Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square

Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square1 pin

 

When our family finally decided to take a trip to NYC, we chose to stay at the DoubleTree Suites in the middle of Times Square. The hotel on the corner of Broadway and 47th street is perfect for families who want to stay right in the center of the action and still enjoy the comfort of a suite at a moderate price.

What Makes it Family Worthy

Families will love the property’s convenient location. The hotel is next to a metro station and across from the TKTS Discount Ticket Booth. The place was ideal for sightseeing, shopping, and, of course, attending Broadway shows.

Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square night

Our Requests

We contacted the hotel to ask for a quiet and feather-free room as we normally do and were thrilled to hear of their hypoallergenic bedding and in-room air purifiers.

Our Arrival

When we arrived at midnight, we were a bit overwhelmed by the crowds of people walking around and gawking at the makeshift artisans displaying their work on the street corners.
The reception area on the 3rd floor was surprisingly congested for midnight, and we had to wait patiently in the small lobby area to check in. Though tired from our long flight, our son with autism did manage to devour the warm chocolate chip cookies the staff welcomed us with and even asked for more.

Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square city

 

Lobby Decor

The lobby as mentioned before was compact. Whites, creams, and browns mostly decorated the area with marble tiled floors. Off to one side, guests could find an extensive seating area with plenty of light brown couches and pillows for a comfortable wait. In the back, there was also a small bar area with some stools for seating.

The Suite

The decor of our suite on the 31st floor boasted 80’s brown hues. The hotel dedicated the entire 31st floor as a hypoallergenic floor, so our room had an air purifier. A door separated the bedroom and the living room, allowing parents to enjoy some privacy when traveling with kids.

The living room consisted of a desk and opening sofa (perfect for one older kid or two younger ones). The cabinet that the 40 inch TV stood on held a moderately sized mini fridge. On the side, the room was stocked with a small bar with a sink, microwave, coffee maker, and good sized safe.

Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square bed

 

In the bedroom, we had a comfortable queen sized bed with two nightstands. The bedroom also had a closet which we found to be on the small side. It was easy to recharge electronics as both rooms had multiple places to plug into, however, the WiFi in the room was temperamental.

We appreciated the two TV sets, one in each room. The two sets allowed us to relax and watch the news while our son enjoyed his Nickelodeon shows. The double curtains helped darken the bright neon lights of the iconic billboards, a feature which we appreciated. And finally, the hotel staff left warm cookies in our room as a greeting, which we found to be a very nice touch.

Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square sink

The Bathroom

Though the bathroom suite configuration was somewhat oddly shaped, we found it surprisingly convenient.
As we first walked in, we saw that there was a lot of counter space, almost enough to have fit two sinks, but there was only one.

The long and narrow bathroom had a door separating the combination curtained shower/tub and commode from the sink area. This fact allowed two family members to use the bathroom area without disturbing each other which was helpful. The tub had a grab bar with an adjustable, not handheld, shower head.

Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square street

The Breakfast

The breakfast buffet at Ginger’s Restaurant on the fifth floor served the American staples of scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages and bacon along with cereals, cut up fruits, cheeses, and pastries.
The best part was Joseph, the staff member who efficiently ran the delicious pancake/waffle/omelet station. He was friendly and helpful, especially with our special needs son.
For more budget-friendly options, there are numerous restaurants in the immediate area such as Sbarro’s, Olive Garden, and McDonalds.

Amenities

Additional hotel amenities included a morning kiosk, Ad Lib Lounge, and a complimentary 24-hour fitness center that we didn’t get a chance to check out as we were too busy walking around the city. The hotel had tight security, and guests had to show their room key to enter the building, which we found reassuring.

Family Stay at DoubleTree Times Square sky

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Make sure to ask for a top floor room that doesn’t face Times Square as the lights and noise will bother kids with those particular sensitivities.
  • Bring an anti-slip bath mat, like the hotel, does not supply one.
  • Due to the configuration of the suite, pack one or two night lights so you can see your way around the furniture at night.

Family Stay at Bakersfield’s SpringHill Suites by Marriott

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott pin

Last month our travels took us to Bakersfield, California which is over hundred miles out of Los Angeles. Even though we had passed it many times on the freight highway on the way to Sacramento and San Francisco, we have never actually stopped there. So, this time, we were determined to spend at least one night, and we finally got to explore the ninth biggest city in the State.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott table

 

Since we are Marriott members and big fans of the hotel brand we decided to try their SpringHill Suites in Bakersfield. They offer a low-end, no-frills place to stay that still provides comfort and some decent amenities. We enjoyed their complimentary breakfast and pool but especially their family-friendly budget price. And it certainly did not disappoint!

Located at 3801 Marriott Drive, in Bakersfield, theCalifornia, the hotel is in one of the nonresidential areas of Bakersfield. It is set on a street which we fondly nicknamed ‘Hotel Row’ as it houses multiple hotels from several brands.

What Works for Families

For us, the main selling points for this property were the size of the; the fact that they had an opening sofa for our son with autism and the complimentary breakfast included in the room price. Also, parking was free, and the property offered access to free Wi-Fi.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott desk

What Doesn’t Work for Families

There was no way to fit a fifth family member in a standard room, so traveling with more than four would require booking two rooms, and there were very few options for adjoining rooms.

Unfortunately, the hotel was a bit far from most stores, entertainment, and restaurants, so guests need a car to reach any of these destinations.

Special Accommodations

We always call ahead and this time was no different. We requested a feather-free room due to allergies as well as a quiet room not facing a busy street or any other noisy area. The hotel met both of these accommodations without needing a reminder.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott stool

Our Arrival and Welcome

Check-in was a breeze and the lady at the front desk who also served as a makeshift concierge, advised us on places to visit and where to dine. It turns out that Bakersfield is famous for many Basque eateries. Who knew?

Decor

The hotel’s front lobby decoration is modern and accessorized with bright colors that set the welcoming and inviting tone for a cheery atmosphere. There was a moderately-sized space right at the entrance that served as their breakfast area.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott bar

Fellow Travelers

The area is famous for its farming, so the hotel welcomes business folk who come for the various farming industry activities. The hotel also houses adventure-seekers looking for a place to spend nights before or after visiting the two nearby National Parks.

Our Room

The room was decked out in luxury creams and browns with tasteful artwork on the walls. It was immaculate, modern, and comfortable, providing adequate space for a family of four.

There was a kitchenette with a microwave, coffee maker, a cabinet, counter space and a small refrigerator we used as a cooler. They provided a few dishes and silverware.There were two refuse bins, one for recycling and one for regular trash.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott couch

The king size bed had nightstands on either side; both had lamps, and one had a phone. Pillows and cotton linens were all provided. There was a half-wall separation between the sleeping area and the sitting room which we thought was a nice way to offer a little privacy.

We were very impressed with the fold-out couch, perfect for those who have two younger children or one older child. With the sofa, there was plenty of seating and the desk provided a useful surface to work at.The TV cabinet doubled up as a chest of drawers providing ample space for storage. Like other budget Marriott premises we have stayed in, there was no wall safe provided.

