A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru pin

Since 1984 when the first JW Marriott opened, the brand has been known for its service quality, exquisite dining and lodging excellence in many countries all over the world.

In 2012, the chain opened yet another luxurious property in Esquina de la Calle Ruinas y San Agustin Cusco, Peru. Over 11,000 feet above sea level, it is the first Marriot to require supplemental oxygen pumped into the air into all its six floors, 146 rooms, seven suites, and lobby and public areas to compensate for the high altitude.

The JW Marriott El Centro Cusco Peru

Roughly an hour away from Machu Picchu, a UNESCO world heritage site, the premises was built on top of ancient Incan ruins and incorporated into a convent from the 1500s. These ruins have been exquisitely transformed into a museum.
The elaborate Spanish décor can be seen throughout the hotel and in the rooms. As visitors walk through the heavy wooden front doors, they will see a magnificent Swarovski crystal chandelier at the reception. Guests can see an archaeological exhibition room with Incan artifacts unearthed during construction of the hotel. There is a sizeable inner courtyard, just the place to take some time to imagine yourself in the past.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru window

Fellow Guests

You will be sharing this hotel with patrons who have come for sightseeing or business, couples on romantic getaways as well as families who have come to visit this historical capital of Peru. The city is a huge tourist destination with over 2 million people coming to visit every year since UNESCO designated it a world heritage site in 1983.

Our Rooms

Upon our arrival to the hotel, we were enveloped by the feeling of peaceful serenity and we were welcomed with a special Peruvian tea ceremony which was both soothing and relaxing. It also helps acclimate guests to the altitude.
The staff showed us to our connecting rooms that featured durable, heavy doors.We could see the city of Cusco from the windows with the town’s main square nearby and cobblestones. It is quite picturesque.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru bed

Each room was a feast for the eyes. All the furniture was handmade and the desk, like the beds, featured beautifully carved legs. The rooms had plenty of power sockets for charging some portable devices at the same time. The wooden backboard for both the king-sized and two double beds in the adjoining room with the geometrically patterned rugs on the wooden floors gave the suite an authentic Peruvian feel. Also, there was a living room with a sitting area decorated with local artwork on the walls and colorful tapestries and rugs.

There were coffee makers and an empty mini-fridge in each room which meant guests could store their perishables at will. Both rooms came with ample storage space with chests of drawers, nightstands, and closets, as well as the place to put luggage.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru toiletries

Both rooms had bathrooms with marble countertops, vanity mirrors, and showers with a recessed overhead rainforest fixtures. Our room, which featured the king sized bed, also had an additional bathtub which made for a relaxing escape after hiking the entire day. The hotel provided an elaborate amenity kit, fluffy towels, and bathrobes, along with slippers for each room.

Dining options

At the hotel, there were three restaurants from which to choose.

First was the Pirqa Restaurant Cusco venue, well known for their traditional Peruvian cuisine.
The second choice was the Qespi Bar, famous for its tapas and Peruvian cocktails.
Finally, there was the Nina Soncco Lounge, which had a fireplace emphasizing a comfortable atmosphere.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru dining

Breakfast

The buffet spread was a wonderful way to start the day!
It boasted cereals and beverages including fresh juices like papaya and pineapple. Following that, we saw various rolls, muffins, and flatbreads made from corn and other grains. We sampled their peasant bread, chocolate, orange cakes, and jams.
One of the traditional stations had a lovely selection of cold cuts, cheeses, and smoked salmon. At the fruit station, patrons enjoyed sliced fruit and different yogurts. The hot food station had sausages, bacon, mushrooms, deep-pork, sweet potato, chicken stroganoff, and frittata.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru items
The ‘sweets’ area included cookies, pancakes, and waffles served with assorted syrups and traditional sweetened condensed milk. At the egg station, the buffet served sunny-side-up, easy-over, omelet, scrambled and even eggs benedict.
Believe me, everything was delicious, we tried them all!

Spa and Pool

The JW Marriott Cusco staff offers their guests a variety of holistic services and cleansing treatments as well as an indoor heated serenity pool. The spa offers a steam room, massage rooms, and beauty therapies. Since the spa is pretty famous in Cusco, it is important to book in advance as it is not only guests who take advantage of this service but locals too.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru pool

Cooking with the Chef

We had the opportunity to take part in a pilot program. Here, we enjoyed a private cooking class with Teddy Bouroncle, the hotel chef.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru chef
Before we started on the food, the staff taught us how to make the world famous Pisco Sour cocktail, which was delicious.
We then learned how to prepare a beef dishes like Seabass ceviche, Anticucho, and Lomo Salado.
We also learned how to make Arroz-con-Leche and Suspiro-de-Limena, two of their traditional desserts.
Watching the professionalism and attention to hygiene was impressive. After the making of this grand feast, we got to eat everything at our own private table waited on by the staff.

