Unmute Presents Katie Talks Travel – Flight Tips

In this episode of Katie Talks Travel, we delve into Chris’s firsthand experiences as a visually impaired traveler who will be traveling with a guide dog. Chris, an advocate for braille education, shares practical tips on using technology during travel like the Aira app and techniques for managing electronics efficiently. The conversation underscores the importance of preparation, safety measures like entertainment pre-downloads, and maximizing tech resources for seamless travel within the Continental United States.


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Welcome to Katie Talk Travel, a podcast where we talk travel and accessibility with a little fun along the way. Let’s pack our bags and head out on an adventure.

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Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another podcast of Katie Talks Travel. I’m Katie, a travel agent who specializes in accessible travel. And today I actually have a special guest with me today. I have Chris here. Hey, Chris, you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

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Hey, Katie. Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. I appreciate the invite. I am a person who is blind, and I teach at a rehab agency, and I help adults learn to learn their technology and how to use their smartphones and computers. I also teach braille techniques of daily living. And so I teach a wide range of helpful categories that will help people get back into the workforce. And also, I have the pleasure of having my own podcast here on the Unmute presents network. It’s called at your fingertips, braille, then and now, because I’m so passionate about Braille, and I think people find it interesting, whether they know Braille or not, to learn historically what’s been happening with braille and then looking forward to things that are current and into the future. I also love working with Michael and Marty on our digital Bytes podcast, and we really enjoy putting that together for everyone. So that’s what’s going on with me. And again, thanks so much for the opportunity to be here and chat with you.

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Of course. Thank you so much for coming on. We’re really excited to hear what you have to share today. Today, Chris is going to talk quite a bit about technology and travel, and I’m just going to let her take the reins. And I’m really excited to hear everything that you have to share. Let’s get into it.

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Okay, cool. Well, I bet I have some questions for you, too, and I would appreciate your input as I’m looking to travel here on Monday, two days from now. I have not traveled on the plane for about 20 years, so I know things have changed since then. And I also have an awesome guide dog whom I’m traveling with, and he’s amazing. And so there’s a certain amount of anxiety that kind of goes with traveling, and I just want to have some of my anxieties put to rest. And so for you? Yeah, absolutely. As I’m thinking about it, I’ve needed to make sure to call the right department and ask for some assistance at the airport through the airlines that I’m traveling on. And I think they probably have their own phone numbers and their own ways of getting in touch. But I also know that I’m going to be using the IRA app. That’s a IRA. It’s the visual interpreting service. I think you’ve heard of Ira?

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Yes, absolutely I have.

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Great. Well, and what I love about Ira is that they offer a lot of free access locations. So the locations are what they call geofenced. So the moment you enter a certain radius of that location, you have free IRA minutes. And so you can call up with a live video call and get assistance traveling through the airport. A lot of airports have free IRA access, and they have a map of the airport. They can follow you on the video feed and compare your location to the map. And the phone does have to go through the scanner, I guess. So they see lots of pretty bright lights when they go through the scanner. So that’s kind of funny. But I have heard of several of my friends traveling through the airport by themselves, independently using IRA in that free access location. And it is so liberating for them because they just never dreamed they would be able to go through the airport by themselves.

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Yeah, that’s fantastic.

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Isn’t that great?

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Yes, that’s wonderful. It would be great if that was a service that they could have at every airport, but I’m sure that’s their overall goal. And it’s amazing that that’s something that they have put into place. That’s really fantastic.

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It is really great because we appreciate the special assistance that is offered, but if you wanted to go get some food or make a little stop at restroom or do whatever, it’s just great to be able to have the freedom to get up. If you had a layover, stretch your legs, walk around, and not have to think, oh, I can’t move because I don’t have any assistance.

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Yeah, that’s fantastic. And then you think about how an airport is really kind of the gateway to most travel. Especially nowadays, people fly more often than any other way of getting to their vacation. So being able to have even just the gateway be more accessible, I mean, that makes a huge difference.

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It does. And I was wanting to ask you on the theme of using apps and helpful, do you find that having the airlines app is important for people? Does that make any difference to your experience traveling, especially on an airplane?

