Our Family Stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian pin

When visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, families have many options for lodgings. For the most elaborate and luxurious  experience, we suggest staying at The Grand Floridian. This elegant resort is surprisingly family friendly, with plenty of activities for kids and parents alike to enjoy.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian lobby

What Makes it Family Worthy?

This hotel is opulent with all sorts of amenities. It is also close to the Magic Kingdom. Guests can enjoy free WiFi in both the rooms and public areas as well as free parking.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian playground

Our Welcome

When we arrived, the staff was friendly and welcoming. We experienced practically no wait before we got to our rooms but spent the time enjoying the meet and greet with Cinderella in the lobby.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian ceiling

Hotel Decor

The hotel’s lobby is a sight to behold, decorated with a Victorian aesthetic. Guests walking in will see a ceiling five stories high with huge chandeliers. Throughout the hotel, one can see detailed latticework and ornamentation. The lobby is a lovely spot to relax while waiting to check in or after returning from the parks.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian white

Our Room

We stayed in room 9409 in a Garden view room. The first thing we noticed was the locking mechanisms for our door. Everyone gets a magic band as their door “key,” and guests can even customize this band with their favorite color. The bolt mechanism on the door is pretty high up, which is great for child safety.

Our room was decorated in rich creams, golds, and greens, with lovely crown molding. We had wood flooring, perfect for those who suffer from allergies. The entire room was also extremely well maintained. We saw no scuff marks, dirt on the carpet, or peeling on the walls.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian bed

The room featured a large two door closet with complimentary robes. The safety deposit box sat at a perfect level and could easily store a 15-inch laptop.

We appreciated the two queen sized beds, as not every Disney hotel has this. There was also an overhead fan, perfect for the hot, humid Florida days. We had a lovely nightstand between the beds as well as an opening desk next to the bed. Guests should look for one of Disney’s well-known Hidden Mickeys around the room,. We found several including one on the back of the desk chair!

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian TV

Our room boasted a red sofa, a relaxing place to stay and lounge after a day in the park. We also had a TV with all the Disney movies. The TV displayed a daily schedule, which included a weather report. We found the mini cooler under the TV and a coffee maker next to the TV. The room featured plenty of hidden places to charge electronics, such as behind the coffee maker.

We loved the gorgeous setting out of our window. We requested a quiet room with “no view” but still got to see a lovely stretch of beach outside.Our room featured a big balcony. It struck us how squeaky clean it was with two white chairs and no bugs, impressive in Florida.
The door to the balcony had a high up double lock so little kids can’t unlock the door by themselves. The door itself was hard to open, another good safety feature.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian outside

 

Our Bathroom

Our bathroom featured tan marble tile throughout, with the hypoallergenic wood floor continuing into the room. We enjoyed the double sink, something that all families can appreciate, as well as the hair dryer and complimentary toiletries.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian sink

We had a tub with a showerhead as well as a clothesline. Unfortunately, the showerhead was not handheld, but the tub had a grab bar.Our biggest surprise was the laundry hamper. Not every hotel has one, but a basket is perfect for keeping dirty towels off the floor.

Dining

The Grand Floridian offers several choices for character dining, such as the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast on 1900 Park Fare. Parents can even book the Wonderland Tea Party where kids can chat with Alice.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian piano

 

Those looking for Mediterranean fusion can try Citricos. This restaurant does have a relaxed dress code; men can wear khakis, slacks, jeans, or dress shorts, and women can wear capri pants, skirts, dresses, jeans, or dress shorts. They do not allow tank tops, swimsuits, torn clothes, or t-shirts with offensive graphics. Parents can book their reservation online or over the phone, which we recommend.

Narcoossee’s features seafood dining on the waterfront. This restaurant boasts beautiful panoramic ocean views. Narcoossee’s has a slightly stricter dress code than Citricos, essentially business casual.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian cupcake

Victoria & Albert’s is the most high-end establishment at the Grand Floridian. Here, patrons dine on award-winning cuisine in a classically elegant environment. They have a strict dress code; men must wear dinner jackets, slacks, and shoes, and women must wear either a dress, dressy pant suit, or a skirt with a blouse. Guests must also book in advance to dine here.

More budget friendly options include the Grand Floridian Cafe, Garden Tea View Room, or Gasparilla Island Grill. At the Gasparilla Island Grill, our son particularly enjoyed their cupcakes and had to have one every night before bed.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian car

Those who can’t or don’t want to leave their rooms can enjoy the hotel’s 24-hour room service.

Amenities

The Grand Floridian boasts several pools. We particularly enjoyed the zero entry leisure pool with an 181-foot tall water slide, whirlpool spa, waterfall, and hammocks. One can get towels and lifejackets at The Captain’s Shipyard. Guests with disabilities can also arrange for pool lifts and other access options at the Front Desk.Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian night

Those wanting to get their feet wet can enjoy fishing, water cruises, and motorboat rentals. There’s also plenty of other outdoor fitness activities such as tennis, volleyball, and golf.

The Grand Floridian offers plenty of activities. Parents can sign kids up for such activities as Campfire Activities or Grand Adventures in Cooking. There is also Arcadia Games, featuring both classic and modern arcade games.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian grass

Cost

The Grand Floridian is pricey, with rooms starting at $570 a night. The Garden View rooms are typically the cheapest option.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian duck

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Though the balcony is secure, parents should still try not to avoid booking a balcony room when traveling with young kids.
  • Make sure all balcony doors, and windows are locked. The balcony doors have two high up locks for added security.
  • Parents need to bring a non-slip bathmat, as the hotel does not provide one.