The room was well-lit, and there was no shortage of places to plug-in electronic gadgets.There were sockets on the desk, walls, and even in the lamp bases on the nightstands.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott computer

The window had the option of heavy curtains to shut out the light. There were safety locks on both the window and the front door which we appreciated.Though the A/C  wall unit was quite noisy, we had no choice but to keep the machine running as Bakersfield was quite hot .

The Bathroom

The decor of the remodeled bathroom was a continuation of the room’s theme of creams and browns. There was an adequate granite countertop boasting an extra shelf around the basin. We were grateful for the towels and the Paul Mitchell amenity kit provided.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott kit

The room featured a tub (with a grab bar), a shower, and a commode with tiled was tiled flooring. The toilet-paper dispenser was, weirdly, located quite a distance from the toilet on the opposite wall. Apart from that, this bathroom complimented the room quite well.

Our Breakfast

The hotel offered a complimentary American breakfast buffet. It was typically hearty and generous with egg, bacon, sausages, yogurt, cut up fruit, pastries and cold and warm beverages, always helpful for travelers that need to start their morning on a full stomach. The dining area was rather small, so it was a little challenging to find a table.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott fridge

This property did not feature room service. However, there was a little mini store that sells groceries and sundries should visitors need something in a hurry after hours located next to the check-in area. Numerous malls and stores were within a short driving distance from the hotel, so getting provisions was not a problem. In fact, on the way there we saw a giant Walmart open 24 hours a day with a hair and nail salon inside.

Pool and Gym

The hotel has a small gym and a pool which several guest kids staying there enjoyed when we visited. Parents should be advised that there is no lifeguard, so they need to supervise their children while using the pool.

Staying with Family at Bakersfield's SpringHill Suites by Marriott counter

Cost

As mentioned before, the price was family-friendly, under $100 a night. The price included free wifi, complimentary breakfast, and access to the fitness center.

Overall the property not only managed to meet our needs but exceeded our expectations. Service was efficient prompt and professional, and we would be happy to stay here again should we be in this area.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents of smell sensitive children should be aware that the pool chlorine was quite intense when the enclosed area is first entered.
  • As we did, parents of sound sensitive children should try to get a quiet room facing away from busy streets.
  • Parents should pack a shower mat and night light as this hotel does not supply them.

Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly

1-Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is
The Sheraton Tel Aviv is a beachside hotel on 115 Hayarkon, Israel, right next to the beautiful Mediterranean sea. Other than its spectacular views, what is most significant about this hotel is that it is the first hotel in Israel to offer vegan-friendly food in all its restaurants. The Sheraton has a lot to offer for any guest staying in its luxurious rooms.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly first

What Makes it Family Worthy

The hotel is within short driving distance to the most popular attractions of Tel Aviv, including the Diaspora Museum, Luna Park, and the Ramat Aviv Mall. This hotel is a great location for any family wanting to explore the best parts of Tel Aviv. It is also, as previously mentioned, literally on the Mediterranean beachfront so that families can enjoy fun in the sun and lovely views.

Special Requests

 We called ahead and requested a feather-free quiet room. They gave us a room facing the Renaissance Hotel, which is in a quieter area of the hotel.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly umbrella

Our Arrival

We arrived in the evening at 9 PM and were thrilled to discover that, after a 30-hour flight, the hotel catered to our every need and pampered us. They sent us additional towels, shampoos, and soaps, so we didn’t need to call housekeeping for any reason.

Lobby Décor

Those who enjoy 80s aesthetics will love this area. Some might find the decor to be a little outdated, but people are encouraged to be close together and do socialize which means a lot in this hotel. Travelers from France, the US, and Israel all kind of sit together and, due to the proximity of everything, socialize and get to know each other while waiting for different services.

Fellow Travelers

In the past, the Sheraton was more of a business type hotel. However, because of its beach location, its value has lessened since business travelers need to be on the fast highways. Nowadays, the Sheraton, like its neighbors, is more of a hotel that caters to families and tends to be, as such, more crowded during the Jewish holidays and the summer.

Our Room

We stayed in room 1314. We noted the wood floors, a welcome feature especially for those with allergies. The décor was mostly tan wallpaper and dark wood. The floor between the bathroom and the main room was slightly different in level, so there was some risk of tripping. There were two closets in the room, one with more hanging space, the other with more shelves. They gave us fluffy towels, bathrobes, and slippers as well as an ironing board, for which we were grateful.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly food
The room had a big safety deposit box, large enough for us to store a tablet and a 15-inch laptop. There was a coffee machine with Keurig pods on top of the dresser, which we use every morning. They closed the executive lounge early, but guests could instead indulge in purchasable drinks or chocolate in the room’s mini-fridge. The 40 inch TV near the dresser was attached to the wall and, unfortunately, immovable. Right under the TV was a bench where kids could sit or parents could leave luggage.
Our room had a comfortable king-sized bed and two nightstands with little drawers. There were night lights attached to the leather headboards. The air-conditioning was blowing slightly on our beds, and it would have been nice to see it elsewhere. However, there was a control panel for the AC right next to the bed, which we liked.
While most of the room had very nice lighting, there was a pitch dark area in the corner with the lounge chair. A standing lamp in this area would have been appreciated.
The room had a large desk with a lamp featuring three strength settings and several convenient outlets nearby. However, the chair was not comfortable to sit in for extended periods of time, and the lamp did not light up the entire desk.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly toilet
Over the windows were both thick and sheer curtain. There was an opening balcony with a secure lock that took a lot of strength to open, so younger kids could not do this on their own. On the small balcony, guests could stand and take in a lovely view of the Mediterranean sea.

Our Bathroom

The bathroom was decorated in tones of silver, gold, and bronze. The first thing we noticed was the magnifying mirror, a very nice feature. The hotel gave us an amenity kit that included Dead Sea mineral products, with a shower cap, mouthwash, and shaving package. There was a slot with tissues just under the countertop, and we didn’t like the fact that one had to dig their hands into the groove to get tissues. The entire bathroom was nicely lit, with a light up mirror perfect for those needing to shave or apply makeup.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly amenities
There was shiny rainbow tile all around the bathtub area. The shower had a grab bar, an overhead rain shower, and a handheld head. The shower was also above floor level to prevent flooding, although this fact can be dangerous for an older person who might be unaware of the step. The toilet had two options to flush depending on the type of waste as a means to conserve water.
We appreciated that the door could be locked, though wary that it was glass. The primary factor that we didn’t like was the fact there was a window facing out into the room. From the room itself, one could see people showering. While it’s understandable that this was planned to allow in natural light, many families want a certain amount of privacy while they shower. The hotel should at least provide a curtain to block the window when needed.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly view

