The Budget Friendly Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal

 

Location

Located at 7800 Universal Boulevard, the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal has 400 rooms and suites from which travelers can choose.The hotel is a ten minute car ride from Universal Studios ( the property provides a free shuttle back and forth( and a twenty minute drive from Walt Disney World.

What makes it family worthy?

There are many different activities found within a short distance of the hotel. It is especially close to Universal Studios, and Disney World, as well as Ripley’s, Believe It or Not, Museum.

 

Fellow Travelers

With its’ many amusement parks, Orlando is a top destination for families. Couples and business people those visiting on business are also well represented among the hotel’s guests.

Décor

The lobby was especially spacious, brightly lit and decorated in a modern style. In all areas of the hotel, neutral hues with the occasional splash of color seemed to be the preferred decor.Our room had red accent pillows and light wooden furniture.

 

The Budget Friendly Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal rrom

Rooms

Plentiful pillows and comfortable bedding made for a pleasant night’s rest. In between the two queen sized beds, there was also a nightstand with an alarm clock and a phone.Facing the bed area was a large, flat screen television so that travelers could comfortably watch their favorite shows before going to sleep.Though the vistas were not advertised as a selling point at this location, we still had a good view of the nearby green spaces and some of the other hotels. Also visible from our windows was the outdoor kidney shaped swimming pool.

Our accommodations also contained a seating area with a comfortable green armchair with a footrest and a small side table that was ideal for holding beverages or snacks while one was lounging about. Supplies for making coffee and tea were likewise found in the rooms.

The work desk area in our suite came complete with a second chair, another phone, and an overhead lamp. The spot made an excellent place to sit and surf the web. After all, complimentary wireless internet, a much-appreciated amenity, is available in all parts of the hotel. There was also a large chest of drawers and sizeable closet to store our belongings in. The closet further contained an iron, a safe, and clothes hangers for our use. The microwave and mini fridge were likewise good touches that rounded out the room’s furnishings.

The bathroom area was sufficient for our needs. It contained the usual features of a sink, a toilet, and a bathtub. A silver rack filled to the brim with towels of all sorts could be found just above the toilet, along with the basic amenity kit of soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion bottles and a scale.The tub/shower combination with good water pressure did not have a hand held shower head and was separated with a shower curtain.

Overall, we found the standard room to be an adequate budget friendly fit for our family of four.

The Budget Friendly Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal pool 

 

Facilities

Several cabanas and numerous lounge chairs can be found in the outdoor pool area which is located just outside the main lobby. Children who are making their way through the lobby will no doubt be fascinated by the large aquarium that is found there, but their parents may be more interested in the small dining and bar area.

The dining section has some comfortable chairs where those staying here can relax and chat with their traveling companions even if they don’t plan on eating anything. I  met up with some of my friends at this spot, and we greatly enjoyed the sandwiches and drinks that we were served. However, there is another eating establishment in the back section of the ground floor that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu provides a typical array of American foods including salads, hamburgers, and appetizers.

The Executive Lounge

The executive lounge area has excellent views of the nearby park. Although these vistas were not very different from what we could see from our room, they nonetheless provided a nice accompaniment to the meal. The buffet found here contained a small assortment of cereals including Rice Crispies, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Raisin Bran, and Special K. There were also pastries, muffins, and bread provided along with cubed melons and yogurt. Bagels and a small selection of preserves served to complete the repast. Beverage choices here were limited to numerous types of Bigelow brand teas and also coffee.

Autism Travel Tips 

There don’t seem to be any safety handles in the tubs at this location, so travelers should be aware of that fact.
Likewise, handicapped persons may also want to bring along a bath mat to provide traction if they need it as this is not supplied by the hotel.
Like in all hotels families with autism should ask for rooms that are not facing the pool and away from the executive lounge and floor elevators.

 

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers

The Omni Dallas is a luxury hotel in Downtown Dallas, Texas, near the Convention Center.
It is 100% non-smoking, has 1,001 guest rooms, including 67 luxury suites and three presidential suites. The hotel features a heated infinity pool and sauna, fitness center, spa, hair salon, onsite restaurants with valet and self-parking.
We chose to stay there because of its proximity to the Conference Center and the Historic District.It is also conveniently located next to multiple restaurants and major attractions.

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers LOBBY

Decor

The first thing that strikes you in the lobby and continues throughout the hotel, rooms, and even the bathrooms, is a  large number of art pieces by local artists hung on the walls.
The art gives the hotel a very sophisticated flair without being too overwhelming visually as some other properties can be.