 

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum

 

 

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum pin

The Broad Museum in Los Angeles is a museum of modern art that all members of the family can enjoy. When we first heard of the museum, we thought it would not be the best destination for little kids since it wasn’t interactive. However, after visiting, we highly recommend it for all ages.
It seemed like every room was filled with whimsical elements that will fascinate visitors of all ages.

And as a trailblazer in its field, the Broad also has a fun smartphone app. This app features audio guides with talks from the artists and a kid-friendly guide narrated by LeVar Burton. Visitors can also look on the app’s map for specific pieces of art or nearby bathrooms as well as plan their next trip.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum america

What You Will See

The escalator into the building carries passengers through an impressive tunnel. One of the first things we saw when we got to the top was a see through glass elevator from the ground to the second floor. While most elevators have the wires on top, this elevator had the wires on the bottom. Our son said it looked like it was straight out of the Willy Wonka movie.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum tulip

The third floor displaying the art is built in a circular fashion, meaning guests will start and end at the same place no matter what direction they walk.

A huge theme of many of the exhibits here is that viewers have to take a second look. For example, one of the first sculptures guests see is a giant “balloon” sculpture. If one walks around the sculpture, they will see these “balloons” are giant metallic tulips.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum color

On the wall in the entrance, room is a huge eighty-two-foot long painting, called In the Land of the Dead Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow by Takashi Murakami. This picture covers two walls and has lots of interesting details put together.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum curve

The museum features plenty of abstract and political paintings. Several of the featured paintings are highly abstract, made up of only colored shapes. Some of the displays are collections of items that have no meaning individually, but in a group setting creates art.

Some areas show more political art, such as one art piece made up of several provocative essays displayed on the walls in different colors. Parents should be aware that a few of the art pieces are more macabre and adult, like Kara Walker’s African’t.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum art

The building itself features lots of spacious rooms which let in natural light through a series of giant “honeycomb” windows. These windows ensure the rooms get a lot of light without actually reflecting directly into the chamber.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum stairs

Kids will love the giant balloon animal in the Jeff Koons room. This entire place is lively and colorful, featuring such interesting art pieces as a metallic train set and Michael Jackson with his pet monkey Bubbles.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum room

Another great art piece for kids is Robert Therrien’s Under the Table, a giant table with several large chairs that guests can walk under.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum pink

Fans of the artist can visit the Andy Warhol Area with his depictions of Elvis and Jackie O. There’s also a Roy Liechtenstein area with several pieces, including Full Fishbowl.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum warhol

Finally, when we went, we got to enjoy Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room temporary exhibit. This area is a fully mirrored room lit with several LED lights. It feels like walking in space among hundreds of stars. They only allow one person in for a minute at a time for safety reasons and since it was so popular..

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum stars

Location, Hours, and Cost

Visitors can find The Broad 221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Admission to The Broad is free. However, those wanting to see the Infinity Mirrored Room need to make a free separate same-day reservation after arriving at the museum.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum dog

Visitors can park either in the garage under the museum for $12 for three hours or at the California Plaza Garage for $8 with validation from the museum.

The Broad is closed on Mondays. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the museum is open from 11 AM to 5 PM. Thursdays and Fridays, the museum is open from 11 AM to 8 PM. On Saturdays, the museum is open from 10 Am to 8 PM. And on Sundays, the museum is open from 10 AM to 6 PM. The Broad Museum is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Taking Kids to the Los Angeles Broad Museum chair

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should talk to kids about not touching the art since many of the pieces are inviting to feel.
  • Visitors can always ask a volunteer to explain various pieces to them. The museum is well staffed with dozens of volunteers.
  • We recommend making a reservation to avoid a wait.
  • The museum has lots of areas to sit and observe pieces or take a selfie.
  • Some of the art in his museum is more adult oriented. Some of the pieces also display frightening images. Therefore, parents of younger kids should keep this in mind while exploring.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism pin

Traveling parents of children with autism often have many concerns over cruising. However, many common concerns are either unfounded or easily remedied. Here are some cruising concerns we frequently hear about and how families can navigate them and enjoy cruising.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism cake

 

Cabin is too Small for my Child

The average inside cabins encompass about 160 square feet, so it is no surprise that they can feel a bit claustrophobic. However, there are options on the bigger and more modern ships for larger family style cabins or two connecting inside cabins. These options provide much more space for families.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism movie

Balcony cabins aren’t recommended for most special needs families due to safety reasons, especially for younger kids with autism who don’t have an understanding of danger.

My Kids is a Picky Eater and on a Special Diet

Nowadays cruise lines do a great job of accommodating everybody’s needs. The dining areas now frequently offer gluten-free and low-salt items. Most restaurants offer vegan items as well. Parents can sometimes request a particular dish, especially in the main dining room at night.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism dining

Ships are Too Crowded

Many times we hear that people don’t like the big ships, especially the larger ones that have 4000 people on them. However, parents should remember that 4000 people are never in the same place at once. People do different activities in different parts of the ship, and since the ship is large, there are many activities spread out in various areas.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism ship

Parents of children with autism can request accommodations during boarding or disembarkation. That way, families won’t ever have to face the crowds. There are quiet areas and even serenity decks on some ships so finding a quiet or uncrowded area is as easy as asking a cruise director or purser for suggestions.