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In my personal experience, it doesn’t make that big of a difference to have the app because a lot of the times when you get to the airport, especially if you have a bag to check anyways, you’re already going to be talking to a gate agent and they can print off your ticket, but you’re going to need to get through all of the gates and security and everything like that. So I personally haven’t found them to be that helpful. And I know that a lot of times when my husband has downloaded them, he has not found them to be super accessible either. Now, that does not mean that people should not use the app. Absolutely you should use them and give your feedback. Because unless the creators know what doesn’t work on it or what makes it hard to use, they can’t fix the problem. So absolutely, you should try them out. Everyone should give them a try and figure out kind of what works for you and what doesn’t. But I personally don’t find them to be overly helpful at the airport anyways.

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Okay, that’s good to know. I had trouble signing in and creating an account off the bat there with the app that I downloaded, so I wasn’t impressed right off the bat.

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Well, and you can still get printed tickets when you walk into the airport anyway, so the app doesn’t tend to be super helpful. Like I said, even. Especially if you’re checking a bag, you already have to talk to a gate agent, so there’s no real need to use the app, in my opinion.

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Okay, that’s great. That’s good to know. One less thing to have to fiddle with. And given that I have the IRA app or someone could use be my eyes too, in case they had some short questions, and that’s great. I wanted to ask you about traveling with my electronics because I’m just a huge tech fan and I just wonder if there are some things I should be thinking about when traveling with my electronics make things smoother.

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So, yes, there are a few things I will say that the travel experience of the electronics actually getting through TSA, that really depends on your TSA gate agent, who you get. I’ve been through TSA, I don’t even know how many times, and about 50% of the time they want me to leave my laptop and all of my cords and my chargers in my bag, and the other 50% of the time they want me to take them out. There really doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. What I try to do to make it as simple as I can is I put my chargers into small ziploc bags. And then I put so each individual charger, because they can get really tangled, I put them into small ziploc bags on their own, and then I put all of those into a large ziploc bag, like a gallon sized. And then when I get to the airport, if I need to take all of my cords and my electronics out of my bag, they’re right there. They’re easy for me to get to and pop them out. And then when I’m through security and you’re doing that rush at the end of TSA to get your shoes back on and your belt back on and all that, I can just pick up that bag and toss it right back into my backpack. The other nice thing about doing that is it keeps the cords from getting tangled. So while you are actually at the airport, maybe you have a long layover or you got there really early and you flew through TSA, whatever it might be. You have your cords right there. They’re not tangled, they’re easy to get to and which ones you want. So that if your laptop dies while you’re waiting for your flight, you can just grab out that charger very quickly and the other ones aren’t getting all messed up and tangled at all.

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Right, that makes sense. And then what about all the little things? Like I love to collect air pods and earbuds and their little stuff, little kind of things. So I bet I could put those in another ziploc bag, maybe. Can they just live in their own ziploc bag? Like not each individual piece but all, just the little stuff?

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Oh, yeah, I’m sure that they could. Although I have to say, I am attached at the hip to my Airpods. I keep mine in my pocket and I just put them in the little bin. And then as soon as I’m through TSA, that’s the first thing I grab is my phone and my Airpods, and they go right back in my pocket. And that’s where they go because I am attached to them at the hip.

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Awesome. Yeah, that is just great. And I think the thing that gives me a little bit of anxiety is that not having any vision, I just hope they get all the stuff that I had. I don’t know if I get my own bin or. How does that work?

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Yes. So you will get your own bin, and they ask that you try to keep all of your things in one bin if you can. Sometimes. Again, it just depends on the TSA agents. Sometimes they’ll ask your electronics in one bin and your non electronics, like your shoes and things in the other. But typically they like it all to be in one bin and you have all of your things just in one spot. And then they also, I’ve never been through TSA when they did not have at least two additional agents. So if for some reason, there was something that you misplaced or you weren’t sure which bin was yours. When you get through the scan, there’s extra people that are able to help, and that’s what they’re there to do is to assist you. So making sure that you’re not afraid to ask for the assistance that is. There is definitely one way to make sure that all of your things are in one spot. Another way that you could do it is you could potentially have just one bag that is for your electronics and one bag that’s like your backpack that you would have as your carry on. And if you put that bag with your electronics inside of your carry on bag, when you got to TSA, you could pull them out and separate them so that then you’ve got all your electronics in one spot and all of your other things in another bag, and you could kind of do a really quick, just kind of inventory as soon as you get through the scanner. That’s something that I’ve done before as well. Or if you’re traveling internationally and you know you have to go through customs or things like that where there’s going to be those extra steps. Sometimes putting a bag inside of a bag makes life a lot easier.