Restaurants

There are several dining options onsite for any family at any time of the day.
Visitors who want some Mediterranean cuisine can visit the Olive Leaf Restaurant. Those who want a nice meal with a beautiful view should try the Kum Kum Restaurant. There’s the convenient Deck 115 for poolside dining. And finally, for a la carte snacks and drinks, guests can go to the Lobby Lounge Bar.
When we were there, the hotel’s Olive Leaf Restaurant was hosting a Peruvian Festival celebrating Peruvian culinary traditions. The Restaurant served both traditional and contemporary authentic Peruvian dishes.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly chef

Our Breakfast

The Kum Kum, where we had breakfast, featured fantastic views of the Mediterranean. Numerous windows showed off the view and allowed in natural light. The breakfast hall consisted of many different stations with all sorts of options.
In the cold section alone, travelers could get several different kinds of milk, including skim and soy. There was an entire selection of cheeses, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and French cheese. We saw various dried fruits and cereals at all the stations. Included in the hall was a salad section with all the standard vegetables and dressing options as well as pickled olives, herrings, and salmon. The venue offered gluten free cookies, a nice touch.
In the warm station, visitors could find various porridges, oatmeal, and rice. We saw the typical American fare of potatoes, scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, and a make your own omelet section. The venue also had Shakshuka, a Mediterranean dish of poached eggs in tomato sauce. True to its claim as the first restaurant to offer vegan options, there was an entire vegan section. This area included sweet potatoes, potatoes latkes, and eggplant.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly juice
For sweeter choices, we saw pancakes with syrup, baked cheesecakes, chocolate croissants, homemade jams, spreadable chocolates, and even many different types of donuts. There was also a section for bread and yogurts.
Regarding drinks, the hall offered many choices. Guests could start their day with a cup of coffee from an authentic turn of the century holder. They could drink a refreshing orange juice, grape juice, apple juice or pomegranate juice. Those who love tea would find plenty of options here. And breakfast goers could even start the day with a nice glass of champagne.
From going through this breakfast hall, its becomes pretty clear that the Israeli breakfast is all about delicious white cheeses and fried donuts.

Executive Lounge

The hotel’s executive lounge is truly one of its selling points, as it offers quality food as well as engaging ambiance overlooking the Mediterranean. The lounge has plenty of seating space and offers an ample breakfast and happy hour buffet as well as snacks throughout the day with a plethora of snacks and beverages. Best part is the friendly and efficient staff running the lounge.

Pool

The hotel features a pool with a separate toddler’s splash pool. Guests can dine at the poolside restaurant bar, Deck 115. The pool area also has free wifi, a welcome feature for many families.
Why the Sheraton Tel Aviv is Still Family Friendly food

Gym

For patrons who want to stay fit while they travel, there is an onsite gym open 24 hours per day. The gym includes standard equipment, such as treadmills, bikes, and other machines, as well as a TV.

Spa

Guests looking to relax should come to the Cielo Spa. Here, patrons can get a massage, facial, and mani/pedis. They can also indulge in hammam treatments, a dry sauna, hair removal, and Dead Sea treatments.

Cost

Rooms start at $290 and include free wifi throughout the hotel as well as access to the spa and fitness center. There is 24-hour parking costing about $17 for the night

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The hotel supplies plenty of amenities for those with disabilities, including an accessible check in desk with special sound devices, evacuation chairs, accessible pool chairs, and parking.
  • Families who need certain accessibility features, such as an emergency bathroom button, special shower chairs, or roll in showers should request these when booking the room.
  • The hotel allows pets up to 25 kg. Pets are given a welcome pack, including a Sheraton dog bed. Those who have problems with pet dander should let the hotel know during booking.

 

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North pin

Over the holiday weekend, my family and I  stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott San Jose North Silicon Valley. Located at 111 Holger Way, San Jose, the Courtyard is a recently opened hotel in tip-top shape and has a lovely newness about it. We felt that it was good value for money and had decent service. It is right off the 880 freeway and close to many company headquarters, so it is easily accessible. Being so close to restaurants and two mini-malls makes it a convenient place for a getaway or prolonged stay for most travelers.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North outer

What Makes it Family Worthy

The cost of the Courtyard is reasonable for most hotels. The hotel is also, as mentioned before, relatively close to the freeway and located inside a mini-mall with various restaurants. There are plenty of food choices literally outside the hotel. There is a Target Mall and a Chipotle, Chic-Fil-A and other fast-food places which serve this part of the Valley very well.

Fellow travelers

Business people coming for interviews or temporary employment in the high-tech companies frequent the property on weekdays. However, families who come to visit or travelers who wish to stay close to San Francisco without paying an exorbitant price for a hotel room also frequent this location.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North fridge

Our Welcome

Our check-in experience hit a snag when we arrived at 4 pm, and the room wasn’t ready.
Though my husband had mentioned our need for a quiet room at booking, the lack of a follow-through call to the property itself saw us allocated to a room facing the busy freeway on the first floor. The manager, to our amazement, was both understand and accommodating and reassigned us to a quieter room facing the parking lot on the fifth floor.
The manager also contacted housekeeping and expedited the change of bed linens and pillows to accommodate our feather allergies.

Hotel Decor

The hotel’s minimalist decor is tasteful with modern silvers, dark browns, and some blues. The modern decor provides a pleasant ambiance with distinct sections for people to quietly work at their computer while others chat with family and friends.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North purple

Our Room

We stayed in room 540. Our door had extra locks and a device to jam the door should someone try to break in, an additional layer of security we appreciated. Earthy hues, including a light brown carpet, decorated the room, accented with turquoise artwork on the walls. In the entry hall, there was a little coffee machine with non-pod coffee and tea provided and an empty mini-fridge, which is handy.

We had a comfortable King-sized box spring bed as well as the fold-out sofa bed which was a bit springy. There was a plug in nightlight, digital clock, and phone by the bed, with enough space to comfortably get out in the morning. Of course, when the sofa is being used as a bed, there is no alternative for seating.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North bed

We turned the couch, which had a standing lamp next to it, into a bed for our son. While the AC unit was right next to the bed, we could close it at night while he slept. Of course, when the sofa was used as a bed, there was no alternative for seating.

The room had a nicely sized desk with a pull out shelf for your keyboard. The chair for the desk was a comfortable swivel chair. Next to the desk sat the set of drawers with the 40 inch TV on top. The hotel offered us many channels, including HBO.

We had both thin and thick light blocking curtains over the window. We had a view of the street, since as mentioned we had requested a room not facing the freeway.

There is a standing closet with an ironing board which was small but adequate for a short visit such as ours. It was certainly enough to fit all of our carry-on size bags.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North desk

We counted six power outlets, enough for charging all our portable electronic devices. We had free Wifi as Marriott Gold loyalty members, and it was reliable and reasonably fast service.

All in all, we found the room to be a compact and functional room perfect for our length of stay.

Our Bathroom

The compact bathroom had modern decor with simple lines, pictures of San Francisco, and a speckled granite counter top. There was a simple glass shower with no grab bars inside a glass enclosure. The shower was also raised, reducing the risk of flooding.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North bathroom

The bathroom only had one hook to hang a towel or robe. Housekeeping provided a sample sized Paul Mitchell toiletry set.

