The other night one of my dear high school friends, now a mother of two, emailed me in state of level-headed anxiety. She wanted to arrange a safe airport transfer for her teenage son traveling overseas, but she didn’t know precisely how to go about it. Problem was, neither did I.
The back story was that her son, who I’ll call “Brad,” was supposed to be flying from the U.S. to South America as part of a group, an arrangement that fell through. Not a deal breaker: while Brad had never traveled solo, he’s a savvy kid. The concern was that he had to fly into a city with recurring safety issues that have been known to include unreliable ground transportation and crimes against taxi drivers. Further, Brad had to get from the cagey city’s airport to a hotel and then back to the airport the next morning.
Among my friend’s first instincts was to try to find a hotel that could provide the round-trip airport transfer. As noted, the issue was not only how to arrange that, but also how to know the hotel and transfer would be reliable. Would the hotel actually run the shuttle, or would it contract the service out to an unknown third party? Since I didn’t have the answer, I consulted Trip Chicks co-owner Ann Lombardi, a longtime tour guide and travel agent who reminded me why it’s a good idea to talk to travel agents. Lombardi said she could arrange for a “local representative” in the destination city to greet Brad at the airport in a private car, bringing him to one of three reputable hotels (one of which could be booked for $90) and back to the airport the next morning, $40 each way.
When I asked Lombardi how she vetted this local representative and by association the hotels, she explained that “the transfer rep is an independent contractor set up through Travelbound, run by England's Gullivers Travel Associates,” which works exclusively with travel agents and “negotiates land arrangements, included sightseeing, hotels, and transfers with reliable vendors all over the world.”
Lombardi goes on to say that “probably most experienced U.S. travel agents in the ‘international know’ are aware of these kinds of services and the providers.”
As of this writing Brad’s travel arrangements were still underway, but his mom is a lot less anxious knowing that a reliable greeter and hotel can be booked easily and on relatively short notice – try to make arrangements at least 48 hours before your teen departs the U.S. to give the provider enough time to respond to your request for a greeter.
If you’re like Brad’s mom – or any parent with a child or other loved one vacationing in an overseas “hot spot,” you’ll also want the peace of mind by having your beloved traveler register his trip with the U.S. Department of State, which will enable the local embassy or consulate to locate him in case of an emergency. Both the traveler and his nervous parents back home can also sign up for State Department e-mail alerts about potential risks and threats within the destination.
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