Vacation is one of those things that when it’s good, it’s usually really good. However, when it’s stressful, it can be REALLY stressful. Case in point: We have an upcoming trip to Hawaii.
We knew this trip to Hawaii was going to be trickier than when we have gone in the past due to COVID-19 restrictions. To prepare, we have been diligent in keeping track of Hawaii’s requirements & making sure we have everything in order. As is fairly common knowledge at this point, one of their requirements is that you have to have a negative COVID test in hand when you arrive. The trick is, you can’t take it more than 72-hours before the departure time of your final flight into Hawaii. They also state they will only accept tests from organizations certified by the state of Hawaii. So, we did our research, made our appointments with Walgreens (the one & only place certified by Hawaii in Utah that could get us our test results in time), & we were ready to go get our test yesterday afternoon.
When we arrived, there was a vague sign in front of the testing area stating they were not doing tests & giving their corporate number. We panicked. What do you mean I can’t have my test? I have a confirmation number & I’m here when YOU told me to be here. Why didn’t you notify me my appointment was cancelled? Are we going to have to cancel our trip because we can’t get our tests? Why aren’t they doing tests? Are they going to be back open tomorrow? Can we get it somewhere else? The questions flew fast & hot. We called corporate, sent my husband in to speak with store management about options, called other locations, etc. For TWO HOURS we tried to get somewhere with someone & ultimately all we got was told “F— You” by the assistant store manager. That’s not a metaphor. My husband & several others in the EXACT same boat as us who had gone in for help (and who, by all accounts, were all quite calm) literally got that yelled at them in addition to a very special viewing of some “birds.”
It was bananas. And those that should have been helping us, were definitely not. We went home last night defeated, angry, stressed & unsure if this trip was going to happen. After talking about it, making online reviews, tweeting about it, etc., we decided the only thing to do was to show up on the doorstep of the one & only other Walgreens location in the state (45-minutes away) right when they opened this morning & hope that they would squeeze us into their already full schedule. So, that’s what we did. We were nervous wrecks. Fortunately, my husband had made some friends yesterday of people in the same boat & they were there too, a few cars ahead of us. They pulled up; the workers took their information & they gave them the test! We were so relieved. Then it was our turn. Same thing! They gave us the test! Yay! And! We got the results back within an hour. Good news – we are negative for COVID! Our trip is back on track!
This experience though has reminded me of other extremely stressful situations we’ve had on vacation: lost luggage, being given an already occupied room at a hotel, really terrible service, etc. The list could go on & on. As with life in general, not everything goes smoothly while on vacation. I’m of the opinion that the better you plan, the less stress you’ll have (see my blog on “Planning Never Hurt Anyone”), but things happen that are simply out of our control. So, what can you do when you’re in the moment & things seem to be falling apart? Here are my suggestions:
Place Blame Where It Belongs
When things go wrong, it’s easy to accost the nearest employee and demand they make things right. Although not completely inappropriate, keep in mind that most often, the first person you come in contact with, has limited ability to fix your problem. These poor front-line employees don’t get paid enough for you to be rude to them. By all means, let them know of your problem & hopefully they can help solve it, but don’t be a jerk. If they can’t solve it, it is important not to “lose it” on them & lay blame to them if it is literally out of their hands. In our situation yesterday, their machines broke down. It’s obviously not anyone’s fault, so it wouldn’t have done us any good to yell at the poor cashier inside because they were the first person we saw. That being said though, problems still need fixing & asking for someone in a management position to help you is not inappropriate. Likely though, even the manager isn’t to blame, so make sure you’re being respectful. Remember the old adage, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”? That is particularly relevant when trying to resolve issues. You will almost ALWAYS get better resolution to your problem being respectful rather than rude.
Politely Stand Up for Yourself
Don’t be deceived. Being polite & respectful does not mean you can’t stand up for yourself. Some people don’t like conflict and are willing to take a loss to avoid it. This will not serve you well when you travel. When I say place blame where it belongs, that also means not unnecessarily taking it upon yourself. If your luggage is lost by an airline & now you have no clothes for your week-long trip, ask for compensation to buy replacements! If your food comes out cold or has a hair on it, ask for a new one! If one Walgreens location won’t give you a test or help you reschedule, show up on the doorstep of another one! It is your job to make sure you’re politely standing up for yourself & things are put to right as best as possible. Sometimes the only advocate you have is yourself. That is definitely what we experienced with our testing issues yesterday. After two hours of trying, they claimed no one could help us, so we had to take matters into our own hands.
Use the Resources Available
Speaking of taking matters into your own hands, it is imperative that you use the resources at your disposal. As mentioned before, with our issues yesterday, we called the corporate phone number they had on their sign, we went in to talk to store management, we called other Walgreens locations, we did everything we knew how to do. Was it time consuming & sucky? Yes. Would it be worse to not go on our trip? Definitely. When those things didn’t work, we started reaching out to the company in different ways. Both of our friends going with us tweeted Walgreens about our experience and guess what? They responded almost immediately. My husband messaged them through Facebook and guess what? They responded! Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Businesses do not want bad reviews or to be tagged in negative posts. Point being, use the resources available to you. Again, you don’t want to be a jerk, but being honest about the issues you’re experiencing through multiple platforms can yield results.
