You want to purchase your airline tickets as early as possible. The closer to the flight date you buy tickets, the higher the price, normally.
Kayak.com allows you to view the ticket prices for each day of one month before you purchase tickets. This way you can choose the least expensive option. You will also be able to compare prices from Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire and CheapOair.
Orbitz.com and Southwest.com are other websites that allow you to compare flight prices well in advance of traveling. They are separate from Kayak.com and the deals are different. You can do a general Google search for cheap airplane tickets, as well. Southwest tickets can only be purchased on Southwest.com
Sometimes you will find the best rate through the carrier themselves when booking well in advance. You will also find lower prices when flying from one large airport to another. Small, local airports tend to charge a lot more and their pricing is somewhat inflexible no matter how early you plan.
Book your flight as early as possible to get the best rates possible. Also, inform the airline you need wheelchair accommodations.
Southwest.com does not charge a luggage fee for your first two bags. This is a $120.00 savings over other airlines who charge $25.00 for the first bag and $35.00 for the second, both going and coming back.
Keep your luggage under 50 pounds to avoid an extra fee during check-in. If your luggage is over 50 pounds, you may avoid the fee by telling airport personnel you are carrying medical supplies you need during the trip. They may allow this, but if they do not allow the additional weight, a fee applies.
*Luggage Tip: Your wheelchair always travels free. A second wheelchair also travels free so do not allow the airports to say differently. Speak to a manager if the person you are speaking to tries to charge a fee for either wheelchair.
Reserve a hotel room at the competition’s host hotel as well. Your room will be inexpensive because the hotel and bodybuilding organization work together and reserve a block of rooms, especially for bodybuilding competitors.
You can find the name of the host hotel on the contest website or entry form. If you do not see it, email the promoter for the information. Do not wait until the last minute to reserve your room or the hotel may be full. You can cancel your reservation if you change your mind later.
You can sometimes find very good rates at hotels close to the host hotel. Go to www.Hotels.com and check hotel rates near the host hotel. Sometimes you find very nice rooms for $100 less than the blocked rooms in the host hotel.
Look for upgrades. You may get a suite for less than the other room, as well. If you search Google for a Hotel or Hotels.com coupon codes, you may find one to take 20-percent or more off an already cheap price.
Priceline.com offers good deals as well. They have a mystery hotel at more than 75-percent off but you do not know which hotel it is until you are committed to reserving it. You put in the star rating of the hotel you wish to stay and check the boxes next to the amenities you want and click find a room. Do not do this unless you are very familiar with the city in which you are traveling.
Priceline has the name your own price tool and if you get lucky, you can offer half the regular rate and get the room.
After reserving the room, call the hotel and ask them to reserve a refrigerator for your stay. You need a refrigerator for your food and reserving one in advance will save trouble later. If they cannot guarantee you a refrigerator, tell them you need it for medical supplies and they have to have one there for you and they will waive the refrigerator fee.
Also, tell the hotel if you have an AAA card. Most hotels will give you $10 – $20 off your room a night.
If you are a first time flyer, arrive at the airport 2 to 2.5 hours before your flight departs. This will give you plenty of time to check-in and find your boarding gate.
You need to bring a picture ID in order to board your flight.
Normally, arriving one hour early gives you plenty of time to catch your flight. When you fly internationally, arrive two hours early with your passport in order.
If you drive yourself, you will have to pay a daily fee for parking. Parking close to the air terminal costs $15.00 to $20.00 a day. Economy parking, which is farther away, costs $5.00 to $8.00 a day. The prices vary by airport.
There are bus stops on the corners of the economy lots. Economy parking lots have shuttles that run regularly to pick you up and take you to the terminal. When planning, allow for the shuttle wait and transport time.
Skycap is a curbside check-in where you receive your ticket and your wheelchair is tagged before you enter the airport.
If you choose the Skycap check-in, a gratuity is expected. That is a tip for the airport personnel who check you in.
Checking in inside the terminal requires no tip nor expected.
Some airlines do not offer Curbside Check-in (Skycap). Southwest Airlines is one of the few airlines that offer this service at more than any other airline.
Southwest Airlines has first come, first serve seating, so you will need to ask to move to the front of the airplane. You may also ask for a window seat. Most of the time, they will accommodate you. Southwest does not offer a First Class passenger section.
Other airlines have assigned seating, but you can request the front of the airplane and a window seat. Sometimes they will move other passengers around to accommodate you or move you to First Class at no charge.
*Seating Tip: The key is kindness. Be polite and you are returned the favor.
Security and help services usually have a kiosk near the terminal entrance. You can stop there if you need help with luggage or anything else. Kiosk personnel has trained to help confused travelers so they are nice. They will call specialty services to help you find your way around and check in your luggage, etc…You can also ask outside if you are checking in using Skycap.
In the event neither of these are available, help and security personnel walk around and are recognizable by their shirt color and will have security or staff written on the backs of their shirts.
The Denver International Airport (DIA) employs Hospitality Ambassadors who wear white cowboy hats. These volunteers are there to help passengers. All large airports employ staff to help wheelchair passengers with luggage and other boarding tasks.
You will go through security before heading to your boarding gate. You can have liquids weighing less than 4 oz. Security will take any that weigh more or you will have to go back and check them in with your baggage.
Have your liquids out and ready for inspection when you reach the security check-in point. Your wheelchair cannot go through the metal detectors so security will pat you down. If you wish, you can go to a private area for the pat-down, but it is faster and easier at the security gate.
Be polite and allow security to check you. Normally they pat the outside of your clothing and let you go. If you try to argue, the process takes longer.
*Security Tip: The security officers are doing the job their superiors ordered them to do. They want to get you through security as badly as you want to get through security.
After you leave security, go to the gate written on your ticket. Pre-boarding begins 20 to 30 minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure time.
At the gate, tell the attendant you want to pre-board and have your wheelchair checked. Wait by the boarding gate’s door and you will pre-board with the help of airport personnel.
They will also make sure your bags are stored and take care of all your boarding tasks.
You will have help to transfer from your wheelchair to a special aisle chair, which allows you to navigate the airplane’s narrow aisles. Trained personnel help with the transfer and then store your wheelchair in the aircraft’s baggage area.
Once you arrive at your destination, the same personnel bring your chair and help you off the airplane.
After you leave the aircraft, go to the baggage claim area and retrieve your luggage. The baggage claim may take time if the airplane was full.
You can take a taxi to your hotel. Airport staff will help you find the taxi area or find an accessible taxi van if one is not outside already.
Alternately, when you make your hotel reservation, ask if they offer shuttle services to and from the airport. They will either send one for you or have a shuttle running at regular intervals for you to get on.
If the shuttle service runs on a fixed schedule, ask where the waiting area is located so you are ready when it arrives.
Super Shuttle does an amazing job offering shuttle service at almost all airports.