Amenities

The Courtyard Hotel has a small pool and hot tub that is useful for occupying the kids and for adults to relax in the late afternoon and evening hours. They even have a Gym for guests who want to work out while staying.
Like all Courtyards, this hotel features a small store where one can buy snacks and a couple of frozen items. The hotel also features the relatively new concept of an onsite bistro that serves cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner items.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North egg
We opted to have the healthy choice sandwich which was egg, spinach and Havarti cheese in an English muffin for breakfast, with Starbucks coffee. However, there are many other more budget-friendly options in the two mini-malls next to the hotel.

One can make use of the spacious, smoke-free lobby with its colorful futuristic designs. It is a fun place to work on a laptop or enjoy a happy hour beer.

Parking is free though the lot can become crowded in the evenings.

Service

As mentioned before, the front desk staff was helpful with accommodating our son with autism’s needs. Also, housekeeping promptly brought requested extra soap and towels when we asked.

Family Stay at Courtyard Marriott San Jose North pool

Cost

The hotel is budget-friendly with prices ranging from $110-$300 per night depending on the date. The price increases when there are conferences in town.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The design of the property means that half the rooms face a busy freeway and are not a good fit for noise-sensitive travelers. To ensure quiet, make sure that you specifically ask for a room facing the parking lot on a high floor.
  • Bring entertainment for the children as there aren’t that many TV channel choices.
  • Bring a non-slip shower mat, since the hotel, does not provide one.

 

Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles

The Intercontinental Century City Hotel in Los Angeles, located in the heart of the City of Angels, is a central spot for those visiting LA for the first time to get acquainted with the city. The central location, along with its amenities, will provide visitors with comfort and a luxurious experience when they explore Southern California’s largest city.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles candelabra

What Makes it Family Friendly

The hotel is the perfect place to stay for families visiting LA. It is right next to the Century City outdoor mall and close to Beverly Hills, which is a must see for any first time visitor in LA. The hotel’s location is also an excellent spot to explore Santa Monica and Venice with its beautiful beaches, as well as the new up and coming downtown. The hotel boasts large rooms suitable for families along with the great amenity kit and excellent service, catering to all family members’ needs.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles lobby

Special Requests

We did call ahead and ask the front desk to provide us with a feather-free quiet room to accommodate our son with autism, and they tagged our reservation as such.

Our Arrival

We arrived around 3:30 PM, which is check-in time, and were very surprised to discover a lack of crowds. We were welcomed warmly by the staff and our son with autism was enchanted by the red velvet cupcake he was given as welcome.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles cupcake

Lobby Decor

Before one entered the lobby, guests will walk through an open-air lobby, the area that people either waited for cabs or the valet to the car. This airy lobby was elegant with seating areas made of Rattan and standing lamps, which was a nice touch and very “Southern California.” Inside, the lobby walls and marble flooring are predominantly white, brown, and black. This simple coloration stands in sharp contrast to the bold, funky purple carpeting, making a very eclectic atmosphere. They had tables, and each one had a mini personal garden of orchids in individual planters, which was a surprising element. There were a lot of predominantly leather loungers and sofas for guests to rest in.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles lobby

Fellow Travelers

Here we experienced an interesting mix since many of the fellow travelers staying in the hotel were business people that were working with offices right there in Century City. However, there was a minority of families staying in the hotel, especially foreigners, since they did recognize the Intercontinental brand as a luxurious brand.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles couch

Our Room

We stayed in room 1012, on the 10th floor. The first thing we did when we entered was to look at the emergency map on the door to figure out how far our room was from the staircase (in this case, two rooms over). We always do this in a different environment to make sure that we know the shortest escape route if there is an emergency, like a fire or earthquake (especially pertinent in LA). We noted two locks on the front door, a welcome security feature. Families and solo travelers alike want to feel that safety is a priority.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles coffee
What struck us as surprising when we first entered the room was the sheer size of it. It was actually on the large size for a city hotel room. The next thing that wowed us were the views. The room had floor to ceiling windows all around providing 180-degree views of the LA skyline.
The room had carpet in shades of green-gray, with the wallpaper in the same tones. Around the corner from the entrance hall was a huge floor to ceiling mirror. The closet was on the large size and included bathrobes, slippers, hangers and an iron/ironing board.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles desk
There was a small desk with a white leather looking chair, lamp, and phone, with a few outlets nearby. The room had a long chest of drawers on which stood a 40 inch TV. Next to the TV was the mini bar for purchase and a coffee machine with pods. There was also a safe and empty mini cooler, separate from the mini bar, under the TV.
The room had two comfortable double beds with soft linens and plenty of pillows. A nightstand between the beds with a phone and a lamp provided extra convenience. We liked the fact that the AC was nowhere near the beds and didn’t blow on us directly, like in other properties.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles bed
Parents need to know that most rooms have balconies with sliding doors that open to the outside. The sliding door had two locks placed at the height of an adult, so younger kids could not quickly open the door. Furthermore, most balconies that we saw, including ours, had a wide planter in front of them that would have prevented a kid from literally tumbling down into the street, a smart safety feature. For adults that want to enjoy LA views, the balcony itself, with two chairs and a table, would be an excellent spot for a late afternoon drink or morning coffee.

Our Bathroom

The bathroom décor continued the theme in the room and consisted of tan and green hues throughout, with brown marble on the floor and countertop.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles sink
The bathroom was spacious with two separate sections. The room had the bathtub on the left, while the commode and shower were in a small area on the right. The bathtub had a full-length mirror all around as well as a useful grab bar. The enclosed shower also had a grab bar, but it was also elevated, so there was no risk of flooding. The shower would have been perfect for families had they also provided a handheld showerhead.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles bathroom
Like other luxury properties, this hotel was generous with the amenities needed for multiple members of the family. Our kit included lots of shampoos, soaps, conditioners, and lotions, without our asking. The housekeeping was thoughtful and even provided us with toothbrushes.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles tub

Dining Options

Guests looking for fine dining onsite should try out the Mari Los Angeles, run by executive chef Jonathan Wood. At the Mari, guests can relax and dine, sharing plates of tapas style international foods. The hotel also has the Copper Lounge for guests wanting delicious cocktails and appetizers in the evenings. Furthermore, the hotel also offers 24-hour room service for those who can’t or don’t want to leave the comfort of their rooms.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles dining