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That’s great. No, I really appreciate that. I was thinking about doing something similar, but it’s really good to have that confirmational tip. I really don’t want to have to check a bag. So having my backpack for my electronics and then my appropriately sized wheeling, suitcase looking thing for my clothes and toiletries and just other things seems like a good plan.

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Exactly. And then if you’ve only got two items that you have to or two containers of items that you have to keep track of, it makes it a lot easier when going through to keep track of all of your things that you are putting.

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Great. That’s great. Well, are there other things that you have to put in the bin besides the electronics? Can you remind me of that?

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Not anymore. And again, electronics is based on the TSA agent. So it’s essentially just emptying your pockets, taking off your shoes and your belt, and then your carry on bag, whatever items those are, will go on in your bucket as well. Whether that’s a backpack or a purse or a rolling carry on, those will go directly onto the belt. Rolling carry ons are large enough that they don’t fit into the bins that they give you. But yeah, that’s all. You don’t have to pull out your liquids anymore like you used to have to or anything like that. It’s a very seamless process.

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Good. I’m glad about that because I don’t want any hiccups. I want it to go smoothly. I’m already a little bit anxious since I haven’t traveled on a plane for 20 years. So I just want to make sure I think of everything I could possibly think of. That’s awesome. Yeah, perfect. And then just curious about anything regarding the special assistance people. I know it probably varies with airlines and all that, but I know I can call someone and I know I have Ira, but if I wanted any special assistance, anything to think about, like, I hope they don’t make me ride in a wheelchair. Really don’t want to do that.

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No. Typically they will only do that if you need to be in a wheelchair or if you’re walking down the jetway and if it’s an older jetway or something like that. And if someone is using a walker, they may offer a wheelchair if it’s not as smooth of a walk down or if it’s a steeper jetway or something like that. For special assistance at the airport with your specific airline, definitely calling ahead of time so they have all of the information on file is 100% going to be your best path that you should always take. With that being said, you can follow every direction and every guidance and procedure to a T and you’re going to get there. And all of that work potentially could.

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Have been for nothing because the gate.

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Agents might not have any notes. So again, just that advocating for yourself and making sure that you are asking for what you need, that’s not something that happens all the time. There are some serial offenders that I do know of in the airline world do tend to have a little bit more of that tendency to lose information. But again, it’s just that advocating for yourself and letting them know what they can do to help you, because there are people just like you and me, the gate agents are, and a lot of times they want to help and they’re just not sure how. So letting them know what they could do to assist you would be the best course of action for sure.

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That’s great. Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah. And another piece of tech I thought about was putting either an air tag or a tile, even if it’s a carry on bag, just to make sure I know where it is. I’m a huge fan of tiles because they’re cross platform in that I could use it with my Android phone or my iPhone.

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Yeah, that’s definitely a good thing to do, especially if you’re checking a bag, because you never know. And if you could find the location of it and you’re able to tell the airline, like, if they were to lose your bag, and you could say, hey, I had a tile in my bag, and it’s saying that it’s in New Jersey and I’m in, you know, what’s going on with that? They’re able to do a little bit more backtracking in those cases and actually figure out where your bag went, because the bags can get placed into all the different bins, and most of the time, the airlines do a really good job of getting them where they need to be. But there are the times when it’s just in a mislabeled bin or Ben accidentally gets moved to the wrong place or things like that. So having that tile in there is very helpful if you lose your baggage and totally worth it. Totally worth it to have one in there.

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Yeah, definitely. That’s great. The last thing I was wondering that I can think of just at the moment is I bought some luggage tags, and they have a little strap on them that you can take the little strap off and swivel the two pieces open and then put your little information inside the plastic holder. And I’ve never seen one of those. But what information do I need to put that on my carry on just in case somebody puts it somewhere different, or do you think I need that?