A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru food

There was much we loved during our stay, but there are two things that will be forever etched in our memories.
The cooking lessons turned our kids into Peruvian food addicts, and we now look for Peruvian restaurants everywhere we go. We also loved the fact that the hotel promoted local artistic professionals and featured the different crafts in the hotel courtyard for patrons to see.A Memorable Stay at the JW Marriott Cusco Peru woman

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The hotel takes special needs into consideration and has wheelchair accessibility to the main entrance and registration desk, rooms, restaurants, and lounges.
  • This property is a smoke-free hotel because of the extra oxygen pumped all around the premises. This fact works out well for anyone who is sensitive to smoke or has allergies. In our son’s case, he has asthma, so it helped.
  • The rooms have double curtains to make it dark for those who are sensitive to light.
  • If one of your parties has sensitivities to noise, I recommend that you request an Inca wall room. These rooms are quieter than the Courtyard rooms.
  • Guests can ask for more oxygen if needed. There are also air-conditioning controls for those who are sensitive to temperature extremes.
  • There is complimentary high-speed wireless Internet available throughout the hotel for guests.
  • The mini-fridge in the room is useful for keeping special snacks and medicines for those who have specific medical needs.
  • If your family is unable to make a meal because you are planning a day-trip and have an early start, it is possible to coordinate with the hotel. They can get the kitchen to pack a boxed continental breakfast for you.
  • If you do need grocery supplies or anything else for your trip, the hotel has a convenient mini-market right across the street.
  • There is 24-hour room service which is handy if you need a snack for your special needs child in the middle of the night.
  • There are free evening tours given by hotel staff, perfect for learning more about the hotel’s heritage and history as well as the renovation that led to it being the fantastic hotel it is.

 

Flying LATAM Airlines with Autism

 

bear pin

 


LATAM
is an airline that mainly flies to and from South America, so we hadn’t flown with them until we decided to visit Peru. One of the main reasons we chose LATAM was that I had British Airways miles that could be used to cover four tickets round trip from Los Angeles to Lima as well as four domestic round-trip flights. Our flight was a direct flight, which is always the best choice when traveling with autism.

Booking Latam Airlines

I booked our tickets online through the British Airways website in less than ten minutes for a total of 225K air miles and hardly any tax. Next, the airline’s customer service agent referred me to the Los Angeles office and was very helpful. A special thanks to Sharon and Mr. Caballero, the Passenger Service Supervisor at LAX!

After explaining that our son has autism and that he can’t wait in long lines and needs bulk seating on the aircraft, Mr. Caballero personally tagged our booking (four flights) with the accommodations and reassured me that everything was taken care of.
aircraft

At the Airport and Boarding

On the day of the first flight, we arrived at LAX 3 ½ hours ahead of time in the event we encountered issues that might need to be resolved. As we approach the ticket counter, we saw very long lines.

I asked for special needs assistance staff, and my family was immediately helped by an agent instead of waiting in the long line.Everyone worked diligently to ensure that we not only were seated together but that we received the bulkhead seats.

bulk seating

LATAM does weigh carry-ons, and we were two pounds over the limit. The airline was incredibly gracious saying that they understood we carried medicines and special hypoallergenic bedding for our son, so they let us carry them without any penalty.

LATAM has an excellent organizational system that uses lines for every ten rows so that the boarding process has a flow and is not too crowded.

At the gate, we pre-boarded using a wheelchair and were able to board each time quickly. It took some time to not only to settle our son but to store our carry-ons in the small overhead bins so were grateful we could do it without delaying fellow passengers. We found the bins on the Boeing 767  and on their Airbus 319  we flew to Cusco from Lima able to hold a 21-inch suitcase each and a small bag comfortably.

overhead bins

Our Seats

As we passed by the  Business Class (there is no First Class), we discovered that it was surprisingly small on the 767. There were 18 seats in all with the most legroom and pitch I’ve seen in a Business Class.

plane seating

We flew the airline’s Economy Class.With the plane’s configuration of 2-3-2, as a family of four, we sat in row 12 and 13. My sons and I got the bulkhead seats while my husband sat behind us on the way to Lima and back. All in all, both rows had adequate leg space and the seat comfort was average although it was a bit annoying when people crossed over from side to side and bumped into us.

 

We were glad to find that pillows and blankets were provided for the red eye flight and there were outlets underneath the seats,  to juice up our devices. There were also no air vents directly blowing on us which are always an issue for our son with autism that has sensory challenges.

 

ammenity

Entertainment

A plethora of movies and television shows both in English and Spanish were offered on the entertainment system. The caveat for the bulkhead seating was that the television was built in and fixed in the bulk area in front of you. While the screens don’t fall during turbulence, they are a bit too small and far which makes watching a bit cumbersome.

 

The 319 Airbus doesn’t have any entertainment on board, which was OK as the flight was less than an hour and a half each way and we had packed tablets to watch our own movies. The seats on the Airbus were leather and much more comfortable than most economy seats we’ve sat in on other flights and airlines.

supper

Meals and Amenities

The flight crew was helpful and attentive. They came around to check and make sure we were comfortable and had our needs met. They offered dinner meal choices of chicken with a salad and cake. Later the crew retired for several hours before returning with a light breakfast. We were disappointed to discover that they had no milk or apple juice for our kids and that coffee wasn’t going to be served due to turbulence.

 

When we continued our journey to Cusco on a domestic flight, we were surprised to discover that the company offered complimentary snack boxes and drinks (including alcohol), even in economy.

dinner

 

The bathrooms on both our long haul flight and domestic were kept clean and were continuously stocked with soap, hand lotions, even mouthwash.

Overall we had a great experience with LATAM that surprisingly showed a high and unexpected level of autism awareness and excellent customer service. We didn’t have to wait in any significant lines and were accommodated on and off the aircraft promptly.

 

 snack1

Autism Travel Tips

When traveling LATAM with autism, make sure you call ahead and tag your reservation as special needs and ask for the necessary accommodations (wheelchair assistance) or special diets that your family members may need.

Packing a tablet and power cord may be helpful as there might not be adequate entertainment on some aircraft.

It is interesting to note that while LATAM  does not claim to discriminate against passengers with disabilities, they are one of the few airlines who requires a muzzle for a service animal and they do have this additional statement on their website in regards to passengers with autism:

Passengers with autism who are accompanied by family or caregivers and who do not have a disruptive behavior do not require a medical certificate however if they travel alone, they will have to present a medical certificate.