Our Breakfast

The breakfast area, decorated in shades of white and tan, was beautiful. Guests had the option of dining indoors or outdoors in the garden area. The restaurant offered al la carte options as well as a buffet. We chose the buffet, which had many different food sections.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles breakfast
They, of course, had the usual spread of traditional American fare, including sausages (turkey and chicken), bacon, country potatoes, pancakes, scrambled eggs, and pastries. Diners wanting cereal had a few basic options such as Cheerios and bran flakes. Guests could also customize their own omelet, using eggs or egg whites, with many toppings including cheeses and vegetables. Those dining could also try the chef’s special of the day, which was Shakshuka (sunny side eggs on top of a tomato base) when we were there.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles cheese
The buffet had a small yogurt bar where you could choose a base yogurt, such as lemon custard or honey, and add tasty toppings. There was a small section of fruits; both cut up and whole. The breakfast also had butter, pastries, and bread.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles buffet
An interesting section in this dining hall was the Japanese station. Here, guests could get miso soup with scallions or enjoy some steamed rice.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles view yogurt
There was also a build your own Lox sandwich station with onions, capers, and sliced tomatoes. Next to this station was a section including cold cuts, cheeses, and stuffed olives.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles eat
We were delighted to see that this hotel had some vegetarian options. Not only did the central breakfast section have offerings of braised tofu and fried rice with eggs, but there was an entire section in the breakfast hall specifically for vegetarians. This area featured feta cheese, hummus, rosewater custard, and olives among other options.
For drink options, the buffet had orange juice, skim milk, and low-fat milk. We especially liked the fact the hotel breakfast offered gluten free banana nut muffins for those who need this option.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles special

Amenities

It is important to note that the hotel provides a free car service for guests looking to travel up to 1.5 miles around the hotel.
The venue has a 24-hour fitness center that includes steam baths.
Guests wanting to relax can head over to the infinity edge pool or Jacuzzi. We saw few people in this area the day we visited, which made us want to try it out.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles pool
We would have liked to, but didn’t get a chance to try their spa. The spa included pampering treatments such as massages, facials, body wraps and mani/pedis, which sounded fantastic.

Cost

Rooms start at $300 a night, which might be rather steep for some families. However, the website does offer some package deals. Travelers might also want to look into booking this hotel, like we did, as IHG members on points.
Like many other places in LA and major US cities, expect to pay around $40 for parking every 24 hours. The hotel does offer valet parking.
Luxurious Family Stay at the Intercontinental Los Angeles balcony lock

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Not all room balconies have a planter in front of them. So, for that extra layer of security, be sure to book a room with a planter.
  • For parents with kids that wander, call the front desk and ask how they can block the balcony sliding door.
  • Bring your own bath mat, as the hotel doesn’t supply an anti-slip mat for the bathroom.
  • Do bring a small night light, because the room is rather large. Family members can bump in the dark into furniture on their way to the bathroom.
  • Service animals are allowed in hotel rooms. Families who have problems with pet dander should call ahead to ask for a hypoallergenic room.
  • The hotel offers fourteen onsite rooms with “accessibility standards” for physical disabilities. Call ahead to request one of these rooms if you or your family requires one of these rooms.
  • There is a handicap parking section available onsite, or travelers can use valet parking.

 

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort veranda

The classy Balboa Bay Beach Resort, on 1221 West Coast Highway in  Newport Beach, overlooks the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
This establishment’s spacious rooms and convenient location make it an ideal hotel for families that wish to experience California’s Orange County area. In fact, the resort is only a short distance away from the beach,  amusement parks, and the nearby South Coast Plaza.

Thinking the resort would provide a fun mini-vacation, for our LA-based family, we booked our hotel via Groupon.
After completing the purchase, we contacted the hotel front desk to ask for a feather-free, quiet room to accommodate our son’s autism.
Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort street

Décor

The Mediterranean-style resort spread over 15 acres features 159 guest rooms and ten suites with courtyard or bay views.
The hotel public places were decorated in a timeless nautical style with accent colors ranging from tan to burgundy, giving it a laid-back yet sophisticated feel.

Fellow Travelers

During the weekends, the guests were equally divided among beach-going families and couples on romantic holidays.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort corridor

Our Welcome

Upon arriving at the hotel earlier than we had anticipated, a long line of fancy cars greeted us. There was a wine festival taking place that day, and those vehicles were all headed towards the valet parking area.

Despite the opulent size of the hotel, the actual ordinary check-in area was somewhat small and disappointing for us as first-time visitors.

We soon discovered, there was a minor problem with our reservation since the Groupon coupon kept coming up on the front desk computers as null and void. After the error got sorted out, check in was speedy.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort seats

So, how was our room?

Our room, 340, a standard room, was on the hotel’s top floor. For larger families, the hotel offers a variety of accommodations including connecting rooms and two-bed room suites.

The white and beige tones used for space provided an understated elegance successfully carried through the room and bath areas.
The room’s two rattan base queen beds were comfortable and had the perfect ‘bounce’ in them.
Besides the beds, the room had a high dresser housing a large screen TV, a DVD player, and mini cooler as well as a working area with a desk.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort shutters

We appreciated the room had ample seating -two chairs and two benches, as well as the wooden plantation shutters that efficiently blocked the bright morning light out.
Our room, facing the pool had a veranda with a small table and two chairs, making it convenient for us to sit and enjoy the sunsets.Parents should be aware that though the sliding door to the balcony did have a lock, it was placed rather low which would enable some kids to open it.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort chest

Amenities provided by the resort included bathrobes and slippers as well as a coffee/tea maker and a safe for valuables.
We thought the complimentary Evian water was a nice touch.The resort’s complimentary Wi-Fi is very reliable.
However, those traveling with a family may find the number of power sockets provided less than adequate. Bringing along a Phillips ultra-slim USB charger is recommended so that all electronic devices can be ‘juiced up’ faster.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort tub

Bathroom

The well-lit bathroom made lavish use of both marble and granite.
The facilities were sectioned off into four different areas ( tub, shower, vanity, commode) to ensure privacy.The shower glass shower enclosure helped keep it from flooding the room. We never ran out of towels or aromatherapy infused toiletries because the hotel provided more than enough.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort shampoo

Amenities 

The hotel’s well-equipped fitness center was open 24 hours a day so guests could exercise anytime. The hotel also featured a pool, hair salon and onsite spa wth steam rooms, saunas, and whirlpools.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort desk

Dining

There are currently three dining venues in the Balboa Resort- the ‘Waterline’ serving seafood and steaks, the ‘A&O  Kitchen and Bar’  for guests seeking a family-style dining experience and ‘Blend ‘ for specialty coffees and sandwiches.

 Cost  

Rooms start at $300 a night, so budget conscious travelers should be on the lookout for deals on discount sites. Parking fees range between 20$ to 30$, the valet option being the more pricey of the two.

Family Weekend at the Balboa Bay Beach Resort food

Autism Travel Tips

The closets have a light that that can be left on at night without disturbing anyone’s sleep.
Parents with noise sensitive children should ask for a quiet room away from the pool, elevators, and street traffic.
The bathroom does not have built-in grab bars for the tub or shower.
Parents should bring an anti-slip bath mat if their child needs one.
There are a DVD  player and a large flat screen TV in every room so feel free to bring your kid’s favorite DVDs.
Parents of children with a tendency to wander off should bring stick -on contact alarms or separate locks for both the front and balcony doors.