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Yes, definitely. And this is a little bit of a touchy subject in the travel world, so I don’t want to offend anybody. Just take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt. Everybody who’s listening, a lot of people think you should only put your name and your phone number on your luggage tag so that people cannot find where you live. I personally put all of my information on my luggage. That way, if my luggage accidentally gets picked up by somebody that’s in the same city as me, they know where they could drop it off. The airlines themselves, they, a lot of times will also bring bags as well. If it’s been lost for long enough or if there’s enough in the same area, they can drop off lost baggage to you. So having your address on there can be a very helpful way to get your baggage back as well. But again, there’s that flip side of it where that does put a lot of your personal information out, where just anyone could pick up your bag and take that information and do with it what they would. So it can be a little controversial, but my luggage has my full information, like my phone number and my address on it. That way, if it does get lost, it can be returned to me, which has happened before.

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Good to know. Well, I appreciate that. I appreciate knowing what might be controversial, what angles to think of things from and. Yeah, that’s great. So I appreciate that.

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You’re welcome. Do you have any other questions for me?

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Oh, goodness. Well, this is just so awesome. I really appreciate all the tips. I can’t think of anything. I’ve tried to think of absolutely everything. Like I’m traveling with my guide dog and I’m bringing extra food for him in case something runs amok and I have to stay an extra day. Who knows what happens. Yeah, I can’t think of any. Is there anything else you think I should know or that you think I might have forgotten?

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Are you staying in the continental United States?

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Yeah, I’m just going to Anaheim to this assistive technology conference, so I’m staying in the hotel there.

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Well, that’ll be cool.

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So if you’re staying within the continental United States, there’s not too much extra that you need to know. The flight attendants will give you a briefing before you take off. Remember to be kind to your flight attendants. They see a lot of not kind people all day long, and listening to what they have to say is extremely important. Not that there would be an emergency while you’re flying. We know that flying is very safe way of transportation, but if there was, you want to make sure you know what to do. So shrugging off the safety guidelines is definitely not what I recommend doing. Definitely listen to what your flight attendants have to say to you. But staying within the main continental United States, there’s nothing special to worry about with your guide dog. And what did you say his name was?

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Sterling is a great, very cute. Yeah, he’s actually 13 and he’s up for this trip, which is just amazing. Yeah, it’s just awesome to have him. He’s going to have a good time.

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Have you had him since he was young?

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Yeah, I got him when he was 21 months old, so I’ve had him for over eleven years and he’s guide dog number four. I’ve had guide dogs for over 40 years. Oh, my goodness.

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That’s fantastic.

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I love it. I love having a guide dog. So I’m looking forward to taking him. So that’ll be great.

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Wonderful. Well, do you have any other tech travel information that you’d like to share with the listeners?

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I would say maybe downloading things ahead of time because you want your books available to you and different things that can work in airplane mode. I’m assuming that if somebody did want to purchase Wifi, they could do that on the plane, correct?

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Yes. Most planes come equipped with Wi Fi. Not all of them, but most of them do.

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Okay. Well, yeah, I was thinking I might do crossword puzzles in the Apple news app, but it needs to be off airplane mode, so I won’t be able to do crossword puzzles. But if I purchase Wi Fi, maybe I could. But I have lots and lots of books on my devices, whether it’s my braille display or lots of books downloaded to it or my phone. And so I just think planning for what you want to do or listen to or read is probably a good idea and lots of options there. So I think that’s the only other thing. Making sure everything’s charged up. Oh, yeah. I do have one more thing, making sure everything’s charged up. I have various airpod type of things and a little battery accessory and things, but I’m also taking a little charging station, which I’m assuming is fine to take. It has little ports on it, and you can plug it in when you get to the hotel and charge everything conveniently. So I’m bringing that, and I’ve taken that on other trips, and it’s been so helpful because you have various devices with different cords and you want to charge more than one thing at the same time. So that’s something I’m bringing with.

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So wonderful. Well, thank you again for coming on, Chris, and sharing some of your experience and knowledge with us. It was really great talking with you.

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Yeah, it was great chatting with you, too. And I’m going to be studying up on your passport show that you recently did, because I need to learn all about that. So that’ll be in my future, I hope, sometime. Great.

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All right, we’ll catch you all next month. Thank you again for joining us, and I hope you have a wonderful month.

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Thanks for listening. If you’re planning a trip or are interested in my complimentary planning services, if you have any questions or suggestions for the show, please give me a call at 317-694-4023 or shoot me an email at Katie. K a t I e, white, spelled just like the [email protected]. See you next time.