 

 

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined

Some people say that the most surprise events make for the best stories, and in our case, our experience with Air New Zealand exemplifies exactly that!

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We had originally booked a flight from Lisbon to Zürich connecting to LA which ultimately fell through when our Lisbon to Zürich segment flight was late. This change of plans meant that we lost our connection before we even started our journey.

Booking and Airport Experience

A United Airlines ticket agent at the Lisbon airport took pity on us and decided to book us on the next available flight to London where we would then fly Air New Zealand from London straight to LA.

Needless to say, I was grateful that we were flying Business Class on accumulated points, so I didn’t have to worry about things like last-minute seating arrangements and accommodations for our son with autism.

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined screen

Upon arrival at Heathrow International Airport, we got access to Air New Zealand’s quality Business Lounge which provided us with plenty of options to eat and drink. The lounge even offers gluten-free choices, not to mention free WiFi.

Boarding and First Impressions

We were able to pre-board first as part of the accommodation for autism and also because we had Business Class seats. Next, they welcomed us on board by the friendly and enthusiastic crew that helped us with luggage and offered us a glass of champagne or cider.

We then actually started to notice many of the subtle differences that make Air New Zealand a fabulous company, commencing with the continuous smiling staff and their charming Kiwi accents.

As frequent travelers, we have flown in all classes including First, Business, and Economy. It is safe to say that the seat on the Air New Zealand Boeing 777 300 that reclines into a full bed was, and is, the most comfortable we’ve experienced to date.

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined seat

Amenities and Entertainment

We received two pillows and a hypoallergenic comforter. The Business Class TV screens are large and can be moved and adjusted to your position, and the recharging station is located directly in front of you (we love when you don’t have to bend down and search for it under the seat). Our son with autism couldn’t get enough of the entertainment console!

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined game

Air New Zealand has, hands down, the most engaging safety video we have ever watched. Everyone around us was apparently paying attention and even testing the different functions from the comfort of their seats.

Passengers can create their personal playlist of movies they want to watch during the flight as well as order whatever food and drinks they wish.

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined questions

 

Furthermore, the airline has added informative clips about your intended destination including immigration forms and a concierge service on board to help with your vacation plans. In fact, you could even provide feedback about the service from the comfort of your seat—not that we had reason to complain.

Sleeping in Comfort and Class

Maybe the reason we felt so pampered on Air New Zealand was the fact that this airline, unlike many others, actually makes your bed when you’re ready to sleep.

The cabin staff members come with bed linens and make your bed. When you’re done with the linens, you can press the call button and have them whisked away.

Our son with autism had a stomach ache, and the flight attendants couldn’t be nicer. They made him chamomile tea and even offered him an over-the-counter heartburn medication.

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined spray

The aircraft we were on also featured the famous Skycouch in the Economy Premium Class cabin. The Skycouch is a perfect choice for families, especially those with younger kids, and provides comfort at budget pricing.

Impeccable Customer Service

At this point, I should mention that this is the first airline that didn’t scold me for taking pictures, but instead mentioned how they enjoy working with bloggers.

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined burger

The Airline Amenity Kit features Clinique cosmetic products and the flight attendants also distribute a kid-friendly coloring kit to entertain children the old-fashioned way.

The special touches are visible everywhere starting from the largest cabin galley up to the whimsical bathrooms with a window view.

Everything about the Business Class on Air New Zealand was top-notch, starting with the entertainment and continuing with the wine choices and food (don’t skip the dessert; it is heavenly). And, of course, there was the gracious and punctual service provided by the crew.

Business Class on Air New Zealand is Luxury Defined snack

Overall, our experience was excellent and needless to say we were sad to leave the plane once we landed in LA. Parents with kids with autism should definitely put Air New Zealand on their radar, as they are so incredibly accommodating and polite. 

Flying Virgin America with Autism

We recently flew Virgin America out of LAX. Overall, the experience surpassed our expectations in accommodations, entertainment, comfort, and compassion for autism travel. 

Booking Process

I booked our flights on the Virgin America website, though I ended up having to fly a week earlier than my husband and my son who has autism. All three one-way tickets purchased were for Economy, but I couldn’t get the bulk seating for my husband and son directly on the website.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Ticket Counter

So, I ended up calling the 1-800 customer service number and spoke with an agent who specializes in disability. The representative was well acquainted with autism and immediately proceeded to put my husband and son in their flight’s Economy Premium section in order to make them more comfortable.

At the Airport

Check-in was a breeze! I had already checked in online, so I only needed to zoom through security with my Global Entry pass and head straight to the gate. My husband and son relayed a similar experience.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Airport

In LAX, Virgin America uses Terminal 3, which tends to be a bit more crowded at security than other terminals. If you are also flying out of this terminal, you may want to arrive earlier and allocate enough time to pass through this process.

I had heard about their newly opened Virgin Atlantic travel lounge, and I was mildly curious to check it out for myself. On request, the staff allowed me a sneak peek. The facility sported an uber-modern look and had several seating areas, a bar, and a modest breakfast buffet table—the room decor compliments the company’s logo in hues of reds and pinks.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Lounge

Passengers wishing to dine before their flight also have the option of choosing from a fast food joint or a sit-down venue at Gladstone’s, which is a sister restaurant to the one in Malibu.

At the Gate

On both Virgin America flights (a week apart);  pre-boarding went relatively smoothly. My husband was happy the crew had given him ample time to board before the deluge of passengers came through. On my solo flight, I was approached by a team member and asked if I needed help putting my carry-on in the top compartment, which I appreciated.

