Advisors often need to put on their educator hats and teach their clients about the world – and sometimes, that includes giving them a much-needed geography lesson.
We asked advisors: What is the most embarrassing geography lesson you’ve had to give? By far the most common response we received was “No, you cannot drive to Hawaii.” Others ranged from “No, you can’t cruise from Texas to Alaska” to confusion about which European countries are accessible by train and cities with similar names.
Here’s what travel advisors said were their clients’ most cringe-worthy geographic mix-ups.
Where is Hawaii?
Apparently many clients over the years have been slow to realize that Hawaii is an island – or, if they did know it’s an island, still believed you could drive there via a bridge or drive between the Hawaiian Islands on bridges (those don't exist!)
Out of the 60 travel advisors who responded to our poll, 16 of them mentioned that they’ve had at least one client (or hopeful clients) who didn’t realize that Hawaii is a U.S. state and/or that it takes about six hours to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii.
"You cannot take a train from California to Hawaii." -Peggy Dawson, Cruise Planners, Massachusetts
"A potential client called and said she wanted to go to Hawaii by train. She said she read an article saying that train travel is the best way to travel. I explained that she might be able to take a train to the west coast but she would get really wet after that. (I thought she was kidding) She got annoyed and told me that the article she read said that travel agents don't like to book train travel and obviously they were right!" -Katherine Schutte, Magical Castle Vacations, Spencer, NY
"One client thought they could drive to Hawaii (they swore to me there was a bridge as they saw it in a movie). I told them they might have confused it with the causeway road/bridge that goes to Key West featured on True Lies." -Toni Lanotte Day, Toni Tours Inc, Daytona Beach, FL
Seven respondents’ answers were about clients not knowing where they could cruise to and from. Though it should come as no surprise that you need ocean (or a river) to sail on, some clients are unsure where exactly those bodies of water are.
"For me, it's a tie between 2 different questions, but I've actually had both questions more than once! I've had multiple clients tell me that they wanted to take a cruise from the Midwest. Travelers from states bordering the Great Lakes apparently think that they can get a Caribbean cruise from there! In 20+ years in the business, I've had to explain to more than one client that there is absolutely NO possible way to sail from Michigan to the Caribbean! Similarly, I've had clients from the east coast insist that they wanted to take a cruise from NYC to Alaska. Sigh, we really should spend more time teaching geography in American schools." -Wiletra Burwell, Genesis Travel Group Dream Vacations, North Carolina
"I had to explain to a client from Idaho who wanted to take a Caribbean cruise and who didn't want to travel by plane that she couldn't have the cruise ship 'pick her up' in Boise." -Mindy Livingston, Belle Meade Vacations, Nashville
"I had a client book a cruise out of Baltimore. They lived in Minneapolis. In MINNESOTA. They asked if the ship would be sailing anywhere near Minneapolis so that they could board closer to home. I had to explain that no, there are no cruise ports anywhere in Minnesota (not to mention no OCEAN). That cracked me up for days." -Julie Vowell, Dream Vacations, Houston
How far is far?
In a few other cases, clients have greatly miscalculated how far away certain countries are and the time it takes to get there.
"To tell a client he needed a plane to get to New Zealand, he couldn't drive there with his friend." - Jacky Keith, Esplanade Travel, Boston, MA
"I had a girl trying to book her honeymoon and all she had was 5 days for the trip. After several discussions she drops that she really wants to do the Maldives and I had to explain that she would only get at the most 1 day there due to the flights and then change in hemispheres. She thought it was like a 4 hour plane ride there and back from Texas." - Sherrill Schier, 2 World Travels, Texas
Brooklyn, … Michigan?
There are lots of different places that share either the same or very similar names. It's always wise to double-check that your clients know exactly where they want to go.
"Teaching a client that it is important to give a full destination name, especially when some places have the same exact name. One example was when a client wanted to travel from their office in Dallas, Texas to Brooklyn and so we booked him and his colleagues on an AA flight to JFK. When he got the flight information, he only then mentioned it was to Brooklyn, Michigan and everything flight had to be canceled and rebooked. I explained to him that when most people say Brooklyn, it is meant as Brooklyn, New York." - Abe Korn, Travel Lines Express, Long Island, NY.
"My client was booked on a short cruise from Miami to the Bahamas, and one of the ports of call was Nassau. She wondered if by chance there was going to be a space shuttle launch while she was in port. I had to explain to her that she was going the Nassau, Bahamas, and the space shuttles were located at NASA, in Port Canaveral Florida. She had no idea they were different places." -Hollis Davis, Travel and Cruise Desk, Lake Oswego, Oregon
"In December 2007, a client came in to book a vacation. 'I want to go to Rangoon' he said emphatically. 'Why in the world Rangoon' I asked. 'I think I’d like the beach' he said, to which I replied, 'What beach?' 'And, I want to see the pyramid' he continued. 'You mean the Golden Temple' I retorted. 'Yes, I guess.' he said. 'You are aware there is a lot of civil unrest going on there right now' I cautioned. 'Yes, no problem, my friends just returned real tanned and they loved it,' he replied. Further back and forth only confirmed he was broadcasting on AM and I had tuned in on FM. Finally, it dawned on me. 'Ok, so you want to go to Cancun!' 'Yes, that’s where I want to go, to Cancun.'" -Norm Payne, Ottawa, Canada.
Europe: Not a single land mass
Of course, many Americans get confused about where European countries are located and how to navigate between them.
"Advising clients they needed flights, could not travel from Dublin to London by train. They did not realize there was a body of water separating Ireland and Great Britain. They assumed there was a 'chunnel,' like from London to Paris" -Anonymous
"Probably the craziest request was for a client that was in Rome who wanted to drive to Barcelona for the day to see La Sagrada Familia and then to drive back to Rome to their hotel that evening. It might look like 3" on a map but the distance is really far!" -Michael Figueiredo, Montecito Village Travel / StruxTravel LLC, San Diego
Not all popular tourism destinations are on the coastline...
"A client requested a 5* Hotel in Scottsdale, AZ. He wanted assurance he would have a spectacular oceanfront room on a walkable beach. I explained that sand would not be a problem, as Arizona is a 'Sandy state' due to its 4 deserts. 'Oceanfront' 'Ocean' and 'walkable beach' will definitely be lacking. I sent him to Hawaii!!" - Bonnie Levinson, Direct Travel, Montreal
"I'll never forget the client that wanted us to book his visit to Rome and absolutely insisted on an ocean view room, and then got angry when trying to explain it to him and not insult his intelligence, which is what he then accused me of doing." -Dan Ilves, TravelStore, Los Angeles