It’s crazy to think that just two weeks ago I was sharing my journey to Africa with you, and now many of us are under "stay at home" orders as we face one of the most widespread pandemics that humanity has ever seen.
While you’re probably overwhelmed with news and updates regarding COVID-19, I wanted to touch on a few things related to your travel – whether you currently have travel booked with us, another agent, or booked on your own.
Sorry it's a little long - there is a lot to go through. Thank you for reading me :)
Here are a few things to consider if you have travel plans currently booked.
Throughout this evolving situation, most all suppliers (airlines, resorts, car rentals, tours, etc) have remained consistent in assisting those who are departing first.
Anyone who is slated to depart after early May are asked to remain patient and wait for the industry to catch up on those departing earlier than you.
There are two benefits to this:
Many personnel are trying to do their job from home amidst the same health concerns the entire world is facing, the only difference is their workload has increased dramatically and they are attempting to complete their duties without access to the same systems they had in the office.
Remember this is a GLOBAL crisis, so trillions of people are in need of assistance at the same time, in addition to you. Unfortunately, this circumstance is unlike anything we have ever seen, and it will take some time, patience and understanding as everyone is adapting to the changes and massive workload. The one consistency across the travel industry is the need to assist those who in order of travel dates - so those who are supposed to be traveling soon can receive help first.
At this time, the people scheduled to travel between now and mid-May may be eligible for credits, and possibly refunds. However, if you are traveling further out than that, the odds are you will still fall under the standard cancellation policies and would need to assume all penalties associated with canceling. This is why it could be in your best interest to hang tight and wait closer to your travel dates and see what the suppliers are offering at that time. Many companies are posting their updated terms on their website, so you can go online to visit your travel suppliers website to view what their most current terms are.
I had some clients asking about cancelling weeks ago and had they done, so they would have lost thousands in payments already made, but as they waited and their travel dates got closer, I was able to secure credits and even refunds, depending on the situation and supplier.
I can honestly say that the industry has been doing a wonderful job of being there for our clients and all they’re asking for is a little patience so they have time to help everyone around the globe.
If you've booked your travel through a travel advisor, you're in luck - we are here to help you navigate terms and conditions, waivers, cancellation policies and be a liaison between you and the different vendors that are coordinated to create your travel package.
Many of you have a number of different components to your packages and my job is to help sort those out - whether it's getting train tickets in Europe refunded, submitting documentation and filling out forms for refunds, or supplying you with alternate tour, cruise, or reservation options for you to use your new credits towards.
Additionally, your travel advisor often has different phone numbers to access suppliers and other connections within the industry that we can reach out to in order to facilitate a resolution and obtain answers to questions that are not readily available. No need for you to sit on hold for 7+ hours or deal with crashing phone systems during a crisis - we alleviate that stress!
I've unfortunately seen a number of people struggling to reach the company they booked through, and in some cases, many travelers have been left with no one to speak to or anyone to help because of devious business practices and simply put, the lack of care and support for you as a client. If you have a good travel agent on your side, you can rest assure that we are doing everything we can to provide you as seamless experience as possible in a situation like this. No one should have to worry about anything but their health, communities and families at this time and if we can help ease our clients' lives right now, we will!
An important fact to bear in mind is that suppliers aren't required to change their policies if the travel can still be completed – terms and conditions are legally binding and the fact that they really are trying to do the right thing throughout this tumultuous and unprecedented time, is commendable.
We are paying very close attention to those companies treating our clients fairly and honorably, so we can move forward after life returns to normal and develop stronger professional relationships with those vendors. You can remain confident that we only work with the best in the industry - and this crisis is a good reminder of the difference in the level of support and service you can receive.
I hope I managed to answer some questions today and was able to convey a little more insight into why it might seem like the travel industry is taking a little longer than preferable to assist with your cancellations or rescheduling.
Rest assured that we are all doing everything in our power to shoulder the burden and help you so that you can spend time with your family knowing that we are diligently working to ensure that you get fair treatment and resolutions.
I began this business over a decade ago because I wanted to help people experience the world through travel and I plan to continue helping my clients - old and new - well after this is over and for many years to come.
Thank you for your support and business over the years! Together we can get through anything!
Stay safe, positive and hopeful!
*PS* For those quarantined and looking for ways to support small business at home... Please follow us on Facebook and/or Instagram and engage with our posts. Conversations are important to the algorithm behind the scenes that consider us "relevant" to be seen. That would be a huge help to us so we can continue to grow our business and hopefully find some new clients too - which will be needed as soon as we can travel again. Travel agents are paid on commission when clients travel, so it's important for us to continue to build our name and support. You're the best!!
Book your consultation or call (913) 244-9195!
