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Do I have a TripAdvisor problem?

Do I have a TripAdvisor problem?

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The tweets above say it all. I have so much fun getting on TripAdvisor and researching hotels and resorts that it might just be a sickness. I think it goes back to my analytical mind, it really applies to any large purchase. I’m the same way on Amazon when buying anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $5 item, I want to make sure I’m getting the best product. 4 star and up only please! And can I get the “Prime” checkbox defaulted for me why we’re at it? I’m not waiting longer than 2 days for that brown box to hit my doorstep.

Ok, I feel like I went on a tangent there. Back to my TripAdvisor research. After seeing my sister-in-law in Austin for #ACLFest and discussing plans for her 40th birthday, I got all excited about finding the perfect resort. She wants to celebrate in Playa del Carmen – Mexico here we come!

Being the travel hacker/addict that I am, I decided I could help with planning this trip so I started with a quick “travel agent” interview. Here are the important questions that I needed to know before hitting TripAdvisor and my sister-in-laws “paraphrased” answers:

• Are we only considering Adult only resorts? Yes, we’re not bringing our kids so I don’t want to hear anyone else’s either 😮
• Are we limiting the options to All-inclusive only? We’ll be drinking, so yes!
• What’s more important, the beach or the pools? We’re going to Mexico for the beach, duh.
• And Mrs. HackNow chimed in that the food must be good, no crappy mass-produced meals.

These questions made my job pretty easy. The secret that makes TripAdvisor such a powerful resource is that you can search their 350+ million customer reviews by keyword. This makes my job much easier.

NOTE: There are 200 reviews added to TripAdvisor every minute!

So I hit and started my search by location. I plugged in Playa del Carmen and 211 hotels came up.

I immediately scrolled through the filters on the left until I found the Hotel “Style” filter and select “all inclusive” which filters out the non all inclusives. Now I have a list to start with.

At this point I select to sort the list by “Ranking” so I can see an ordered list based on popularity, or customer ratings. This sort focuses me directly on the best options available.

The list ends up at 2 pages, I ignore everything that isn’t a 4.5 or 5.0 star average review and ranked in the top 20% of hotels in Playa del Carmen – why waste my time, right? From this point I start looking at individual properties starting from the top.

To get specifics on the preferences above and really understand how people feel about the food, the beach, and the pools you have to dig into the customer reviews.


Once you select a property, scroll down to the Reviews section and find the “Search Reviews” box, this is how you cut through the clutter. Simply enter the word “food” as your search term and TripAdvisor returns only reviews for your hotel that mention the word “food.” It’s really powerful as there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of reviews for each property and reading through each one is mind-numbing. Keyword search is the only way to go.

After reading through 10-20 reviews for the top properties I get a feel for the quality of food at each resort and end up with these options:

• Grand Velas
• Secrets Maroma Beach
• Royal Hideaway Playacar

Ok, so next I followed the same process to get a feel for the beach and pool at each resort. I don’t want a rocky beach, small beach, or public beach. All beaches in this area are great but I have to eliminate somehow and since we plan to spend most of our time on the beach, I want something really nice.

The beach search presented the following options:

• Secrets Maroma Beach
• Royal Hideaway Playacar
• Valentin Imperial Maya

At this point I have a pretty good list of options so I go ahead and enter in my tentative dates to see how expensive these options are and guess what? As of this week Grand Velas and Secrets Maroma Beach, while they sound great, are super expensive. I quickly decide that $500+ a night will not get me to #FIRE as quickly as I’d like so I reluctantly eliminate them as options.

After checking the prices for each, I ended up with the following list that I submitted to my sister-in-law for her consideration:

Royal Hideaway

  • Cost – $1887 total
  • Adults only – yes
  • Food – great
  • Beach – great
  • Restaurants/bars – 5 restaurants all sit down, no buffets
  • Resort size – smaller

Valentin Imperial Maya

  • Cost – $1332/total
  • Adults only – yes
  • Food – either great or not good, little in between
  • Beach – great
  • Restaurants/bars – 8 restaurants; dress up for meals
  • Resort size – huge

El Dorado Royale

  • Cost – $1568/total, $1742/total for swim up room
  • Adults only – yes
  • Food – good
  • Beach – ok
  • Restaurants/bars – 7 restaurants/8 bars, no reservations needed
  • Resort size – large

Where did El Dorado Royale come from? When I was looking at pools I found out that they have “swim up” rooms! I felt like that might trump the great beach and food from Royal Hideaway and the lower cost from Valentin Imperial Maya.

So how did I do? Any other resort suggestions that meet these parameters that I’ve missed?

Furthermore, do I have a problem? I’ve surely spent 8+ hours on this and even so, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Something about the analysis and getting a great deal just makes the time fly by. I really need to figure out how to turn this into a side hustle so I can make some extra money.

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2 thoughts on “Do I have a TripAdvisor problem?

  1. Haha – I am guilty of the same. Sounds like you may have #FOMO out the ying yang! What if you book and then find out about another?!! My worst nightmare!!

    As for the Amazon purchase, I took a page from a podacast I recently listened to (now I can’t remember which FI master it was!). Anyway, he said that he used to do the same thing – freak out over every decision relating every dollar trying to make it the best possible use of that dollar. In the meantime, he was losing valuable time hemming and hawing about said purchases. He instilled a $20 rule that if the purchase was under $20 and it was something that would make his life better or easier in the moment he would buy it, no questions asked. I have done the same and it has saved me a mountain of time and grey hairs…well, except that I lowered it to $10! Afterall, I’m still saving towards FI! 🙂

    1. Miss Mazuma,
      That might be a time saving good idea. Before you know it you can get sucked into analysis trying to find the best deal and/or quality.

      It is fun though!

      Thanks for visiting!

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