 

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown

 

 

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown

The Courtyard Long Beach Downtown, located at 3841 N. Lakewood Boulevard, boasts 261 well-appointed rooms. This hotel is an excellent choice for travelers wishing to explore the area of Long Beach or the Island of Catalina for the day. Conveniently located in the heart of the city, the hotel is within walking distance to various restaurants, the Convention Center, and the beach. The city’s main attractions, the Aquarium and Queen Mary, are less than a ten-minute drive away.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown outside

What Makes it Family Worthy

The property offers rooms with two queen sized beds and king beds with a pull out sofa for families. The hotel is close to entertainment and food spots as well as city parks and beachfront. However, it is on a much quieter street than the main thoroughfare Ocean Boulevard.

Fellow Travelers

The property regularly hosts business people that come into town for conferences as well as recreational vacationers looking for a more budget-friendly option to stay outside of LA proper.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown chair

Our Welcome

As usual, we called the hotel to ask for our particular needs which are feather-free bedding due to allergy and a quiet room to help our son with autism who is extremely noise sensitive. The front desk staff was incredibly helpful and assured us that everything was already noted both in our Marriott profile and reservation. We were not disappointed! Check-in was short and went smoothly.

Decor

Upon entering the property, the first thing we noticed was the modern, eclectic style decor. The walls were done in orange with black accent pieces. The lobby furniture in tans and blues complemented the orange walls and accent pieces spread throughout the public areas. The overall effect was visually pleasing and gave the place a laid back atmosphere.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown bed

Noteworthy is the large screen TV with a sitting area that could occupy younger kids or family members while their parents are checking in.

Our Room

When we initially entered the room, the first thing we checked was the evacuation chart on the back of the door. Our room was situated near one fire extinguisher and two alarms and was five doors from the exit. It is always important for parents to teach their kids how to behave if there’s an emergency and explore the fastest route to the nearest exit.

The closet was on the immediate right as one entered the room and had plenty of space. Included were hangers along with an iron and board, ideal for patrons in town for business meetings.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown tv
Speaking of storage; most hotels provide luggage racks, but we’ve typically found them to be a bit on the flimsy side. However, at the Courtyard, there was a luggage area that doubled as a sitting area. This area was a welcome feature, and we could store our suitcases out of the way while they were still readily available.

The sleeping area in the room boasted two comfortable queen beds. The wall behind them displayed a beautiful mural of a beach scene. Situated between the two beds was a nightstand with a phone and alarm clock on top of it. The sitting area by the sliding door consisted of a chair and ottoman.

Furthermore, the room had a separate section with a desk and a chair for business people to comfortably do their work.

Something that surprised us was the way the hotel utilized space and presented their air conditioner room units. Most air conditioners installed in the rooms take up a lot of space. But, to compensate for the reduced space, at the Courtyard, designers placed a table over the air conditioner. The AC unit was super quiet and didn’t disturb our family at all.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown space

The lighting was another feature that was different than other places we have stayed in recent years. Normally there’s an array of floor and desk lamps with old fashioned switches around the room, but at this Courtyard the lights are turned on via motion sensor. So, as soon as travelers enter the room and pass by the motion sensor the lights turn on automatically. This way guests don’t have to fumble around for switches.

We loved the room flooring which was wood, unlike many other properties that still sport wall to wall carpet. I can’t say enough about the benefits of wood versus carpet flooring when it comes to traveling with allergies and asthma like we do.

Could Use Improvement

The room had a balcony with a sliding door which might be hazardous for younger kids because it only has one lock that slides up and down and was relatively easy to open.

A disappointment to us was the lack of safes in the room to put our electronic devices. We hope that during the next hotel renovation, room safes will be added.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown bathroom

The Bathroom

The glass sliding door to the bathroom didn’t have a lock, which is something I would have liked to see, but the use of a sliding door was a nice way to save space in the room. Just like in the room, there was a motion sensor for the lighting in the bathroom.

The gray speckled granite counter top extended out over the commode to give guests more space in the small room. The designer deserves due credit for cleverly utilizing the space.

Of course, there was a mirror for applying makeup or shaving, and the included toiletry kit was Paul Mitchell brand.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown AC

The curtained bathtub and shower combo had a grab bar. Unfortunately, we saw no handheld shower head, a feature that would have made bath time easier for parents or caregivers when washing special needs individuals or younger kids.

We appreciated that the hotel staff made sure to give us enough towels for four guests, something a lot of hotels don’t do unless specifically asked.

Amenities

The venue featured complimentary Wi-Fi for guests, always a welcome upgrade for families.

There was an onsite gym with basic workout equipment, including treadmills, a press bench, and bikes.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown pool

Guests we welcome use the outdoor pool or hot tub, but parents need to be aware there is no lifeguard on duty.

The hotel did have a mini store that sold drinks, snacks, and frozen foods if any guests happened to get hungry in the middle of the night.

Dining Option

The hotel flagship restaurant is called the James Republic where we enjoyed a quick happy hour snack and our next day breakfast, an egg asparagus toast sandwich. We got the delightful opportunity to meet the chef, who discussed his farm to table concepts implemented in the venue. He mentioned, during the chat, that he had recently spearheaded a culinary cruise to the Greek Islands on Celebrity Cruises.

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown food

The downside was somewhat slow service and high prices for the dishes that could deter some travelers from trying it. We did like the restaurant decor, which was eclectic with a hip vibe, and that it had both indoor and outdoor seating.

Cost

Pricing starts at $160 per night. For a little extra, at around $180 a night, you can get a room with a view of the Queen Mary. As mentioned above, rooms come with complimentary high-speed wifi. Parking onsite is $22, and valet parking is available for an additional fee.

Autism Travel Tips:

Family Stay at Courtyard Long Beach Downtown table

 

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort pin

For close to a decade we had meant to visit Nashville, Tennessee, but for some reason the opportunity always eluded us. Hence, the capital of country music remained on our bucket list for years. This all changed this year when, after hearing so many exciting reviews about the Gaylord Opryland Christmas celebrations, we decided to spend the holidays there.

Just like in many parts of the US and the world, Yuletide is an extra special time at the hotel.
The resort’s 172-acres get lavishly decorated and filled with family friendly holiday attractions, appealing to all including guests with autism.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort angel

Our Welcome

The excitement and awe started before even setting foot in the resort. From the highway, we could see some of the ornamentation including the giant Christmas tree. As we drove by, we saw the life-size nativity scene and magnificent decorations that covered the hotel’s grand entrance. The trees on the front lawns were all decked in glistening bright lights that continued along the multiple pathways. It looked magical, a real winter wonderland.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort christmas

The hotel’s building itself also got a major holiday makeover. All four areas had meticulous decorations with a plethora of ornaments and lights. Our favorite areas were the Delta and Garden Conservatory. The Delta area, with a little mini river running through it, had multiple Christmas trees several stories high. The Delta also featured the “Brightest Star” fountain show with the Bible read story of the miracle Christmas on the hour. Apart from the lit up floating air balloons and stars, there were several areas for families to take pictures with Santa and snowmen.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort nativity

The Garden Conservatory displayed over fifteen unique Christmas trees decorated by celebrities which guests could bid on for charity. In addition, the conservatory featured spectacular hung up lit musical notes and instruments.