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers DECOR

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers ROOM DECOR

Rooms

The property offers three types of guest rooms: Deluxe, Premier, and Executive. The rooms range in size from 396 square feet to 552 square feet and include floor-to-ceiling windows, work stations, and luxury bedding.  The Premier category has a king sized bed as well as a queen Murphy bed which might work well for families traveling with younger children.

There are also two suites available: Luxury and Presidential. The Executive Suite has amenities similar to the other guest rooms, but is larger (750 square feet)and is divided into separate living and sleeping spaces. The Presidential Suite (1,120 square feet ) boasts an additional living area with a dining table, full sofa, and extra bathroom.

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers BEDS

We found our executive room on the 14th floor to be clean and comfortable. The two queen bed mattresses were moderately firm, and the room layout was perfect for our travel needs.
There was an elongated table that multiple family members could use as a desk at the same time, plenty of outlets (two next to the bed) and abundant closet space. Unlike some other hotel rooms, this one also had ample seating – two stools, a chair, and an armchair!

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers CHAIR

The central A/C is part of the room electrical eco-friendly system which means you need to place your room key inside to power up the room.
If your child is temperature intolerant ask the front desk staff for an extra key to keep the room at a constant level.
We were also happy to discover that the mini room cooler came empty, so we didn’t have to worry about our kid consuming anything in there, resulting in high room charges.

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers DESK

Housekeeping

We found the hotel housekeeping service to be prompt and efficient. The staff member arrived within five minutes of my call with the extra towels I  had requested. The front desk followed up with a separate phone call less than five minutes later.


How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers NIGHTLIGHT

Feature we liked

I found the small motion detector light located on the bottom of the nightstand between the two beds that lights up when the room is dark helpful ( think going to the bathroom without turning on the nightstand lamp and waking family members up. )

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers MIRROR

Wish we could take home

The TV in mirror combo in the bathroom was a  both a surprise and a fun device to
use-needless to say the bathroom became a favorite spot for our autistic son.

Perks:

  • Excellent bathroom amenity kit!
  • Omni Sensational Kids Program –a backpack with fun items for the younger travelers(see picture).
  • High-speed Internet in common areas, free in your guest room if you join their Select Guest loyalty program.
  • How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers KID

Autism travel tips

Families can request connecting rooms, quiet rooms and allergen-free room at booking. In fact, the hotel has an entire floor (the 14th) that is allergen free. As part of the Family Travel Conference hotel tours, I got to visit the hotel laundry center and was quite impressed with their hypoallergenic cleaning products-hopefully other hotels will take notes and copy the Omni’s dedication to accommodating travelers with special needs.

How the Omni Dallas Hotel caters to Special Needs Travelers FACADE

 

Don’t miss

The neon lights covering the front of the hotel that change colors every couple of minutes providing the onlookers with a delightful visual show.

Rates and Parking fees

The hotel offers specials from time to time, so be sure to check the website first. Otherwise, the standard rate is around $147.00/night and goes up from there depending on the particular dates.
Valet Parking Rates: 0-4 hours: $12, 4-8 hours: $18, Overnight: $28 – In and Out privileges.
Self-Parking rates: 0-8 hours: $12, Overnight: $18 – In/Out privileges

Disclosure: My stay at the hotel was paid as  part of the Family Travel Conference

 

 

Review of the Swissotel Chicago

Location

The Swissotel  Chicago is on Wacker Street within walking distance to the city’s main attractions like the Art Institute, Miracle Mile and the Navy Pier.The location provides convenient access to restaurants, including fast-food joints, mini markets and local drugstores to purchase water and snacks for the room.

Hotel

The building itself is a high rise (like many others in downtown Chicago) with decorated in a modern minimalist style.The Lobby design with pod-like areas instead of the regular reception desks and glass cascade chandeliers looks futuristic.The budget-friendly property offers  661 oversized guest rooms and suites (including kids suites)with magnificent views of the Chicago River.

First Impression

When we arrived, the lobby area looked chaotic with some guests trying to check in while others were leaving.Apparently, the hotel is popular with large groups like conferences and wedding parties, especially over weekends and holidays which makes it busy during both weekdays and weekends.

Dining

The hotel boasts a luxury restaurant ‘The Palm’ that serves lunch and dinner as well as a lively bar and a breakfast buffet. There is a 24-hour room service with a rather disappointing menu composed of one salad and two types of cold sandwiches. If you are arriving on a late evening flight with kids who have allergies or are picky eaters, you should plan to dine at the airport or a local restaurant.


Review of the Swissotel Chicago lobby Family Stay at Chicago's Swissotel
Place to improve

The worst problem we encountered were the  automated elevators  where you had to punch your desired floor ahead of time      ( since there are no buttons to do so inside.) If you suddenly changed your mind or mistakenly pressed the button for the wrong floor you needed to exit and start the whole process over again.This process managed to both frustrate and scare my autistic son.

