We work with Travel Guard Insurance and have for about a decade. Recently, they ran a promotion where they asked travelers to send them their biggest travel horror stories. Winner receives $10,000.
I’m sorry to say that no one from our Year End 2009 “India—Rajasthan, Tigers & Taj” departure is able to complete an entry this year.
At Classic Journeys, we operate about a dozen year-end departures to places as exotic as Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Morocco, Amalfi, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, Zambia and India. It’s the India tour I’m going to talk about. And different from most travel blogs where you’ll likely only read about the wonderful sights, sounds and smells, I’m going to describe what can go wrong in travel…and how our team in the US and in-country (in this case India) likely cost some traveler $10,000 in a great travel horror story prize.
On its face, what took place on the trip had all the makings for a great travel horror story:
- 1 Taj Mahal closed
- 1 unseasonably heavy fog
- 2 cancelled flights
- 2 trains rescheduled
- 3 hotel nights flipped
- 3 private game drives unused
But as I said, no entries from this trip. Why? How?
Well, if you’re still reading along, you must be thinking that the trip was a disaster. Actually, it was a complete success owing to some fine teamwork by colleagues in the US and India. Here’s a short recap of how we overcame the challenges.
- 1 Taj Mahal closed-A visiting head of state caused the closure for the afternoon that we had our planned exploration. Because we recheck openings repeatedly in the weeks and days leading up to the visit, our country manager in Delhi learned of the closure three days before our scheduled visit; as soon as it was made public. With notice, we brought our tour operations team in the US and Delhi together to brainstorm solutions. The only one that would provide our guests the time to view the Taj in a proper, relaxed manner befitting our tours was to move our visit to Agra to earlier in the week. (More on that later…)
- 2 cancelled flights—Due to intense and unusual fog two flights were cancelled during the trip. One, from Jodhpur to Jaipur was saved by extreme resourcefulness by our guide Vikas, who settled our guests in a lounge and ran off the plane to a little known airport office where he drew on a long-term friendship to gain seats on the only flight that left Jodhpur that day. It meant that he saved a whole day for our guests. With the other cancelled flight, our tour ops team arranged for a minicoach and driver to meet our guide and guests and transfer them. Next…
- 3 hotel nights flipped around to accommodate the Taj closure-These hotels include the #3 hotel in the world, Amarvilas, and a royal hunting lodge in Ranthambore, the famed tiger preserve. Reservations had been held for months for these exact dates. Again, problem solved as we drew on a long term friendship between the reservations managers at the hotel and our country manager in Delhi. Nights flipped so that Amarvilas came first and hunting lodge second. Problem solved…
- 2 trains rescheduled to accommodate the changes to program schedule-With the changes to the Taj visit, it meant that the tickets we were holding in first class air conditioned cars between Ranthambore and Baratpur needed to be cancelled and replaced with tickets from Baratpur to Ranthambore two days later. No problem, right? Except that there were 57 people on a wait list for the seats. Again, it’s not what we know, it’s who we know that counts so often. In this case, we once again drew on our team of colleagues in India and were able to clear the waitlist for our guests.
- 3 private game drives unused-Again, with the change in dates to our Ranthambore tiger sanctuary visit; our planned game drives (as with so many elements of the trip, organized months in advance) were no longer on the correct days. However, because we bring a number of groups of guests to Ranthambore each year, we were able to reschedule the game drives to accommodate our new schedule.
What were the guests doing during all of this? Relaxing and enjoying themselves on holiday, just as they planned to do when they chose Classic Journeys. Happily, because there is a 13 ½ (that’s right, 13 ½) hour time difference between Delhi and San Diego, many tour ops conversations with our in-country colleagues, hotels, rail and other partners could happen while our guests were asleep. They woke each morning to problems solved.
Is this an extreme example? Absolutely. But if we can keep your vacation operating smoothly in India, imagine what we can do for you in Argentina, Amalfi or even closer to home in Alaska?
If you have a travel horror story, let me know and I’ll forward it to Travel Guard for you. And if you’d like to chat about how we can make your vacations seamless and enjoyable, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org