Traveling Las Vegas

By Chad Waligura ~vegas copy

I think it’s only fitting that my first blog be about Vegas since I’ve visited this city more than any other destination. And it just happens to be one of the most accessible cities in the country, perhaps the world. The city caters to millions of tourists and takes great care of its disabled guests. By the mere numbers of disabled guests it sees every year, it would have to.

When I touch down at McCarran airport, I typically get a sky cap to help get my luggage and help me into a cab. The sky cap service is the best way to go because they take you to a separate location and hail a cab for you according to your needs. And there are cabs in Vegas that have lifts if you need one. (If traveling in an electric chair, you should make prior arrangements to be picked up at the airport. Most large hotel casinos have an airport shuttle that comes equipped with a chair lift.) I usually get a SUV or mini-van type cab because I can transfer into the front seat and still have room for my chair plus luggage.

Another option that I’ve been using lately is to take the shuttle at the airport. There are three companies but BellTrans has been the only one who consistently has an accessible shuttle available. The benefit of this option is that you pay $8/person no matter what. I usually go get the tickets while whoever I’m with goes to get the luggage. The shuttles are right outside of baggage claim.

All hotels in Las Vegas have accessible rooms. During most of my trips, I’ve stayed at Harrah’s, but I’ve roomed at The Mirage, Treasure Island, Excalibur, Luxor, The Boardwalk (which no longer exists), The Rio, The Flamingo and The Plaza (downtown). Granted, some hotels are better than others, some rooms have roll-in showers and some don’t, and some rooms have more open area than others, so you can shop around if you have any specific needs. On one stay at the Luxor, the front desk clerk even asked if I wanted a standard sized toilet or the taller sized one that can be difficult when using a shower chair. That was a pleasant surprise.

If you want to rent accessible equipment while on your trip, there are several medical supply venders that serve the city. I’ve never done this so you will have to search them out and call well ahead of your trip I’m sure.

The Vegas strip and Vegas downtown area is entirely accessible, complete with elevated walkways at some of the busiest intersections and cut crosswalks along the way. Most of the getting around I do when I’m there is either “on foot” or by bus; those two are the easiest and cheapest modes of transportation. There is also a monorail system that runs along one side of the strip on the back sides of the casinos. To ride the rail, though, it costs $5 dollars per ride and it’s more of a hassle to get to the stations.

The Deuce

The Deuce

I mentioned the city’s bus system in the previous paragraph. Well, Vegas recently renovated its entire bus system serving the strip and downtown routes with brand new double-decker buses called The Deuce. And it’s one of the new amenities specifically designed for disabled passengers. Each bus is set up for efficient loading and unloading of wheelchair users. For about a $4 fare, they’re the easiest and cheapest way to travel up and down the strip or to downtown Freemont Street. Be sure to park next to the curb so the driver can see you on approach because he/she will be loading you before any passengers are let on. For more information regarding The Deuce, go to http://www.rtcsnv.com/deuce/.

All Las Vegas shows and entertainment events are wheelchair accessible and very accommodating to special requests. vegas pool copyWhen in doubt, just ask. For as with most everything regarding travel, it’s best to call ahead for specific arrangements.

In the last two years, every Las Vegas Casino swimming pool has added a lift for disabled guests. There must’ve been some law passed or something because it happened very fast, and suddenly they are everywhere I looked. Some are portable so you may have to ask to be able to use them. I’ve seen them in hot tubs now too!

Rental Cars – Recently, I’ve read a few forum questions asking about hand controls for rental cars. Well this seems to be the perfect topic to add to the above piece on air travel, so here goes. Although I have never gone through the process of securing an accessible rental car, I do know that most of the big companies do offer them.

The best advice I’ve heard is to always call 24 hours ahead of your pick up time, and call the local number before you arrive to make certain they have the car ready. The rental companies are far more progressive now that they used to be. A few years back, you may or may not find your car ready for you when you arrived. Even more reason to call ahead. Traveling takes long enough these days without adding to it. Most services are pretty good now, but it’s your responsibility to make sure. I just have a routine checklist in my mind for traveling. I book a flight online, then call the airline. I book a room, then call the hotel. You get the picture. You only have to get screwed a few times before you learn to double check

If you are picking up at an airport, it is best to try to find out ahead of time how to get to the rental counter. Sometimes they are hard to find. In some airports, some of the rental companies, like Dallas Hertz rental, will actually meet you at baggage claim area and will walk a short distance with you to get the car. If you plan well, everything should be ok.

In some airports, you will have to get on the rental car agencies bus to go and get your car and do the paperwork. The bad news is that I have found about 50% of the time the lifts on the buses don’t work and you have to wait for the next one or have someone give you a boost into the bus (almost like a large curb) unless you can manage yourself.

I have never rented a wheelchair accessible van, but my friend, Dawn, goes to Vegas to visit a family member and does a lot of traveling away from the strip. She rents a van with an automatic lift and dropped floor from Wheelchair Getaways. She has also rented from them in Hawaii, California, Texas and Florida. They have locations in 40 US states in over 100 cities.

In Nevada, they’re located near Hendersen about 40 minutes from the McCarren airport. If needed, a driver will bring the van to the McCarren airport (if requested for an extra fee), meet you at the baggage claim, and help you take your luggage to the van. They also will meet you at the airport at departures drop-off to pick the van. They can not provide you with a driver because of liability issues, but some locations have a list of independent drivers you can call.

The vans are clean, run well, have different options for wheelchair passenger placement with full tie-down arrangements, and can be equipped with basic hand-controls if needed. They also rent scooters. The vans are not cheap, ranging from $80-$110/day, which includes a full tank of gas and 100 free miles per day rented (additional fee for miles exceeding free mile amount). You will need to return the van with a full tank of gas. For inquiries to rent a van throughout the Las Vegas area, contact 888-824-7413 or visit the national office website at www.wheelchairgetaways.com/.

Best of luck!