Tips for Choosing Hotels for Families with Autism



One of the most important elements of a vacation is choosing the right lodgings. It is necessary for parents booking the room to take the requirements of their child with autism or other special needs into account. If they have allergies, sensitivities, and other issues, parents need to make sure that these will be addressed otherwise the vacation might turn disastrous. For those unaccustomed to asking for accommodations, here is our list of what to look for when choosing a hotel.

Choosing a Hotel when Traveling with Autism minions

Pick a property that is part of a chain

A benefit of selecting a hotel chain is that when guests encounter an issue, they can talk to their corporate office customer service. Customer service tends to listen and resolve problems quickly, especially when traveling overseas. Many chain hotels offer 24-hour service which comes in handy for a sick family member who requires sheets or towels.

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Another benefit of staying in a chain is accruing points for future stays and obtaining a loyalty status that helps with possible upgrades. Chain hotels are usually designed to look similar, so children with autism will feel a lot more at home at each hotel.

Look for a property near a  park or playground

Parents should never book a property located on a busy street unless it is a high-rise equipped with dual paned windows. Also, it is best for parents to choose a hotel close to places they intend to visit. It is not conducive to have to travel half an hour to the center of town each way, especially for those visiting a new city for two-three days and wanting to make the most of their visit.

Choosing a Hotel when Traveling with Autism water

Prefer a property with an Executive Lounge

Whether parents wish to pay extra for access, use points or ask for a free upgrade, Executive Lounge access is great, particularly when traveling with special needs kids. The lounge provides travelers with free breakfast without having to go outside the hotel as well as free snacks, beverages, wi-fi and even some dinner appetizers.

Choosing a Hotel when Traveling with Autism food

Research if any construction is planned on the premises or nearby

Construction translates to dust and noise even at night in some places. Also, certain facilities like pools or restaurants might become temporarily inaccessible which can affect a family’s stay. Parents should ask for a discount if the hotel is renovating and they still want to stay there.

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Inquire about the last renovation

Parents should always ask how long ago the last renovation was on the property. This information is important to know for family members who suffer from allergies. A hotel that hasn’t been renovated in many years might translate into dusty, musty, smelly rooms that could trigger unwelcome attacks. A very recently renovated property might have strong paint or glue smells, and some carpet adhesives can also cause allergic reactions.

Choosing a Hotel when Traveling with Autism soap

Ask about A/C and heat control in the rooms

Some older properties have it set to either/or, so families can be stuck with heat in winter when it is 80 degrees outside. Parents of children with temperature sensitivities should find out about the heating and cooling systems. They should also ask if both a/c and heat are accessible throughout the year.

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Find out if there will be any special events going on in the hotel or city during your stay

With the crowds, noise, and even rowdy fellow guests, special events can negatively affect one’s stay. It is good for parents to know what they should expect so they can make an educated decision.

See if the property has an open atrium with rooms opening onto it

Some older hotels are designed around a central atrium which can be aesthetically pleasing but may be a problem for guests with autism. If the rooms have balconies or windows that open, those can be a safety hazard, especially on the high floors. Also, sound carries differently in a large open space so that any music will be amplified in rooms facing the atrium. For parents who want to book hotels with open atriums, they should ask for a room on the lowest floor possible

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Find out if some balconies or windows open fully on high floors

It may sound like a basic safety issue to solve, but many properties still don’t have proper locks to prevent dangerous situations for kids with autism. Parents should always ask about locks on balconies or windows before booking any property.

If the property has pools or access to the beach, parents should also ask about safety measures they may have like lifeguards or locks on the doors leading to the outside.

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Specify you want a quiet room for your family

Technically all hotel rooms should be quiet. However, for parents of children with noise sensitivities, they need a room away from and NOT directly over or under or above certain facilities. The following is a list of services parents should request a room away from while staying:

  • The Laundry
  • Elevators
  • Executive lounge
  • Vending machines
  • Pool
  • Saunas
  • Spa
  • Gym
  • Ice machine
  • Hospitality suites
  • Conference rooms
  • Restaurants
  • Housekeeping equipment rooms
  • Cooling equipment
  • The roof

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Ask if the hotel has smoking and non-smoking rooms

When traveling abroad, it is important for families to remember that many countries still allow smoking in public places including inside hotel rooms. In the case of a property like that, parents should know that some of the smoke will inadvertently get to a non-smoking area through the ventilation system. If smoking is allowed, parents should choose a different property, especially if your kid suffers from allergies.

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Enquire about hypo-allergenic rooms

Properties like the Omni and Marriott have started offering rooms cleaned with natural products instead of chemicals. This fact is great news for allergy sufferers. Parents should find out about duvets and pillows, and if they can get foam instead of feathers.

Enquire about air fresheners and other chemicals used in the rooms and public areas

Collecting information about the air quality is important. Parents should not shy away from asking specific questions, such as inquiring about chemicals used in cleaning. Many hotels spray air fresheners that may be offensive to those with olfactory challenges or allergies.

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Ask if the property is pet-friendly

Parents might think that pet-friendly means only dogs, but pet-friendly can also include cats and birds. If guests have brought their pets, cat dander or feathers can get in the air vents that might trigger unwanted allergic reactions.

Be wise about room features and design

Some rooms are just not designed to house children, especially ones with special needs. For safety reasons, it is imperative to know ahead of time if the bathrooms have separate showers or a tub/shower combo, hand-held shower heads, bathroom anti-slip mats, and glass doors on shower enclosures.

