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Ask T+L: Tokyo Tea Ceremony, Biking Napa, Flying with a Disability, Shipping Luggage

Web Exclusive: July 17, 2006

I use a wheelchair to get around. Do you have any tips for flying with a disability?–Sara Hughes, Chicago, Ill.

Careful, detail-oriented planning well in advance is your best bet to ensure that your flight is comfortable and hassle-free. Clearly spell out your needs when you book your flight, says Jani Nayar, executive coordinator of the Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality, an advocacy group for travelers with disabilities. Be as specific as possible: while some wheelchair users may be able to stand up and take a few steps, others may need to be lifted out of the chair. Call again 24 to 48 hours before your flight to make sure the information is listed in your reservation. On the day of your flight, arrive early and check your luggage curbside; your wheelchair doesn’t count against your baggage limit. A folding wheelchair can be stored onboard the plane, but electric wheelchairs must be checked—to avoid damage, ask whether the plane’s cargo hold is large enough for the chair to stand upright. (If not, you may have to disassemble the chair or remove the battery; Nayar advises attaching easy-to-follow assembly instructions to the chair itself.) Once onboard, keep in mind that flight attendants are required only to help you on and off the aircraft, but not always to help you to the restroom. And remember to tell the flight attendant as the plane prepares to land that you will need your wheelchair waiting for you. Electric wheelchairs will be Reassembled by ground crew when you arrive. If you experience any disability-related problems during your flight, call the U.S. Department of Transportation's toll-free complaint line at 800/778-4838.

July, 2006

READER'S FIND

Reader's Find New Zealand
My husband and I recently stayed at the Hapuku Lodge [64-3/319-6559; www.hapukulodge.com ; doubles from $220], in Kaikoura, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Kaikoura Mountains. This modern country inn has several accommodations: a cube-like main building made from concrete, wood, and steel; two "tree houses," where guests sleep under the forest canopy in luxury apartments; and the Olive House—a one-bedroom second-floor space with 360-degree views, smack in the middle of the property's olive grove. You can watch as farmers in the ground-level pressing room make oil at harvest time. —Colette Bedard, San Francisco, Calif.

Enter T+L's Reader's Find sweepstakes .

Can you recommend any good biking tours of the Napa Valley?
—Catherine Glage, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Pedaling through the rolling hills of northern California's renowned wine region is an optimal way to get some exercise and sample the area's wealth of grape varietals and restaurants. Although there are plenty of wines to taste, most tours limit your intake so that you won't be too impaired to ride. Napa Valley Bike Tours (800/707-2453; www.napavalleybiketours.com ; $115 per person) plans daily excursions with beginners in mind—for example, a slow-paced 18-mile ride on flat terrain, with stops at four vineyards, including Domaine Chandon, one of the nation's leading producers of sparkling wine. For more adventurous cyclists, the six-day trip from Backroads (800/462-848; www.backroads.com ; $2,598 per person) requires 20 to 30 miles of vigorous biking per day. Stops along the way include a night at the Tuscan-inspired Villagio Inn & Spa in Yountville; Thomas Keller's French Laundry restaurant is just around the corner. (For more on the region, see Sonoma's New Star .)

What are the most efficient luggage-shipping services for a business traveler?
—Ken Tyson, New York, N.Y.

The Luggage Club (877/231-5131; www.theluggageclub.com ; prices vary) ships to all major cities in Canada, the United States, Asia, Europe, and Africa. Customers arrange for the company to pick up luggage at their home or another location and deliver it directly to their hotel; each bag is insured for up to $1,000. International travelers should safeguard against delays at customs by booking this transfer/delivery at least three days in advance. Another door-to-door service, Luggage Forward (866/416-7447; www.luggageforward.com ; prices vary), recently launched Luggage Tracker, which lets travelers follow a bag's trajectory via PDA or cell phone. Pickups are scheduled in two-hour blocks from Monday through Saturday, and the company offers up to $10,000 in insurance. For last-minute travel in the States, try Luggage Express (866/ 744-7224; www.travellighter.com ; prices vary); the service accepts bookings as close as two hours before a flight.

I'm touring Ireland this summer, from the north down to County Cork. Do you know of some great inns along the way?
—Sarah Griggs, Wellesley, Mass.

Check into the 10-room Castle Murray House Hotel (St. John's Point, Dunkineely; 353-74/973-7022; www.castlemurray.com ; doubles from $165) , perched on the remote Donegal Peninsula on Ireland's northwest coast. The guesthouse is known for its sweeping views of McSwynes Bay and the Castle Murray ruins, and for its French-inspired dishes. On your way south, stop over at Dublin's Number 31 (31 Leeson Close; 353-1/ 676-5011; www.number31.ie ; doubles from $242) , an 18th-century Georgian bed-and-breakfast with a mod vibe: the lobby's seventies-style leather- and-kilim-lined lounge area faces a peat-burning fireplace. A hearty breakfast—kippers, cranberry-walnut loaf, and homemade soda bread—is included. When you arrive in County Cork, stay at the three-room Creagh House (Main St., Doneraile; 353-22/ 24433; www.creaghhouse.ie ; doubles from $203) . With antique maps decorating the walls, and vast public rooms, this 1837 property is a nod to Ireland's ancestral homes.

Where can I see a traditional tea ceremony in Tokyo?
—Vanessa DeLucca, Taos, N. Mex.

Spend an afternoon at the serene teahouse in the 16th-century Happo-en Garden (1-1-1 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku; 81-3/3443-3111), near the Shirokanedai subway stop. Three ceremonies—Ryurei, Hiroma, and Koma—are set to traditional Japanese music. Locals frequent Yamamoto-Tei (7-19-32 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku; 81-3/3657-8577), a 20th-century wood-framed clay-walled structure and tea garden close to the well-known Taito-ku district. Ceremonies are less formal here, and the lush waterfall and karikomi-clipped shrubs ­make it worth the 30-minute drive north from Tokyo. Alternatively, hotels such as the Royal Park (2-1-1 Nihonbashi-Kakigara-cho, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3667-1111; www.royalparkhotels.co.jp ), adjacent to the Suitengu-mae station, will arrange private tea rituals upon request.

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