Question: Are there any provisions to have the baggage check-in fees waived for people with disabilities who cannot carry their bags on board?
Answer: The short answer is no, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
Two years ago, my grandmother, who has difficulty walking, flew Continental. She called the airline in advance to arrange for wheelchair assistance. She brought along a carry-on suitcase, which airport and then airline personnel helped her transport and store in the overhead bin.
Most airlines offer courtesy wheelchair assistance, but you should always check the requirements and limitations when you make your reservations. Some smaller aircraft are not large enough for wheelchair access. Others may have portable stair-access and require a special lift for passengers who use wheelchairs.
All major U.S. carriers will waive baggage check-in fees for wheelchairs — and in most cases, other assistant devices such as scooters or braces — and medical supplies.
But be sure you fully read an airline's baggage fee policies. For example, on Delta, if you include medical supplies or equipment in a bag that contains "nonessential items" (clothes, shoes, etc.), the bag will no longer qualify for an exemption and you will have to pay the baggage fee.
Q: I will be spending two weeks in Greece, where my Verizon cell phone won't work. What is the most cost-effective way to have cell phone service while I'm visiting? I want to have a phone in case of emergency, if my family needs to call me and possibly for local use. I thought about getting an iPod Touch and using it with Skype. What do you suggest?
A: You can find a lot of companies selling or renting phones for international use.
For example, Telestial (800-707-0031; www.telestial.com) is offering a deal on its Pack Lite Travel cell phone. For $39, you can buy the phone and get a SIM card and $5 of call credit. Rates are 99 cents a minute to make calls and 89 cents a minute to receive them.
Cellular Abroad (800-287-5072; www.cellularabroad.com) is a popular international rental company, but with two-week plans starting at $69, it may not be your best option.
Also, Verizon has international service plans, including one for occasional global travelers who will be taking trips of 21 days or less. It's worthwhile to see what your carrier can do for you before investing in another phone. Details on Verizon's Global Travel Program: 800-711-8300.
Skype is another affordable option, but to use it on your iPod, you need Wi-Fi access, which may not be free. On a recent European trip, we paid as much as $20 a day for Wi-Fi at our hotel.