Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Travel Tales Pt. 2 - Logistics

This is definitely one of the more complicated trips we've done. Our usual M.O. is more like:

  • Figure out where we're going.
  • Get a place to stay while we're there.
  • Go there.
  • Come home.
This trip is a little more complicated for a number of reasons. First of all, twenty years ago my wife could still get around with a cane but now she needs a walker for inside distances and a mobility scooter or travel chair for outside. In addition I was planning to renew our vows on the trip. The third complication is that we don't rough it when we travel. We like to go places that are nice, with plenty of people to do our bidding and if possible, a spa/pool/etc. onsite.
I realized I couldn't do this on my own. Not only that, but Orbitz and Expedia aren't going to be much help either.

I needed a travel agent.

I didn't even know if travel agents even existed anymore. It seems like such a quaint profession, like elevator operator or town crier.
Turns out that they're still around, but they've had to raise their games considerably. After all, we can handle the simple stuff (airline, hotel, rental car) and some travel sites let you automatically add 'extras' like tour packages or theater tickets. Modern travel agents have to be specialists, with plenty of local knowledge for your destination, in addition to contacts in related businesses to handle the special stuff.

After extensive searching (okay, I Googled. Don't judge me...) I located a travel agent that specialized in both luxury and disabled travel, David Clifford.
Once we had explained our situation to David, he ran with it. For example, we wanted to take my wife's mobility scooter to make it easier to get around but David advised that British health and safety laws prohibited these scooters from many public buildings. (The 'A' in ADA stands for 'American', folks!). He engaged a local firm to rent us a travel chair for the trip so we wouldn't have to lug our own. In addition, we were advised of the accessibility options available at local hotels.
As for the vow renewal ceremony, I had originally thought to do it in a local registry office, the equivalent of a civil ceremony over here. But I was informed that since vow renewals weren't legally recognized, we couldn't do it there so David engaged a wedding planner to scope out an alternate location and put together all of the arrangements, including someone to officiate, a photographer and a hired car to and from the ceremony. He even threw in a couple of more 'touristy' outings that were wheelchair-friendly, such as a Thames River tour down to Greenwich.
So, to sum up: Travel agents - still around. Do you need one? Mostly not. But, if you've got special needs and don't have the resources to get the local knowledge you require then a good travel agent can be a godsend.

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