The original holiday recommendation site has come in for a fair bit of criticism in its time, but I think that you need to know how to use the site to get the most of it.

The deal is simple enough. You sign up for free and then write reviews of your own travel experiences. You give hotels a star rating and submit your own description plus photos and videos if you wish.

If you are going to go on a trip, you can search the site for your hotel and read other travellers' reviews. There are millions of reviews and pretty much every hotel in the world is in there.

The site has official hotel pictures and reviews as well as those of travellers. You can sort comments by the rating (so look at only five star reviews or only one star) and look at guests' pictures too. Simple enough in fact, but there are a few problems and you do have to be careful how you use the information on the site.

People are more likely to complain than praise

This is just human nature isn't it? We're much more likely to ring and complain about a TV show than write in to say it was great. We like to have a moan about local services but we don't go out of our way to tell people when they do a good job. Tripadvisor relies very heavily on people posting both positive and negative reviews, but I think that people are more likely to post negative reviews. This leads to


Don't give the negatives as much weighting as the positives. One positive is worth two negatives.

People have different Expectations

This is very important. If you are a frequent business traveller, for example, you will be used to a particular type of hotel and service. This type of traveller might be very unimpressed with a hotel a Kenya where the electricity goes off every night, but that's quite normal in Kenya. Conversely if you are on the trip of a lifetime and have spent a small fortune on this holiday you might be completely overwhelmed by the experience of a Fairmont Hotel. This leads to


Work out what the reviewer is used to before taking their views into account.

Another issue is that some people are just impossible to please, and others are impossible to upset. This is the Victor Meldrew problem. Have you seen the TV programme 'An Idiot Abroad'? This is a great travel programme with a chap called Karl who simply hates everything. My favourite line from this programme is when Karl arrives in China and says 'Great Wall of China? I'll be the judge of that'. He simply cannot be pleased. On the other hand there are those people who simply will not make a fuss or complain about anything - ever. This leads to


Find out what kind of people are giving the review by reading their other reviews - not just the one on the hotel you are reviewing - to see what kind of people they are.

Finally of course you have to make up your own mind on things, and the simple advice is weigh things up, use your common sense and follow the three rules. I have been using Tripadvisor for many years, and have made many contributions. I use it as a part of my selection process and it is very useful. But don't rely on this site alone.

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