Flying LATAM Airlines with Autism

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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

JetBlue Airline’s Autism-Friendly Service

When it comes to airlines offering top-notch autism-friendly service, JetBlue has been one of our favorites.We recently had our first opportunity to test their accommodations for ourselves and see exactly how autism-friendly the airline truly is.

For many years I’ve been following with interest JetBlue’s efforts to help travelers with autism get accommodations when they fly to their intended destinations. In fact, many of you can attest to the fact that I am one of their biggest fans; I’ve been thrilled that the company makes such a concerted effort to reach out to the special needs community especially those with autism. I have personally attended mock flights which are created to encourage families with autism to fly and I have written several posts about the airline.

Here’s my overview of our own experience flying JetBlue.

Booking

For starters, I booked my flight online and was thrilled to see how the airline has specific forms parents can fill in and explain their kid’s diagnosis and specific accommodations needed. Later that same week, I followed up with a phone call to the airline customer service. It is important to state if you need pre-boarding as well as specifying either bulk or aisle seats. Even though at that point I was informed by the rep that my request would not be possible because all seats were already booked; they arranged for us to be seated close to one another, which was great.

At the Airport

Upon arrival at the airport, the ticket counter was well organized with many self-service machines and staff to help. I spoke to the representative again explaining our needs and she managed to reassign our seats and seat us together in row 6 since the aircraft didn’t have many bulk seating rows available. We were grateful for that.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Ticket Counter

JetBlue doesn’t offer any lounge service at the Fort Lauderdale airport yet, so we ended up just sitting at the gate.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Gate

I need to mention that at this point there was a slight uncharacteristic hiccup. My son’s accommodation was mentioned to staff a fourth time at the gate when we got there 45 minutes before take-off. I was assured that the staff was fully aware of our needs and we would be called to board early. Much to my surprise there was no verbal announcement or call to board for people with disabilities whatsoever. This was really upsetting because we were in plain sight of the gate staff.

Boarding

When I approached the gate supervisor I was told that they board people with wheelchairs first and that travelers with autism are just put first in the regular passenger line. So, we were finally allowed to board with 250 visibly impatient passengers behind us rushing us and pressuring us to get out of the way.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Overhead Bin

Out of breath and stressed, it took us a few minutes to put our luggage up in the overhead compartment, find our seats and settle our son which led to some dirty looks and grumblings from fellow passengers who had no choice but to wait behind us. Thankfully, as I mentioned above, this was a one-off glitch and JetBlue has definitely more than made up for it as you will see.

We already felt much better when the flight purser, Brett, came over after takeoff and apologized for the service we had encountered at the gate level and did ask whether we needed any help on board.

So, How was the Flight?

The JetBlue aircraft was a Boeing 777 with three seats on each side. The seats were moderately comfortable and made with leather.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Seats

Each seat had a built-in screen where travelers could watch movies and DirecTV or use the WiFi; both purchasable. Most seats also had an outlet that passengers could recharge their electronic devices in underneath the seats. The overhead compartments were average- sized; our 20-inch carry-ons fitted well and the leg room was just as comfortable as other domestic airlines we have flown with.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Television
The printed menu onboard offered the free sodas, water bottles (yes, you get your own bottle!) and snacks that were nut-free chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free potato chips.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Meal

The airline also offers some purchasable food choices that include several healthy choices like chicken and steak sandwiches, salads, cheese platters and several mixed snacks packages-basically something for everyone.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Flight Attendant

Overall—with the exception of our incident at the beginning of the flight—our experience with JetBlue was pleasant and comfortable and the staff gave really good service.

Lessons to be Learned

When I contacted the airline after our return to complain about the pre-boarding snafu, I am delighted to report that they apologized, acknowledged their mistake, and credited our account for the inconvenience. Best of all they reassured me that they‘ve changed their protocol so other families with autism won’t face the same situation.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Pin

Five Sensory Attractions Worth Visiting in Dallas

When someone mentions Dallas, Texas, some of us envision wealthy oil tycoons driving fancy cars, their wives shopping at all of the luxury stores, and of course, BBQ brunches.

