Brett Heising | October 04, 2016 4:15 PM ET
Five Travel Tips From A CEO Who Lives Life On Wheels
I believe that life is defined by experiences, not stuff. Now, let’s not jump to conclusions; this philosophy doesn’t mean I’m incapable of appreciating the finer things in life. It just means that an extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignon and a well-marbled, dry-aged prime ribeye at Press in St. Helena, California will always be more meaningful to me than, say, buying a new television.
Sidebar: My 15-year-old 36” CRT TV — affectionately known as the “beast” because it literally weighs almost 400 pounds — is still broadcasting college football games like a standard-definition champ!
Now back to our regularly scheduled travel article.
This belief is why I left corporate America and started brettapproved.com, a travel and entertainment website for anyone with a physical disability or mobility challenge. Together with my amazing team, I want to make sure everyone, regardless of any physical challenges they overcome, has the chance to travel and as Henry David Thoreau said in Walden, “… live deep and suck the marrow out of life.”
Hopefully, these tips help you do it.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Once you choose an airline, hotel, cruise line or rental car provider; communicate with them before your trip so they know your needs in advance. Call them several times to confirm details, document what time you called and with whom you are speaking. Note: Calling in advance doesn’t guarantee there won’t be any hiccups, but it helps.
For me, it’s impossible to be spontaneous when I travel because there are so many logistical concerns I need to consider. So whatever you do, don’t procrastinate. When it comes to planning a trip, people with physical disabilities can’t afford to burn daylight.
4. Own your trip: Your job may depend on a successful meeting with a client or if you’re like most Americans, you may only get 5-10 vacation days a year, so make them count! How? Ask lots of questions. Doing so allows you to own your trip.
Nobody knows your ability level better than you, so be your own advocate. Tell anyone associated with your trip what you need. Be firm but friendly. Make a list of questions you have before you begin the planning process so you don’t forget anything. After booking every portion of your trip remember that follow-up is critical.
If I’m taking a cruise for example, I’ll call and ask how wide the doors are to the accessible cabin I’ll be staying in. My chair is 23” wide so knowing that, tells me immediately if a cabin will work for me. I also ask about processes for disembarking the ship at various ports of call and how accessible the port is. Ask for photos. As a former journalist it pains me to admit this, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
3. Book directly with the provider: Working directly with airlines, hotels and rental car companies can pay dividends. If a challenge needs to be addressed during your hotel stay for example, a hotel employee typically has much more latitude to resolve the issue in real-time if you booked directly with the hotel or service provider.
2. Be prepared: I always bookmark medical supply, wheelchair repair and bicycle shops in the area I’ll be traveling on my phone. You never know what may come up and I do my best to be prepared. When I travel outside the U.S. I always have spare tubes and tires for my chair. I even travel with a portable air compressor because anything can happen on the road.
If things do go sideways, I do my best to remain calm and rational. Losing my temper may feel good in the short-term but it won’t engender the sense of mutual respect and lay the foundation for teamwork that’s essential in a crisis.
Some of you who don’t use a chair or rely on a medical device may balk at the word “crisis.” But trust me, when something happens to the only wheelchair you own, you’re thousands of miles from the familiar and you’re staring down the barrel of an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting, it’s full-on panic time!
1. Ask for help if you need it: Twenty years ago I would have never written this because back then, I had everything figured out. Thankfully, as time marches forward it’s accompanied by wisdom. Now, at 40 years old, I’m finally comfortable enough to ask for help.
Whether it’s something insignificant like asking for help with my luggage at the airport or relying on Tarita Davenock at Travel-for-All, the first travel agency of record for brettapproved to help make any trip a reality, asking for and providing assistance is mutually beneficial because, like traveling, helping each other reminds us that life is defined by experiences, not stuff.
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