Both flights on Airbus 330 were punctual, which is noteworthy in the middle of the day at a busy airport like LAX.

The Seats

My aisle seat in Economy 12D was covered in leather and better padded than other airlines I have flown. I even had a few inches between my knees and the chair in front of me.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Economy Seat

My husband and son found their wider, more padded, leather seats in 3E and 3F (main cabin) even more comfortable to relax in. We were all thrilled to use the outlets to plug in our phones; the outlets worked well and were placed in an accessible spot, unlike other carriers where we have had to look for them somewhere in the abyss under our seats.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Main Cabin

As seasoned frequent flyers, we all immediately noticed the small—but significant differences—between this Virgin America and their competitors. Highlights ranged from the engaging emergency procedure video done with rap music and the relaxing blue-hued lighting to the positive attitude of the crew asking multiple times if we needed any additional help.

The Food

Let me start by saying that Virgin America offers superior food and entertainment choices that cater to please anyone. They provide an ample free and paid-for drink and snack menu that includes a gluten-free option as well as for purchase meal options.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Food

The fact that you can place an order from the comfort of your seat is so helpful! No more waiting for the traditional cart to come around while everyone else dines, just to be told they are out of your food choice once they reach your seat.

On my flight, I was very happy with my reasonably-priced, healthy breakfast choice that didn’t leave me hungry like some do. The meal was served with coffee that tasted like it was freshly ground.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Menu

The following week my husband and son loved the food offerings too. When our son with autism discovered food is complimentary in the main cabin. He ended up ordering everything he could off that menu. Unlike what has happened to us on European carriers, he was not reprimanded.

Much to my husband’s surprise, the staff was courteous and smiled with each order!

The Amenities

In comparison with other airlines, entertainment is another area where Virgin America gets it right.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Entertainment

The personal touch-screen TV in front of you is so much fun to play with!

You can not only order meals but also watch movies, listen to music; you can even chat with a fellow passenger in a different seat, which is a great feature if family members are separated in-flight.

As you can see from our pictures, the choices are ample—whether one wants to watch movies, TV shows or play games, there is something there for everyone. The entertainment system even features an area for kids with a PG content control making it stress-free for parents.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Charity

Perhaps the most refreshing feature on that screen was the fact there was a section dedicated to charities, encouraging passengers to donate money to several organizations like “Make a Wish Foundation” and one that is close to our hearts, The Special Olympics.

But there’s more.

Forgot your headphones at home? Do you want to nap for a few hours and want a clean pillow and blanket? You can purchase these items right on board. I selected a pillow/blanket set and love the high-quality blanket so much I use it at my desk at home.

Flying Virgin America with Autism Cagtalog

The restrooms, though unimpressive and similar to other airlines, were kept clean throughout the coast-to-coast flight and replenished with paper towels, tissues, and soap on a continuous basis.

Autism Travel Tips

Make sure you mention any special needs at booking and follow up with Virgin America before flying.

On our flights, we found nothing went wrong, and the staff was all very attentive and well rehearsed in helping families and individuals with autism.

Pin for Later

Flying Virgin America with Autism Pin

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism

 

oasis pin

In October 2015, I participated in the “TBEX at Sea” conference. It was held on the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship which impressively weighs in at over 225 thousand tons, and is over one thousand feet in length! She had her maiden voyage in December 2009 and still continues to provide a fantastic experience for the whole family.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism ship

The Oasis of the Sea is part of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. The ship employs over 2,200 staff members on board to better serve the needs of their guests. Most trips on this vessel last about a week. These excursions depart from Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, or Orlando Florida and visit several ports in the Caribbean before bringing travelers back to the starting point.
Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism deck

Many don’t realize that this cruise ship works like a floating village. Here, passengers can enjoy sixteen decks offering entertainment in the form of swimming pools, a basketball court, climbing walls and an ice-skating rink.

After receiving a refreshing makeover in 2014, the ship looks better than ever. Cleanliness is also a high priority on this ship, with everything being quite spotless, despite the vessel’s large size.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism lounger

Fellow Travelers

A large percentage of the people traveling on this ship are family groups from North America. However, middle age couples and groups travel here as well. The Oasis of the Sea can also hold around 5,400 passengers at any given time.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism pool

Amenities

The sixteen decks on this ship feature plenty of activities to keep both kids and adults occupied on the high seas. Travelers should know that the popular attractions, such as the Flow Rider waterslides and the Windjammer Marketplace buffet, often see crowds at peak times. Therefore, cruise passengers will need to adjust their expectations accordingly and either avoid busy hours or plan to wait in line.
Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism blue

While the zip-line, ice skating rink, and rock climbing wall work as perfect pastimes for older kids, the younger crowd can easily participate in more kid-friendly activities. These include balloon making, face painting, and carousel rides. Folks over the age of sixteen might also like to chill out in one of the ten whirlpools onboard.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism catsPlaying the slots at the casino is yet another option for those over the age of twenty-one. Of course, the onboard shows can appeal to people of all ages. This ship also featured an excellent production of Andrew Loyd Weber’s Cats. However, it is crucial to reserve show tickets in advance if you don’t want to miss seeing these highlights on your voyage.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism parade

There are a variety of restaurants from sushi to Italian to American Bistro – something for everyone’s palate. Other activities include a water park, a 3D movie theater and a Dreamworks experience that children find delightful!

