The Consummate Traveler: Hotel Stars or Traveler Reviews?

BY Michele Goncalves TIMENovember 7, 2013 PRINT

When planning a trip, how much weight do you put on the star ratings attached to hotel websites and advertising to make your final choice? I hope not too much.

After all my years of being a business traveler, I personally take this information lightly. I’ve just returned from a one-week trip to a little town in Belgium, which has reinforced my opinion on this subject. Allow me to share my story.

I arrived in a little town about an hour away from the Brussels airport. This location was going to be extremely convenient for me to get where I needed to be, which was my main reason for staying in such a small town.

The hotel chain happened to be an American one, and it was advertised as a four-star property (although the prices ranged from 80 to 100 euros per night). In my mind, four stars sounds like a slight notch below a five-star luxury property. With this type of rating, I expect fairly high-end amenities.

The hotel’s website pointed out great features like: “All rooms equipped with delightful beds, and a luxurious bathroom” and “Enjoy a delicious hot and cold breakfast buffet … even in your room!”

However, I must say that a 1970s-style shower that was smaller than a telephone booth and a big pan of scrambled eggs made at 6 a.m. that was left out on the counter all morning is hardly my idea of a luxurious bathroom and hot breakfast buffet. This property was not at all what was advertised.

When you are doing research for your next travel adventure, I suggest that you pay less attention to star ratings and more attention to reviews done by the people who have stayed there.

I recommend the website for this type of hotel comparison-shopping. I have generally found that the information there is reliable. In fact, one comment on this website about the hotel I stayed in captured my sentiments exactly. The review was accurately titled, “An average business hotel with limited facilities.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!

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