This can apply to a town or an area just as well.

Your goal here is to make a “longlist” that will fairly quickly become a shortlist.

I start with Trip Advisor’s main page for a city. As an example, we’ll use Tokyo. Metro Tokyo has 38 million people, so we have some narrowing down to do.

Here’s Trip Advisor’s overview page for Tokyo. NOTE: I might say “TA” sometimes for “Trip Advisor.”

Trip Advisoro Tokyo overview

We’ll look at the Hotels and Forums in some detail later. Our first stop after here is Things To Do.

Trip Advisor page

Things to note above:

  • On the left you can pick types of attractions to narrow the list down. You can always do this later.
  • Also on the left, a list of neighbourhoods to limit the search. Gosh, if you knew what all those neighbourhoods were, you wouldn’t need to be here searching! We’ll tackle that later, after we’ve learned more about Tokyo and we’re ready to look for a hotel. Bit it reminds us that as we research places in a city this big we should make a note of what neighbourhood each highlight is in.
  • In the main area of the page, we see strips of similar things. You can explore this later; for now just note that even at this level you can see two key piece of information: the rating dots and the number of reviews.

Now here’s a Things to Do mid-level page:

This is a good place to select candidates for further examination. Here we see three of what is going to be a long list of options.

I use the rating and number of reviews for the first screening. I choose only places with 4- and 5-star reviews unless I really need something of a certain type and there are only 3- or 3.5-star ratings. More on that later. 

The ratings are not on the same scale hotels use, where for example you can’t get a fifth star unless you have conference facilities. Most TA users understand that 5 stars means “as good as it could have been for what it is.”

The number of reviews gives you a trust factor. It’s unlikely that a site has 5,000 fake reviews accumulated over ten years.

Ready to dive in? On the next page we’ll select one candidate sight and examine how to evaluate it.

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