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with AutismAt night, the high-diving AquaTheater displays some spectacular shows. For those looking for something more on the relaxing side, the boasts spas, galleries, whirlpools and even an adults-only Solarium pool.
Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism golf

Royal Caribbean go out of their way to accommodate special needs, certified as the First Autism Friendly Cruise Line in February 2014 by Autism on the SeasTM, a tremendous honor. Also, the whole ship is wheelchair accessible. If you communicate with staff members in advance, they will go out of their way to help.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism solarium

Our Cabin

We saw a few options for cabins, and we arranged beforehand to get an inside cabin, ideally suited to families that deal with autism. Because it is situated in an inside corridor, it almost makes a labyrinth that is confusing for a child to navigate. Therefor, it is more difficult for them to get lost if they get away from you.

We stayed on deck 10 in cabin 440. The key to the door is a very handy swipe-card which conveniently fits in a pocket.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism bed
As you open the door, you can see beautiful wooden furnishings and beautiful carpeting in a wave design of turquoise, blue, green and brown. By the entrance, we saw a shelving unit, perfect spot put brochures, sunscreen, the cabin keycard and other important odds and ends. The shelving unit segues into a desk with a chair complemented by a lighted mirror so it can double as a vanity table.

The cabin is compact but not crowded with a big, opening sofa and a king-sized bed that can split according to preference. Also, the headboards are gray and tan adding to the overall décor of the cabin. Our flat-screen TV monitor by the desk could swivel making it visible from the beds and sofa, or it could recess flat back into the wall. Both nightstands boast built-in night lights.

Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism kit

The closet is spacious and can fit the luggage with plenty of hanging space and hangers provided. There are extra shelves as well as a small safe above eye level which can fit an iPad or tablet. There is a full-length mirror placed conveniently by the bathroom.

The room boasted an adequate supply of power sockets. A huge perk of this cruise liner is the super fast internet powered by VOOM which provides wifi using O3bMaritime technology. Furthermore, the occupants can freely adjust the temperature of the cabin with the convenient a/c control panel.
Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism bath

Our Bathroom

With linoleum flooring in tan, the bathroom is functional and practical. It featured wooden shelving and a narrow counter with a small sink. As we are Platinum members of Royal Caribbean, we received an amenity kit with conditioner, shampoo, shower gel, soap, and lotion.

The shower features a high plexiglass enclosure and a handheld showerhead as well as a short retractable line to hang up wet bathing suits. We discovered that the area boasted good drainage, perfect as cruise-line cabins can easily flood. Toilet paper, tissues and towels are provided and you can ask housekeeping for more as needed.
Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism jeff

Autism Travel Tips

As mentioned, parents should call the cruiseline ahead of time to request any accomodations their family may need.
The cruiseline is autism friendly and will strive to help with embarkation, disembarkation, dining and onboard activities.

slide Cruising Oasis of the Seas with Autism

Those attending the production of Cats should be aware the performers move around quite a bit on and off stage. Some kids may find this a bit scary.

Kids wishing to try ziplining or rock climbing should ask to try it at the end of the day. At that time, the crowds lessen for more customized attention.

 

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonalds

 

Located at 600 N Clark St, Chicago, Illinois, this Rock and Roll McDonald’s also nicknamed the 50Th McDonald’s after the company’s gold anniversary celebrations were held on the premises.

We stopped by for a quick lunch and family visit to explore the fast food museum after we had read about it in a couple of travel sites.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s street

The Restaurant

It is one of the busiest restaurants in this chain and relatively large; being able to seat up to 300 people in its two-story building about three times the size of regular McDonald’s venues.This flagship McD is an entirely free-standing restaurant boasting two drive-thru lanes, a McCafe and comprehensive dining room complete with enough parking and free Wi-Fi. It aspires to be eco-friendly and has two vegetation-covered Green Roofs.

Open 24/7, this McDonald’s menu is typical of most international branches with their usual range of burgers, chicken and fish selections,  salads, snacks, and Sides as well as their Breakfast choices and, of course, their Happy Meals for kids.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s statues

The McDonalds Museum

What makes Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s unique is their museum the second level of the restaurant features several display cases showcasing the brand through the ages; covering a range of topics from history and development of their company to their merchandise.

The complimentary museum starts with how McDonald’s has contributed to the national and international community in the form of donations to various charities both local and worldwide. Then visitors get to see how McDonald’s has branched out to many countries across the globe; Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and China to name a few.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s escalator

The exhibits then segue into the history display starting with the first McDonald’s  opened back in 1948 all the way up to the present day. There are archived pictures and memorabilia of the very first McDonald’s restaurant along with the first franchise purchase.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s museum is divided into different sections; each is representing a decade and includes the merchandise, furniture, uniforms, décor, and even menus of that era.
Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s seating area

There are many keepsakes; from overhead lamps and lighting to uniforms, happy meal toys collectibles like Lego, Furby dolls, Disney toys, to original menus.
 There are furniture items from each decade where one can sit and reminisce, even listen to the music hits of the time, completing the nostalgic ambiance.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s wall

Our son with autism, a McDonald’s fan, got a kick of seeing the various historic menus, including the one showing the introduction of the iconic Big Mac.
As in other ‘touristy’ spots this restaurant offers items like t-shirts, hats, ties and other memorabilia in the form of key rings, curios, and other mementos for purchase.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s 70s seats

Autism Travel Tips

  • Anyone fascinated with the history of the fast food chain and their happy meal toys will find this nostalgia-laden spot delightful-our son with autism did.
  • There is an escalator between the floors which is convenient for those who are unable to or prefer not to take the stairs.
  • Those kids fascinated with riding up and down will have fun since there are lovely views of the entire facility from the second story.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s toys

  • The restaurant aims to seat and feeds customers quickly and efficiently and, generally speaking, there are no long waiting times or lines.
  • The day we visited there was a  group of teens including the birthday girl heading to a local quinceanera party, all dressed in formal wear that came in for a quick bite.
  • There is free Wi-Fi, so if your child is bored or antsy, it is possible to keep them occupied with an iPad or other handheld device and the restaurant also has plasma screens that can be an excellent source of distraction.

