Just as you should be totally honest with your doctor, there are times when dealing with your travel advisor that honesty is the best policy. Like your doctor, travel advisors are used to dealing with sensitive, private and confidential issues and – also like your doctor – chances are they have heard similar “secrets” before. Why not save yourself a lot of anxiety by being honest about your own concerns? After all, a vacation is about having a good time, not getting yourself worked up in knots of worry. Here are three areas where you can do yourself a huge favor being honest with your travel advisor.
l) Health issues – As part of your consultation with your advisor, it’s only fair to you and to him/her that you are up front about any health issues that may impact your trip. This can be as simple as food allergies (so the advisor can flag this with your airline, hotel or cruise line) to mobility issues.
You may be mobile, but just not in good enough shape to walk a mile to your departure gate for your flight. Why not have your advisor request wheelchair assistance? It’s free, you may get fast-tracked through security, and you’ll arrive at the departure gate rested and un-stressed. Similarly, you’ll be met at the other end and escorted in comfort to the airport exit. Even if you are confident you can negotiate your home airport, there may be extensive walking at the arrival airport, putting a damper on your holiday even before it has begun! Restricted mobility, once flagged on a reservation, may also carry influence when it comes to requesting ground floor hotel rooms and ship cabins reasonably close to the elevators.
Other health issues worth mentioning – and again, don’t be shy about this – may include low vision; hardness of hearing; and medications you or your traveling companion(s) are taking. Check with your travel advisor for tips about transporting your medication through security, and with your doctor about having a spare prescription “just in case.” (Don’t forget your medication should always travel in your carry on, not your checked luggage.) Does your medication need to be refrigerated? A room or cabin with a mini-fridge will make your life a whole lot easier.
2) What are you afraid of? – Sailing across the Atlantic on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 last year, I very much enjoyed hearing other passengers explain the reason for choosing this elegant, weeklong way to get from the States to England. And amongst the special wedding anniversaries and the bucket list dream trips were the fear-of-flying folks. I was astonished at the number of people (interestingly, predominantly men) who said that that was their primary reason for choosing this method of transport.
You may not be quite as petrified (or have the same amount of time for your vacation), but there are countless people every day who are terribly unhappy about getting onto an airplane. Mention this to your advisor and again it can be flagged on your reservation so the cabin crew can keep a discreet eye on you. Chances are your advisor can also provide tips about getting to the airport early, perhaps treating yourself to an executive lounge stay pre-flight or even local fear-of-flying groups.
Another common concern of travelers is crime. Tell your advisor and he or she should be able to recommend destinations that have a reputation for being safe. (And bring along your common sense, avoiding notorious areas of large cities and not walking alone, at night, no matter where you are travelling.) A cruise or an all-inclusive resort may provide just the right combination of safety and security that aligns with your comfort zone. And if heights bother you, you can ask your advisor to request a hotel room on a lower floor.
3) What do you hate?- One of the best-ever ideas making the most of your consulting time with your travel advisor is to have your own wish list. This would comprise (A) must-haves (B) nice-to-haves (C) and we-could-not-care-less features of your vacation. For some, gambling is a must-have highlight of any getaway, while others are completely indifferent to it. Same goes for any number of sports, beaches, shopping, entertainment, cultural sightseeing and more.
So, your list for an upcoming trip to London, England might look like: Must include centrally-located hotel within close access to live theatre. If we can go to a live sporting event such as a horse race or cricket game, that sounds like fun and we’d be up for it. But we are certainly not interested in going for walks in the nearby countryside. Sometimes it is the thing you really cannot stand that could be a deal breaker for your vacation. Loathe coping with large crowds? Your advisor may suggest you stay clear of several European cities in the summer months. No availability of North American style food, or even ingredients that sound familiar? You may learn that parts of China may be a challenge. Public transportation which may be cheap but is unreliable and a little shaky? Perhaps an escorted tour with a reliable firm is more along your line.
Noise can be a real annoyance to some vacationers, and if that sounds like you, share this with your advisor! The last thing you want is a hotel room overlooking a busy street, or a room in a resort within hearing distance of pounding music from an all-night night club. A quiet room can make the difference between a vacation which is sleepless to one which is blissfully restful. We all have secrets. But sometimes sharing them with a sympathetic listener is a wise decision. Your vacation is an investment in your happiness, and a few simple sentences can make it even that much happier.
By Martha Chapman