If you feel overwhelmed by conflicting star ratings when booking a hotel online, take heart. The following sites offer honest hotel reviews from real travelers like you.
TripAdvisor.com: Pick a destination, and this site ranks the hotels there based on star ratings provided by its members. With more than 1 million travel reviews on over 140,000 hotels and resorts, over 90,000 restaurants and nearly 60,000 attractions, TripAdvisor.com is by far the most popular travel review site. Another perk: To round out its hotel reviews, it provides links to online guidebook content and recent articles about each hotel.
Hotelchatter.com: This campy site groups hotels into "Hotel Heaven" or "Hotel Hell," reveals where celebrities have bedded down in "Celebrity Scoop," and offers a daily newsletter and blog with a lot of attitude--and a lot of good information. Much of the information on the site comes from members who send in their news, tips and reviews.
HotelShark.com: The editors at HotelShark.com parse incoming reviews, advising hopeful contributors that "excessive giddiness, or gratuitous profanity, meets with our suspicion. We take seriously opinions that are thoughtful, specific and sincere." You'll find many detailed reviews for popular, well-traveled destinations like New York City and San Francisco, but the number of reviews thins out for second-tier cities like Atlanta and Dallas.
Travel.yahoo.com: If you want to read consumer reviews, look in the "Travel Guides" section of this site. Yahoo!'s hotel reviews are similar to what you'll find at TripAdvisor, but they tend to be shorter and lean toward the positive. You'll also find links to other online guidebook reviews and articles about each hotel. Yahoo! provides helpful maps that display restaurants and attractions in each hotel's neighborhood.
CitySearch.com: Choose the city, then click on the "Hotels" tab for reviews. CitySearch posts editorial reviews (claiming they're written independently of advertising on the site), plus user commentary and reviews.
Chris McGinnis is author of The Unofficial Business Travelers' Pocket Guide.