By David Gracey
I packed up the wife and kids for a summer vacation to the beach recently. Like the Beverly Hillbillies, we packed up and headed out (albeit in a minivan, which Louise calls her “living room on wheels”). Before the Google was invented, finding hotels, restaurants and things to do in a vacation spot was largely dependent on word-of-mouth, unless you had a travel agent (to all you millennials out there, a travel agent is a person who used to get your tickets for you and make hotel reservations. They went away around the same time bank tellers disappeared)
Restaurants: I find the reviews of local restaurants to be extremely helpful. You can gauge a lot about a place just by the number of reviews it gets. If there are fewer than 20 reviews, look out! So the first thing to do is pick the city (or the mobile app will use your current location, which is awesome) and it will return every single restaurant that has been rated in the area. The coolest feature is that it ranks all the restaurants in the area, 1 thru whatever, in order of their review ratings. So you can see here that Canoe was ranked #1 in Atlanta.
Whether you agree or not, we all can agree Canoe is one of Atlanta’s top 10 or so restaurants, year in and year out, so the TripAdvisor rating system isn’t too far off. Also note you can click a link to make online reservations. Very handy! The site lets you read as many reviews as you want. This is great because people talk about their favorite (or not) dishes, what to order, what to avoid, drink specials, desserts, you name it. You can filter the list (in this case 3,425 restaurants) by price, location, rating or cuisine. It’s also fun to rank restaurants. I think the owners appreciate the feedback…and take it with a grain of salt.
Things to do: this is a great feature. If you are looking for an activity, park or attraction, this is helpful. You can see pictures of the location and read customer reviews that give you a real world view of what’s going on. Just remember, like everything else, there are a vast array of opinions out there. Read a dozen or so and you’ll start to get a feel of what folks value. Again, people are not shy about what they like and what they think you should avoid.
Flight/hotels: this function is pretty good but you can also get (and I actually prefer) similar functionality from other websites like Expedia. Just having it all under one roof is convenient if nothing else. Again, having the reviews handy is nice. But you have to ask yourself: is the Emory Conference Center Hotel really as good as The St. Regis? TripAdvisor users think so. Maybe, but for vastly different reasons (service versus value).
So check out the website www.TripAdvisor.com or download their mobile app to your smartphone or tablet. That’s extremely helpful when you’re tooling around somewhere looking for a quick place to eat.