By Marianne Mills
Security issues, the expense, lack of food or drink and our own health concerns are some of the factors that can make today's airplane trip quite an ordeal. Here are some important travel tips intended to reduce the stress associated with air travel.
If traveling for medical reasons, make sure to get permission from your health insurance (or Medicaid) in advance to pay for your trip and that of a companion. For other flights, compare prices offered on the Internet, via telephone and through your local airlines agent to get the best price. Keep an eye or ear out for "cheap" fares. Be sure to take advantage of the 10 percent senior discount available to senior citizens and a travel companion. When you make your reservations, try to get an aisle seat near the front of the plane for quick access to the restroom located in first class.
Having someone travel with you is always best, especially if you were recently released from the hospital. A companion can drop you off at the front of the airport, help carry your items, serve as your advocate, and just be there for moral support. If you are dropped off in a large airport, such as Seattle, it might be well worth the $2 a bag to have the sky cap check your bags instead of carrying your own suitcases or standing in line. Traveling companions may accompany you during the security screening process once they have been screened. If your companion is not traveling with you but is needed to accompany you through the security checkpoint to reach your gate, speak with your airline representative about obtaining a gate pass before entering the security checkpoint.
If you are traveling alone, don't hesitate to ask airline or security representatives for help or information. Especially in Seattle, you never know what long walk to the gate or wait in line might lie ahead. Provide advance notice to your airline representative if you will require assistance at the airport, whether you'd like a wheelchair or a cart. If just released from the hospital, a note from your doctor indicating you should not stand for a long time may prove helpful - the airline can arrange for you to go to the front of the line.
Let the security screener know any special needs you may have so that they know it is OK to offer extra assistance or care. They will be glad to lend a hand, arm or shoulder to lean upon, or a chair in which to sit. If your doctor indicates you should not go through a metal detector or be handwanded, or if you are concerned, ask the screener for a pat-down inspection instead. You may request a private area for the pat-down. Make sure to tell the screener if you are in pain due to a recent surgery or medical procedure that will require greater care. The screeners are trained to be helpful and respectful; being pleasant with them will help facilitate a smooth screening process. For further information about security screening, contact TSA at 1-866-289-9673 toll free.
The limit carry-on and one personal item (purse or briefcase) does not apply to medical supplies or mobility aids such as canes or walkers. If you ever use a cane or a walker in Juneau, make sure to take it with you when you travel. Take everything important in a carry-on bag: medications, toiletries, your ID, airline ticket, a change of clothing, bottle of water, some healthy snacks. If you don't have a cell phone or a calling card, take some quarters in case you need to make an emergency phone call. Using an ID holder which hangs from you neck is also recommended, since it can save time at the counter, security checkpoint or the gate when you may be asked to show your photo ID.
Marianne Mills oversees senior citizen nutrition and transportation programs in Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, and Yakutat as a staff member of Southeast Senior Services, a program of Catholic Community Services. CCS assists all persons regardless of their faiths.