It’s best to purchase your airline tickets as early as possible because the closer to the flight date you buy tickets, the higher the price tends to be.
Kayak.com provides an option to view ticket prices for each day of one month before you make a purchase. This way, you can choose the most economical option by comparing prices from various travel sites such as Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire, and CheapOair.
In addition to Kayak.com, you can also use Orbitz.com and Southwest.com to compare flight prices well in advance of traveling. These websites offer different deals, so it’s important to compare them. You can also do a general Google search for cheap airplane tickets. However, keep in mind that Southwest tickets can only be purchased on Southwest.com.
Sometimes, the airline carrier itself offers the best rate when booking well in advance. Also, keep in mind that flying from one large airport to another tends to result in lower prices compared to smaller, local airports, which tend to charge more and have less flexible pricing.
To get the best rates, it’s important to book your flight as early as possible. Additionally, inform the airline that you require wheelchair accommodations.
Southwest.com does not charge a luggage fee for your first two bags, saving you $120 compared to other airlines, which typically charge $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag (both ways).
To avoid extra fees during check-in, make sure your luggage weighs less than 50 pounds. If it’s over 50 pounds, you may be able to avoid the fee by informing airport personnel that you are carrying necessary medical supplies for the trip. However, if the additional weight is not allowed, a fee will apply.
*Luggage tip: Your wheelchair always travels for free. In fact, a second wheelchair also travels for free, so do not allow airport personnel to charge a fee for either wheelchair. Speak to a manager if the person you are speaking to tries to charge a fee.
It is advisable to book a room at the host hotel of the competition to take advantage of the discounts offered to competitors. The hotel and the bodybuilding organization work together to reserve a block of rooms at a reduced rate. The host hotel name can be found on the competition website or entry form. If it is not listed, contact the promoter for more information. To avoid disappointment, it is best to book your room as soon as possible, and you can always cancel the reservation later if your plans change.
If you are looking for cheaper hotel rates, check hotels close to the host hotel on websites like Hotels.com. Sometimes, hotels in close proximity offer rooms at a lower price than the blocked rooms at the host hotel. You can also look for upgrades, as suites may be available for less than other room types. Additionally, searching for hotel coupons on Google or Hotels.com can offer further discounts of 20% or more.
Priceline.com also offers good deals, including a mystery hotel option with over 75% discount. However, you will not know which hotel you are booking until after you reserve it. Priceline also offers a “name your own price” tool, where you can offer half the regular rate for a room, and if lucky, get the reservation accepted.
Once you have made your hotel reservation, call the hotel to request a refrigerator for your room. This is particularly important if you need to store food for your dietary needs. If the hotel cannot guarantee a refrigerator, tell them you require it for medical reasons, and they will likely waive the fee. Also, mention if you have an AAA card, as many hotels offer $10 to $20 discounts per night to AAA members.
*Hotel Tip: When you travel frequently, it’s a good idea to apply for hotel reward cards whenever you come across them. These applications are usually free, and by accumulating points through your travels, you can earn room upgrades and other amenities. So don’t hesitate to sign up and take advantage of these rewards programs.
For first-time flyers, it is recommended to arrive at the airport 2 to 2.5 hours prior to your flight’s departure time. This will provide ample time for check-in and finding your boarding gate.
You will need to bring a photo identification to board your flight.
Usually, arriving at the airport one hour early is sufficient to catch your flight. However, if you are traveling internationally, it is advisable to arrive two hours early with your passport.
If you are driving yourself to the airport, you will be required to pay a daily parking fee. The cost of parking near the air terminal ranges from $15.00 to $20.00 per day, while economy parking, which is farther away, costs $5.00 to $8.00 per day. The parking rates may vary depending on the airport.
The economy parking lots have shuttle bus stops on their corners, and shuttle buses regularly pick up and drop off passengers at the terminal. When planning your travel, it is important to allow sufficient time for the shuttle wait and transportation time.
Skycap is a curbside check-in service where you receive your ticket and your wheelchair is tagged before you enter the airport.
If you choose to use the Skycap check-in service, a gratuity is expected as a tip for the airport personnel who check you in.
Checking in inside the terminal does not require a tip.
Note that not all airlines offer Curbside Check-in (Skycap), but Southwest Airlines is one of the few airlines that provide this service more frequently than other airlines.
When flying with Southwest Airlines, seating is first-come, first-serve. You can request a window seat or to be seated at the front of the plane, and they will usually accommodate your request. Southwest does not have a First Class section.
For airlines with assigned seating, you can still request to be seated at the front or in a window seat. They may move other passengers to accommodate you or even upgrade you to First Class at no extra charge. Remember, kindness goes a long way.
Help services and security kiosks are typically located near the terminal entrance. If you need assistance with luggage or anything else, you can stop there. The personnel are trained to help confused travelers and will call specialty services to assist you with check-in and other tasks.
If kiosks are not available, you can look for help and security personnel walking around. They are recognizable by their shirt color and will have “security” or “staff” written on the back of their shirts.
Some airports employ Hospitality Ambassadors, who wear white cowboy hats. These volunteers are available to assist passengers. All large airports have staff available to help wheelchair passengers with luggage and boarding tasks.
If you are flying, you will need to pass through security before heading to your boarding gate. Remember that liquids weighing less than 4 oz are allowed. Anything above that weight will be taken by security or must be checked in with your baggage.
When you reach the security checkpoint, have your liquids out and ready for inspection. Additionally, security personnel will pat you down as wheelchairs cannot go through metal detectors. You can opt for a private pat-down, but it is typically quicker and easier to have it done at the security gate.
It is important to be polite and cooperative during the security check. The officers are following orders from their superiors and want to get you through security as much as you want to get through it.
Once you have passed through security, proceed to the gate listed on your ticket. Pre-boarding typically begins 20 to 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
At the gate, inform the attendant that you would like to pre-board and have your wheelchair checked. Wait by the boarding gate’s door, and airport personnel will assist you with pre-boarding and all necessary boarding tasks.
During boarding, personnel will help you transfer from your wheelchair to an aisle chair specially designed to navigate the narrow airplane aisles. Trained personnel will also assist with storing your wheelchair in the aircraft’s baggage area.
Upon arrival at your destination, the same personnel will bring your chair to you and assist with disembarking the airplane.
Upon disembarking the aircraft, proceed to the baggage claim area to retrieve your luggage. Please note that if the flight was full, it may take some time for your baggage to arrive.
If your hotel is nearby, some hotels offer complimentary shuttle services, otherwise Uber or Lyft would be your best option. If your hotel is far from the airport, you could consider renting a car, but be sure to check prices and compare. Also, keep in mind that not all events or attractions are connected to your hotel or venue, so you may need additional transportation, for which Uber or Lyft are usually the most convenient choices.
To ensure that you have the necessary accommodations for your car rental, it is recommended to book with either Budget or Avis, which are owned by the same company, especially if you need hand controls. Once you have made your reservation, forward the confirmed rental to DisabilityServices@avisbudget.com and request for hand controls to be installed, specifying if you prefer them on the right or left side, and if you would like a spinner knob on the steering wheel. It is also advised to check prices on both Budget and Avis’ websites before booking, as Budget is typically the more affordable option.
There are various websites that you can use to compare rates for car rentals, such as carrentals.com. You may also want to check out Southwest’s website if you are a member of their Rapids Rewards program, as you can earn points towards flights, car rentals, and hotels.