I think that putting in the time to prepare for the trip makes all the difference. I love researching trips almost as much as actually going on them. I close my eyes and imagine myself at each and every destination, contemplating how exhausting it is to get there, how comfortable the room will be to sleep and relax in, how accessible food will be, how much down time there will be, if there will be age appropriate activities for everyone and of course what new things there are to see and experience.
Using as much or as little input and guidance as you would like to provide in terms of your family's habits and preferences, I will research potential trips for your family, getting feedback from you to direct and redirect if necessary.
The first step is having a conversation with you. I do have a written questionnaire that can be filled out if you prefer (just email me a request), but really a phone conversation is much more productive in learning about what kind of trip you are interested in taking. I will talk with you in detail about your group's habits and preferences and the purpose of your trip.
When I feel like I have a good handle on what you are looking for, I am off to the books! I use various travel guides, travel magazines, individual hotel websites and review websites to gather my information.
Regarding TripAdvisor reviews, I read about 20-30 good reviews looking for interesting details and a general feeling of what makes this place special. Then I read all the terrible reviews from the last three years. In reading the terrible reviews, I am looking for problems that seem to occur over and over again. If the particular problem is bad enough, it may be that I just don't investigate this hotel further. Otherwise, it could be that it is helpful to know ahead of time how to handle the problem if it happens to you. No place is perfect and there are bound to be bad experiences everywhere, however I do stay away from places that have the same big problems repeatedly. I am also looking for “deal breakers” - things that, even if they have only happened to one person, are unacceptable.
In generating a group of three Fairy Files for a client, I typically consider around fifteen to twenty destinations before narrowing down the options.