I was going to talk about Corona Virus a little, but honestly – I don’t think I need to say too much yet. Until there is more information to give, please just wash your hands and if you’re at risk of being compromised by this virus, be extra vigilant. If you have travel booked within the next few weeks have a chat to your doctor and just continue to use common sense and sanitization practices.
And that’s it – that’s all that really needs to be said as this all continues to evolve and develop. So instead of going on about this, I would much rather talk about a joyous adventure and share a bit about my most recent travel experience – a once in a lifetime (I lie... I will definitely be going back in this lifetime) safari in Africa and visit to Zanzibar in Tanzania!
Arriving into Tanzania was surreal – I’ve traveled to a lot of places, but this was going to be a completely new experience for me and one of the longest journey's I've made thus far. I couldn’t believe it was finally happening! “Beach Vacation” isn’t usually what goes through people’s minds when they think of Africa, but it’s a vast and diverse continent where you can combine beach AND adventure – which is exactly what I got to do!
The island of Zanzibar was the first real stop in this adventure, home to Stone Town a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with unique architecture influenced by Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. After a day exploring, we enjoyed the sunset from the famous Rock Restaurant – a restaurant this is quite literally in the middle of the water. During low tide you can walk across the sand to the restaurant but during high tide, they paddle you over in a canoe.
After touring a many hotel properties, visiting Prison Island to see the Aldabra Giant Tortoise sanctuary, quick stop to snorkel, walking tour of Stone Town and visiting the Slave Museum in just a few days - we were off to Nairobi for adventure, safari and the elusive Big 5! We spent a night in Nairobi so we could visit a couple sanctuaries before we headed on safari the next day. Not only did I get to touch the baby elephant I adopted, but I also got to feed a hangry giraffe who thought it would be funny to nibble my finger instead – and with the exception of myself, everyone else there thought it was cute, so turns out he was right. ;)
Driving into Masai Mara National Park, we were all pumped – none of us had ever done anything like this before and there was something indescribable in the air as we headed towards camp. The safari essentially started immediately and we were beyond excited, every second someone was pointing out an elephant, a gazelle, a zebra – in the end our amazing guides had to remind us that were in for so much more and that we needed to stop stopping the car or we’d never make it to camp!
I could bore you with camp details, but I won’t except to say that there are so many different options for camps that you can please nearly anyone. From relatively basic camps to extravagant glamping areas complete with air-conditioning, private decks and swimming pools where you can watch the hippos swim about OR a herd of elephants pass you by during breakfast - this is the kind of trip that can truly be tailored to each visitor.
The next coming days was like something out of a tv show or nature documentary – I could practically hear David Attenborough narrating as we drove across the African plains, warriors with spears by our sides, as we sought out the elusive Big 5. (Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, Buffalo).
One morning we enjoyed an incredible hot air balloon ride over the plains to see a very different viewpoint of the animals – and I cannot recommend this enough. We saw hippos playing in water as the sun rose, baboons hopping across the river from rock to rock, gazelles leaping across fields from a bird's eye view and giraffes napping. We were low enough to see every detail perfectly!
We also had many breakfasts in the middle of the wilderness, and a sundowner happy hour event where we truly felt connected to nature. On our last night, we toasted to new places, friends, and watched an incredible storm rolling in as we danced and listened to music until the "rains of Africa" started and forced us to head back to camp. Do you hear those lyrics in your head when you read that phrase too?! BTW... I don’t have a future career in African dance, so please continue to support this travel advisor thing I have going on. ;)
As we neared the end of this unforgettable two weeks, it’s impossible to try to explain the feeling of driving under the African sun with a pack of lion cubs and their mums strolling idly around your car, with lions taking naps so close you could almost pat their manes as they lift their head and lazily eye you before deciding that napping is far more appealing than eating you and go back to sleep, and even the warthogs running scared as they heard our truck were so funny to see in person (Pumbaa, from the lion king, as we called them every time we saw them - so ugly they are cute).
The beautiful thing is that there are so many different ways to curate this experience - you could combine it with trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro (even just a little hike if you're not ready for the full trekk), or throw Uganda into the mix and channel your inner Jane Goodall with a gorilla trek. You can select a camp hidden in the brush or stay right on the front lines and watch the great migration crossing the Masai river, observing the crocodiles lying in wait for their prey to saunter across.
This is probably one of the longest posts I’ve ever written, but it’s so hard to encapsulate everything I experienced via one short article - so if you’ve read to this point, I appreciate you taking the time to share a little of my journey with you. I also think that if you’ve read this far then you should give me a call or schedule an appointment so that we can chat about how to make your African dreams come true! I quickly found out this is not something you should wait for as a bucketlist trip - as tomorrow is never promised and you need to see this in person!
Book your consultation or call (913) 244-9195!