Traveling can be a wonderful experience, filled with new places and cultures to discover. However, the experience can be much more enjoyable when working with a travel agent, who can plan every aspect of the trip ahead of time, eliminating a great deal of stress for the traveler. This especially holds true for travelers with special needs.
Individuals with special needs have more travel planning to do than others, to ensure that their trip is not only enjoyable, but also safe and hassle-free. Using a travel professional to do all the legwork can result in a positive experience – before, during and after a vacation. Many agents now offer special travel plans and information for those with special needs.
What are some specific ways that travel agents can help travelers with special needs?
• They know which locations, ships, hotels, museums, historic landmarks, etc. are more accessible than others. This is very important when it comes to everything from dining to beds, restrooms to excursions, hearing/vision impaired equipment availability, and much more.
• They can arrange accessible transportation, as well as vehicle insurance, for their clients ahead of time. Having an accessible van, RV, minivan, or other handicap vehicle readily available upon arrival at a destination can make the beginning and duration of a trip much more enjoyable and stress-free.
• They can make pre-arrangements with airlines/airports for clients with special needs. Travel agents can arrange for wheelchair assistance to the terminals. For travelers who are blind, they can find out where the designated Animal Relief Areas are in the airport. And for travelers with hearing impairments, they can see which gates have Visual Paging Systems.
• They have resources to obtain special needs rental equipment that is reliable, reasonably-priced and readily available. Agents have the know-how to easily arrange for a wheelchair, motorized scooter, oxygen or other special needs equipment to be waiting at their travel destination.
South Florida-based Special Needs Group/Special Needs at Sea (954 585-0575), the leading global provider of special needs equipment rentals, makes it easy for agents to book a variety of equipment for their clients. With the help of Special Needs Group/Special Needs at Sea, agents can ensure that equipment is delivered directly to cruise ship staterooms, hotels, resorts, theme parks, convention centers and other global locations.
• They can often get better deals on travel insurance than the consumer. Often times they have deals worked out with insurance carriers to get you a special price that might not otherwise be available. Because individuals with special needs are more apt to cancel their vacations than others, travel insurance is very important.
• They can give tips to travelers with special needs about how to best travel – for example, safety measures for using a power scooter while on vacation, what time to arrive at shows to ensure they receive the best possible seating, how to best maneuver around a cruise ship, what to discuss with flight attendants before boarding an airplane, what to take on a trip (medical cards, copies of prescriptions, medications, emergency contact numbers), etc.
• They have the resources to help their clients, whether they have special needs or not, to find cheap airfare, tickets, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and more. Agents can ask about reduced fares for a companion or caregiver if appropriate.
While many travelers today are opting to go with online travel booking services, there is much value to working with an agent. Contrary to what travelers might think, oftentimes a travel agent will end up saving you money. Their experience will lead them to the deals and more economical suppliers that you would not be aware of on your own.
For any traveler, and notably travelers with special needs, agents can save time, provide knowledge that might not be able to be found online, and solve problems that can pop up. In addition, a travel agent will have more pull when it comes to extra perks like complimentary upgrades, that little something extra in your room, and other benefits exclusive to agents. Most importantly, an agent can give personalized, customized service, as well as peace of mind, especially when there is a great deal of planning involved for individuals with special needs.
September 8, 2011