I’ve always been ineligible for residencies. Either I haven’t published enough, I don’t have enough professional contacts in the industry to give me letters of recommendation, or, well, I just don’t publish that often, which immediately disqualifies me for severely competitive residencies. I did attend a few writers retreats, but that was for like a weekend, and under a scholarship. I have always loved the appeal of residencies because they would, quite literally, give me space and time to write or touch up my many works in progress.
I’ve applied to several residencies, certainly. Many residencies don’t have the necessary accommodations for me, including the fact that most won’t even let a personal care assistant, PCA, in with me if I was accepted. Usually, these residencies are kind of out in the middle of nowhere, in an inaccessible structure, so I’d hunt for a residency that caters to disabled authors but they’d only dabble in poetry, or only be for pay with no scholarships or the residency would need to close/shut down because they didn’t get the necessary funding to keep it going among many other reasons why I just haven’t found a solid disability centric residency for me.
Recently I started looking into travel agents more and more to plan my own writing residency. Some, actually, almost everyone, says that travel agents are obsolete. They aren’t necessary for traveling domestically. They are a waste of money, and many people just don’t understand the point of using a travel agent when there are so many sites to find cheap hotels, and flights, and more.
A travel agent can do so much more for you than just find deals. There are a few things that travel agents can do for you as a disabled writer, especially if you’re a fiction writer that requires a lot of research for your manuscripts.
They do all the research for you. They scour deals, openings, attractions, and prices for you and then they just lay all of that information out in a single email, ready for you to make a decision. This includes activities or events. If you want to get some research done, you can actually use a travel agent to plan in person literary research while on your trip. They usually plan vacations, and they usually specialize in certain industries, so if your research involves traveling to an international country to experience culture, they will be your best guide. Their ability will be the best way to make sure you aren’t wandering another country without anything to do. This could be a part of your research, experiencing the culture.
The same works domestically as well. They can research domestically for you while you don’t have to spend hours doing research. I know I didn’t want to spend hours doing research on accessible hotels near me, so I went looking for a travel agent that specializes in disability travel.
They can ensure that check in, and otherwise, is all taken care of. They can even contact hotel managers to get you an accessible floor plan of the hotel, as was with my DIY writer’s residency.
They can keep exact records of client bookings, such as payments, travel dates, flight numbers, and hotel check-in and check-out dates as well as oversee any travel issues that arise, including flight or hotel cancellations, delays, conflicts, and refunds. For example, if the price drops after You’ve booked a room or experience, they will automatically apply that cheaper rate to your purchase, so you get a discount without you having to monitor everything.
In my case, I knew I was going to want to have a hotel stay for three weeks so I told my travel agent to also send me all the restaurant menus in the hotel. This way, I didn’t have to fumble around an inaccessible website. Because my agent specialized in disability travel, she manually transcribed any menus that weren’t accessible.
Travel agents can do so much more for disabled writers in general. Travel agents get paid via commission, mostly. Because my agent specializes in cruises, mostly, aside from disability travel, she gets a lot of cruise commission. There are agents that charge a planning fee, but I’ve found the ones that do are planning ongoing, luxury, experiences and daily activities. The agent I used didn’t have a planning fee when I used her but still, it’s always good to ask up front if they have a planning fee. Most don’t charge a planning fee.
I wanted to make a weekend DIY writers residency, so I told my agent to find hotels with Onsight restaurants and accessible rooms. I chose a hotel because I’d get housekeeping and so much more instead of just a rented house to stay in with nobody there.
Thanks to my ongoing financial supporters, I paid for my full stay up front, and then, I had a very epic weekend of writing, having food served to me, and I got some major writing accomplished. Even though I didn’t meet other writers on this DIY writers retreat/residency, I did find a travel agent that will certainly be my go to if I ever want to plan another one.
The travel agent I used was Katie White of Magical Moments Vacations. Book a travel agent at Magical Moments Vacations here.