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Ask Peter: Accessibility, Egypt, and Around the World

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Desert RoadI use a wheelchair and/or scooter.

Sometimes it is difficult to go on vacation without hours of researching and then being disappointed once I arrive.

-Babs T.

Travel information for special needs travel, including worldwide listings of accessible cruise ships, accommodations, public transportation, attractions, tours and medical resources can be found at www.Access-able.com. The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality offers news, tips and resources for accessible travel issues at SATH.org.

To make sure your travel experiences aren’t disappointing, it’s a good idea to call ahead to confirm that the hotel is conforming to ADA standards. Also, make sure that you ask for your room to be reserved and guaranteed, not just requested. Don’t forget that a hotel concierge can be your best friend—you can find out whether the area has high curbs and crosswalks, how accessible the public transportation is, and whether there are amenities like restaurants and shops nearby.

Since hotels in Europe and developing nations don’t have to follow ADA standards, check www.laterooms.com (click on the disabled access button and you’ll see hundreds of hotels that are accessible) for wheel-chair friendly hotels overseas.

You can also check into tour companies that arrange travel specifically for travelers who are in wheelchairs or are “slow walkers.”

Accessible Journeys focuses on tour packages around the world for travelers in wheelchairs and their companions. Their tours include wheelchair accessible vans and motorcoaches, luggage assistance, full-time tour operators and stay in fully accessible hotels. 800-846-4537, www.Disabilitytravel.com

Flying Wheels Travel offers escorted tours and cruises worldwide. (507) 451-5005, www.flyingwheelstravel.com

And lastly, if you are interested in sports, many resorts offer lessons and activities for wheelchair-bound travelers. Snowbird Resort in Utah, for example, is completely wheelchair accessible, including a low-impact, Barrier Free Trail, and an Aerial Tram that a carries riders to the 11,000-foot Hidden Peak. 800-232-9542, www.snowbird.com.

I listened with interest to your recent comments about tours booked through the cruise lines and hope you can answer a specific question for me. Four adults, adventurous non-shoppers are booked on a Princess Cruise which includes two days in Egypt. We want to take an overnight trip to include Cairo, the Pyramids, etc., but the tour from the cruise ship is terribly expensive and we would like to do it on our own with a guide. It that safe? Do you have any companies to suggest? Anything that we must not miss? We are usually comfortable on our own, but this seems like a place to have some assistance.

Thank you for your help.
Lynnea M.

There is little doubt that once you step off the ship, you’ll be approached by “tour guides” offering a range of legitimate and illegitimate services. Booking one of the tours offered by the cruise company is a good way to ensure you won’t be scammed, but, like anything on a cruise, these tours can be drastically overpriced.

Cairo is so tourist-friendly that you can visit the major sites on your own. You can hop in a taxi and take a day trip to Giza to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx, and spend another day wandering Cairo itself (definitely check out the Islamic section). Keep in mind that taking a taxi in Egypt usually involves bargaining, and you may be in a better position to do this if you step away from the busy port and crowded streets. Go to a reputable hotel nearby, such as a Marriott or Hilton, and to a legit taxi stand where metered cabs are available.

If you’re prefer having a tour guide, your best bet to arrange for a tour guide is to work with a tour operator in your hometown, before you depart for your trip. That way you can work out a guided tour, shop around for prices, and arrange the tour to your spefications.

You can also check out an online booking agency called Viator.com, which can arrange day trips for you. A private tour of Memphis, Sakkara, Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx starts at $115 per person, which is far more palatable than a similar Princess shore excursion which starts at $179 per person.

My husband and I are planning a round-the-world trip on an RTW ticket in early 2009. We are having fun creating our east-west itinerary.

Our question is this: Is there a hotel chain (Starwood, Hilton, etc.) or hotel Web site (i.e., Travelocity, Expedia, etc.) which would give any kind of discount if we used primarily their site for our hotel reservations? It seems silly and unnecessary to hunt for a new hotel in so many locations if there is a package deal we might use.

The simple answer is that besides joining a hotel loyalty program, you won’t be able to get a frequent-guest discount. Hotels such Marriott does sometimes offer discounts for sponsorships and promotions — so if you were traveling around the world to raise money for a cause, you could work something out.

But most major chains are actually individually owned — brands like Marriott and Hilton are franchised or managed by other companies, so there is no central office that could arrange this with you. If you wanted to do the legwork, you could call up the individual hotels and talk to director of sales — if, on the dates that you’re visiting, they’re at 60 percent occupancy, you’ll be able to work out a much better rate than one that’s at nearly 100 percent occupancy.

But your best bet is to join a hotel loyalty program — these programs are often very helpful in getting you a free night stay or free upgrade.

As for online booking sites, there are no packaged programs in which you can get a deal or rate that’s not available to the general public. But there is a central office in which you can get a human on the phone to help you out. Companies like Expedia.com and Hotels.com have agents who can try to help you uncover deals based on your destination and what time of year it is.

Looking to “Ask Peter” your travel question? Write to us at info@petergreenberg.com and you might get your question answered.