by Nancy Wells, owner of Experience Travelz
Not every travel experience is positive, but they should all provide some sort of valuable lessons. When the pandemic affected all aspects of my newly launched travel business, instead of learning all the ways to grow the business by networking, presentations and other various marketing events, I instead learned how to cancel and rework hotels, cruises, tours, transfers, and insurance bookings. This was of course, while navigating the landscape of travel credits, outrageously long supplier telephone hold times, disgruntled clients and let us not forget, that most of this was done commission free.
- Valuable Lesson 1 – Learn to understand the value of how you will be able to help people navigate adverse situations in the future.
One of the exercises I relied on to maintain my mental health through all this, was to use some of my travel planning expertise to design a trip for myself, at a time I thought things would be safely past all the health concerns and quarantines. A mother-daughter trip was planned for May of 2021 after a plethora of hours committed to research and planning.
The entire trip is a story in and of itself, but the abbreviated version is that it went wrong from the beginning, and downhill from there. The morning after our delayed arrival I had an unfortunate accident that resulted in our adventure ending early, but with the addition of a plate, two pins, and eight screws recently added through emergency surgery to my broken and dislocated right ankle.
Sure, I could wallow in the self-grief of not being able to go on any of our numerous planned excursions or see anything of the beautiful ecological wonders of this tropical and sustainably-friendly country other than what I could see from an initial 3 ½ hour drive upon our arrival. Of course, I had the view from the back of an ambulance racing down the rainy 2-lane mountain roads for 3 hours while my daughter played ambulance chaser; the view out my hospital window; the view from the hotel as we awaited our return flights; and the view from the rental car on our way back to the airport.
I could also have yelled and screamed at the pain from my Z-shaped ankle, dislocated for 13 hours as I was constantly fed pain-killing IV fluids in order to cope. I instead chose to practice deep breathing and try and stay as calm as possible to not aggravate my injury and resulting high blood pressure any more than necessary.
One of the greatest aggravations of all was the financial issues that I thought I’d taken care of before the trip. This is where I found not only frustration, but even more lessons to pass on to future travelers so they will not run into similar situations to what I encountered. I had purchased trip insurance before traveling, a requirement to enter Costa Rica due to Covid. The paper I was carrying around with me to prove I had this insurance did not work when it came to paying for my medical expenses in this emergency situation. I had been given a 24-hour hotline to call, which I did not have readily available when the time was necessary to make that call. I’m not sure if this would have made a difference, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt.
- Valuable Lesson 2 – Pass on the importance to keep any 24-hour emergency numbers readily at hand. If it’s called an emergency number, make sure it’s available if an emergency occurs.
Not wanting to carry too much cash on my person while traveling, I had opted to rely mostly on credit cards. I had recently had an issue with one of my bank accounts so I decided to rely on credit cards instead of debit cards. I had an airline card with me, but decided to mainly use the card that gave me cash back on purchases, and extra on those related to travel. Before leaving the U.S., I had tried to notify Bank of America about my upcoming travel plans and that I would be using their card while traveling in Costa Rica. I was told that was no longer necessary, as the card was good in almost any country of travel now. I am not always the quickest with the latest in technology changes so I went along with it. I was not told of course, that after I used the card once for a deposit on my rental car, they would withhold my funds until I could answer an email saying it was okay to use it. I had left notifications on my phone and business email site. I wasn’t planning to answer personal emails on my vacation, let alone from the back of an ambulance, so I never saw the email authorizing the release of my funds until I returned home.
Upon returning to the U.S. I tried to contact Bank of America about the situation they had put me into. I was placed on hold for 45 minutes waiting to speak to a supervisor who never came on. An additional attempt a few days later did not fare any better. I paid off my bill, collected my cash rewards, wrote a detailed letter as to why I was leaving, and CLOSED my account. I will NEVER recommend Bank of America to anyone, EVER!
- Valuable Lesson 3 – Make sure of your financial specifics before leaving your home area for travel. This can happen in different states as well as in different countries. Security is important, but so is being able to use your credit card when you need it most.
Life happens, the good and the bad. Without a little bad, we cannot fully appreciate the good. I suppose that’s the optimist in me, but it’s how I’ve chosen to live my life. I may not be passing on the type of knowledge to my clients I had intended to regarding my trip, but I will hopefully be passing on some knowledge that I think can be useful to anyone and everyone’s travel future.