Listen to our podcast conversation with Caitriona here.
I want to thank Caitriona, Paddy, Ruari and Clodagh Connor for helping raise our awareness of the challenges faced in planning and going on holidays when one of the family has additional needs.
The podcast with Caitriona is insightful on so many levels especially for the travel and hospitality industries and also for other people travelling so that we can all understand, appreciate and be kind when travelling with our fellow passengers or guests, especially those with additional needs.
When Caitriona contacted me, she was clear and honest about what she needed from a holiday for Ruairi her son who has additional needs and also for the rest of the family. A holiday must work for everyone. In the podcast Caitriona explains Ruairi’s condition and best to listen to the podcast as she explains better than I ever could but in short Ruari has Autism, quite severe ADHD and an intellectual disability, but for all that, he looks like any other burly 12 year old lad.
It was awkward and invasive having to ask some very direct questions of Caitriona, but this was in order that I could understand the needs and then look at holiday options that would closely match those needs. I think this is where a travel agent can really help in these situations. We know the destinations and resorts and many of us know the properties well too, so we can rule in or out some places quickly based on the needs of our customers.
We can’t work miracles; we can’t do the impossible but we can make a difference.
In fairness the airports are generally very good with assistance both here in Ireland and abroad. The airlines do what they can, but the flight experience cannot be altered so best to let the crew know, think about seating and more importantly flight duration and flight times. Sometimes hiring a car might be a good idea not only for the transfer but also whilst in the resort. If it sits outside the door for the week, well and good but it gives you so many options and opportunities and driving in most sun holiday destinations is not too challenging.
Hotel, apartment or villa accommodation is what it is. But by Caitriona telling me that they needed low rise, ideally ground floor and not a villa helped me picture their needs more clearly. The villa was out as that would not have the facilities or the options to meet other kids which was important for her Clodagh, Caitriona’s daughter.
Transfer times, transfer options, flight times and duration are all very straightforward in terms of planning. The local area or the resort can be a challenge in terms of access and mobility. That is down to local knowledge and experience but it’s pretty much a case of thinking about the location before booking based on your needs. For me with Caitriona, I wanted a transfer time less than one hour, good beaches nearby, things to do within short drives and a destination where we could be sure our special requests would be noted. Special requests like a ground floor apartment are just that, “a request”, it is not a guarantee. We needed to be clear about that and we needed Caitriona to understand that we would do our best, but it was not guaranteed.
That honesty and managing of expectations, of doing what is possible and not promising the impossible was key to planning the holiday and then making it work for the family.
We had so many good learnings in Click&Go from our dealings with Caitriona and her family that I wanted to share the experience with the wider community. Check out the episode here.
We in Click&Go and I’m sure most travel agents want to do what we can for anyone travelling with special needs. Sometimes our risk people, the insurers and others step in to raise concerns because it can be more challenging to make these holidays work. With the right mind set and approach from all concerned, I think we can make it work. We absolutely need to know the additional needs before you book, don’t book and then tell us as that may involve additional costs if the wrong thing has been booked. My advice and Caitriona calls this out too is to speak to a travel professional (ideally Click&Go but if not a member of the Irish Travel Agents Association), tell them exactly what you need and let them come back with some options and then choose the most suitable. Together we can hopefully ease the planning and research pain and work with you to plan and deliver a great holiday experience.
CEO and co-founder of Click&Go.com
An Irish company and the highest ranked travel company in Ireland