Friday, August 16, 2013

Which Flight? Which Seat?

This week we are thrilled to feature a guest post by Alan Day, Special Needs Family Vacation Expert, of ASD Vacations.  ASD Vacations specializes in helping families with planning trips to autism-friendly-resorts or  autism-friendly-cruises and will customize vacations around sensory issues, special interests, special dietary needs, and the dynamics of families traveling with individuals with autism.  His experts tips and advice are truly invaluable and we at Travel-Tot thank him for sharing the fantastic information below!
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I recently posted some comments, for families traveling with autism, with some pointers about selecting flights and seating arrangements. That posting can be found at: http://www.asdvacations.com/2013/07/12/which-flight-which-seat/
While those thoughts were for that specific audience, many of the thoughts hold true for anybody traveling with children, with or without disability. So here are some things to consider.
In praise of small airports. Local, small airports have some advantages. They are less crowded which makes for faster check-in and security.  Also, the low-cost airlines tend to use these smaller airports which may save you some money. This downside to the small airports is the limited number of places that you can fly non-stop from them.
In praise of non-stop flights.  When looking for the least expensive flights, check two ways. Check the regular search and then check again having selected “non-stop flights only” (most sites have this option but you may need to look under “advanced options” or “more options” or similar).
The non-stop flights are probably more expensive but the cheaper connecting flights may create a nightmare when traveling with children. If the first flight is delayed you may face (a) missing the second flight or (b) having to make a mad dash between the two gates with children and carry-on baggage or, worst of all, (c) you make the mad dash only to miss the second flight after all. You might end up spending hours and hours at the intermediate airport.
It’s even worth foregoing the advantages of the smaller airport if you can only find non-stop flights to your destination from a bigger one. There are only two reasons to take connecting flights.
Firstly, if you live so far from a big airport that driving to one is actually more inconvenient than taking connecting flights from a local airport. Secondly, as a means of breaking a very long flights into two more reasonable ones (e.g. Intercontinental flights).
In praise of the first flight of the day. If you can, take the first flight of the day. Your plane will have arrived the night before and already be at the airport. Later flights depend upon planes that have yet to arrive. If there is a delay to the inbound flight, your flight is automatically delayed.  Of course, if there is only one non-stop daily between your departure point and your destination, the choice is already made for you.
In praise of an app. When it comes to choice of seats, use Seat Guru as your best resource. It’s available online or as an app. You enter your flight # and date of flight and it comes back with a full seating map. There is more information than just window, middle or aisle. It will tell you which seats are “undesirable”, for instance too close to the bathrooms.
If you need to do so, call your airline, tour operator or travel agent to be sure about seating. Airlines are, generally, very helpful when you are trying to get children seated together with parents.
Once you’ve found the perfect seats on the perfectly timed non-stop flight, be sure to arrive at the airport in plenty of time. The airline has the right to reassign those seats if you check-in too late. This can and does happen on flights that are fully booked.
Plan well and enjoy your flight!

Alan Day is an experienced and accomplished travel agent. He began his agency career with Liberty Travel in 1999. He graduated top of his intake class with them. Even prior to becoming an agent he had travelled the world extensively both for business and leisure.  Upon moving to Connecticut in 2005, he formed his own travel agency. Although his principal markets were Domestic US, Mexico, Caribbean and Europe, he also arranged trips to many more exotic destinations.
Alan’s son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. When considering the impact that his son’s Autism had on their own family vacations, Alan decided to refocus his agency and to specialize in providing assistance and support for families impacted by Autism.  For this purpose, he founded ASD Vacations as a unique agency serving such families. By providing specialized, experienced aides to support the spectrum child, he creates abundant opportunity for the rest of the family to enjoy some real relaxation and respite.
Alan writes a once-weekly blog at www.ASDVacations.com/blog with tips and resources for families traveling with Autism.

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