Tips for writing great travel reviews
Taking a trip can be very expensive. For most people, going on a vacation is a luxury earned through hard work and saving. We look forward to using up our vacation days from work to head out to somewhere relaxing, exciting, or exotic. Everyone wants to spend their time and money wisely and have the best possible experiences.
When booking your travel plans, one of the first things you probably do is check the online reviews of hotels, restaurants, and attractions you are considering using while on vacation. Customer experience travel reviews will assist you with your trip planning, add impact to your travel itinerary, and help you make better choices.
However, the key thing to remember when you look at travel reviews is that they are very subjective, and it is essential to dig deeper. Not all is as it may appear, and not all travel reviews are helpful. It is important to know how to write travel reviews that other travellers can rely on to get value.
Sharing is Caring
So, before you get on Google, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Yelp, Trustpilot, or any other review website, here are some tips to improve your review and make it more impactful for future travellers like yourself.
What makes a good travel review?
- Specifics – the more details, the better.
- Context – so people can understand how your experience may affect them.
- Service – share your experiences – the good, the bad, and even the average.
- Fairness- be honest but fair. Remember, there are real people behind these businesses.
- Tips – sprinkle a few tips and recommendations to improve other travellers’ experiences.
- Photos – give people an example of how things look to describe your experiences better
Things to not do in a travel review:
- Do not use profanity, insults, or bigoted remarks (never do this)
- Do not be overly critical. Harsh reviews can do real damage to a business.
For more travel advice and tips, check out our Travel Resources
Tips for writing your travel reviews
Before typing a travel review for a tourism business, check that you’ve got the right company. I have seen many reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, etc., that were not even for the business they were writing about.
• I have written a review for a company that was incorrect. Context: there were two hotels a short distance from each other with the same Brand Name. I selected the incorrect one and wrote a lengthy review for a hotel I never stayed at. Luckily it was a good review.
• On the reading reviews side, I almost did not book a specific hotel because when you google it, the headlines for reviews are “bed bug infestation”. The negative reviews were numerous, and each was worse than the last. However, when I left Tripadvisor and checked Google MAPS, I noticed a ‘motel’ with a similar name (based on the neighbourhood) to the ‘Hotel’ that got all these terrible reviews. This situation is very unfortunate for this hotel – but I booked it, anyway – and we loved our stay (no bed bugs found).
I admit – I am a bit old school because I always carry a tiny notebook when I travel. I use this to note where we ate, what we ate, where we stayed, attractions we visited, etc. This way, I have more details for writing my travel reviews before I forget. Typing or taking notes on your smartphone will work just as well.
When to Write Your Travel Reviews
Write your review as soon as possible. This way, your experiences are fresh in your memory, and there is less chance of forgetting what you have experienced. Writing and posting your review as soon as possible will let others who look up reviews see a more current one, not something that happened months or years ago. Many things can happen in 6 months, a year, etc., such as renovations, change of ownership, staff, menus, services offered, etc.
Length of your Travel Reviews
How long your travel review is, is entirely up to you. However, one line is not worth posting. There won’t be enough context to be of use to anyone. Too long, and people may not get through it all due to short attention spans. Use complete sentences with enough detail to describe your travel experiences well.
For the best impact, try using catchy single lines in your title and text that the business can use on their social media as an example of the reviews they received.
When you are writing your travel reviews, offer context and details. Context is so important to help others fully understand the situation. If you provide details about your experience, you can help other customers to identify if this is a one-time occurrence or a pattern.
What happened to contribute to your concerns?
Was your meal late because the restaurant got slammed due to a significant sporting event on TV? Was your room at the hotel not ready when you went to check in because of staffing shortages?
I always indicate in my travel reviews the particular day (and time, if necessary) that I visited the establishment. Dates are essential for your review’s relevance and timeliness but also provide critical context. I also post images of the receipt for restaurants so they can identify servers, tables, items ordered etc.
We all know prices change, and when booking travel products such as hotels, car rentals, etc., prices can vary greatly depending on when and where you book. However, I believe sharing what you paid, even if generally speaking, can help to give your travel review more value. I typically share prices at restaurants because I feel this is one area people want to know if it is worth going to. The food may be great, delicious, addictive, etc. – but if it is out of someone’s price range, that won’t be very useful. Also, they may want to splurge if the food is really good.
Write honestly about your experiences. Do not allow emotions to cloud your review. If you had a negative experience, take some time to calm down, take a step back and write about your experience more objectively. This is why taking notes is essential.
