Taking Control of Your Travel Experience
Traveling always has the potential of being a frustrating, stressful situation as it encompasses many variables and unknowns. Add to this mix traveling with a disability and it can appear to be somewhat daunting. I am here to tell you that this need not be the case and to let you know that there are many ways to maximize the joy of your travel experience while minimizing the angst. If you are new to travel (or not so new) and are unsure of how to make the most of your vacation time, enlist the aid of a qualified travel agent who understands your needs and is a good listener. A qualified travel agent can save you time and money and is an excellent resource should you encounter any problems. Now for the caveat….YOU are still the person responsible for having a successful trip and you need to know how to take control of your travel experience.
You need to be pro-active and learn that you are your best advocate. In order to do this effectively, I hope to impart some basic information that will enable you to accomplish this. For starters, understand that one of the most important things you can pack is a good attitude and a smile. These go a long way when dealing with personnel whether at the airport, the hotel, the cruise ship, etc. Let’s start with the airport and getting through security which seems to be posing all sorts of unpleasant experiences for many travelers. Know your rights! I always recommend going to the TSA website regarding travelers with special needs, medical conditions and disabilities, www.tsa.gov Look for the section that best describes your personal situation. Print it out and take it with you to the airport. Should you have a problem, show it to the agent and explain very nicely that this came from their website. If this does not fix the problem, ask to speak to a supervisor. Once again, show the print out from their web site. Know what is and isn’t allowed. For instance, a disabled person does not have to remove their shoes. You are responsible for knowing what a person with your situation is allowed to do.
If you have a problem with airline personnel not helping you properly ask to see the Complaint Resolution Officer (CRO) before you get upset and ruin your trip. CRO’s are employed by all airlines and must be available in person or by phone whenever flights are operating. The CRO is trained to solve your problems. There may be times when the problem is not solved to your complete satisfaction but they will do the best they can to make you happy.
You need to know how to request the services that you need, the equipment you require in a hotel, assistance with embarking & disembarking cruise ships, etc. Learn to plan ahead and contact personnel explaining your special needs. Ask for a confirmation reply so you know your requests have been heard. Learn who the right people are to ask for specific items. Need a roll-in shower and a shower seat? When you call a hotel to make a reservation, ask to speak to the head of housekeeping to find out what type of equipment they have and which rooms have roll in showers. In case you arrive at a hotel to find that your requests have not been met, request that the hotel find you another property where your needs can be accommodated and be sure any increase in price is paid for by the original hotel.
A good piece of advice… Never take no from someone who does not have the authority to say yes! Always ask for the manager or supervisor. Try to manage your frustration and/or anger. Understand that you are ultimately responsible for the outcome of your trip and a good attitude will help to insure that your experiences will be positive and your trip successful.
I could not have said it better myself! I am paralyzed from the neck down and travel extensively. As I read this entry, I found myself nodding my head and whispering “yes, yes, yes” like a faithful parishioner raising a hand to the sky exclaiming “Amen!”
Also, due to my limitations, I take a trained assistant/travel companion with me wherever I go. As most seasoned travelers would agree, traveling with somebody is about as close to living with them as one can get without cosigning a lease. Therefore it is imperative that you not only take along somebody with whom you get along, but one who also has a great deal of patience and adopts the same positive attitude when faced with obstacles.