When a Bad Travel Experience Sticks

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
I recently returned from a week-long trip to Orlando with my wife and three kids, spending a couple of days at local theme parks before attending a conference there. From a customer experience standpoint, the trip was a mix of highs and lows.

I recently returned from a week-long trip to Orlando with my wife and three kids, spending a couple of days at local theme parks before attending a conference there. From a customer experience standpoint, the trip was a mix of highs and lows.The biggest "low" occurred within the first few hours of the trip. Anyone who has traveled with kids can relate to their sense of excitement over the upcoming adventures at hand. Conversely, kids have little patience for the inconveniences that can crop up on a trip. It's even worse when complications arise that can be avoided.

The flight to Orlando went smooth. We intentionally selected JetBlue as our carrier for the trip thanks to other favorable experiences we've had flying with them. The seating is comfortable with plenty of space and its satellite TV service is great for keeping kids occupied.

After my family and I arrived in Orlando and fetched our luggage, we were seemingly within reach of fun and sun when we suddenly hit a roadblock with our rental car. After waiting a half hour on line as an Avis counter because they couldn't find my Avis Preferred number in the system with my reservation, we were told that we'd have to wait indefinitely for our car to be delivered from the other side of the airport. I was informed that the delay was due to construction taking place at the airport and that it took extra time to move cars from one side of the airport to the terminal where we were located.

Besides being miffed, I was puzzled by the delay. Avis knew - or at least it should have anticipated - that we'd be arriving at 11 a.m. Applying that logic, the car should've been brought to the garage across the street from the rental counter by the time of our scheduled arrival. But that didn't happen.

Instead, we waited for another 45 minutes. With the kids whining and my wife becoming more exasperated by the minute, suffice it to say that it wasn't a good start to the trip.
But once the car arrived, the situation improved. We had no issues at the first hotel we stayed an (an Embassy Suites, which provided us all a full complimentary breakfast the next morning, a nice perk). We were forced to stay at three different hotels during the trip because the conference hotel could only accommodate us for the last three nights of the trip due to high occupancy. No worries. In fact, they had referred us to a nearby property (The Reunion Hotel) where we were upgraded to a three-bedroom, three-bath villa with a full kitchen at no additional charge, thanks to the efforts of a friendly agent who checked us in there.

My only regret with The Reunion was that we didn't get to stay there longer. The accommodations were extremely comfortable and the property included multiple pools and a water park, all of which were baked into a very reasonable rate. After two nights of dining in and having plenty of elbow room, we all suffered a bit of a culture shock when we checked into the conference hotel and had to squeeze into a one-room rectangle with the five of us wedged into two double beds and a cot.

The third hotel, The Omni Resort at Champions Gate, was OK in terms of our experiences there. The property was very nice and there was a lazy river for the kids to enjoy. But there were a few glitches during our stay, including some toiletries that were inadvertently discarded by the cleaning staff which were later replaced. We also had to wait four hours to check into our room due to high occupancy. I should say I waited four hours - my wife and kids took off for Universal Islands of Adventure at my suggestion. There was no sense in all of us having to wait it out. Besides, I was able to work from the hotel lobby despite sporadic wireless Internet access issues until the room was finally ready.

All in all it was a good trip. But the issues with Avis continue to gnaw at me like a Florida mosquito bite. I'm questioning the value of remaining as an Avis Preferred customer. I'd grown accustomed to speedy check-ins. On the flip side, I've already begun to recommend The Reunion Hotel to all my friends and family after our visit there.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION