TripAdvisor TripAdvisor
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3.5 5stars

TripAdvisor Review

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Rating:
Bottom Line:
Somewhat cluttered interface and overwhelming number of pop-up offers are distracting from an otherwise helpful and thorough travel site

Full Review:
TripAdvisor hosts all the standard search filters but very little else. For those who can battle the numerous pop-ups, the site offers some very low prices on international and last-minute trips.


Getting Started

TripAdvisor’s interface is pop-up heavy, making it somewhat frustrating to navigate at times. At the top of the page you can search for hotels, flights, vacation rentals, restaurants and the highest rated locations in each area. The service will compare prices from the top names in booking sites.

One tab that was unique to TripAdvisor was its Best of 2016 section. Here, the site breaks down the best places to book based on its noted Travelers’ Choice Awards. Users can surf through all-inclusive resorts, restaurants, destinations, hotels, attractions, destinations on the rise, islands and beaches. This section was one of the more clearly laid out corners of the site, and we were able to gather information about obscure vacation spots as well as get real reviews from other travelers.

The mobile version of TripAdvisor is another bright spot in the service. The company offers mobile apps for any kind of smartphone, under its “More” tab. Users can filter by device, and the options include Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android, Windows 8.1 (or later), Nokia and Windows Phone.




Price Competitiveness and Packages

TripAdvisor is not like the other booking sites, as it allows you to compare its prices with its competitors. In essence, the site is built to cut out some of the research and comparison time that searching through booking sites might require.

The strongest point that this service made with us was how important it is for travelers to make themselves informed about the trip they’re taking. TripAdvisor made it possible for travelers to gather a large amount of information without browsing around the Internet.

We tested three potential trips, each from different airports, origins and destinations. For each of those trips, we tested three separate airlines and travel dates.

Booking six months in advance

Our first search was for trips six months in advance, and the prices were very low considering the cost of a ticket purchased so far in advance can usually be a bit pricey. We started by checking the prices for two domestic flights, each with different origins and destinations and on different airlines. We were very happy with the low prices, but noticed that the prices were somewhat inconsistent across the board. For example, a roundtrip flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Miami, Florida on Delta Airlines is offered for $368 through TripAdvisor. That price was considerably lower than the highest price we found for that flight across the board. Similar cost reductions were found on a roundtrip flight we searched from San Francisco, California to New York, New York on JetBlue Airlines, offered on TripAdvisor for $337.

The hotel we booked in New York, the Holiday Inn, gave us a low rate at $203 per night. That price was significantly lower than the others we found on most of the more well-known travel sites. Unfortunately, TripAdvisor doesn’t have an option for renting a vehicle.

As far as booking an international flight, we chose to search the cost of a roundtrip flight from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy. When booking six months ahead, we were very pleased with the low price we were offered in comparison to most other sites. The flight by United Airlines topped out at $1,081. We concluded that booking six months prior to your departure date through TripAdvisor actually offered some of the most decent prices for hotel and flight reservations.

Booking six weeks in advance

The next trips we tested were about six weeks in advance. Normally, this is said to be the best time to purchase airline tickets, as they’ll be cheapest around that time. On average, the domestic roundtrip flights we tested produced inconsistently priced rates six weeks ahead of time. Booking a trip from Phoenix to Miami on a Delta flight was offered at $359, quite low for the optimal booking date six weeks ahead. A flight from San Francisco, California to New York, New York was offered at $429, which was actually very high. Finally, an international roundtrip flight from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy booked six weeks prior to departure was offered from United for the low price of $1,081 — the same price as booking six months in advance. Booking depends on the flight times, airlines and any number of extraneous factors, so these inconsistencies may not always reflect the best of TripAdvisor.



