Girl smiling on a sunny, windy day

Travel Companion More Details

We are looking for individuals with heart and compassion who want to help make the Travelers’ dreams happen.

Travel Companions are Essential

Our Travelers are individuals who would never be able to take the kind of vacations we offer on their own. They sometimes require direction, supervision and assistance throughout the day, depending on their abilities. To ensure that each Traveler has an adequate amount of attention – without our Travel Companions getting overwhelmed – we maintain a Traveler-to-Staff ratio of no more than 4:1. During the day when we’re operating as a large group, all staff pitch in to help any Traveler who needs assistance. This includes normal daily activities such as:

  • Prompting every 1.5-2 hours to use the bathroom, helping them find it if necessary
  • Staying together as a group and making sure nobody wanders off
  • Guiding at attractions, assisting during hands-on activities
  • Helping with food selection at restaurants as needed
  • Helping pick out souvenirs, finding the right size clothing items. At each store Travel Companions will have the current balance amount for travelers we are holding money for.
  • Assisting with daily cares at hotels for their assigned group of 3-4 individual Travelers.

 

Can I be a Travel Companion if I Don’t Have Any Experience?

Absolutely! Your responsibility (and ours) is to make sure the Travelers stay safe, stay with group, and that their care needs are met. You’ll enjoy all the attractions, sights and shows – all while assisting the Travelers.

To give you an extra boost of confidence that you’ll be adequately qualified to be a Travel Companion, it may be helpful to understand the level of training the staff at the Group Homes where many of our Traveler’s live undergo in order to work there. Most of the Group Home staff are neither nurses nor nurse’s aides (except in high-care facilities requiring 1:1 attention). They do not hold special certifications or training. The basic requirements are a high school diploma, and the training consists of watching some videos before their first day on the job. Their first day involves shadowing and observing a staff member. On Day 2, they will serve in the primary care roll while a trainer shadows them. On Day 3, they are on their own!

Petting a penguin
What our Travel Companions are saying:
"The excitement, joy, and enthusiasm displayed by the travelers during trips is priceless ... the busy schedule on our Branson trip brought many laughs, great food and provided wonderful memories for both travelers and Travel Companions. Lexi and Tom are true blessings offering such wonderful opportunities for such special people." ​ – Mary

Being a Successful Travel Companion

The biggest requirements for this position are the intangibles we mentioned: a big heart – caring for the travelers and ensuring they have a great time – compassion and patience. Everything else can be taught. Each trip has an abundant supply of experienced staff who’ve been in the field and/or on past trips, who can guide you and get you up to speed.

Before the trip you will have the opportunity to watch some training videos that cover the information you will need.  On the trip you are not responsible for luggage, traveler medicine or traveler spending money.

Head Travel Companions are individuals who have been on multiple trips and have learned our processes and procedures.  They have then volunteered to also assist new Travel Companions.  A Head Travel Companion will be on hand to guide you on the trip, answer any questions you may have, and is readily available to assist.

 

What Are the Risks Involved? What Could Go Wrong?

While we would never guarantee that nothing would ever go wrong, we would not consider this a high-risk environment. Special Journeys has operated vacations for 20 years and we have developed the processes and procedures necessary to keep everyone safe. This a relatively stress-free environment as long as the staff remains mindful of things like:

  • Travelers may have some medical conditions related to their disability. This is a fact of life, not a specific risk in working with special needs.
  • Seizures are the most common medical issue that may arise, but even these are rare. Special Journeys goes multiple trips without anyone experiencing a seizure, and the small percentage of Travelers that have them have medicine to control them. There are two types of seizures:
  • Petit mal (aka absence seizure) – involves a brief, sudden lapse of consciousness that may last a few seconds. These are not dangerous at all, and are often mistaken for a brief lapse in attention.
  • Grand mal – typically involves a short loss of consciousness, combined with muscle convulsions, that usually lasts less than 2 to 3 minutes. The important thing here is just keep them safe during the seizure.  There is nothing else that can be done besides watching that the seizure does not last longer than 5 minutes.
  • Other than medical conditions, there may be occasional behavioral issues. We have attempted to limit these instances by establishing a strict Criteria for Travel, which controls who we take on trips (in terms of behaviors and medical needs).
What our Travel Companions are saying:

"To go on tour with Lexi and Tom catches your heart to the motto of their life and their beautiful business. Yes, for most of us that assist in the field of Developmental Disabilities, this is a way of life. It is not a job. Our Heavenly Father put these two in my life, for which I am and will be forever grateful. They both have become my friends, and I would do anything to help their dreams become mine."

– Mindy

Tourists petting Reindeer

I’m Worried About My Personal Liability – What if Something Happens?

You are not going to hurt a Traveler, so that’s not something to worry about. We’ve been doing this for 20 years and have developed the processes & procedures necessary to keep everyone safe.

  • For the Travelers, health issues are covered via insurance through Medicare and Medicaid
  • The Travel Companions, Special Journeys – and its related companies –are covered by insurance in the unlikely event something happens.
  • There is a 32-page Agreement & Release document for the Travelers that covers everything we’ve learned and encountered in 20 years.
  • We’ve developed extensive in-house custom software. This software helps us prepare for the trip, and produces all the documents we need to reference on trips to safely care for Travelers (such as care needs, medications, food allergies, etc.). We also use our software to safely and quickly do things like assign hotel rooms, manage Traveler spending money, and take food orders while automatically taking into account traveler special food needs & restrictions.
  • For all 20 years in operation, Special Journeys has had an attorney/Tour Leader on the trips. Our two tour leaders personally lead each trip. Together they have developed all of our on-trip policies and procedures. Our Tour Leaders are fully hands-on during the trips, so you should have complete peace of mind as a Travel Companion.

 

Our Battle-Tested Processes & Procedures

Our organization that has been leading chaperoned vacations for 20 years, with Tour Leaders who have almost 400 trips under their belt. We have well-honed processes and procedures developed over two decades for specific types of trips (bus, flight, cruise) and situations. We believe that if we plan for the 95% of what we can pre-plan for, we’ll be prepared for the 5% of situations we can’t anticipate.

We use custom software to prepare for trips, and supply our Travel Companions with all Traveler-related information needed to make the trips run smoothly. Our software tracks each Travelers’ medications, specialty food requirements or allergies, medical conditions to be alert for, and even spending money. In short, you will have a full scouting report on all the individual needs of each Traveler so there is never any guesswork.

The Travel Companion program is operated by the Special Journeys Travel Companion Association. Learn more at www.sjtravelcompanions.org/