision-making process. While I am guilty of heading straight for the terrible reviews, I also now look at the review dates. Has the property been updated since that time? Is it under new management? If all of the excellent reviews are current, I am more inclined to give in and book the hotel.

Look Out For Phonies and Those Who Cry Wolf

Some sites like TripAdvisor don’t really have a system to check if a person has actually stayed at the hotel. There have been countless articles on how competitors will try to deter travelers from staying at their competition by posting fake reviews. I have even come across job postings for writers to pen phony reviews for a hotel. I tend to compare reviews on TripAdvisor with those of and the actual hotel-booking agents. On hotel booking sites, you generally can’t leave a review unless you have stayed at the property.

There are also those travelers who think a fly in the room is a bed bug. After researching just what bed bugs look like and their signs, I often find some reviewers believe in crying wolf when there is in fact no wolf. If they post a picture of said bed bug or tell how they had to throw out their prized possessions due to a bed bug infestation, I will go ahead and believe them. 

This is not a bed bug.

Stay Away From Murder Sites and Other Safety Concerns

Aside from wanting a clean space to rest up for the night, I always want somewhere safe. In all of my hotel review reading, I had never come across a hotel that was a murder site, until San Antonio. Someone detailed a night where there was blood pouring out into the hallway and police on site all night. I knew the validity of the review as the hotel manager had commented saying these were extraordinary circumstances. They did confirm the murder in the process. Other reviewers tell of stolen laptop computers and smashed car windows and break-ins. I want to stay as far away as possible from these safety concerns. If a hotel has multiple reports of some sort of crime, I don’t need to stay there. A murder is certainly a hotel deal breaker.

 Historic Properties Can Be Historic in Their Cleaning Practices

I am the type of guest that likes a story behind my stay. Haunted or just plain historic, I want to stay there. However when I look at your reviews historic properties of the world, people bemoan your cleanliness. I decided in Texas to forget these people. I booked a historic inn, one FDR had stayed out. The room looked innocent enough walking in for those first few moments. I flipped off my shoes and began walking around. After a few steps in the room, my feet were as black as night. This room hadn’t been cleaned in years.

A sign hung in the bathroom, essentially telling guests to be extremely careful with the shower curtain. If any water leaked out of the shower, a flood would appear in the room below. It is probably a deal breaker when the hotel wants you to solve their plumbing issues. I really wish historic properties of the world would wake up and see what a gold mine they have if they just clean properly. You don’t want to spend any time in an unclean room. On road trips, sometimes all you want to do is relax at the hotel after a long drive. It’s impossible to relax when you are counting the cobwebs on the ceiling instead of counting sheep. 

Don’t be fouled by the photographs. This room was covered in several inches of dust.

Are you a hotel review-reading addict? What do you look for in reviews to speed up the booking process? What are you hotel review deal breakers?


  1. Matt says

    Ha you’re not alone in your addiction! I have tried to fly by the seat of my pants before and just book on impulse and a few photos, but that has very rarely worked out. Despite the hours spent researching, it is always worth it to like where you are staying, feel safe, clean etc. These are all great tips. I also tend to look at the location. If there are other well-rated hotels in the area or it is a nicer area, that’s always a good indiction that instills confidence.

  2. says

    It’s one of the downfalls of the information age – having too much information, and of course not knowing what information is right and what is wrong. I used to get totally freaked out over every hotel review as well, but I’ve had to remind myself to take these reviews with a grain of salt. You bring up some great points. I think it’s important to remember everyone’s experience on the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to accommodations will be different, something I learned when I worked at a hotel for a few years. I tend to check the reviewers other reviews. If I see all there reviews are really negative, or that they’re all really positive (almost too positive) I tend to ignore them, because no one can have just amazing hotel experiences or just horrible ones (unless the person only has a couple reviews under their belt). With any review I like details. Why was the stay so horrible? Was there a problem that was brought to the hotel’s attention? What did they do about it? Alternatively why was the stay so great? The more details I have, the more confident I feel in the review. Any review that’s really vague will get ignored. I also tend to ignore badly written reviews. I’m certainly not a perfect writer, but when I see something like “this hotel SUXXX!!!!! It wuz so drty” I won’t be able to take that reviewer seriously.

  3. says

    My name is Jay and I’m also a hotel review addict. I don’t even want to try to calculate the amount of time I spend cross referencing reviews nor do I want to know how much money we’ve spent on said hotels in the last year. I almost always end up ‘upgrading’ to a better hotel with a bigger price tag.
    But, on the upside, I’ve had some really fantastic stays and I credit my research.

  4. says

    I’ve started reading and researching more and more hotel reviews. It’s been a great way to discover interesting properties. Reviews can really reveal quite a bit about a place, but I think you have to read a lot of the same property.

    Also, sometimes I just read features and articles about a property rather than reviews—guess I’m just a product of the advertising age!

  5. says

    I too take hours to research a hotel! It’s great to find other addicts! I had not thought about how long this takes until you mentioned that often the research time is longer than the stay….ooops…guilty! I tend to go for smaller hotels in a central position so I read a lot of specialised review sites, articles,blogs and check out referrals. It’s exciting then, to check in and find everything’s just as you imagined it!

  6. says

    At least it’s a healthy addiction. I agonize a bit over picking a room too, mainly because I’m on a budget. If I was rich I don’t think it be as much of a problem. My biggest concern is always location and picking the most affordable room with the best reviews in a good location. Unfortunately, sometimes it means compromising new furniture and what not. But oh well. I think you’ve definitely made some good points here! I can’t believe you read a review about a hotel that had a murder happen in it. I guess it happens-but I couldn’t imagine a place coming back from that.

  7. says

    Interesting tips and hilarious photo captions! I frequent hostels more often than hotels, but cleanliness is always at the top of my list when checking reviews. I also enjoy a good atmosphere and spacious common rooms to mingle and meet other travellers.

  8. says

    What a great post! I am totally with you on the research/review-reading obsession and I love how you’ve written the piece so that it really made me chuckle!

    I stay in hotels professionally too and I KNOW we have to take half the reviews with a pinch of salt but I have to admit I’ve been known to rule out a 5 star hotel with glowing reviews because someone once saw a cockroach there in 2005. But roaches are my ultimate deal breaker. Ok, maybe roaches and murder.

    While on the holiday I actually went to the suspected roach palace just to see for myself if there was anything untoward. Well I went with my friend for a drink at their piano bar, because it was next to where we ended up staying – I’m not that much of a loser – and all I found was the usual bunch of 5 star European clientèle in deck shoes and some quality free bar snacks – no vermin! But it just shows what an enormous impact a bad review can have!

  9. says

    I’m with you, I check reviews before booking, though my process is probably faster. I look at the top rated places, then read their reviews until I see the date is from a while back or the reviews keep repeating themselves. And I agree that you’ve gotta pay close attention to what people are saying. Even if it’s not about bed bugs, sometimes things that matter to one person won’t matter to another. That said, I, too, ignored reviews once and regretted it – although another time I ignored reviews but went on a relative’s recommendation, and that had a great result.

  10. says

    I also do this. TripAdvisor in particular can really suck me in! Have to take everything with a grain of salt, I guess. If 90% of the reviews are awesome, then I try not to get stuck on the 10% that act like they would rather die than stay there again. Also, I don’t know what I would do if I was staying in a hotel and blood started creeping under a door into the hallway. I don’t think I’d be able to check out fast enough!

  11. says

    A murder?! I guess it happens, but that sounds crazy to read about in a hotel review. I book hotels almost entirely based on the reviews, so helpful to know what other guests thought. Even something like wifi that’s listed as free, a guest might point out that it only works in the lobby or that it’s only free for the first day. I actually wrote about how to choose hotels based on the reviews a couple weeks ago, so I enjoyed reading your take on it too!

  12. says

    Suzy, I am very much like you, I spend way too much time reading reviews, and many of the times I found them to be fake. I love to stay in nice hotels, in squeaky clean rooms with crisp new bedsheets and fun treats for its guests. I am a big design fanatic, so going to different hotels is one of my biggest pleasures. But so many times, due to questionable reviews, I ended up in shady hotels, that apart from not being cheap at all, they were a far cry from what people made them out to be. I once insisted to get a 4star hotel in Prague, since I was told hotels in Prague are pretty bad, and I was furious to see the 4star hotel looked no better than the 3star hotel, only more expensive. Last year, I booked a “charming Victorian hotel” in the center of Montreal, to only regret it later. The bed was making weird noises, the room was terrifyingly dark with ugly green walls and there was a prostitution business going on there, which I found out when the police stopped by. Thank GOD I did not get bedbugs as well. This summer in Turks & Caicos I booked a hotel which seemed best out of all the options for the price, and this too was old, dreary, no breakfast, just disappointing, although most reviews were great. These are just 3 examples of when I thought the above hotels were “legit;” judging by its reviews; perhaps booking spontaneously is best, since spending so many hours has not worked well for me either.

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