Booking last minute

Finally, we tested a trip that would theoretically be booked last-minute. For our purposes, we defined "last-minute" as one week before the day of departure. As a general rule of thumb, this is not recommended unless absolutely necessary as the cost is usually much higher than you would pay a few weeks or months prior to your travel dates. TripAdvisor was an exception to that rule, and we were impressed by the last-minute prices on both domestic and international roundtrip flights on a number of airlines. In fact, TripAdvisor’s price for a last minute-flight from Phoenix to Miami was lower than the cost of a ticket purchased six months in advance at $329. However, we noticed that the inconsistencies continued to show up, and a flight from San Francisco, California to New York, New York was offered at $487 – much more expensive than other sites we’ve scoured.


Booking Process

The search and reservation process for TripAdvisor is standard, at best. Users will enter their travel dates and are given the chance to specify whether they’d like to search for hotels, flights, vacation rentals, restaurants or destinations. Once you’ve selected the dates you wish to travel, the site will search and pull up multiple options for reservations. While the prices varied from vendor to vendor, both hotels and flights were generally priced higher on TripAdvisor than most other sites we reviewed.

One feature that was available during the booking process was the tab labeled “trip ideas” which prompted travelers with an open schedule to search through possibilities to make their vacation special. We thought that this was a helpful addition to an otherwise bare bones travel site and booking process.


Rewards Program

TripAdvisor itself does not feature a rewards program, which may be a problem for frequent travelers. The service does not go into detail about why it has opted out of such a program, but it does explain why it does not offer incentives to those who choose to join the TripAdvisor community. Reviewers who have posted comments and answered questions on its forums do not receive points or advantages of any kind. This is because the service believes that offering prizes can affect the honesty of a reviewer's contribution to the site. Users are free to post their opinions and advice, but should know that they will not be compensated for it in any way by TripAdvisor.


Search Filters and Other Features

TripAdvisor does feature a number of search filters. For those who are looking to book just the right hotel, they can sift through those that offer free breakfast, best value, recently viewed, business options and places with special offers. In addition, users can also sort by things like availability, guest ranking and price (lowest or highest). It's important to note that these features differ depending on what you're looking to book.

One feature that is unique to TripAdvisor is the "Best of 2016" tab that boasts some of the best deals on luxury vacations as well as cheaper getaways. This is a great tab to explore for those who are looking to travel but need some extra help deciding where to go and what to do.

Searching for a flight will bring up a few pop-up tabs that bring you to external airline sites. TripAdvisor will compare the lowest prices and let you choose if you’d like to fly non-stop or if you can afford to give up a few hours in return for a lower overall cost.




Customer Service

The Help Center is located under the “More” tab, and will ask users to visit TripAdvisor’s page of most commonly asked questions. If you venture a bit further into the support center, you’ll find four basic options: Guidelines, Site Features, Community and Technical Support. “Guidelines,” in our opinion, was the most helpful part of this section. It includes helpful tips for writing reviews as a first-hand traveler, a place to request that a destination be added to TripAdvisor, fraud help and more.

We also found the Technical Support tab to be useful as it spelled out the answers to many of our questions concerning supplementary services. For example, within the Technical Support section you can get help with the mobile app, ask questions about membership, special offers and your profile. Here, you can also find out how you can connect your TripAdvisor account with your Facebook and Google+ accounts as well. This seamless integration makes it easy to search and share experiences through a number of different online platforms.


Conclusion

TripAdvisor is a great place for the experienced booker to research and/or book their vacation sites as well as to share their expertise on certain flights, hotels and booking strategies. Because the site is somewhat cluttered, for the beginner it can be a bit overwhelming. However, once you get the hang of the interface, the information being passed around is extremely useful in booking the perfect vacation.

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Service Details

Available to Book:Flights, hotels, vacation rentals, restaurant reservations
Best for:International and last-minute travelers
Competitive Pricing*:
Loyalty Program:No
Search Filters:
Mobile App:iPhone, Android

*These ratings are based on the prices we received when testing both domestic and international trips (see Price Competitiveness and Packages section of the review for more details)

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