Holiday Activities

ICE!

By far the highlight of the holiday activities was the Lone Star Christmas ICE! Exhibit. It had become a hotel tradition over the years to host it, and this year’s display used a whopping 2 million pounds of ice to recreate a Nutcracker theme. It included elaborate ice sculptures and carvings by artisans from Harbin, China, a city world famous for its winter festival.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort ice

The fun started at the entrance where we each received a thick warm coat. The temperature inside the exhibit was below freezing, and spending over fifteen minutes inside without a thick coat could result in severe frostbite. Patrons got to walk through a vividly colorful fantasy land of nutcrackers, sugar plum fairies, and candy canes. Our son with autism especially enjoyed the slide entirely made out of ice in one of the rooms, while we (the adults) had an alcoholic beverage at the ice bar. We later explored the behind the scenes section. Here, we learned how the displays were made and colored, and even got to chat with someone there demonstrating carving techniques. Our favorite area was the nativity scene at the very end of the exhibit.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort exhibit

In the compound at the back of the hotel next to the ice sculptures, there was a room where you can make and decorate a gingerbread house. To our disappointment, we discovered that the day after Christmas when we visited they had run out of kits.

Outdoor Attractions

Right outside the ICE! show, there was a whole outdoor section for kids to explore that offered an Arctic Plunge snow tubing experience; ice skating, snowball tossing and various delicacies from local stores for purchase.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort horse

Special Tip: Parents interested in taking the kids to these activities may want look into buying a discounted day pass for the ICE! exhibit and the outdoor activities.

Other Hotel Attractions

The holiday magic didn’t end with our visit to the ICE! show. As we discovered during our stay, the hotel also offered romantic carriage rides around the property and special themed breakfast buffets with the Nutcracker or Santa. We wanted to experience the Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt or dinner show with the Gatlin Brothers. However, these attractions proved so popular that they were sold out.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort nutcracker
Guests wishing to splurge should check out the Grand Ole Opry Theater with its Christmas shows next door for a memorable evening. When we visited, the theater showed Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Grinch that Stole Christmas’ musical, which also turned out to be popular, at least for the budget seating.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Families wanting to see these attractions without an overwhelming rush of guests should consider staying at the hotel the first week of December. When we were there Christmas weekend, the resort was mobbed with hotel guests and locals coming to experience the ICE! attraction.
  • Parents who want to see the ICE! exhibit should teach the kids some basic safety rules, including the fact that the ice sculptures can only be touched for a short period since the kids’ fingers can get hurt.
  • Since the ICE! show is kept frozen, make sure all family members wear socks and closed shoes when visiting, even if the outside temperature is warm.
  • For kids with autism wishing to try the snow tubing or ice skating, long pants and a change of clothing are in order in case they get wet and uncomfortable.
  • Since the ICE! exhibit is not a continuous operation, there is no way to provide front-of-the-line passes or accommodate kids with autism on the different attractions. This means that guests might need to sit in long lines. The best time to encounter shorter lines is in the early afternoon.

Family Friendly Christmas Activities at Gaylord Opryland Resort coat

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel pin

Boasting the finest Southern hospitality and an unforgettable retreat with easy access to numerous attractions, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is a fine choice. Situated at 2800 Opryland Drive, it is only ten minutes from the airport and has a spa, restaurants, a fitness center, indoor gardens with water features, swimming pools, an 18-hole Golf course and more. The premises constitute a prime venue for weddings and conferences since it has almost 3000 rooms.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel building

What Makes it Family Friendly

We chose the hotel because it is a Marriott property and as Gold members, we could pay for our stay with Marriott points. The hotel is next door to the Opry Mills Mall and a short drive away from downtown Nashville with its museums along with the iconic Gulch area.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel tree

Fellow Travelers

During our Christmas stay, most of the fellow travelers we encountered were families celebrating the holiday together in a festive atmosphere.

Our Welcome

To ensure the hotel knew of our accommodations of our a feather free quiet room request, we contacted the hotel beforehand. We arrived on Christmas day in the evening from LA because we thought the check in process would be less congested. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. There was a long line of people checking in, so the scene was somewhat chaotic. Later, we found out that the hotel provided several check-in areas we were not aware of and that travelers with disabilities should call ahead and ask which one would have less of a queue.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel guitar

Hotel Décor

Inside the hotel, the decor was traditional Southern-style with magnificent candelabras, comfy sofas, and lounge chairs in dark brown, olive green, and orange tones. The resort is divided into four main areas named Magnolia, Garden Conservatory, Cascades, and the Delta. The Delta section sports a mini human-made river that flows through it where travelers could enjoy a short boat ride for an additional fee. The elaborate fountain in the Cascades atrium was spectacular. Our favorite zone turned out to be the Garden Conservatory, elaborately decorated with Christmas lights around exotic plants.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel bridge

The Room

We had a spacious room, elegantly decorated in hues of green and gray topped by crown molding. Here again, the theme was subdued modern elegance using wood, granite, and contemporary artwork on the walls. The front door had an efficient lock and latch, but the peephole was placed rather impractically at the eye level of a six-foot person.

As we entered the room, the first thing we saw on the left was a large dresser that housed a 40 inch TV on top. The dresser had a granite countertop and pull out shelf mechanism that could be used as a desk. There was also a mini cooler and a coffee machine. Oddly enough, the room had only one usable chair, so we called housekeeping to ask for additional chairs.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel stair

The closet and storage area were relatively modest in size a family of four. The closet had a luggage rack, an ironing board, and an enormous safe for our devices.

Area lamps on the nightstand between the two beds and on the dresser kept the room moderately well lit. Two of the lamps had recharging sockets, and there were several power outlets throughout the room.

We had mostly comfortable and soft beds, though they were higher than what we are used to. The headboards had a wooden frame with a gray metallic color leatherette. We did appreciate the flexible metal lamps attached to the headboard. Because of these lights, it was possible to read quietly at night after other family members fell asleep. We liked the placement of the beds away from the air conditioning vent so the cold air wouldn’t blow directly on us as we slept.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel night

Most rooms had balconies with a seating area, nice for adults to sit and look out over the atrium. However, the double French elegant doors only had one lock placed four feet from the ground. The placement of the lock can be a safety issue for kids.

As Marriott members, the hotel gave us free bottled water and wifi.

The Bathroom

The natural stone tiled flooring with granite countertops and tiled wall bathroom was on the modest size. We liked the two separate areas in the bathroom. One area had a single sink, and the other had an additional sink with a shower/bathtub and commode. The curtained bathtub sported a fixed shower head with no handheld attachment or grab bars. These additions would have been an excellent addition for families.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel water

Housekeeping was generous, providing us with many towels as well as bathrobes and slippers.

Dining

This unique resort featured over fifteen food venues ranging from Southern cuisine to Italian grub. The main issue we encountered were the long lines at all places during meal times. These lines were quite frustrating for our son with autism. After trying most of the restaurants, our favorite was the Jack Daniel’s Saloon. Here, we enjoyed their Fried Green Tomatoes and Pickles along with their Jack Daniel’s cocktails.

