I bet I am not the only one looking towards the time we can all travel again. Anyone else starting to plan it out, even if only in your mind? This is the start of a blog series on traveling with accessibility issues. Let me start with lessons I learned with 4 different lodgings during 2019.
First off, you need to identify what exactly would and would not work for you. I am currently dealing with a dropped foot and distance stamina mostly. I use a rollator at home, a walker or wheelchair out. So, my biggest lodging need is smooth floor transitions. Elevators or first floor lodgings with a gentle ramp or flat building entrances are best. I can do a few stairs with a railing if needed. I cannot do commercial flights of stairs. I cannot do a tub/shower combination. I look for a roll in or spa like shower set up.
Armed with your can and can’t do list, hit your favorite lodging search app and let it narrow down the possible lodging list for you. I then get picture confirmation of setup from the location’s site if possible. The phrase accessible room can be interpreted in many ways. The national website may have wrong information. Be sure you contact the location’s front desk with your needs too. Document all of this too. Why? Let me tell you.
My first 2019 trip was for Spring Break with my kids. I booked online through the national website. The room I selected had 2 Queen beds and a roll in shower. I printed my full confirmation data that included the full description. We go to check in and find out the location does not really have that room configuration. They apologized for the error and put us into a suite with a roll in shower at the price I arranged online. I gave them a great and descriptive review!
My next travel opportunity was for a wedding. This time I booked with the location’s website. I also verified the room’s existence and my reservation through email with the manager. This check in was less smooth. As I sat there in a transport chair surrounded by my kids and our luggage, the manager explained how I booked with another hotel, I was duped by a discount site, I didn’t really need a roll in shower, and how I failed to directly contact his location. My spoken word meant nothing. I pulled out my documentation. After much grumbling we were put in two connected King rooms where one had a roll in shower.
The next month I traveled to my daughter’s college orientation. I booked a room for us and another for my sister. A third hotel chain. This went pretty smooth. Checked in and headed to the assigned room. About the same time I figured the room wasn’t right, my sister called. The front desk caught the error, gave her that room, and had us reassigned to the right room. I guess you know where I will stay next time I visit that college.
Now, my 4th trip was a beach vacation. I had a little trouble using the usual vacation place. I booked another place very near by with easier access for me. Family had stayed there before so I knew the place.
Well, we arrived and both elevators were out of order. As the parking deck has spotty cell coverage, the rental agency I played phone tag. In one message they gave me the fire department’s non emergency phone number and was told to call them each time I needed to go up and down the stairs. I figured they did not believe I really used a wheelchair. I let them know I would be right over to work this out.
Two employees met us at the car, blocking me from getting into the wheelchair. The unusual extreme heat is just too much for the elevators they said. I let them know in my decades of visiting, the heat was typical. I was told elevators are an amenity like a pool and power and are therefore not promised to be working. Power is a non promised amenity? As I was melting in the heat and having trouble being blocked from wheelchair, I tried a compromise option and asked for help finding a place for the night for me and my kids, at my expense. Without checking they knew everywhere was booked and would not even help me find another place to stay. I just about lost it when the man then complained about going up and down those stairs himself. I did tell him to shush. Surprisingly, that was the word I used. I guess his whining put me in mother mode. He left. He thought I was being lazy to use the wheelchair!
I gave them a very deserved detailed rotten review on their site, their FB site, and Yelp. I even sent an email to the fire department letting them know how this rental agency felt they should spend their time. You can easily bet I will never use that rental agency again.
I hope you learn from this why you should do as much research as possible before you book lodging. Plus, make sure you document every step that involves your destination lodging. It also can’t hurt to know the local hospitality law. If I had done this last step for the beach vacation I would have had a different vacation outcome. I will always ask future rental agencies their broken elevator policy.