Airline Travel Tips for Disabled Passengers

I had to dig deep to find information about airline travel tips for disabled passengers. There didn’t seem to be a “one stop” source even though thousands of passengers with disabilities fly each year. The U.S. Department of Transportation has information on the Air Carrier Act as it pertains to passengers with disabilities. What I needed to know for my flight from Raleigh to Alaska was what help is available, how to access it and who to call.

My disabilities aren’t necessarily obvious. The leg brace I wear for foot drop keeps me upright but my balance is wonky. It also eliminates the chance that I’ll set a speed record. Directions confuse me thanks to a head injury and there’s epilepsy to be concerned about! I say this because sometimes people who have hidden disabilities hesitate to ask for help for fear of not being taken seriously. Put that aside. Airline travel is a time to be proactive. These resources exist because they are needed.

The TSA has help for disabled passengers in the form of a Passenger Support Specialist. This person will meet you at the security checkpoint and walk you through the whole process. The specialists move you to the head of the line because they know it may take an extra few minutes to get you screened.

alaska air jetI was concerned about lifting my carry-on bag onto the conveyor belt because of a shoulder problem. No worries. The TSA specialist not only lifted it onto the belt but helped me put everything into the bins. She even put me at ease about being unable to take off my shoe because of the leg brace.  The specialist explained about checking me with a wand and waited for me to emerge from the big scanning machine.

Steps (even small ones) are not my strong suit. The specialist went for a chair the second that she saw me wobble and genuinely asked if I was okay. Another agent offered to carry my bins and suitcase to the repacking area when she was finished. He even put the empty bins back in the rack for me!

The passenger support specialist was also helpful because of my medications. I travel with what seems like a small pharmacy. The TSA has to check all my bottles, my inhalers and nebulizer to be sure everything is safe fly. Because of this, the person I was assigned to was a medication specialist. She quickly looked over my medications and cleared them.

Email TSA Cares  or call (855) 787-2227 Federal Relay: 711 to arrange for assistance. They ask for 72 hours advance notice. Their hours are:
Weekdays: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET
Weekends/Holidays: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET

TSA PreCheck membership is a service I found out about only after it was too late to apply. Applying online only takes a few minutes and $85.00. But, then you have to schedule an in-person interview that includes a background check and screening. You’ll receive what’s called a Known Traveler Number later. I was told to allow a month to six weeks for processing.

Once approved, members are expedited through the screening process. You won’t need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. Although it may be tempting not to arrange for a passenger support specialist, it may be wise to think again. TSA doesn’t  guarantee PreCheck service to be available all the time and says that no individual is guaranteed expedited screening. In fact, my bodacious travel companion had to go through the regular process despite having the membership. For these reasons disabled passengers may still want to set up with a program support specialist.

tsa notification cardThe TSA Notification Card is a helpful tool that allows you to quietly notify the agents of any challenges you have that can affect your screening. It’s a small card that you print out at home and bring with you. There is an area for you to type in any disability or medical condition that can affect screening.

I placed mine in the first bin so each agent could see it as the bins worked their way on the conveyor belt. The card seemed to make a difference even with the other assistance.
Your airline will also have help for passengers with disabilities. Call the customer service number for your airline to make arrangements. Alaska Airlines had wheelchair assistance ready for me on each leg of the journey. I never would have made the connection in Seattle without them! Keep some cash handy to tip with if the airline arranges for wheelchair assistance. Each one seemed to appreciate the tip I gave them.

Most airlines allow you have a carry-on bag and a personal item. They may or may not help you stow them. For example, Alaska Air says passengers must be able to lift your own bag into the overhead bin. I found that other passengers were willing to help but there’s no guarantees. Check with your airline in advance and plan accordingly.

Early boarding is available for passengers who have disabilities as well as for priority customers and parents traveling with children. The gate attendant with your airline will call for people who are eligible for early boarding to step forward but may not specifically call for people who have disabilities to do so. If you hear the airline employee call for either of the other groups, take that as your cue to step up as well.

These are the airline travel tips for disabled passengers that I was able to find and used. Flights can be challenging but they don’t have to be. These services enabled me to have a much better flying experience and reduced my air travel anxiety.

Follow us on Instagram

Where is the best place to see photos of our travels? It’s Instagram hands down.

I combine these Instagram shots with journal notes to give you a better sense of place and time. The Instagram photos are also frequently geo-tagged for location.

You can think of my feed as a travel based stream of consciousness. There is a chronological order but the posts may keep appearing even after the trip has concluded.

There are a couple of reasons for this…

1. I want to give you an overall look at what a city, town or location has to offer. It may take more than a couple of days to show that even with this blog and associated YouTube footage.

