We’ve all been there: flight cancellations, lost luggage, lost passengers, lost passports and lost sanity. Just when you’re supposed to be enjoying your precious free time, it all seems to go wrong. Here’s what we’ve learned from our worst holiday nightmares:
1. Triple check your flights
While it’s incredible to think that you can be in Asia in less than 24 hours when a hundred years ago it may have taken months, if not years to get there, the process of organising your journey can still be riddled with pitfalls if you don’t know what you’re doing.
a) Check your dates.
We recommend doing this multiple times whilst booking your flights, and twice again before you travel. We’ve all known someone book themselves onto flights a day earlier or later than they meant to. It means their entire holiday is out of sync which can have expensive consequences and can mean missed connecting flights. Also, take into account any time differences and overnight flights which can have a very confusing effect on your itinerary. We triple check all our clients’ flights, with three sets of eyes, to avoid any nasty surprises later on.
b) Check your flight times.
I’ve been in a car with my mother, tearing up a map on a motorway as we tried to find an airport with no minutes to spare. Make sure you arrive at the airport 3 hours before your international departure so you don’t have to worry about missing your flight.
c) Check which terminal you’re flying from – and don’t blindly trust your eticket.
Last minute changes to international flights can result in a terminal alteration and you’ll find yourself moving swiftly from blissful ignorance to blind panic as you dash to find your plane.
d) Check that you’ve booked the correct cabin class
We’ve had passengers believing they’ve booked Premium Economy seats (when they’ve booked their own flights!) but finding they’re in Economy when they board. Triple check your eticket has the correct class and confirm with the airline if it’s not clear.
e) Check the prevailing traffic a few days before you travel to the airport.
If you’re driving to the terminal during rush hour, or there are roadworks, you may have an adrenalin-fuelled adventure on your hands. It may be simpler, and less stressful, to book into a hotel near the airport the night before.
2. Double check your transport
On arrival in Asia, you’ll be surrounded by a huge mix of international travellers, incomprehensible signs and crowds moving between arrivals and departures; it can all get a bit overwhelming so make sure you know where and when you’re meeting your transfer. Not only this but make sure you have a contact number – if anything goes wrong you’ll have someone in the country to call for help.
3. In an ideal world, get a competent local experience manager to support you in-country.
We once had a family staying in a lovely villa hotel but they were surrounded by heavily partying Australians. The hotel manager had failed to realise this was an inappropriate combination of guests. Luckily, the family contacted our in-country experience manager Thushni and she moved them to somewhere much more relaxing at no extra cost. If the family had booked direct with the hotel, this simply wouldn’t have been possible and we think it demonstrates the benefit of booking through an ABTA bonded tour operator with a dedicated staff member in the country.
4. Make sure you’re using vetted and trained guides
In the very early days of our company, we had a few incidences of guides not sticking to holiday itineraries and taking guests to touristy shops in order to claim commission. We started a training programme for our guides and paid them a higher salary than the industry norm. To further incentivise them we introduced guide awards to recognise outstanding service to travellers. Finally, we started holding conferences during which our UK-based Managing Director collects feedback and ideas from guides about their role, as well as relaying comments – both positive and constructive – from our clients.
5. Make sure you’re equipped to deal with an emergency
One of our travellers got stuck on an island in Indonesia due to an ash cloud. Lucky for her, we had fantastic staff on the ground who booked her a seat on every departing flight possible, to ensure that she managed to leave safely and promptly. If she’d been alone, she might have been stranded there for weeks.
6. Make sure your hotels have alcohol licences
Some hotels in Asia do not have an alcohol licence so, if you enjoy a drink on holiday, you need to bring your own. Even when hotels do have licences they might not have much of a choice. But forewarned means forearmed: purchase your favourite tipple in duty free or make sure you’ve sent word ahead so that the hotel is prepared for your arrival.
All of these problems can be avoided when you book with a reputable tour operator like Experience Travel Group. If you wanted to get a copy of our brochure for some destination inspiration, you can order one here. Alternatively, do download our guide to Asia for an introduction to this wonderful continent.