Acknowledge Corrected Mistakes
Being gracious goes a long way. Last night, in addition to the social media posts, we also left some negative reviews for the Walgreens location we had so much trouble with. I do not think this is inappropriate as long as you keep it classy. However, if you’re going to leave a negative review when a mistake is made, you need to leave a positive review when it is corrected. As we anxiously waited to see if we would get tested this morning, our friend said, “If this works out, I’m going to leave a great review for this Walgreens.” And he did. Acknowledging when wrongs have been righted is powerful. It shows other potential customers that although issues came up, they were also fixed. We all deserve forgiveness & recognition for when we rectify a situation. Please make sure you adequately thank those that help you whether in person, online, or in any other way you can. As already eluded to, often the people with the ability to fix your problem are NOT the ones who created it in the first place. Give credit where credit is due.
Overall, stay classy out there. Stand up for yourself, but don’t be a jerk. Two wrongs never made a right & just because you’re stressed about the issues that WILL come up during vacation, doesn’t mean you have to ruin someone else’s day too.
If you need help relieving some of the stress of planning a vacation, we’d be happy to help you! Feel free to request a quote through our website: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/
The following is the first installment in the “Our Travels” portion of our blog. We travel quite a bit & want to share with you our experiences about specific places in addition to general travel advice. Enjoy!
We finally made it back to the most magical place on earth – Walt Disney World! Normally we make at least three or four trips to both Walt Disney World & Disneyland each year, but with the current circumstances being what they are, we have not been back to Disney World since January. We know there are a lot of questions about safety & what it is really like in the parks right now, so here we are! To talk about just that.
First, let me say that we had a great time. This was probably the most enjoyable trip to Walt Disney World I’ve had in years. It’s not that I love wearing a mask all day, or that I could do without FastPasses forever, but rather, it’s the fact that I did have such a good time in spite of those additional changes. There is always good if you look for it & our experience, in my opinion, speaks highly to the fact that there is still magic there & you can still have a great time if you choose to.
That being said, there are a number of additional safety procedures in place at Walt Disney World to make sure the spread of COVID-19 is limited. I appreciated the efforts of the company & I believe it is because of these efforts that we were able to have such a good time & relax in spite of everything. Take a look at what our experience was with those procedures below.
Our experience with the new health & safety mandates started long before we traveled to Florida. This is because to enter a park at this point, you must have a park reservation in addition to your purchased park ticket. These reservations can be made through your My Disney Experience account. Our experience with this process was overall, very positive. The online reservation system is fairly straight forward and easy to use. Simply link your tickets & pick your park for the date you want. We do, however, recommend making park reservations immediately after purchasing your tickets as the capacity of the parks is currently limited. The current trend with these reservations is that, for Hollywood Studios especially, reservations can fill up quickly and fairly far in advance. You can always make changes to your plans if there is availability, but it is best to make those reservations ASAP so you don’t miss out on a park you want to go to. Some may feel this extra step is just one more thing to deal with, and although that’s true, I have to say, we enjoyed knowing that the capacity of the parks was limited & controlled.
As has become common practice nearly everywhere these days, Disney World does require that all patrons & cast members wear appropriate face coverings at all times unless you are eating or drinking while stationary. For us, we anticipated this requirement was going to be the hardest part of the trip. We were mostly concerned about the Florida heat, but we came prepared with multiple masks for each person each day so we could change our mask throughout the day for any reason (i.e. sweat soaks through, you drop it on the floor, etc.). Although we were initially worried about this, we didn’t have much trouble at all with our masks. You get used to it pretty fast & knowing that everyone else is in the same boat somehow makes it not that big of a deal. In fact, face coverings are becoming fashion accessories at Disney with a lot of cute options, so it can even be a bit fun as you personalize them for yourself. If you do end up needing a break, there are what they call “Relaxation Stations” throughout the park & they are meant to be a place where you can take off your mask for a bit of a break. You need to stay in the designated area, but you’re welcome to take a break as needed. I will say, if you are going to purchase masks for the occasion, make sure you wear it a few times before coming to the parks. Reason being, not all masks fit the same & you may think it’s cute, but it hurts your ears, or it rubs your face in an odd place, etc. Know what you’re getting yourself into before committing to wearing a mask all day that doesn’t feel good. Once you’ve found what works for you, make sure wash them before your trip so you can start out with a clean mask every day. You may not think you can wear a mask all day at the parks, but barring medical issues that prevent you from wearing one, I promise you really can do it with a bit of planning & preparation.
