Finding the Right Accessible Travel Agent Can Be a Valuable Tool in Enjoying Your Vacation
While we at TravelinWheels promote travel at your own pace, with confidence, by providing Accessibility Guides and the opportunity to book your own accessible lodging, we know that there are times when you may prefer to use a travel agent to handle all the details of lodging, transportation, tours, etc. An experienced travel agent, who is well versed in accessible travel, can be a tremendous asset, not only in planning your travel, but also in dealing with things that could go wrong while you are on the trip.
Travel agents who specialize in special needs travel are a rare breed. They have learned, through years of experience in booking travel for people with disabilities, the ins and outs of what to request when finding lodging, choosing the right cruise, booking outings based on your abilities and energy levels, knowing which transportation companies will be the right fit for your needs, etc. Many of them have traveled with groups of travelers with disabilities, or are themselves, a person with a disability, and have first-hand knowledge of the intricacies of accessible travel.
Lastly, they have an arsenal of contacts on the ground that can assist you when something doesn't go right. They know the right people at the airlines, cruise lines, etc. to call because they have built relationships with them for years. They aren't just calling a general number; they know the specific person who manages the Access/CRO Desk and can get things done.
So how do you find an accessible travel agent? For one thing, you can go to our Related Links page and consult our listings. We only list known, proven, accessible travel agents who have done this for a while, understand the nuances, and have a wealth of information that they have used in the past.
When you interview an agent, consider asking the following questions...
- How long have you been an accessible travel agent?
- How many clients have you had with disabilities (especially your type of disability) and what types of arrangements have you made in the past?
- Do you have experience in arranging accessible travel in the destination I plan to go to, and have you been there?
- Do you have contacts in the destinations that can assist me if something goes wrong?
- Do you have relationships with the various access desks at the airlines, cruises, resorts etc. who you can call on my behalf?
- What type of training have you had in accessible travel, the needs of those with disabilities, etc.?
- May I speak with some of your past clients who can provide a reference?
Positive answers to these questions are extremely important in securing the right agent who will be able to meet your needs. I hear many stories of travel agents who don't have the skills, knowledge, or resources that are required in booking accessible travel. Unfortunately, the traveler didn't know this in advance, assumed the travel agent could handle their needs, and had a bad experience. In some cases, this has turned them off to travel altogether!
An experienced accessible travel agent should first interview you to understand not only what type of trip you are looking for, but should also ask you relevant questions about your abilities, fatigue levels, equipment that you are bringing or need to obtain, medications, etc. They should be able to provide information on options that would work best for you, whether it is the best ports of call on a cruise if you use a power chair, or how to get around a city like San Francisco, where parking is difficult, if you have difficulty walking distances. They should be able to advise you on the various rules that countries may have on medications or service animals. They are there to maximize your travel experience and minimize your headaches.
There are now companies now who offer a "certification" to travel agents. Beware of agents who claim to be specialists in accessible travel because they have taken this course. These courses are typically an hour long introduction to accessible travel. While it is good that all agents have an understanding of special needs travel, this type of certification by a non-accredited agency (who requires agents to become affiliates in order to sell their equipment rental services) doesn't replace the knowledge and experience one needs to truly be an accessible travel agent. Ask the questions that I listed above, and don't work with an agent unless you are 100% sure that they can meet your needs, even if they are a friend or relative!
Our goal is to be sure that you enjoy the wonder of travel. It can truly be a phenomenal experience if planned correctly with the right resources at your disposal. Having the right tools, including the right accessible travel agent, can make your dream vacation come true!
As always, we are here to answer questions and assist in any way we can.