2. It can get creepy. Right now I have a combined aggregate of around 16,000 followers on all my social media accounts. I am grateful for each and every one of you. But, do you really want to know my tracked every move?

No, I didn’t think so either. 🙂

There are a couple of different ways that you can follow me. The first is to follow my url of http://www.instagram.com/gaylevlogs The other way is to go to Instagram and follow the hashtag #BeBodacious Each of my posts have this tag. As people join our community and use the hashtag, you’ll be able to follow some of their posts as well.

Whatever method you choose there is something to keep in mind. Always, #BeBodacious. Don’t let life get in the way of living.

See you on the road! 🙂

Musings from Turnigan Arm on the Gulf of Alaska

It’s a disability, not a roadblock.

I was feeling philosophical after leaving the Alpine Bakery. We drove up to check out Alyeska Resort. It was snowy and our rental car had problems making it so we turned around. This sign greeted us at the bottom of the hill. We could either go right or left. Pushing forward wasn’t an option.

Having a disability is like that too. Although not true, being disabled is often seen as a dead end by other people. We may do things differently but that’s okay.

Winter trip to Alaska on  last minute travel

I’m taking a winter trip to Alaska in February. A last minute travel deal lowers the prices to a fraction of the cost of a summer trip. Despite the cold weather, Alaska can be just as exciting in winter as summer.

Alaska Airlines offered a last minute trip that was too good to pass up. Adding to the excitement is that the Alaska Airlines fare sale was timed to coincide with peak chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

With the fare sale I snagged discounted airfare for $350 round trip. This is main cabin fare instead of saver tickets with insurance from Raleigh-Durham airport to Anchorage (one of the closest airports to me now).

In contrast, my church mission team paid $600 for round trip tickets from Atlanta to Anchorage in summer 2019. This was economy / saver fare and without insurance.

What are things to do in Alaska in winter? Assuming you are flying into Anchorage you have the opportunity to…

Turnigan Arm

See the Northern Lights

Go to Turnigan Arm on the Gulf of Alaska

Visit the museums

See Earthquake Park. This free city park tells the story of damage incurred during Good Friday Earthquake.

It is important to buy good winter gear before going to Alaska. Generally, temperatures are milder in Anchorage than at Denali than in Fairbanks but can still hover around zero. There is also more daylight in the southern parts of the state than farther north.

Winter gear is often on sale this time of year. Stores are starting to stock for spring. I was able to get ski bibs from Amazon for $38 and change. A much lower price than just a couple of weeks ago. https://amzn.to/2uzI9Jc

Another thing about Alaska is that everything is weather dependant. Always. No matter what the season. The weather can be unpredictable. Keep an eye on the forecast in summer or winter in Alaska.

The budget is adding up. With the discounted airfare sale on American Airlines, I’m confident that this may be a cheap trip to Alaska. Maybe even the cheapest trip I’ve ever made.

Matanuska Glacier

Check back in late February for the final total and (hopefully) some really cool pictures of the northern lights.

Travel Tuesday Trivia and Tips

Good news! We are starting a new series on our YouTube channel! The series is going to be called Travel Tuesday Trivia. Each week at 10:00 am Eastern (9:00 am Central) we’ll be discussing places that I’ve been. There will be questions and shoutouts but a lot of information that will help make your trip planning more successful. Plus, since most of the shows are live, you’ll be able to ask your travel – related questions.

What types of subjects will the new series cover? Our first show is one example.

The fascinating state of Alabama was our topic. Did you know that the state has no national parks? They do have a series of national monuments, trails and historic sites. You’ve probably heard the saying “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead“, but did you know that it came about because of the Civil War era Battle of Mobile Bay?

Fort Morgan fell into Union hands as a result of the battle and siege. It is located on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. We discussed the location, fort’s hours of operation, fee and some of Fort Morgan’s amenities.

We had lot of fun with our Travel Tuesday Trivia. It’s a Bodacious Livestream that you won’t want to miss. Join us at www.youtube.com/gaylecrabtree on Tuesdays at 10:00 am Eastern.

Like this article? Check out these on our Bodacious Broads Travel Blog
How to survive a holiday road trip with your sanity intact

Me, my service dog and a cross-continent road trip to Alaska

Harvest Host offers free overnight camping at unique locations

 

How to survive a holiday road trip with your sanity intact

There is nothing like a holiday road trip to bring out the very best and worst of the season. There is plenty that can make a parent stressed out and overwhelmed. Kids that are on break have stored up energy to release. Lines for gas and lunch can be long. Restaurants can be crowded. There is plenty that can make a parent stressed out and overwhelmed.

I frequently saw parents and children who were stressed out by the travel experience when I worked in the hotel industry. These tips can help you survive a Thanksgiving road trip with your sanity intact.