Chicago’s Rock and Roll McDonald’s dresses

  • As it is a busy place, the noise level can be substantial but easily blocked out by headphones if your child is noise-sensitive.
  • The menus are bright and engaging and come with accompanying pictures for those who are unable to read.There is a children’s menu as well as gluten-free options.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go?

Our reader, Sarah Watson, couldn’t have chosen a better time to ask this month’s question since the National Autism Association Conference is right around the corner, and just like her, other parents are considering whether they should attend the conference or not.

Dear Margalit,

My name is Sarah Watson, and I’m a single mother living in Houston, Texas with my teen daughter. We don’t usually travel because my daughter has autism. My daughter suffers from high anxiety every time her daily routine is changed which makes traveling extremely challenging.
This month I was surprised when she asked me if we could attend the National Autism Association Conference in Florida. She heard about the Conference from a classmate whose family has been participating for a couple of years and told her it was fun.
I have looked at the conference website and mainly see it as a place to attend lectures about autism that I don’t think will be interesting to her. Also, the prices for the conference and hotel are pretty steep, so I’m confused whether it would be a place we’d even enjoy.
Have you ever attended the meeting?
What are your thoughts?

Hi Sarah,

Thank you for your question. In fact, you are the third person this month who has asked about the conference, so I guess it is slowly increasing in popularity. My family and I had the opportunity to attend last year’s conference and were very pleasantly surprised.
Here are my five reasons why.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go sppech

Sound advice from experts

The conference provided an excellent chance to meet parents with kids on the spectrum, network and listen to informative lectures from highly regarded speakers in the autism community like the inspiring Temple Grandin and Chantal Sicile-Kira. The list of guest speakers changes every year so check who’s on the list this year.


The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go chantal

Get informed about new products and services

In 2014, the year we went, the Exhibitor Hall was filled with companies presenting new products, services, and programs; some of which even I hadn’t heard about.
It was at the conference that our son was first introduced to ‘speed stacking’ and was totally captivated!
He was able to chat with peers and interact with them while practicing his stacking skills at the company’s booth.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go merchandise

 

The atmosphere and parties

You not only get to meet other parents but get to party with them, and everyone is incredibly understanding and willing to listen to your story.
There’s a “meet and greet” the first day, and a beach party the third day followed by a Karaoke dance party in the lobby later that night.
If you can’t afford the beach party (it is a bit pricey) then you can still attend the Karaoke one in the lobby and dance the night away with your daughter by your side.
If she’s noise-sensitive, remember to bring a set of headphones to block some of the noise.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go dancing

Discover Resources

What better place to find resources for autism than at a conference especially for autism.
The exhibitors have booths and stalls set up, and they display their wares from the first to the last day of the conference between certain hours.
You can pick up brochures advertising the latest innovations and therapies for people with autism, as well as books, toys, puzzles for all ages and difficulty levels; and even possibilities to apply for scholarships.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go therapies

The Resort

The conference is held at the Tradewinds Resort in St Pete Beach, Florida, a beach resort that is incredibly autism-friendly.
The staff is excellent; helpful and totally non-judgmental when it comes to behaviors; since they are all trained to accommodate guests with autism. The resort offers multiple land and beach activities, but it depends on if the  November weather cooperates or not.
When warm; you will be able to enjoy the pools and beach, if cold and windy like it was when we attended, you need to look for alternative ways to entertain your child.
Guests can take free fishing lessons, play Ping-Pong or try the trampoline, right there on the premises. We took the time and visited the Dali museum downtown.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go beach

In Summation

The conference is a perfect opportunity to introduce your child to the beach, have him or her experience new things and make some new friends in an autism-friendly atmosphere, especially if you don’t travel much.
In fact, when we attended we  got to chat with several parents that told us they’ve been coming to the NAAC on the yearly basis and that they considered the conference as their ‘annual vacation.’

Disclaimer: Special thanks to the NAAC that provided us with complimentary tickets for the review. However, the tips and opinions shared are always our own.

The National Autism Association Conference-Should You Go temple

 

 

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort

Location

The four-star Tradewinds  Island Resort famous for its motto ‘Just Let Go‘ is located in Saint Petersburg, Florida and features 585 rooms and suites.
The resort compiled of two sister hotels–the Guy Harvey Outpost and the Island Grand  Resort, overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and is feet away from the sandy beach.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort lake

Guests

The resort is quite family oriented, but couples and other groups of travelers will have a great time too.
As an autism- friendly hotel, this hotel has hosted the National Autism Annual Conference for several years and is a favorite with families with special needs kids.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort lobby

Decor

We stayed at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort where a tropical vibe dominated the resort’s public areas with the design continuing in the guest rooms.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort buildings

Our Room

We stayed in the Breckenridge building that has the option of connecting rooms useful for travelers with larger families.
Our standard room (with free Wi-Fi), 5613 on the fifth floor, was spacious and comfortable with good view of the beach, property’s pools and the hotel’s giant inflatable water slide.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the room was the round dining table with four wooden chairs. The ample seating was a welcome touch since no one had to sit on the bed or the floor like in other hotel rooms we’ve stayed in in the past.

The room furniture was a pleasant mix of rosewood and rattan that gave it a neutral feel. Continuing the resort’s  island theme our room drapes, pillows, and chair cushions were decorated in muted orange and tan hues while the bed coverlets and carpet sported tropical patterns.