We Might Hear Nasty Remarks

All parents of kids with autism face nasty comments at a particular point in their lives. Our best advice would be for parents to ignore them. If they are rude or even insulting, then there’s not much to say to the offending person except to either just ignore what they said, move to another area or perhaps pass out informational cards on autism.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism pool

If somebody asks questions, this would be a great opportunity for parents to educate others about autism. Such a situation has the potential to be a great thing because parents can raise autism awareness and help the autism community.

Activities are Unsuitable

On older ships, this used to be a problem because all the events meant either coloring in the kids club or sitting drinking a beer and playing bingo or trivia. That is no longer the case nowadays as the ships are filled with activities. On Norwegian cruise line, kids can enjoy a rope course. There are shows and parties for everyone in the family to enjoy. Parents can take their children to classes on cupcake decorating, dancing, cooking, photography, or computer programming.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism limes

As an example, RCCL recently teamed with DreamWorks and NCL with Nickelodeon. Therefore, there are now character breakfasts, parades, and other themed activities.

If some things aren’t comfortable for them, kids can still either use the pool or watch TV. A lot of the cruise lines show kids movies at the pool or kids clubs. Some even have theaters. Of course, if all else fails, most of the modern ships have WiFi. A lot of the new ships also have Nintendo and other electronic games. Whenever parents come on board, they can just communicate their needs to the activities manager or the youth director.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism sushi

Cruise Ships are Dangerous for Our Child

Once in a while, we hear from parents concerned about safety on ships. These are colossal ships, especially the newer ones with 4000 people.

First, parents should not get a balcony cabin. As romantic as it sounds, unless the kid knows not to lean on ledges or overboard then parents much better off in an inside cabin.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism carousel

Parents should bear in mind that the pools on the cruise ships do not have lifeguards. Parents of children who wander off should choose a cabin away from pools, places with water, and elevators.

Cruise ships don’t have supervision except for a few safety officers. Parents should go to them if their child goes missing. They have procedures and can start looking for a lost child immediately.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism

We Won’t be Relaxed

Most of us want to go on vacation and relax. However, parents of children with autism might worry they will have to be hyper vigilant at all times. Kids will likely be excited to be on the cruise ship and maybe want to explore. Meanwhile, parents will want to get a massage or at least sit by the pool.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism flow

Parents should think of either teaming up with another family member to help watch the kids or bring a caregiver. They could even team up with several other parents of children with autism and take turns, especially during the activities.

Cruises are too Expensive

Pricing is a factor for many people going on cruises, especially the modern crew ships with the endless activities. Families should seek bargains at every opportunity.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism drill

We recommend traveling off-season for many reasons. There are fewer guests on board and families will get more personalized attention. The silver lining to going off-season is the fact that the prices can be almost 50% off compared to the summers or holidays.

Cruises are too Long

The average cruise is seven days for most first timers. Parents of children who react adversely to changes might want to consider a shorter journey. These shorter cruises of three to five days can be hard to find, but they do exist. We recommend starting with these to get children acclimated to cruising. Then if they enjoy themselves, parents can always book a longer cruise later.cruises of three to five days can be hard to find, but they do exist. We recommend starting with these to get children acclimated to cruising. Then if they enjoy themselves, parents can always book a longer cruise later.

 

 

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism arcade

Have you taken a cruise with your special needs kid? What was your experience?

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism pin

One of the things we find most interesting about travel is its ever-changing nature and how it has evolved especially in the past few years.
Not only are there new trends in housing, destinations, and upgraded airline services, but with the introduction of smartphones, and apps new opportunities have opened to travelers.  For us as parents to a son with autism, some of these apps have totally revamped and even revolutionized the way we plan and enjoy our vacations. Here are some of our favorite ones.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism air

Lodging by AirBnB

When we first heard about Airbnb we were very reluctant to try the service.
The thought of using this sort of accommodation especially after staying in hotels offering 24-hour service was daunting. However, we soon understood the value that this type of lodging provided families with autism. Not only does it give more budget-friendly possibilities for travelers, but for families with special needs that require more space for their kids to move around and feel more comfortable in a home-like environment, this is the way to go.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism uber

Getting around with Uber

When we first heard about Uber and Lyft, we could only think of the potential safety hazards of this service. However, since trying it, we have become big fans. What’s great about ‘ubering’ is the fact that travelers can get from point A to point B without having to wait for a bus or look for a taxi – especially when a child is about to have a meltdown. The vehicle ordered usually takes less than ten minutes to arrive. Moreover, not only do travelers get all the information about the driver and the route, this app allows guests to send their route to a third person so they can track them along the way to make it safer. Overall, especially in the major cities, it is much cheaper to take a service like Uber or Lyft than to take a cab or rent a car.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism yelp

Recommendations by Yelp

The urban dictionary recognizes this funny name and my family took to Yelping early on when it first came out because of the convenience.
When we find ourselves with a hungry child, this app is a breeze for finding a suitable restaurant. Travelers can look under consumer ratings as well as different cuisines or diets. This fact makes the service incredibly convenient for everybody including families with special needs.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism netflix

Streaming for entertainment

We couldn’t just choose one App under this title. The service of apps such as Hulu, Ustream and Netflix has made such a difference in the way we travel.
In the old days, we would have to set up and pack a VCR and multiple DVDs to occupy our kids. It would turn into an awful trip if any of these malfunctioned as we would face a giant meltdown. Nowadays with these streaming apps, we are pretty much set and ready to go if we have wifi. Thankfully, most places like restaurants, hotels, airports and even some airlines have wifi nowadays.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism groupon

Saving with Groupon

We probably discovered Groupon later than others.
However, we still use the service and its competitors LivingSocial, Travelzoo and GoldStar to score discounts. These services provide great options for many families who want to travel on a budget. They are especially useful for parents who want to try places but don’t want to pay full price since they aren’t sure if their kids will even stay for the duration of the show or the meal.

Apps That Changed the Way We Travel with Autism whatsupp

Using Whatsapp to keep in touch

Though many in the US are not familiar with WhatsApp, it is incredibly popular overseas in places like Europe and South America. The app provides free and reliable communications between to people via WiFi. It is an excellent choice for families with kids on the spectrum if family members get separated. It is basically like texting but without the monthly fee involved. Viber works in the same way. Other services that are similar but not always as reliable are Facebook Messenger and Skype.

Have you used these apps or others when traveling with your family? Which ones are your favorites?-how did you like them?  

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy

 

 

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy pin

Cruise ship cabins are notoriously small on average. However, they are built to house families of three-four members for a couple of days in relative comfort. Parents should try to make the best of the limited space and accommodations by packing well and by organizing the space in such a way that they can find things or don’t misplace anything. Based on our decade of travel, here are some tips to help families make the space more manageable.
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Before boarding   

Choose small luggage 

Parents should always travel with small to medium suitcases that fit comfortably under the beds. Travelers will regret packing a giant 30-inch bag that takes up limited and valuable cabin space.

Pack a power cord

Most cabins have a limited number of power outlets. Travelers should bring either an outlet splitter or extension cord to charge devices, especially at nighttime.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy yellow

 

Bring a nightlight

Families should bring a good night light since most inside cabins lack good lighting. Especially when it is dark at night people can trip and fall on their way to the bathroom. Book reading lights or small flashlights can be very helpful as well. With these portable light sources, if someone needs to get up for a bathroom break during the night they don’t disturb everyone else with overhead light.

Tips for First Time Families Cruising with Autism quad

Use Magnets and post its

Cruise ship cabin walls are a useful spot to organize the multitude of papers that one will acquire while on board. These documents include shore excursion info, daily itineraries, and party invitations. Sticking these papers near the desk/vanity area with magnets or clips will free up valuable table surface space.

Remember the air freshener

Cabins don’t get a lot of air circulation, and if someone in the family is sensitive to smells, this could prove stressful. Parents should bring along a naturally scented freshener or some essential oils to diffuse on a light bulb. Lavender or peppermint are often pleasing and calming choices for many people.

 

Our Tips for a Family's First Time Cruising bed

Label everything

Families should pack everything in plastic bags and label everybody’s belongings accordingly with a different colored  Tape. This will help everyone know exactly which items to unpack and what to put where.

While onboard

Rearrange furniture

Passengers shouldn’t hesitate to ask the cabin steward to help rearrange the furniture in the cabin if necessary. The best layout that leaves the most space is splitting the king size bed into two singles to create a pathway between the beds.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy sofa

 

Designate a spot for everything

Parents should designate a specific area for each member of the family to use in the cabin. This system will allow everybody to know exactly where their stuff is and where to find it. Moreover, it will prove beneficial especially during the mornings when four people need to get dressed all at once.
One can also designate a small area on the table or vanity in the room for a electronics. Parents should make sure nobody puts any beverages next to the electronics, so they don’t get damaged from accidental spills.

Use the cooler for food

Parents should ask the cabin steward to empty out the minibar. Then the family can use it for food and drink items instead of putting them on the table to occupy space.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy vitual

Keep everything organized

Parents should bring their own small fabric shower organizer, especially if the family uses different medicated shampoos and soaps. Most inside cabins only have one shelf in the shower, and there isn’t that much space to put everything.

Also, traveling families should either bring trash bags or ask for trash bags from the cabin steward to put dirty clothes in a neat pile, so they’re not all over the cabin. We advise designating a garbage bag with dirty clothes for each person because then parents can either repack using this same system and take them home or give them to the cabin steward to wash. Either way, everyone will know which item belongs to which person.

Furthermore, putting all of the room keys on lanyards and hanging by the front door at all times is helpful.This way no one wastes valuable vacation time searching the entire cabin every time they leave.

 

Twelve Tips for Keeping a Cruise Cabin Tidy suiye

Clear the room 

For those who decide to use room service at any point, the best thing to do is to eat and drink whatever was ordered and quickly put out the empty cups and plates, so the items don’t occupy space on tables or floors.

Keep floor and closet clutter free

Everyone should keep everything off the floor as much as possible so nobody trips and falls.Since closet space is tight, one can repack the dirty clothes into plastic bags and put them in the suitcases after wearing them. That will take less closet space and on the last day everyone will have much less to pack.

With these “inside” tips you will find cruising in your “inside” cabin to be a breeze. What are your tips?

 

 

 

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus pin

With 250,000 inhabitants calling the place home at the height of its popularity, Ephesus in Turkey was once a prominent city in its own right. The town was also the epicenter of the cult of Cybele which later produced one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. Ephesus was additionally a seaport and a prominent trading stop, but the ruins are now located several miles inland.

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus sea

Time and the forces of nature have clearly worked their combined powers on this destination and, as a result, it has taken over one and a half centuries to bring this once thriving place back to life. Archeologists have currently uncovered less than 20% of the city. However, there is plenty to see here for traveling families who love history.
Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus ruins

 

What You Will See

Library and Terrace House

Impressive restoration efforts have taken place at the library, once home to a vast collection of documents, and Terrace House, which houses some beautiful mosaics. Travelers should also keep an eye out for one of the oldest advertisements still in existence and what passed in those days for upscale bathroom facilities. Another point of interest is the town’s theater. It dates back to 200 B.C. and until recently bands used it as a venue for large rock concerts. Nowadays, only smaller acts can use the facility in keeping with the ongoing preservation efforts at the site.

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus entrance

 

Seven Sleepers

Travelers might find interest in the plight of the legendary seven sleepers imprisoned in the nearby hills. According to legend, as a result of their beliefs, the local emperor forced these individuals to leave town. Unfortunately, the emperor also decided to imprison them in the cave they now called home. The only reason they didn’t notice their imprisonment is because their nap lasted almost two hundred years. Upon waking, they found their entire town had become Christian. The sleepers died shortly after this revelation. The cave on the slopes of Mont Pion where they supposedly slept remains a tourist attraction to this day.

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus rest

 

Mount Nightingale

The house where the Virgin Mary possibly spent her final years sit on Mount Nightingale (a.k.a. Mount Koressos). A Catholic nun rediscovered this site in the nineteenth century, claiming she saw the place in a vision. While the Catholic Church has issued no official verdict on the matter, several Popes have visited the site, and the ruins do date back to the time of Christ. Even travelers who aren’t religious frequently mention in Trip Advisor reviews that they found the place “peaceful.”

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus candles

 

The building itself is comprised of a small chapel area and a room off to the side where the lady is believed to have slept. Of course, the ground’s well-kept gardens contain a well whose holy waters are said to have miraculous healing powers. It stands to reason that those who choose to have a drink do so at their risk. This site nonetheless makes an excellent stop for travelers heading back to Selçuk after a day’s sightseeing at Ephesus.

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus mary

 

Location, Hours, and Admission

From May to October, Ephesus is open between the hours of eight am and seven-thirty pm. The rest of the year the ruins shut down at five pm. New guests are admitted until an hour before the site closes, so there is plenty of time to get here.
Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus mosaicAdmission prices are currently thirty Turkish liras for adults and twenty for students. Of course, the best place to stay for those who plan on seeing the ruins is the nearby town of Selçuk.

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus home

Ephesus sits in Turkey’s Central Aegean region. Although taxis to the site can be arranged for about fifteen Turkish liras, it is still much cheaper to use the minibusses available for about four lire per person during the busier portions of the year.

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus pottyThese conveyances leave from Selçuk every fifteen minutes. Travelers who bring their vehicles should also know that parking at the site costs approximately eight lire.

Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus table

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Ephesus is home to many vendors selling food and drink. However, these services are expensive when compared to what is available nearby. Travelers should instead bring beverages and snacks.
  • It is a good idea to wear sturdy, comfortable shoes so that everyone can walk around the city with ease.
  • There is little shade on the site. Therefore, parents may want to take along items that will protect them from the sun’s rays. We recommend broad-brimmed hats, parasols, and high-powered sunscreen. Parents can also arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat.
  • Visitors to Ephesus may want to hire a guide to avoid missing out on anything.
  • Ramps to the house on Mount Nightengale are provided for disabled guests. However, anyone who attempts to get up the mountain in a wheelchair will probably need assistance from another member of their party.Taking Kids with Autism to Visit Ephesus statue

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans

 

 

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans pin

The Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans is a sight to see. This grand restaurant has been open since 1890 when it was owned by Emile Commander. Over time, the restaurant switched owners, first to Frank G. Giarratano in the 20s, then to the Morans in 1944. Thirty years later, the Brennan family took over, painting the outside the iconic “Commander’s Blue” that makes the restaurant so distinct as well as redesigning the interior, adding large windows, and putting in custom paintings. Today, the restaurant is a culinary icon for the city, serving great New Orleans staples in a high-quality environment.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans floor

The Décor 

The building is hard to miss with it’s white and teal striped siding reminiscent of a whimsical Disneyland Main Street restaurant. The inside rivals any modern fancy dining room. Old-fashioned chandeliers light the room and elegant brown and lavender walls which boast elaborate designs. The tables are all decked out with white tablecloths and a single miniature lamp. Wide open windows and mirrors help bring more light into the room while giving the illusion of an even larger space. The décor and the setting make for a great anniversary or birthday meal.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans window

The Food

The cuisine is a blend of Creole and Louisiana flavors. Patrons can try various unique dishes such as shrimp beignets and turtle soup, and of course traditional dishes such as gumbo.

The food is a bit upscale and certainly on the more on the expensive side. However, as we found out, the food is well worth the price (and the Yelp reviews agree). When we visited the Commander’s Palace, I had a Nellie, which consisted of rye whiskey, dark rum, orange liqueur, bitters and citrus and cost a whopping ten dollars! But as soon as I started drinking, I found it was worth every penny. My husband ordered a big daddy of Grand Mariner with fresh squeezed lemon and likewise enjoyed his order.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans meat

The must-try dish is their famous Commander’s Bread Pudding Soufflé with Whiskey Sauce. It is a delicious sweet dish with custard that anyone in the family is sure to enjoy.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans menu

Try it at home

There are a few recipes posted on their website for those who want to try their hand at some Louisiana cooking once they get back home! If anyone in the family has something they love, parents can ask the staff if they can track down the recipe before leaving. Of course, there are always adaptation recipes, like this one for the Bread Pudding Soufflé. But the staff is typically more than happy to give interested patrons the authentic recipe from the source.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans dessert

Reservations

We recommend making a reservation online or over the phone for those planning their trip to New Orleans. The restaurant takes phone reservations at (504) 899-8221 between nine am and nine pm daily.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans kitchen

Dress Code

There is a dress code at Commander’s Palace that families should know about before visiting. The best way to sum up the required attire is Business Casual. They specify on the website that gentlemen must wear collared shirts and closed toe shoes, and jackets are preferred. No one can wear shorts, flip-flops, t-shirt, sweatshirts, or sweatpants, and jeans are discouraged.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans dish

There is a particular environment that the staff likes to keep up down to the last detail in the restaurant. As an example, one woman on TripAdvisor mentioned that when she came to the restaurant in a black dress, the staff switched her napkins from white to black.

The surprise factor as we discovered is the staff encourages patrons to visit the kitchen!

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans bread

Location, Hours

The Commander’s Palace Restaurant is located at 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130. It sits at the corner of Coliseum Street in the Garden District, close to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. Visitors can enjoy the complimentary valet parking service at the restaurant if they drive there.

Dining at Commander’s Palace Restaurant in New Orleans chef

The restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. They temporarily closed to prepare for dinner for a few hours. The restaurant then opens again for dinner hours from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There isn’t a ton of room between tables, but there is typically enough room to have a conversation without shouting. Parents of children with autism might want to request a quiet table away from the center.
  • The restaurant is not necessarily wheelchair friendly. However, some tables could accommodate a guest in a wheelchair.
  • The restaurant does occasionally play live Jazz music, during brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Parents of children for whom this might be a problem should request a table away from the performers.
  • The restaurant does offer some private dining options. These are usually for large parties, though interested families of four can reserve the Chef’s Table.
  • Some of the food items, particularly the alcoholic drinks, can take a while to prepare and bring to the table.
  • Kids with no smell sensitivities might get a kick out of touring the kitchen to see how the cooking is done.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey

 

 

taking-the-family-to-istanbul pin-turkey

As a city that has sat at the crossroads of Western and Eastern civilization for centuries, Istanbul has a lot to offer visitors. The sprawling metropolis now exists in both Asia and Europe on either side of the Bosphorus Strait. Of course, the city once known as Constantinople used to be at the forefront of Christianity until the Ottoman Turks conquered it and subsequently converted the inhabitants to Islam. However, travelers of all faiths are welcome these days.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey fresco

Grand Bazaar

An incredibly popular spot with visitors to the city, this undercover market, started in the mid-1400s. Today, it is one of the world’s oldest still operating markets. The Grand Bazaar took three hundred years’ worth of work to complete.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey sky

The marketplace remains in much the same shape today as it was in those days. The narrow lanes still form a labyrinth that houses a wide variety of merchandise. Shoppers can easily spend hours or even days perusing the goods. Bargaining over tea is still the fashion here, though it has gone out of practice in other places.

The Grand Bazaar is open between eight-thirty am and seven pm on a daily basis except for Sundays and on holidays. Travelers arriving via public transportation should get off at the Vezneciler metro station or the Beyazıt-Kapalı Çarşı tram station.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey cat

Turkish Baths

There are five historic Turkish Baths or hamams in the city of Istanbul as well as numerous modern equivalents. The traditional baths include a fifteen-minute scrub administered by a staff member of the same gender as the one bathing. This experience costs around eighty Turkish Lire in public bath houses but will cost a bit more at local hotels. Of course, guests should bring some cash to tip the attendants upon departing the premises.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey blue

Men can often get away with wearing nothing but the towel hamam visitors are given as long as they avoid flashing anyone during their trip. Ladies should leave on their swimsuit bottoms for the entire process but be aware that going topless is typically considered acceptable behavior. In some hamams, it is deemed acceptable to bare more and in others covering up is encouraged.

Topkapi Palace

Once the Ottoman Turks took over the city, this is where they made their home for the next four centuries. Eventually, the rulers moved out, but the site functioned as an auxiliary unit with the royal mint, the library, and the Treasury remaining present in the building for some time after that. The palace is now a museum and a UNESCO site.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey ceiling

Although the palace has hundreds of rooms, only a few important ones are currently accessible to visitors. As is the case with many former royal residences, a lot of history took place here, and there is subsequently much to see. Some but not all of the gems from the royal treasury are on display in the public areas of the palace. Other treasures found here include the sword and cloak said to have belonged to the prophet Muhammad.