Perhaps the successful 80 series with the same name fueled that stereotype a bit, but regardless, I admit that I never thought of Dallas as a place to take kids, especially kids with autism.
This all changed last November when we went to the family travel conference and attended some of the post-conference trips.

We discovered that Dallas is the perfect place to take kids with autism because it has multiple museums and tourist attractions that will provide an educational experience for your children without putting them into sensory overload.
We particularly enjoyed the Zoo, Aquarium,  Arboretum,  Perot Science Center, and the Sixth Floor Museum.And yes, we even got a chance to visit the TV set and gawk at the replica of Southfork, TV’s most famous ranch.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas view

The Dallas Zoo

The zoo was founded in 1888 as the first zoo in the southwest, and over the 100+ years that it has been operating, the zoo has grown from two deer and two mountain lions to over 2,000 animals.
Visitors can find a variety of unique exhibits, such as Giants of the Savannah, which is an exhibit that mixes elephants and other species within the same habitat, and the koala exhibit, which is the only one in the state of Texas, and one of just ten across the United States.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas lions

We’ve always enjoyed close animal interactions, and in Dallas, we were able to feed giraffes (we discovered their smooth tongue), hold an owl like Harry Potter (with the appropriate glove), watch young lions in training, and walk next to a hyperactive penguin.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas giraffes

Dallas Aquarium

With performances, restaurants, and (of course) the aquarium itself, the Dallas Aquarium is ideal for families with different interests.
There is a rainforest exhibit, several conservation projects with endangered animals, and an outdoor South African exhibit with penguins. The aquarium also has the more traditional aquarium animals – sharks, rays, sawfish, and more.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas fish
What is great about the Dallas Aquarium is the fact that it is on the smaller side, self-contained, and temperature controlled, which is a good option for kids that hate to be outdoors or that are temperature sensitive.
Our son loved standing in the glass shark tunnel viewing the giant predators swim overhead.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas shark tubes


The Dallas Arboretum
 

The Dallas Arboretum covers 66-acres of display gardens with seasonal flowers, ornamental shrubs, trees and plant collections, creating quite a lovely setting on White Rock Lake.
The Arboretum also has seasonal outdoor festivals, concerts, and art shows.

They also have two restaurants – Restaurant DeGolyer in the historic DeGolyer House, or the Lula Mae Slaughter Dining Terrace, overlooking downtown Dallas.

 

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas pumkins

We discovered the Dallas Arboretum is so much more than “boring plants”, which was my son’s initial thought when he first heard of our plans to visit.
We were treated to a magnificent array of colors, and especially enjoyed the pumpkin village, feeling new textures (they have over 28 types of pumpkins in various shapes and skin textures!), and enjoying the fragrant smells of fall.
Best of all, we got a rare chance to see a sampler exhibit from  Seattle’s famous Chihuly  Museum.

 

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas chaihuly
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science Center

The Perot Museum opened in December of 2012, is on a mission to “inspire minds through nature and science”.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas entrance

The exhibits here involve ALL  senses with interactive stations for the visitors to get information from buttons that provide sounds and smells of different animals and plants.
The earthquake simulator and motion activated lit walls, along with the stairs that make bubble sounds occupied our son for half an hour!

Although we’ve visited other science centers in the past, this one was different in that it provided a broader interactive platform for kids, and also provided an insight of how one’s interest in a particular aspect of science parlays in the real world into a career.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas dinasaur


Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza


The Sixth Floor Museum gets its name from its location on the sixth and seventh floors of the Texas School Book Depository, which is the actual building from which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The permanent exhibit on the sixth floor features memorabilia of JFK’s life, death, and legacy while the seventh floor shows temporary exhibits.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas sixth floor

The museum is compact, indoors, and temperature controlled, all bonuses for travelers with autism.A walk among the exhibits takes guests back to that period through visual and auditory items that help them relive history in a way few museums do.

Visitors can listen to emotional radio broadcasts as well as newspaper clippings that describe one of the hardest times America faced as a nation, from the actual place where it happened.

