Do fake travel reviews really matter?

Chrisdorney/Shutterstock
Chrisdorney/Shutterstock

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□ ARE THEY FAKING IT?

Don’t believe everything you read online, especially on user-generated review websites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, which claim to help you find the best hotels and restaurants. At least that’s the standard warning issued repeatedly by travel experts for the last decade. That’s wrong, and in my latest USA Today column, I’ll tell you why.

□ WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Have you ever had trouble redeeming an airline voucher?
When something goes wrong, your airline may offer you a voucher you can use for future travel? Have you ever successfully redeemed one of these coupons as you’d hoped? Or did you encounter problems with the fine print? Either way, I’d love to know.  As always, don’t forget include your full name, city and occupation.

Have you ever vacationed alone?
By the time you read this, we won’t be together anymore. The kids and Kari are headed up to Albany, NY, to be with family, and I’ll will be enroute to Washington D.C. Then, next weekend, we get to trade: I gets the kids back in Orlando, and Kari flies off to San Francisco for an event. All that got us thinking about traveling alone — and vacationing alone. Have you ever done it?

Become a smarter traveler
Pre-order my new book, How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). It’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of the travel industry and save lots of time and money. Details are right here. By the way, if you’re heading out somewhere on a trip and need help with something, I’d be happy to email you a draft of a chapter, whether you order the book or not.

Let’s talk!
The stories you see in this newsletter are just a starting point. I hope you’ll take a minute to leave a comment, whether you agree or disagree with something I’ve written. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google. I’m listening. And of course, I’m also here if you need me.

□ POSTS YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO MISS

How to turn a “no” into a “yes”
Teresa Ferris is mad. She recently paid her airline a $100 “unaccompanied minor” fee when her son flew alone from Oakland to Los Angeles. It didn’t buy her much, she says. The details are in my Mint.com column.

Why it’s great to be washed out in Galveston
It was supposed to be a three-week road trip down the Texas Gulf Coast, but it ended up getting shortened into a long weekend in rainy Galveston. But you won’t hear us complaining. We like wet. Wet, within reason. Read more on our family travel blog, Away is Home.

Junk fees and other obstacles of the road
At the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 101 in Willits, Calif., you’ll find three service stations. But look closely before you pump gas, otherwise you could pay a lot more than you expect. Find out what happened to me.

What to do when your river cruise turns into a bus tour
It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime for Pat and James Frost — a river cruise in France on the Viking Europe, from Avignon to Chalon-sur-Saône. The retired couple from Concord, Ohio, even added three days in Paris to round off their bucket-list getaway. It didn’t turn out that way.

No refund for a sick passenger?
After Merrill Hakim is diagnosed with lung cancer, she asks her airline for a refund on a non-refundable ticket. But is that allowed?
Maybe, maybe not.

Google Plus says my name is not allowed — now what?
Google Plus doesn’t like David Books’ name. And now it’s stopped listening to his requests for a social media account. Is there anything he can do to get the company’s attention? Find out.

Is the TSA using scripts to push us through its full body scanners?
Roberta Ling is a 73-year-old woman from Austin, Texas. Statistically, she’s likelier to be the next Miss America than a terrorist. But that doesn’t stop the TSA from harassing her whenever she flies. Read her story here.

□ MY PARTING SHOT

I’m in DC. I wasn’t expecting to be here, but wow! What beautiful fall weather. As a bonus, I get to meet with people who can help make the world a better place for consumers.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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