TRAVEL Q&A

Flying With Disabilities

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 27, 2005

Q. My mother, who needs assistance getting around, wants go to Las Vegas. Which airlines/planes have the largest seating areas and are disabled friendly? Are any seat locations better than others?

L. Richter, Rockville

A. The Americans With Disabilities Act ensures that all airlines and airports accommodate disabled travelers. However, for extra care, you'll need to be pro-active. "All U.S. airlines must abide by ADA guidelines," says Jani Nayar, executive coordinator of the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, a nonprofit advocate in New York. "But for the personal touch, you can't say one airline is better than another."

To make the flight as comfortable as possible, start working the phone. When booking, inform the agent of your mother's disabilities and needs -- if she has low mobility, hip problems, heart ailments, etc. Nayar says there are different degrees of needs, and the agent will find her a seat based on her condition. In addition, if she requires wheelchair assistance at the airport, remember to request the service for both the departing and arriving destinations. An employee will meet her at the ticket counter and accompany her to the gate, and vice versa. Forty-eight hours before her flight's departure, call the airline to confirm the special requests.

Plane size and configuration greatly vary, but for a primer, check out SeatGuru.com ( http://www.seatguru.com/ ), which lists more than 25 airlines and displays seating plans of the aircrafts' interiors. It also offers helpful tips, such as "Underseat space at all A, J, D and F seats is limited due to entertainment system box." Bulkhead seats are the most spacious, but many are in exit rows, and only fit passengers are allowed to sit there. However, seats in the first row of coach have more space (no crushing reclining seats or tray tables), plus your mother won't have to walk far to her seat.

Finally, if a problem arises, request a Complaint Resolution officer, who is required to be on hand at all times, either in person or on the phone. For additional assistance, see SATH's Web site ( http://www.sath.org/ ) and the ADA http://(www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm )

In Poland, we're looking for a place in the mountains where we can take a cable car to higher walks. Also, are there any centrally located pensions in Krakow?

Pauli McClanahan, Washington

For hikes of diverse lengths, steepness and terrain, beat a path to Zakopane, a Tatras mountain town 62 miles south of Krakow. Trekkers have their pick of parks with altitude -- Babiogorski, Gorczanski, Pieninski, Tatra National Park -- and many of the ranges can be ascended (or descended) by cable car. Ticket offices at the mountain bases sell tram passes that work like a debit card. (Otherwise, you'll have to pay $2 to $10 per ride.)

On its Web site, the town's tourism office suggests a handful of outings that mix up the usual hikes with cultural attractions and a panoramic tram ride. The northern route, for example, begins on Krupowki Street in Zakopane and passes by the Tatra Museum and a market by the Guba{lstrok}owka mountain. From there, ride a tram up, then follow the yellow trail down to Ko{oelig}cieliska Street, before looping back to city center. You can also combine a cable car ride with a trek along the ridges of the Zachodnie (Western) Tatras or near the Tatras lakes. For details, see the town's Web site at http://www.zakopane.pl/ .

For Krakow pensions, Old Town has a large concentration of the low-key guest houses, including Globtroter ( http://www.cracow-life.com/globtroter ), W Ogrdodach ( http://www.roomskrakow.com/ ) and Janexim ( http://www.krakowrooms.janexim.pl/ ). For additional accommodations, see the Municipality of Krakow's Web site ( http://www.krakow.pl/ ) or contact the Polish National Tourist Office (201-420-9910, http://www.polandtour.org/ ).

We are planning a river boat cruise to Holland to see the tulips in bloom. When is the best month to go?

Dan and Bonnie Keaveny, Charles Town, W.Va.

The Netherlands' tulip fields flower the last two weeks of April and the first two weeks of May -- though if winter is warm, expect an earlier bloom. The colorful flora pop up in regions southwest of Amsterdam (between Leiden and Haarlemas, and from Hassenheim to Hillegom and Bennebroek), to the northwest in Anna Paulowna, and to the east in Flevoland.

For an offshore excursion, follow the Flower Bulb Route, which passes by the famed Keukenhof Gardens, open March 23 to May 19. For info: Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, 212-370-7360, http://www.holland.com/ .

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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