Suppose you did something that led to a negative experience – ‘fess up. You, too, have a role in these transactions. For example, did you take a boat cruise or whale watching, arrive late, and then get a terrible seat (or no seat)? Well, this could have been avoided if you were punctual.
Photographs are a great way to provide additional details related to your experience when writing a travel review. My recommendation is to post as real-to-life images as possible. Try not to edit – unless you need to improve lighting or focal points. Photographs you have edited within an inch of their lives can distort the accuracy of what the image intends to portray.
Do not include other people in your photos.
When you write travel reviews, go beyond the basics, and offer more specific details on the overall experiences. Topics like parking, noise, conveniences, amenities, room size, comfort levels, fees, pet policies, etc., are all vital information to include in your review. Let people know specifics that set this place apart (good or bad).
There is nothing worse than choosing a restaurant based on great reviews – only to find it impossible to park nearby. Does the hotel charge a resort fee? Are there Parking fees? Do they offer covered or out-in-the-open parking? Was it easy to make a reservation or get a table at the restaurant? Does the restaurant have a patio for dining? Does the hotel have unique systems in place for differently abled people (ie, flashing lights for when someone knocks on the door)?
Mention pet policies to help others who like to travel with their pets for Pet-Friendly Travels.
If you experienced exceptional customer service at the establishment, do not be shy about mentioning that person by name. While this may be standard across the business, it may also be very exceptional, and either way, that person deserves acknowledgement. We were once greeted with bubbly on our fantastic patio with a view when we stayed at the Hotel Gaudi in Barcelona.
Your choice of words and phrases in your review can be very impactful. Use great adjectives to describe your experience. Describing your experiences in detail, using terms, comments, and words that mean something – will help paint an excellent image in the reader’s minds.
Avoid using harsh or absolute words in the title of your travel review. Whenever I see reviews with words like never, always, or disgusting to describe an experience, I immediately move on. I will only continue to read such a review for the potential ridiculousness that it is likely to contain.
Try to avoid writing scathing one-star or ultra-negative travel reviews.
In most cases, this says much more about the reviewer than the business they are reviewing. People who write scathing reviews express anger at a situation they may have overreacted to. I am not saying that every experience will be a 5-star or stellar experience, but I have rarely experienced any problem worthy of a 1-star review.
These reviews hurt businesses and can ruin a reputation for something that may have been easily worked on by having actual conversations with the establishment and checking your entitlement at the door.
Some examples of extraordinarily unnecessary and harmful reviews that I have come across when searching businesses:
• “They didn’t update their hours online- after we drove all the way there – they were closed” 1 star.
• Hotel in the French Quarter 6 months after Hurricane Katrina: “Hardly any staff, room cleaning not happening every day. and there was a musty smell” 1 star. This travel reviewer is not considering the people displaced during the hurricane, the flooding, etc.
• “The Coke machine was on a different floor – 1 Star”. I have seen many reviews like this that also refer to ice machines.
• “The beach at the resort (in Cuba) had seaweed washing up on the sand, making it impossible to swim in the ocean”. – 1 star. As if the hotel can control this?
Conversely, an overly optimistic, gushing, glowing five-star travel review may also have the appearance that the reviewer was offered some form of compensation in exchange for a positive review.
Proofread before submitting
Before you submit your travel review to Google or Tripadvisor, be sure to proofread it. Check for spelling and grammatical errors, check for the accuracy of the information, and do not use all caps (portrays anger). It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; just a well-written and honest review offers insight, perspective, clarity, and thoughtfulness.
Final thoughts about writing a travel reviews
When you write a review, always remember to be fair and kind. Your goal is to let others know the type of service, quality, amenities, etc., they might expect when they visit. It should not be used as a source to get out anger and frustration – or to destroy a business’s online reputation. Before you write a review – take time to think about what you are going to say. Do not fly off the handle in temporary anger.
In recent history, we have seen an uptick in mean-spirited, harmful, and highly negative reviews and social media backlash towards businesses for some reason or another. Some people disagree with political views, have hateful opinions, racism, or for supporting marginalized groups, and use this as an excuse to spew hate. Review bombing and spewing hatred and similar actions are unacceptable behaviour. If you have ever participated in ‘review bombing’ – it doesn’t have the effect you hope it will – it more often backfires and has the opposite effect.
We need to be more accepting and tolerant of others – and BE KIND.
There are real people behind these businesses. If you have a real issue – deal with it in person, face to face, not by airing grievances and anger that could harm a small business.
Check out our Tips for Supporting Small Businesses