To visit both the palace and the harem area is thirty-six Turkish Lire for those over the age of twelve. Admission is free for children. The museum is open from nine am to six pm from the middle of April to October. It closes two hours earlier than the times above between the months of November and mid-April.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey interior

Hagia Sofia

Although the present structure dates to 532 AD, earlier churches had been built on the same spot. The current building started off as a Byzantium church in and continued as such for a little over a thousand years. After the conquest of the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Ottomans turned it into a mosque. Hagia Sofia became a museum in the 1930s and remains so to this day.

The former religious house is known for its ancient mosaics and other works of art that date back centuries. Travelers should plan to spend several hours taking in everything this place has to offer, but they should also keep in mind that that the museum can be crowded at times.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey castle

Buying online tickets is a good way to avoid the lines upon entry. Admission is free for children and 30 lire for those over the age of twelve. The site is open from nine am to four pm from October to the middle of April. From then until September, the building remains open until six pm.

Blue Mosque 

Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, this religious edifice was constructed between the years 1609 and 1616. While many of the opulent decorations from earlier years have since been removed, the building retains a great deal of its original charm.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey building

It is also still used as a fully functioning mosque. Therefore, women that want to view the site will be required to cover their heads with a scarf to obtain entry. Travelers of all faiths and genders should also keep their arms and shoulders covered as well. Cover-ups and veils are provided for those that have arrived without them, but anyone that is worried about the cleanliness of these garments may want to bring clothes to wear instead.

There is no admission charge for visiting the mosque, but the site often gets crowded, and travelers will want to plan accordingly.

Taking the Family to Istanbul Turkey floor

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The most difficult part of planning a trip to Istanbul is finding a time when the weather is pleasant. The city is known to fluctuate between temperature extremes. The months of September, October, May, and June are considered the best time to visit.
  • Travelers will want to bring along warm clothing and an umbrella any time they visit.
  • Those making their way to the city should double check the weather reports and adjust their packing lists accordingly.
  • Those at the Turkish baths who find the prospect of being bathed by someone else alarming can always scrub themselves. This choice will also save around 25 lire per trip.
  • The events and attractions that have lines offer no accommodations for autism.
  • The food in Istanbul might be spicy, which can be a problem for kids with food sensetivities.
  • The Topkapi Palace features a lot of walking areas. Parents should make sure everyone wears comfortable shoes.
  • The Topkapi Palace can get crowded. Parents should try to arrive at times when it isn’t as busy, usually early in the morning or late in the day.
  • At the Blue Mosque, parents should make sure kids stay quiet out of respect.
  • Most of the areas in Istanbul are not interactive. Parents should make sure kids know what they can or cannot touch.
  • Topkapi Palace is vast, so parents might just want to see the highlights.
  • Haggling is a way of life in Istanbul, so parents should check prices before buying anything.

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism pin

 


Hello Margalit,

My name is Dondria, and I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana.
We are traveling to Madrid, Spain next month and my husband, and I were trying to decide on something. Our twin fourteen-year-old sons have autism. We have taken them places and done road-trips, and they have flown before, and we survived.
Now for this trip, they are older, and we think they will be able to cope even better. We were wondering whether we should take them to a Flamenco show or not since everybody that I spoke to seems to recommend it. Have you been to Spain? Did you go to a Flamenco show? I know so little about that country and the shows so I was hoping you could give me some tips and pointers.

Thanks in advance,

Dondria

Dear Dondria,

I’m so excited for you.
There is so much to see and do in Spain so be sure to read our posts. With the increase in the interest and popularity of Flamenco recently, there has been a new awakening to this art and dance form. About five years ago, it was declared to be one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In fact, there are dance academies dedicated to teaching Flamenco all over the world.

Because of this, I have to agree with your friends. If you are going to be in Spain, you should try to go to a Flamenco show. It is authentic and a real cultural experience at the place where it all began.
I will share what I know and one of my personal experiences so it will be easier for you to make an informed decision regarding taking your sons along.

 

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism man

Booking and Length of Time

As you can imagine, Flamenco shows are very popular with tourists visiting Spain – in particular for the first time.
Flamenco shows typically happen during the evenings and can last anywhere between two to four hours depending on if they include a dinner. The best show need to be booked ahead otherwise you will struggle to get in, especially during the holiday season.
I’m glad you mentioned the age of your boys since shows like that are not necessarily recommended for children younger than the age of 10.

Specific Autism Concerns

With that said, though, taking children with autism to shows, may prove quite challenging. Scheduling can prove to be difficult since no parent can know for sure how their child is going to feel on that day.

Given the nature of the performance, the show can be quite loud. You should consider this if one or both of your sons has any sensitivity to noise.

The shows can be quite pricey anywhere between 50 to 100 euros. You don’t want to unnecessarily waste that money by not attending as planned or by leaving because your children are overwhelmed by the sensory experience.

Another issue is the fact that many of the most up-scale venues require a dress code. This fact can be a difficulty with a person who has sensory problems and might not be comfortable wearing button-down shirts or even a jacket.

One of the shows we attended was four hours long.! The venue had very few food choices coupled with uncomfortable seating close to the dancers. The room itself was also somewhat crowded and dark. The tables were placed close together forcing people to sit close to one another. It was almost impossible to move or get up to take a break.

Attending a Flamenco Show with Children with Autism ladies

Recommendations

Here are my recommendations for if you DO  decide to take your children.