Our room boasted two queen sized beds separated by a nightstand that held a phone, alarm clock, a standing lamp and the TV remote. Across from the beds, there was a large flat screen television on top of a large dresser that contained a well-stocked mini bar, complete with a variety of drinks and snacks.

Tradewinds Island Resort: room

Furthermore, closet space was ample, and the two luggage racks supplied adequately held all of our suitcases.We were glad to discover the room safe was large enough to accommodate my laptop as well as several tablets.

We enjoyed the sitting area with the cozy chaise upholstered in a seashell pattern and a matching footrest, next to the window. A nearby wall outlet made it comfortable to sit and work on the laptop while watching the ocean waves. A decorative standing lamp and framed artwork complemented the room furnishings.

Our standard room had a kitchenette, which is useful for families needing to prepare or warm food during their stay. This well-equipped area included a microwave, a mini fridge, coffee pot, a toaster, dishes, glasses, silverware along with dishwashing soap and dish towels for easy clean-up.

The bathroom was on the small side but functional. It had the usual facilities; a commode, a sink, and a combination tub and shower with multilevel shelves for storing bath supplies.
An assortment of toiletry items and mini makeup mirror were standing on the granite countertop. It was disappointing to discover there was no hand held shower head, but we appreciated the powerful shower water pressure.
The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort bathroom

Service

The Tradewinds Resort reception desk is open 24/7, and its employees have all undergone the specialized autism training awareness program by C.A.R.D.
We were impressed by the printed ‘social story’ booklet that the hotel is handing out to its guests with autism.
Visitors can also benefit from the top notch concierge service provided including a compiled list of attractions to visit with kids both indoor and outdoors around the resort area.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort pool

Activities

Along with its unbeatable location on the beach, the Tradewinds  Island Resort is famous for the plethora of family oriented seasonal activities offered.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort slide

Aside from five pools and two whirlpools, the resort offers multiple complimentary events for families like fishing lessons, poolside movie nights and pirate bonfire parties.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Resort trapeze

Hotel guests can enjoy water-based outdoor activities like parasailing, pedal boats, stand up paddle boats and land-based sports like volleyball, mini golfing, ping pong, and tennis for a charge.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort boats
Thrill-seeking travelers should give the trampoline, Gyrator, Jetlev or the ‘Rumfish’s ‘  aquarium with tropical fish swim option, a try!
Our son loved the high tide 200 feet long water slide and was disappointed to hear he had missed the chance to see the resort’s complete inflatable waterpark; which is only available during the summer months.

The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort fire

Dining & Entertainment

The resort offers eleven dining options for families from fast food (Pizza Hut) to upscale venues like the ‘Palm Court’ Italian Grill,  ‘Bermuda’s’ for steaks and seafood and the ‘Rumfish Grill’ for fusion cuisine.
During our weekend stay, we sampled the ‘Palm Court’ Italian Grill one evening and the ‘RumFish Grill’ located on the resort’s sister property the following day.

Tradewinds Island Resort, Dining

We found the ‘RumFish,’ with its Guy Harvey art and the giant fish aquarium a more kid-friendly venue but slightly noisy for people with autism.
The resort also has several stores that sell snacks and some fast food items that can be taken back and consumed in the rooms.

Dining & Entertainment The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort

Autism Travel Tips

  • If your kid tends to wander away, remember to ask for the hotel’s “Safety Kit” that includes a hanging door alarm!
  • Our room included the appropriate grab bar and bath mat for the shower and safety locks for the window.
  • All the resort food venues have gluten free options that are helpful for travelers with gluten allergies.
  • The resort kids club has unique sensory activities geared for children with autism – parents should call in advance and make the appropriate arrangements.
  • Parents need to be aware the resort does NOT provide lifeguards for the pools.
  • Families traveling with service dogs should know that The Island Grand has several pet-friendly rooms and a secure Pet Play Zone.

 The Autism Friendly Tradewinds Island Resort sunset

Is St Pete’s Dali Museum Fun for Kids?

Is St Pete's Dali Museum Fun for Kids? blue glass

Celebrating Salvador Dali, the Dali Museum located at ‪One Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg, Florida, contains some of the artist’s best works that give visitors a comprehensive insight into his life and art. 

Though this may not sound like the best place to take kids, especially with autism, an afternoon visit may chance your mind.
Children of all ages, including those on the autism spectrum seem to connect with the surreal, whimsical almost childish perspective the artist presents in his paintings and sculptures.

 

 Is St Pete's Dali Museum Fun for Kids? sky light

 

Pete’s Dali Museum: Spiraling Circle

What to See

As one walks in, the building is revealed in its entire architectural splendor; curved staircases, giant, mirrored windows and magnificent skylights that provide the structure with much needed natural lighting.

The museum keeps a permanent exhibit that includes the famed  Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (the melting clocks), Death of my Brother, Columbus discovering America and The First Day of Spring.

The temporary exhibits change on a regular basis and have included: Dali Revealed, The DaVinci Mind, Andy Warhol.The one we saw during our visit was the well curated Picasso exhibit that focused on the different ways Picasso and Dali, who were contemporaries influenced each other’s art.

Visitors frequently comment on the quality of the pieces at the museum, and how great it is to be able to see the art up close.
The docents are very knowledgeable, and the free tours are worth checking out if you have the time.
For guests pressed for time or who prefer to go at a personal pace,  the audio tour is the way to go.