1. Slow down

Expect an increased police presence on the road on Thanksgiving and major holidays. They know that people will be hurrying to get to Grandma’s. The added pressure can cause people to exceed the speed limit who might not ordinarily do so. Apps like Waze and Google Maps can help you avoid speed traps.

2. Wear comfortable clothing.
Loose-fitting or stretchy clothing are ideal for road trips. Travel is less stressful if you can be comfortable.

3. Bring a blanket

It is good to have a blanket or throw in the car. You can cover up or use it as a pillow as you need. A throw can be easily stored in a 2 or 3 gallon Ziploc bag when not in use.

4. Bring games for the kids for inside the car and outdoors.

Keep the kids occupied with car friendly games for kids. Try finding the a letter of the alphabet on billboards and signs until you find them. Another good idea is to see how many states are represented on license plates.

A Google or Bing search will yield tons of suggestions for car games. Download and print age appropriate mazes, crossword puzzles and coloring sheets. Staple these together to make a book about Thanksgiving or road trips.

Some sites will allow you to create your own puzzles or mazes. This is a great opportunity to work in Grandma and Grandpa’s names oh, the city that you are visiting or even the color of Grandma’s house. Be creative.

5. Bring water and snacks.

It may mean stopping for bathroom breaks a little more frequently than you would like, but snacks and water are an essential part for surviving Thanksgiving travel.

People who are hungry or thirsty can be challenging on a road trip. Stave off the “hangries” some healthy snacks and water. Pouches of fruit, apples or bananas, protein bars or packages of crackers are among my first choices for road trips.

6. Create a playlist

Who doesn’t enjoy singing along to their favorite songs the car stereo? Create a playlist that can provide hours of entertainment. Every one can enjoy the anticipation of hearing their favorite song.

7. Create an audiobook playlist.

Download your favorite classic book or stream from YouTube. This can be a great way encourage kids to read. This is one of the ways that I kept my sanity intact on my last trip to Alaska. If you don’t want to try YouTube, check Amazon.com or or search “free audio books to download” the next time online.

These tips will make Thanksgiving travel easier. Please leave any other suggestions that you may have in the comment section. It is a great way to take advantage of crowd-sourced knowledge. Another great way is to join us on Facebook to share more tips on surviving not just Thanksgiving travel, but any road trip with your sanity intact.

Why products given to Influencers to review aren’t free

There’s a lot in the headlines today about Influencers (often Instagram Influencers) will accept free products to review. As an influencer, I want to shed light on why those items influencers get for free, aren’t.

Here’s a typical scenario…

A representative from Widget Company emails me with an offer of a free product in exchange for a review. Usually this comes with a photo or link to the product.

I look at the email and begin research before responding. This includes reading reviews on the product’s website and comparing those review with sites like Amazon, Walmart and other sites. It also involves perusing silimar items from other companies to get a better comparison of the overall popular features.

I’m not just looking at quality and features. I want to know if the item for review fits the scope of the Bodacious Broads Travel Blog or our YouTube channel. The process is tedious and can be time consuming.

Negotiations begin if the product seems to fit my audience. I will email the representative back with my response. If the product fits, then we hammer out details like which social media platforms the review will be shared on as well as finalizing details on videos or both. Hammering this out can take a week or more.

Next, I have to wait for the so-called free product for influencers to arrive. My fingers are always crossed that the package won’t have been damaged in transit. It’s rare, but it does happen. Navigating the minefield of a damaged item can be complicated.

Blogs and my YouTube channel have to be updated. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have to be maintained and comments returned. (Whew!)

The product evaluation period is two weeks. Some of the free items that influencers get don’t make the cut. They are either discarded or returned to the company.

If all went well up to this point, it’s it’s time to create the review.

This part is very time consuming. Photos have to be clear and done in a complementary environment. This can mean props and shooting on location. Ditto for filming YouTube videos which takes longer to create and edit than photographs.

Keywords, a thumbnail and SEO friendly tags are added after upload. Only after all this is the video on the free product ready to be shared on social media.

The time spent on creating the review is what pays for the product and negates the reality of influencers receiving free items in exchange for a review .

The challenge for an influencer is to accept products that are equal in value to the amount of time put into the review, to work out an affiliate program directly with the company or to work out monetary payment in addition to the product.

This is why most influencers including myself have workout a commission agreement through affiliate links like the ones I have on this page or rely YouTube income.

This is nominal. YouTube videos generate around $2-$3 per 1,500 views (although influencers with high follower counts likely earn more).

So why do we do it? We do it to keep you from getting stuck in a situation like this one.

Other posts you may enjoy

Bodacious Broads Travel Blog

What is a Bodacious Broad?