Explain to them in advance what Flamenco is all about. You could show them a few clips on YouTube so that they can get an idea of what to expect.

Get a table that is not too close to the stage so that the experience is not as intense. Also, if you do have to leave early, it is easier and less disruptive to move.

Plan to go to one of the shorter shows. If they can sit through a movie, they will be able to sit through a shorter Flamenco performance.

Have a meal before attending the show. This way, the kids won’t get hungry or deal with food that they don’t want to or can’t eat.

I hope you have a wonderful time of making memories and that this will be the first of many good experiences for your boys.

Margalit

 

 

 

 

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids pin

Philadelphia was the heart of the American Revolution, the location where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. There is so much to this city for traveling families to experience, even aside from its historical value. Here are our best destinations in Philadelphia for families with autism.

Philadelphia Zoo

This zoo is most known as America’s first zoo ever, located in the Centennial District of Philly. The zoo opened on July 1, 1874, with 1,000 animals. The city of Philadelphia takes pride in their zoo for being one of the premier zoos in the world for breeding animals that are difficult to breed in captivity. With forty-two acres, home to more than 1,300 animals, the Philadelphia Zoo welcomes visitors to explore and learn about endangered animals and how we can help them.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids cow

This zoo features a total of fifteen permanent exhibitions. One of these is the much loved First Niagra Big Cat Falls. Here, guests can walk through a naturalistic habitat and come face to face with endangered big cats around the world like Snow Leopards, pumas, lions, and jaguars. Visitors can also experience the Treetop Trails which is the first component to the zoo’s zoo360 animal exploration system. The Treetop Trails is a campus-wide network of see-through mesh trails that allows animals to leave their traditional enclosures and explore more of the campus.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids item

Franklin Square

Parents looking for something fun for the kids to do outdoors should head to the Franklin Square. William Penn planned Franklin Square along with five other open-spaced parks when he laid out the city in 1682. Also, this location is called Franklin Square to honor the founding father, Benjamin Franklin. In the beginning, the square was used as an open common use for grazing animals, storing gunpowder during American Revolution and drilling soldiers during the War of 1812. Local legend also states that this square is where Benjamin Franklin performed his famous “kite and key” experiment in 1752. While there, guests can take a ride on the Liberty Carousel, play a round of mini golf, visit the Franklin Square Fountain or run around at one of the two playgrounds.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids building

Independence National Historical Park

At Independence National Historical Park, visitors can see the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, and the Ben Franklin Museum. The park comprises much of the Philadelphia’s most-visited historic district. Visitors can also stop at the Liberty 360 3D show. The show is located in the PECO Theater inside the Historic Philadelphia Center. The screen is 360 degrees and stands fifty feet in diameter and eight feet high. The show is about fifteen minutes and uses the most modern technology to tell a story led by Ben Franklin about our nation’s symbols of freedom from the bald eagle to the Statue of Liberty.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids street

Betsy Ross House

Travelers who have the chance should go on over to the Betsy Ross House. At this house, visitors get to see where the seamstress lived and sewed the first American Flag. Guests can tour the house and learn about Betsy and her life or meet her themselves in her upholstery shop. There, visitors can ask “Betsy Ross” in person about her life and work as well as learn firsthand how to use the upholstery tools she used herself.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids interior

Rodin Museum

This art museum features the largest collection of sculptor Auguste Rodin’s works. It was originally founded by Jules Mastbaum, who started collecting Rodin’s works in 1923. While Mastbaum didn’t live to see the museum’s opening, it opened in 1929. Here, travelers can see Rodin’s most famous work, The Thinker, sitting in the entry courtyard. Other works such as The Kiss, The Age of Bronze, and Eternal Springtime can be found here.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids rodin

The Franklin Institute

This museum, named after Benjamin Franklin, is one of the oldest centers of science education in the United States, having been founded in 1824. Here, visitors can see many of the interesting permanent exhibits. These include Electricity, showcasing Franklin’s discovery of electricity and how it is used today, The Giant Heart, a replica heart built in 1954, and The Train Factory with a real, moving Baldwin 60000 steam locomotive. The Franklin Institute sits at the intersection of 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids tree

Please Touch Museum 

One of the best museums in Philadelphia for kids has to be the Please Touch Museum. The Please Touch Museum has been opened since 1976. It was the first museum in the nation that intentionally targeted families with children seven and younger. The mission of the foundation is to “enrich the lives of children by creating learning opportunities through play” as stated on their website. The museum is famous for being an area where children can freely play and touch whatever they like. Meaningful interactive play-based experiences encourage imaginative thinking.

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids inside

Autism Travel Tips:

  • In 2013 the zoo opened the KidZooU for the special needs communities. KidZooU includes Braille, sign language and a picture exchange system for children on the autism spectrum. Furthermore, on selected days the zoo has autism awareness days so parents should check the zoo website for the dates.
  • The Please Touch Museum is a highly interactive museum that kids will love.The museum offers a quiet Space for children and families who need a  break , Quiet Kits containing items and special events for families with autism.
  • Kids on the spectrum interested in science will enjoy the Franklin Institute particularly on Sundays when the venue offers their sensory friendly Sundays.
  • Franklin Square Na Independence Park are great outdoor places to take kids to burn off some energy.

 

Exploring Philadelphia with Kids

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