Pete’s Dali Museum: Christian Painting

Pete’s Dali Museum: Jeffrey Looking At Weird Painting

Parents should know there are both adult and child versions of the audio tour and that the museum also offers a fun self-guided   ‘scavenger hunt’  for kids to discover the museum’s highlights.
The venue offers regular story time and various fun activities for children; information can be found on the Family Events page on the museum website.
Our son found some of the paintings fun and funny while others had him sit and observe them from afar to ‘understand ‘them better.

The outdoor garden overlooking a Marina is perfect for kids to run around while the adults relax on the Dali replica whimsical park benches and enjoy the waterfront view.
Visitors that happen to drop by on a  Sunday morning should check the museum’s Dali and Yoga sessions incorporating pranayama (breathing), asana (posture ), meditation and relaxation.

Noteworthy is the museum’s  recycle tree project in the garden’s center where visitors are encouraged to clip their admission tickets and create decorative colorful long paper strings.

The Dali Museum features one of the most comprehensive souvenir stores we’ve seen with a Dali-esque Rolls Royce artifact as its centerpiece.
The store sells books, lithographs, t-shirts, mugs and even stuffed dolls with the artist’s famous designs.Since the museum itself is not interactive, this is the place to take kids that want to touch or play with Dali inspired artifacts.

Pete’s Dali Museum: Dali Bench

 Is St Pete's Dali Museum Fun for Kids? tree papers

Autism Travel Tips

  • The Museum is recommended for children aged six and up; prohibits bags, large backpacks, bike helmets and large child carriers but oddly does not provide a coat/bag check area.
  • The Gala (named after Dali’s wife and inspirational muse) Café on the first floor serves Spanish food and is a good way to introduce kids to the country’s cuisine with the finger sized tapas.
  •  The museum is wheelchair-accessible and has four wheelchairs for public use (first come first served).
  • Service animals are welcomed, while emotional support animals are not.
  • Tour options are available in several languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Italian and Dutch.
  • During the school year (September-May), there may be school groups participating in docent-led tours at 10 or 11 am, so it may be better to go in the afternoon during those months to avoid crowds.

 

Pete’s Dali Museum for kids:vintage car
Pete’s Dali Museum: Dali Giftshop

Admission Cost & Parking

  •  General Admission tickets range between  10- $24. Children under five years old are free.
  • After 5 pm on Thursdays, Adults can purchase a ticket for $10, and children are $8.
  • AAA members can also get a discount as long as the tickets are bought ahead of time at either an AAA Auto Club South branch office or at online.
  • Ask at the front desk whether there is any discount for persons with disability and the person accompanying them.
  • Parking on-site is $10, but there’s adequate street parking around the venue too.

Disclaimer: Special thanks to the Dali Museum that provided us with complimentary tickets for the review. However, the tips and opinions shared are always our own.

 Is St Pete's Dali Museum Fun for Kids? dolls

Guernsey German Occupation Museum with Kids

 

Although this UK Channel Island had been demilitarized and secretly classified as an area with no strategic value by the British government, the Germans still chose to bomb the small island of Guernsey on June 30, 1940.
Over 30 people lost their lives that day as many others would in the days to come. Even the local tomato harvest did not escape the destruction as the group of trucks conveying the produce to the harbor was bombed after being mistaken for a military convoy.

Exploring the Guernsey German Occupation Museum with Kids mapSomewhere between 17,000 and 25,000 people left Guernsey in the days that followed the initial attack.
At first, the local government planned to evacuate all of the island’s schoolchildren as well as any of their parents who wanted to join them.
But it soon became apparent that more people planned on leaving the island than first thought and could be carried out safely.

Those in charge soon realized that this could become a problem so they changed their tune and encouraged people to stay if they could. The result was that most of the islanders ended up remaining on Guernsey for the duration of the war.
The island was occupied by German troops for nearly five years before finally freed by the Allies on May 9, 1945.

The Guernsey German Occupation Museum

What started off as one family’s project to chronical the experiences of those who stayed on Guernsey during the occupation became the Museum of German Occupation.
This modest establishment, which received a 2013 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, documents the local populace’s struggle for survival and shows how they overcame the everyday challenges that were presented by the German occupation.

The well-lit museum contains some dioramas and historical videos that show how difficult life was in those days. The building is home to artifacts like a 4.7CM anti-tank gun, a four-wheel Enigma machine, a gas mask for horses, and even a mini cooking stove made out of scrap metal.
Reprinted copies of newspapers from the period even line the walls so that travelers can easily get an idea of what was going on at the time.Exploring the Guernsey German Occupation Museum with Kids horses
We visited the island on a short shore excursion while cruising the British Isles.We explored the small but highly informative museum -six rooms in total.
Our kids were surprised to discover that there was a German internment camp on the island that housed over a thousand prisoners and that the island even printed its own currency during the occupation.

After ending the museum visit, we strolled around the St Peter’s  Port area and admired the quaint private homes that sported names instead of numbers.

 

Autism Travel Tips

  • Those visiting the museum should allow themselves several hours to see everything that the site has to offer. Of course, the friendly staff members are glad to answer any questions that their visitors might have.
  • The Museum can be reached by local bus from the nearby village or by cab from the port area for those who visit on a cruise ship shore excursion.
  • Visitors that come by car will be happy to learn that there is free parking nearby as well.
    There are restrooms in the building and an on-site café so guests here need not leave until they have gotten their fill of the exhibits.
  • Between the months of April and October, the museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. From months of November to March, the hours are reduced significantly as the building only stays open until 1 pm. The site is also closed on Mondays during this period.
  • The admission costs remain the same year round at £5 ($7.69 USD) per adult and £2.50 ($3.84 USD) per child.

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