For breakfast, the hotel offers two restaurants. These restaurants have both a menu and a bountiful buffet with multiple cold and hot items.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel outside

For families traveling on a budget, there were many other choices right outside the hotel in the Opryland Mills Mall. These options included fast food, chain restaurants, and our personal favorite, the Cracker Barrel. Travelers without a car should know the hotel offers a free shuttle on the hour between the venue and the mall.

Must See

We were able to watch a live broadcast from one of the oldest radio studios in the US near the Magnolia lobby. The station, called WSM, was apparently historically pivotal to the development of the country music genre in the US between the 1930s and the 1980s.

Christmas Stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel guitar

Activities

The hotel features several pools that the guests can use and enjoy. The outdoor saltwater pool is perfect for hot summer months, while the indoor pool would be enjoyable during the winter. For those travelers seeking spa treatments, the hotel boasts a spa with a full menu of services, including relaxing massages and makeup lessons.

For more about the Christmas activities, check out our article.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The hotel gets very crowded and quite noisy during the holidays. Parents with noise sensitive children may want to reconsider visiting around this time.
  • Be aware that during Christmas there are many activities. Music also plays throughout the hotel even in the “quieter” areas.
  • Parents should request a quiet room in the Garden Conservatory area that won’t directly face noisy activities.
  • The hotel doesn’t provide a nightlight or anti-slip mat, so parents will have to bring their own.
  • The staff at the resort’s various restaurants was courteous, friendly and patient with our son with autism. When we had to wait for a table, the hostess found a quiet seating area for us. She brought some crackers when she heard our son say he was hungry.

Beachside Relaxation at Marriott Rio De Janeiro

Beachside Relaxation

 

 

Last month, while visiting the beautiful Brazillian capital of Rio, we stayed at the JW Marriott Rio De Janeiro. The five-star property, located at 2600 Avenida Atlântica in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, contains approximately 245 rooms and suites and faces the famous Copa beach front.

We chose to stay at this hotel for both safety and location reasons. After hearing stories of security challenges in the Brazillian capital, we wanted to make sure that we stayed in an upscale spot that was filled with tourists and well guarded by the police. Moreover, since this was our first time and we had heard about Copa beach, we wanted to experience it firsthand by staying nearby.

Beachside Relaxation at the JW Marriott Copacabana sunset

What Makes it Family Worthy?

The hotel is close to several shopping areas and a fifteen-minute drive to major shopping malls in Rio, as well as various eateries along Avenida Atlantica. This establishment is a short walk away from the famous Copacabana Beach, and a private section of the beach is reserved for Marriott guests. The local subway station is likewise only a few blocks from the building.

Fellow Travelers

This hotel mainly hosts vacationers, solo couples, and families that wish to be close to the beach and enjoy the waterfront.

Beachside Relaxation at the JW Marriott Copacabana chair

Décor

The spotlessly clean public areas of this building had darkly hued neutral colors enhanced by elegant touches of metallic colors. Patterned chairs and carpets in other sections of the hotel gave the building additional “old world” pizazz.

Welcome

Because of the safety concerns, I had called the front desk and asked for a hotel limo to pick us up at the airport. Somehow, the order was lost. After realizing the mishap, we ended up booking a cab straight from the airport when we arrived at night, which sped on the freeway like a bat out of hell. It got so bad that we were all praying to get to the hotel in one piece since the driver did not pay attention to our pleas to slow down. When we finally arrived, the personal was apologetic and checked us in as soon as they could. The hotel also sent us a small welcome dessert plate as an apology, which we thought was a nice touch.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro drink

Room

We stayed in connecting rooms on the 16th floor, 1620 and 1618. Both rooms had excellent views overlooking the beach area.

The cozy rooms contained fluffy pillows and comfortable bedding. The furnishings in both rooms were similar, with the only significant difference being that one had two double beds and the other featured a king sized bed.

The nightstands in each room held an alarm clock, a phone, and some complimentary bottled waters. There were also lamps over the beds with several electrical outlets near the nightstands that were excellent places to recharge both our phones and our I-pods. We were grateful that, as Marriott Gold members, we were provided free wifi.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro bed

One of the main perks of staying at this particular Marriott was the copious amount of storage space provided for us. Both our rooms had well-lit, wooden paneled closets that contained irons, hangers, and bathrobes for our use. A large cabinet that also housed the in-room safe was provided to hold even more of our personal belongings. There was a small foldable luggage rack in the room as well, but we had plenty of places to put our gear and didn’t even need to use it.

The rooms had a desk area with a large chair and well as a small sitting area with a lovely armchair and footrest. Hotel guests should also take note of the coffee making supplies and large LCD televisions provided in the rooms.

Bathroom

The bathroom was fairly standard for the Marriott and contained the usual amenities of soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotions. The room’s walls were in hues of brown with speckled granite tile floor that matched the sink and countertop. There was a combination shower/bathtub with a curtain and a grab bar.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro bathroom

Amenities

The hotel has a 24-hour reception desk. It also is home to an especially detail oriented concierge service that has won several international awards. However, we commend the professional staff at the Marriott Rio for their stellar service and the way they accommodated our son with autism.

Patrons who tire of going to the beach may want to check out the hotel’s rooftop swimming pool instead, or book treatments at the luxurious onsite spa. Those trying to stay fit will be happy to know that the hotel has a gym overlooking the nearby beach so those exercising can do some “people watching” while on the various machines.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro sink

Should hunger strike, travelers can dine at one of the two onsite restaurants for some delicious snacks or Italian grub.

Executive Lounge

The executive lounge at this particular Marriott is fabulous. From the incredible breakfast spread that it offered with colorful fresh cut up fruit to the elaborate happy hour, we never went hungry. The Happy Hour had so many different appetizers and complimentary drinks to choose from that we never made it to a sit-down dinner in the city.

On the day we stopped by, the lounge staff was serving a vast assortment of finger foods and sandwiches. Those with heartier appetites had the option of enjoying spicy chicken soup or stew and rice. A large tray of bread served to round out the repast.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro food

The executive lounge also provided to go breakfasts and snacks, which is an unusual feature for these lounges. We loved the fact that even if we took an early morning tour, the lounge supplied us with a boxed breakfast to go.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The room bathtub has grab bars, but bath mats are not provided so travelers should pack their own.
  • The rooms have thick drapes that do a good job blocking out the light. Therefore, light sensitive individuals should not worry about getting plenty of sleep.
  • The hotel is not pet-friendly, so allergy sufferers need not worry about pet dander in the rooms.
  • Although it has incredible views of the Copa beach, the room windows are small and do not open.
  • There is no lifeguard at the pool. Because of this, visitors need to be watchful if their kid can’t swim.
  • If your kid is an escape artist, ask for a room that doesn’t face the atrium since it can be dangerous if they lean over.

Beachside Relaxation at the Marriott Rio De Janeiro end

 

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