Choosing a Hotel when Traveling with Autism bed

Cooler or fridge availability in the room

Though many rooms do come with a stocked mini-bar, some properties balk at the prospect of needing to empty it for the guests’ personal use. Parents who need to refrigerate medicines or snacks should ask ahead of time if that is an accommodation they offer.



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Most hotels do their best to provide excellent customer service and go out of their way to make sure that their guests enjoy their stay. It does help the hotel staff to know ahead of time about guests who have autism or other special needs so they can plan in advance. Parents should never be afraid to ask questions to ensure that their stay is full of good memories.



Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism

Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism pin

With recent US studies showing that 1 in 68 children receive a diagnosis somewhere ‘on the spectrum,’ autism issues are on the rise. There needs to be more attention paid to these matters, especially in the hotel industry. Families who have children with special needs, such as autism, often encounter extra challenges in life. When it comes to travel and hotel stays, these challenges become even more evident. With dedicated training, attentiveness and a general increase in awareness, hotel staff could make the visits of their guests with autism easier and far more pleasant for all involved.

Some accommodations for families with autism are more successful than others, and some need improvement. In all the years our family has traveled around the world with our son with autism, we have learned what works for us and what doesn’t. Here are a few tips, ideas, and suggestions that the hotel industry should consider implementing.

Have a Knowledgeable Concierge

The concierge is often one of the first people hotel guests have contact with on arrival. They help make reservations and other arrangements to ensure an easy stay. For guests with autism, concierge staff could expand their role to include assistance with medical rentals and purchases of needed supplies from drugstores and local pharmacies.

Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism trees

Furthermore, it would be helpful if the hotel staff compiled a list of both outdoor and indoor activities in the area suitable for children with special needs and autism. Families dealing with autism always want to know about free events or places that offer discounted rates for autism.

Create a Social Story

Social stories are an ingenious and modern way of educating and engaging children with autism. Most children seem to relate well to these little mini-books that describe situations in a patient and reassuring way. For those with autism, these stories are a form of role-playing that they can understand.


Hotels should create a social story unique to their properties. In the story, animated characters could walk their readers through the hotel public areas and room while explaining proper behavior in each location and situation. This method works well even for kids with autism who are non-verbal.

Update the Menus

Hotels that have restaurants on-site need to make sure that there are more gluten-free options on the menus. These restaurants should also have other choices that cater to those with food restrictions, such as nut-free and dairy-free. These options should extend to the room-service menu as well.

Also, offering longer breakfast buffet hours in some cases can be helpful. Families with autism often find the morning transition challenging as it is, so this would be an appreciated option.

Quiet Tables

Hotel restaurants should designate a table or two in a more secluded part of the dining area to provide a quieter space for patrons with autism. Restaurant staff should ensure that the table is nowhere near the entrance to the kitchen or bathrooms. These places are not quiet spots and might be challenging for visitors that are smell sensitive. If the restaurant has any background or live music, the designated quiet tables should be away from the stage, the loudspeakers or any other source of music.

Additional Training for Kids Club Staff

The kids clubs in most hotels do a fabulous job providing entertainment to many children of all ages. However, many personnel do not have the specific behavior training to handle children with autism. Hotels should train their kids club staff to become more autism aware. Companies also need to equip staff with the right tools to accommodate guests with autism.Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism room

Moreover, the staff should be taught that when any kid with autism feels overwhelmed, they should have the option to take any arts and crafts activity and do it in their room or come at assigned times when the club is less busy so they can get more personalized attention.

Make Rooms More Autism-Friendly

It would behoove hotels to overhaul at least some of their rooms to accommodate guests with autism and allergies. To help patrons with allergies, hotels could stock hypoallergenic cleaning products, amenity kits with hypoallergenic cosmetics products, and forgo using air freshener.

Hotels could also assign specific quiet and secluded rooms to accommodate families with autism. These rooms should not be placed over or under the restaurant or dining areas. They should be away from laundry rooms, elevators, the Executive lounge, vending machines, the pool, ice machines, banquet halls and hospitality suites where conferences are held. It would make sense for these rooms to be on a higher floor to ensure less noise from traffic and the lobby. Also, these rooms should not be in proximity to any gym or roof where A/C machines are placed.

Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism thing

Some children with autism try to escape when their parents are momentarily distracted. To mitigate this, hotels should offer stick-on motion detectors for doors and windows. These will alert parents if the child exits the room so they can respond accordingly. Within the room itself, providing dimming light switches would also be a wonderful accommodation for light-sensitive children with autism.

For properties wanting to go the extra mile, they can install better window insulation, such as dual pane. Hotels could also provide extra wall padding to minimize noise in the room. Minimizing noise will help everyone since some sounds that children with autism make can disturb others.

Six Suggestions for Hotels Accommodating Autism sink

Many families with autism have difficulties occupying their kids. Because of this, it would be helpful if hotels increased the number of kid’s TV channels, offered iPad rentals, and installed more power outlets in the rooms.

Finally, to increase bathroom safety, hotels should provide non-slip mats and install hand-held shower heads. This will allow parents to better help kids who are not able to bath independently.

In Summation

By making the stay of families who have children with autism easier and enjoyable, both hotels and guests benefit. Patrons will benefit by having an easy going, uneventful stay. Hotels will benefit by seeing more business from these patrons who keep them in mind for their next visit. The hotel industry should strongly consider most if not all listed changes to help every guest in the modern world.

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