Prior to entering any of the parks or Disney Springs, guests are required to have their temperature taken via a touchless thermometer administered by AdventHealth employees. You must have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or less to enter. While this process may seem intimidating, it was honestly no big deal. Everyone we interacted with during this process was quick & professional. I personally didn’t witness anyone getting pulled aside because their temperature was too high. I’m sure it happens, but we didn’t witness it. For me, it was one more level of protection. We knew that everyone in those parks was not currently showing a temperature. While that’s not a guarantee they aren’t sick, it’s a good indicator & it was comforting to know that piece was in place. It took literally seconds to do & then we moved on with our day as normal.
Disney’s social distancing protocol is probably my favorite part of their safety procedures. I’m the type who likes my personal space bubble, so I enjoyed staying away from other people. They work really hard to keep parties at least 6 feet away from each other in all queues and public spaces using markers on the ground along with empty seats on buses & attractions. They also have plexiglass & various barriers put in place when social distancing is not possible. Honestly, it’s awesome. If you’re like me & don’t want others in your personal space bubble even when there isn’t a pandemic, it’s the best thing Disney has ever done. I will say, due to the distancing, sometimes it looks like the lines are ridiculously long because not everyone can fit in the traditional queue when you have to keep that much space between groups, but the lines all moved pretty quickly & we never waited more than an hour in line for anything. Most of what we rode didn’t have lines more than 30 minutes long. And bonus! You don’t end up brushing up against sweaty strangers. Oh, and not getting COVID. That’s good too.
Sanitizer & Washing stations
At the entrance & exit of all rides, stores, restaurants, etc. you will find automatic hand sanitizer dispensers. They are literally everywhere & from what I observed, most people were using them as they went past. Knowing that I could sanitize going in & out of places, especially after rides where you know someone else has touched the same seat belt, etc., was really reassuring & we took full advantage. Additionally, there were also a number of temporary hand washing stations throughout the park & announcements were made regularly that included a reminder to wash your hands. In the bathrooms, there were signs reminding people to wash for 20 seconds. It has definitely become a priority for the company & we appreciated it because although we can’t make other people use them, we knew we could use them & protect ourselves. Just one more thing that doesn’t take any extra time or effort on our part, but gave us some peace of mind.
Enhanced cleaning procedures
Occasionally, we would notice the queue of a ride stop for a few minutes. We learned that it was during these times that the ride operators were cleaning the ride vehicles. They were quick & efficient & it never slowed us down much. In fact, it was just one more thing that made our experience more comfortable. We also witnessed cast members disinfecting tables & chairs between uses, railings being sanitized, garbage cans tied open & many other procedures that made it obvious they were trying their best to keep everything as clean as possible.
Food & Beverage
Eating is one of our favorite parts of vacation & with the International Food & Wine Festival currently happening at Epcot, we definitely ate a lot. For sit-down restaurants, they are requiring you wear your mask if you’re not sitting at your table. All servers had masks & face shields & would “refill” your drink by bringing you a new glass. They also provided the check in a paper sleeve that could be recycled after use. Overall, we were very impressed with how they managed sit-down dining. Quick Service dining was done almost exclusively through the My Disney Experience app. You would order through the app, they give you a return time, you let them know when you’re there, and they prepare your meal for pick-up. This really reduced contact with cast members & other guests in line & it was easy to use. The only food providers not using online ordering were the small food stalls & carts. For those, they encouraged contactless payment & all cast members were wearing masks & face shields along with being behind plexiglass. Overall, I felt confident in how they were handling our food & at no point did I find myself worrying about it.
Shopping & Pin Trading
Some of the best-loved past times at Disney are of course, shopping & pin trading. There are gift shops at the exit of every ride & pretty much everywhere in between. In the stores, social distancing is encouraged & the queue lines & cashiers follow the same guidelines as they do everywhere else. Additionally, they have signs posted throughout the store asking people to limit their handling of product for the safety of everyone. Pin trading has evolved a bit more during these times. Now instead of cast members wearing lanyards, you’ll find them in specific areas with cork boards filled with pins. They have a box you can put the pin you’re trading in & then you tell the cast member which pin on the board you want & they will give it to you. It’s a bit different than before, but the point is, you can still do it & it is significantly safer for everyone.
Overall, we were impressed & pleased with the efforts Disney is taking to keep their guests & patrons safe. Is it foolproof? No, nothing is. But we feel they are doing things to the best of their ability. Ultimately, all travelers, no matter where you go, need to remember that you are responsible for your own safety. The company can do everything that’s listed above, but you’re responsible for your own actions. Choose to follow their guidelines, be courteous of others, wear your mask, wash your hands & recognize your safety is ultimately on you. Use the tools provided & keep yourself safe. If you’re wanting to visit & you feel comfortable doing so, then we believe you’ll find it to still be a wonderful and magical place. To request a quote for your next Walt Disney World vacation, visit our website: http://woodbreyfamilytravel.com/getaquote.php