When Your Travel Expectations and Reality Collide

You book your trip because a friend said it was their “best trip ever”. You don’t do your own research or check out other reviews, because you figure your friend wouldn’t steer you wrong and if they like it, you’ll like it. After all, it does seem like the place is just your style. Then this happens…your luxury travel expectations and reality collide.

Believe me, we do not always need or want the top in luxury travel, but when we plan on it and it fails, well, frankly it sucks! Yes, I know it’s a “tough problem” to have, but if I paid the price, deliver me the service. Okay, in this case, I’ll take partial blame for not confirming it all myself, but still…

Here’s what went wrong on a recent trip, what we usually expect as service, and what we should have done…

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WE NEVER RECEIVED A PRE-CALL

What happened: In most cases for a booked trip, we receive either a welcome letter with a few questions about our upcoming stay and/or a call from the concierge. When I didn’t receive one, I was like okay, it will be fine, the “Jones” loved the place.

What I should have done: I should have called and made confirmations, requests, and asked all the questions I wanted answered and not waited to be contacted. We all get too busy and forget…

THE PICK UP

What happened: A Toyota minivan arrived at the airport to pick us up and it smelled like cigarette smoke. All I could think about was second hand smoke. I asked if they were with the actual hotel and he said yes. But, I later learned that the 2 hotel cars were both on runs and they sent a local driver they knew. I promptly called the hotel and asked and they informed me that they couldn’t send their driver for another hour. This was not exactly the airport we wanted to hang out in, so we got in the car, held our breaths, and said it can only get better from here. Tonight we will drink…

What I should have done: I should have, as I always, confirm during the pre-call that a hotel car that is non-smoking will be picking us up. Of note, for personal reasons, it is very important that everything be non-smoking.

Side Note: Arrival was wonderful. From my call, they knew I was a bit frustrated, so cool drinks were waiting for us; the manager invited us to drinks later; and the butler took our stinking clothes when we changed for dinner to wash and he aired out our luggage, which all smelled as if we were smokers.

THE PRIVATE BUTLER

What happened: Why, yes, they had private butlers and yes, the fellows were sweet. But, they only seemed to work when someone needed something; forgot so much or never followed up; they never anticipated anything; and we had to request the same things the next day. Our friends were thrilled with the butler service as were the reviewers. We know very well that people all have different expectations and I guess we have been spoiled greatly by our wonderful visits to other locations.

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What I should have done: Again, my fault for not asking ahead of time how comprehensive the butler service is. For example, at the Royal Planation on Jamaica, after one day and a “get to know you” period, our butler knew exactly how I loved to sit in pillows in the sand, half sun half shade, and that my husband needed 100% shade on a lounge chair. Each day after the first day, we were all set up after breakfast. He also watched two days as I kayaked out to spot David during his swim and on the third day, had the kayak ready and said, “how about you go snorkel and I’ll spot David”. He knew us, he got us and he understood our quirky ways, making the ten days a pure delight. Now, that was service!

EXPERIENCES

What happened: Side trips; this I did call about! I knew a few things we wanted to do. I asked for a private driver and I was told “not to worry, they would work it all out when we got there”. Uh, NO! For this resort, their idea of private is with other guests from the hotel…”it is private only – meaning our guests”.

luxury travel

What I should have done: I am so sorry, but private is private; no way to be clearer here. It is not that we don’t like people, but sometimes we want to spend time together, just us. What I learned is to be crystal clear and ask the questions you want answers to 10 different ways. I seriously didn’t even think to ask this question, but I will from now on.

We ended up contacting another hotel we had stayed at before and told them the situation. We promised to never try anyplace else again on the island and they kindly, for a fee of course, made arrangements to have their concierge take care of our off-site meals and activities.

FINE DINING

What happened: I won’t talk about the food, per se, but the dining experience. Yes, again, I did call and ask if they needed to be pre planned for timing and told “not to worry”. I explained that although I knew they were a smaller hotel, we still liked our privacy and would prefer a quite table. Well, wouldn’t you know that a family reunion group with a bunch of kids running around and a dad that laughed and encouraged them to get rid of all their energy were sat right smack in the middle of the dining room for every meal! UGH. We then explained how unrelaxing this was and asked to sit elsewhere, but that was not really workable. So, for many meals we ate outside, in our room, or dined late. Not exactly perfect, but better.

What I should have done: This whole “not to worry” thing obviously doesn’t work for me. So, if you hear it, don’t accept it!

luxury travel

MORAL OF THE STORY

  • No matter what the “Jones” say, we all have different likes, needs, and expectations. Make sure you know exactly what those are for the “Jones”.
  • Do your own research and follow-up. Don’t feel guilty about asking questions or inquiring about additional services; it’s your money after all. Talk to the manager and explain what you like and see if they can meet your needs, even if you need to pay a bit more.
  • You may even have to lower your expectations, which we did. We just accepted what the place was and moved forward, lesson learned.
  • As I said before, we have worked with a concierge, so we knew to make the most of our stay. Learn from concierges at places you love, so you know how things should work and you can act accordingly.
  • And, you don’t have to stay if you’re unhappy. Call a brand or place you know and see if they have room. Inform the front desk that this was not what you were expecting and instead of pushing the issue, you need to switch hotels. A good manager knows not every hotel is for every person and will be gracious and let you go.

We’d love to hear if you’ve had similar experiences when your luxury travel expectations and reality hit a collision course and how you handled it.