Should I Become a Travel Companion?
Travel companions accompany travelers to provide assistance, nursing care, and supervision, or just to provide companionship. Minimally, these companions may provide an additional driver for long road trips. In many cases, they accompany elderly travelers or children to provide assistance or supervision on domestic flights.
In some cases, particularly for disabled travelers, these professionals accompany an individual for the entire trip and provide personal care, including bathing and assisting with bathroom, dressing, and mobility issues. Individuals with medical conditions may hire a medical travel companion to assist with medical issues during trips. Accompanying others as a companion may require patience and empathy in situations that may cause stress for the travelers. PayScale.com reported a median annual wage of $26,400 for companions in January 2016.
|Degree Level||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field(s)||Nursing, teaching, or child care|
|Licensure and/or Certification||License or certification required for medical companions|
|Experience||Travel experience; experience in caring for specific client needs, including caring for children, disabled, elderly, medical issues, or travel anxiety|
|Key Skills||Compassion, patience, ability to adapt, physical stamina, ability to travel on short notice|
|Salary*||$26,400 (2016 median for companions)|
Sources: *PayScale.com, travel companion service providers, travel companion job listings (November 2012)
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Steps to Become a Travel Companion
Let's take a look at the steps to become a travel companion.
Step 1: Research the Career
Depending on the needs of the traveler, a companion may need previous experience as an airline professional or have a background in healthcare, experience in childcare, experience caring for disabled persons, or simply experience traveling worldwide. As a travel companion, one must be comfortable with assisting those with disabilities, the elderly, those with travel anxiety, or juveniles. The companion must be able to meet the specific needs each individual requires. Travel companions have the opportunity to travel nationwide or internationally and must be comfortable with all that traveling entails.
Many travel companions find travel companion jobs through listings on travel sites, job advertisements, and in personal ads. Risks are associated with finding positions this way, including a lack of background checks and that the client may be seeking personal escort services rather than a legitimate travel companion. Some travel companion website exchange services purport to match travelers and companions based on personality profiles. The traveler and the companion negotiate their own terms for the travel companion's services.
- Put the terms in writing. The best way to ensure that no misunderstandings regarding travel companion services occur is to put the payment terms and services required in contract form, which both parties sign.
Step Two: Complete Healthcare Training
Travel companions hired for medical reasons typically need to have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, an associate degree in nursing, or a nursing diploma. These degrees can take anywhere from 2-4 years to earn. Some of the coursework required for this career path may include anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and pharmacology. After earning a degree in nursing, one must pass a national licensing exam to be able to legally practice as a nurse. Other healthcare backgrounds that are appropriate for travel companions include training as a certified medical assistant or paramedic.
Step Three: Meet Experience and Skill Requirements
When a travel companion is needed to assist an individual for medical reasons, the companion must have skills that enable him or her to observe varying health conditions, record and monitor vital signs, and stabilize the traveler and safely move him or her from one location to the next. Disabled travelers have special needs that the travel companion will be expected to address with compassion and discretion, such as assisting the client with personal care and mobility issues. When supervising children, the companion may have to keep the children occupied and ensure they are not disruptive while keeping them safe.
A travel companion must have organizational skills, be sympathetic and caring, and enjoy establishing relationships with a diverse group of individuals. Companions are generally expected to carry the client's luggage, to deal with interruptions and delays in travel itineraries and make alternate arrangements, to keep the client's host or family at the destination apprised of the client's status, and to make the client's trip as pleasant and stress-free as possible.
Step Four: Apply for a Position with a Travel Companion Service Company
Some legitimate companies provide travel companion services. By obtaining a position with one of these service providers, travel companions can ensure the clients they will be accompanying have been screened and will want only legitimate services from the travel companion. Clients are similarly reassured that the companion has undergone a thorough background check, has references, may be insured, and is held accountable by the agency that employs the companion.
Step Five: Obtain Marketable Credentials for Career Advancement
Jobs with travel companion service companies are highly competitive. Therefore, candidates should be sure their experience and credentials give them a competitive edge. Having cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support (BLS) certifications will provide an edge, as will a history of extensive travel experience. A clean criminal record is vital, as are a positive attitude and an ability to respond calmly in stressful situations. Keep nursing and other medical licenses or certifications current.
The requirements to become a travel companion vary based on your chosen position, so you'll need to acquire any required education and licensing or certification required for the path you choose.