Five Sensory Attractions worth visiting in Dallas memorabilia

 

Have you been to Dallas and explored any of these places? What are your favorite sensory attractions across the world?

Disclaimer: The tours were hosted by VisitDallas for the participants of the Family Travel Conference.

 

 

 

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge

All executive hotel lounges are not created equal.
Some offer plentiful food and beverage choices while some can be extremely bare bones, so unless the upgrade is free, it is wise for travelers to educate themselves on what to expect before making a decision to pay an additional fee.
A good place to start is, reading other travelers’ opinions on websites such as TripAdvisor or Cruisecritic to get an idea what the hotel is offering.
If guests are still unclear whether it would be worth their while to pay the extra charge, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask the front desk staff to see the lounge before making any decision.
After years of comparing lounges around the world, here are our top ten features to look for in an executive lounge.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge argentina

Full buffet style breakfast

Most travelers, families included, love the convenience of enjoying breakfast without having to leave the hotel in the morning. That becomes, even more, important on days you chose to take early day trips or leave for the airport at an ungodly hour when many places are not even open yet.Though breakfasts can vary by hotel chain, country, and property the ones to seek are the ones that offer a full buffet with a variety of hot and cold dishes.
Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge HONG KONG

Extravagant Happy Hour

The “Happy Hour” that first started in restaurants has successfully crossed over to hotel lounges. Many properties offer appetizers and drinks as a free option between 5-8 pm. The lower end lounges offer potatoes chips, pretzels, and cheeses while the higher end splurge on lavish spreads making dinner plans obsolete ;which can be a money saver for a family with kids.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge URUGUAY

Ample seating space

Depending on the space allocated to the property; the executive lounge can feel spacious or crowded.
Naturally, the larger the room, the more comfortable the traveler will feel.
The hallmark of a good lounge is to not only have plushy furniture pieces but enough seating for most guests especially during peak hours namely:  8am-10am and 6pm-8pm.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge ISRAEL

Unlimited beverages

Though many hotels in the United States offer unlimited bottled waters, sodas and coffees throughout the day, properties overseas might not be as generous. But it is in the alcohol department you will see the significant discrepancies.
The lower ended lounges will offer cheap wine and beer while the higher end ones will feature unlimited artisan wines, beers, and hard liquor.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge DAN

Ability to upgrade

Upgrading to the executive level for an additional charge (when available) seems like a win-win situation for both the hotel and traveler, so it is surprising that only a few hotels actually do that. When offered, the cost can range anywhere from $50-100 a day, per person or room, which might not sound as pricey if you start calculating the daily cost for Wi-Fi, breakfast, snacks, and sometimes dinner for an average family of four.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge FAMILY

Separate Family area  


A growing number of hotels catering to families now offer a separate room filled with books, toys and the quintessential TV/video set to help occupy the kids. This is a good idea for all lounge guests; the adults enjoy a drink undisturbed in their area while the kids get to play and enjoy their own TV shows in a separate place.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge BUENOS AIRES

City View

A spectacular view of any city from a top floor is always a crowd pleaser, so it ‘s no wonder that unlike lower end properties with lounge next to a conference room or gym; luxury hotels opt to place their lounges on high floors with floor to ceiling windows.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge HK BUFFET

Abundant food choices 


You can recognize an excellent lounge not only by the quantity but the quality of food served and how quickly it is replenished once depleted. Some places go way out and offer mini-buffets boasting incredible selections of appetizers, finger foods, salads and desserts all freshly prepared by the hotel chef while others might stick to the basic cheese cubes ,crackers carrot sticks, and an unidentified pasta or fish sticks from Costco formula, on a nightly basis.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge RIO

Uninterrupted hours of service


This one is one of the most important features on the list to figure out beforehand.
Guests should scrutinize the hours of operation and determine whether the hours of operation are convenient for them actually to enjoy the club level.
The top property lounges not only offer full service three times a day (breakfast, lunch or coffee break and a Happy Hour), but the room is accessible 24-hour a day to grab cookies as well as s hot and cold beverages which is useful after a long haul flight .In sharp contrast; less desirable lounges offer limited hours of operation, sometimes with no weekends that might end up of no use to some travelers.