Best Feature

The hotel provides chilled citrus and berry flavored water in the lobby felt refreshing after walking in the hot and humid  Chicago weather.

Would like to take home

The giant display clock in the lobby area was gorgeous and added a cosmopolitan vibe to the space.

The room

Our room had a river view and two double beds with a relatively hard mattress none of us felt comfortable sleeping on.
The front door had a safety lock a useful feature if your child tends to wander, and a doorbell that our son loved to press continuously.
The closet provided ample hanging space and a safe while the elongated desk/bar area was convenient to place snacks and beverages on.
The room also has extra outlets under the desk on the right-hand side for to recharge several electronic devices simultaneously, which was a much-welcomed bonus.
The bathroom featured the standard tub and granite counter-top sink combination as well as a separate glass-enclosed shower which I thought would be helpful for families with younger kids.Our bathroom didn’t have a handheld shower head which many parents would find useful when bathing younger children.

Review of the Swissotel Chicago room Family Stay at Chicago's Swissotel
Housekeeping

We found housekeeping to be prompt when we asked for extra toiletries(soap, lotion and shampoo) as well as feather-free bedding.
We did have an issue with getting two additional chairs in the room and it did take multiple calls to the front desk over a period of 24 hours to resolve the matter and send up the two chairs from one of their conference rooms.

Autism travel tips

This property allows small pets so if you or any family members suffer from allergies be sure to ask for a hypoallergenic/on chemical-free room ahead of time.
Ask for a high floor during booking, especially if your family is not used to city traffic noises or your child is noise sensitive.
The hotel has a Mini Mart in the lobby if you are in need of quick snacks or bottled water.
Be sure to bring your own anti slip bath mat and a night light if your kid has any balancing issues or is fearful of the dark.
The hotel interconnects through underground tunnels to other hotels so you can walk in a temperature-controlled environment to the Miracle Mile and nearby restaurants.

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head

      The greatness of a five-star establishment lies in its ability to modify itself to the needs of its different patrons, and its never-ending capacity to solve any issues that hamper planned stays. The Inn at the Harbor Town, Sea Pines Hilton Head fits this description to perfection.
Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head bellman

The service

 

We have stayed at this amazing property, several years in a row always enjoying the wonderful hospitality. This year we unexpectedly encountered some unforeseen ‘glitches’.
It started with arriving at a balcony street facing room after I specifically requested a quiet room, continuing with getting our booking dates wrong and culminating with various minor room malfunctions.

The front desk managers, Sarah, and Andrew , were on top of the situations and solved them patiently and graciously.Moreover, all staff was enthusiastic and helpful.  I had the opportunity to speak the hotel manager Attila, who assured me that he and his team would go the extra mile to work with families of special needs persons, including offering those rooms facing the golf course with a large window, which we got instead of the noisier balcony one. He also said he would look into my suggestion of other child proofing the rooms and teaching his staff to become more autistic aware.
Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head Island drinks

 The hotel is cozy, sixty-five rooms in all, about five hundred square feet each, built about ten years ago on the southern side of Hilton Head Island, as part of the Sea Pines Resort Plantation.

Fellow guests include business people that come to attend conferences as well as families who come to enjoy the beach.
The property is meticulously decorated in a colonial style with beautifully carved last century wooden furniture. The inviting lobby has multiple comfortable seating areas, a library, complete with TV and computer access, as well as manicured shaded patio areas featuring fountains, lawns, and walkways. The careful attention to details is evident throughout the resort and can be seen from the moment you arrive and are welcomed by the bellman dressed in a Scottish quilt even on the humid hot summer days. One can find fresh refreshments like coffee, lemonades, and cold water all day long in the lobby.

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head Island lobby 

Our Room

Our room had two queen beds, a lounge chair, and two sitting chairs as well as a desk and a flat-screen TV on top of a spacious dresser. Our bathroom, all marble, offered both a shower as well a separate sunken tub, rather oversized vanity and commode.

The property has two restaurants that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but visitors can go to the neighboring resorts for more selections.

Inn at Harbor Town Hilton Head beds 
The best time to visit late spring and early summer, especially for families with younger kids including those with autism.
The soft sandy beach alongside the shallow almost waves free fewer waters are a winning combination for many ocean fearing persons or sand loathing ones. Our son, riddled with sensory issues fell in love with swimming and now tolerates walks on the beach.

Hilton Head offers many other outdoor activities guests can try like kayaking, biking, horseback riding to dolphin or alligator watching cruises.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Request a quiet room with no balcony facing the golf course and not the tennis courts.
  • Bring your night light and bath mat.
  • Check out the free kids activities offered on selected days.

 

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