Top 10 Features of a Good Hotel Executive Lounge TEL AVIV

 

Where is the best executive lounge you have found during your travels? What tips would you add to this list?

 

Checklist for Road Tripping with your Child with Autism

Travel doesn’t have to mean getting on a plane and traveling for extended hours – it can be as simple as a road trip to a different city or state. Similar to plane travel the pre-planning stage is important and Autistic Globetrotting has you covered with a handy checklist, so you don’t forget anything!

 

Checklist for Road Tripping with your Child with Autism freeway

Gather information

  • Will you be able to buy supplies or snacks along the way or do you need to bring everything with you?
  • What are the medical facilities along the way if your child with special needs requires medical care?
  • Where are bathrooms along the way? An iPhone app such as “Sit or Squat” can help you with this one.
  • Where are the best spots or attractions to stop and stretch that will be entertaining for your child?

Stock up

  • Bring your bag of tricks with games, coloring books, and videos to occupy your child.
  • Don’t forget your electronic gadgets and your recharge chords, especially for the car. You might want to get two in case one is defective or gets broken.
  • Bring extra batteries!
  • Headphones for your child to enjoy the movies or music and not disturb other passengers.
  • Bring trash bags, tissues, and duct tape (it fixes everything!).

The Vehicle

 When using your car:

  • Take it and get everything checked before you leave, such as tire pressure, A/C or heat, and seat belts.
  • Have the car serviced close to the time of travel?
  • Become an AAA member so you will be protected in the event of a roadside emergency.
  • Review your auto policy to make sure everything is up to date and to make sure you have your most recent insurance card and registration information in your car.
  • Bring maps/GPS.

When renting a car:

  • Shop early for good rental prices via the Internet, but also call local offices directly as it can be cheaper. Also, check if your hotel offers any cheap car rental packages.
  • Check for any discounts – credit union, AAA, Costco.
  • Double check your contract to know what documentation or membership cards you need to present.
  • Be aware of their mileage policy especially the excess miles you may have to pay for.
  • Clarify the exact operating hours-open and close.
  • Enroll in the car rental loyalty programs for upgrades.
  • Ask if they can add satellite radio or GPS service
  • Check to make sure the lights, windows, doors and SEAT BELTS are working properly.
  • Photograph the car – front and back – with the attendant there to avoid any bogus claims later. Also, make sure your camera has a stamped date.

 What you need for your child with autism in a rental car:

  • Bring your vehicle seat or check for car seat availability.
  • Opt for Captain chairs -more comfortable for your kids and they won’t fight over space.
  • Check where the AC/heating vent is and how close your child is sitting to it.
  • Check safety features, such as childproof locks, and locking window buttons.
  • Rent a satellite radio service that provides entertainment.
  • Look into renting/bringing your DVD player with movies for long haul travel.
  • Ask for a nonsmoking car if your kid has allergies.

 

What tips have you picked up along the way that you could add to our list?

 

Family Stay at The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo

 

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo is located in the Shirokanedai district in Tokyo, which is well known for it’s lush greenery.

The hotel is also located within walking distance of famous landmarks such as Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, The Institute for Nature Study, and Platinum Street.

It is also within minutes from Shirokanedai Station (Nanboku Line/Toei Mita Line) and the Shinagawa railroad station. The hotel provides a morning shuttle to Shinagawa until 10 am and then to a subway station that you can go to Shinagawa from via a subway line.

The website describes the hotel as a “Japanese and modern Asian-sensibilities fused with modern Western-style” and promises the familiar comforts of a Sheraton experience.
The hotel offers suites, non-smoking, and Japanese style rooms, all of which come with complimentary high-speed internet and the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed.

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo front

General Thoughts:

The architecture was pleasant, and the hotel was geared more towards the business traveler than families, although it does not have an executive level.

The Sheraton has three restaurants; a sit -down Chinese venue, a fancy Japanese/French Fusion one that was quite pricey for our American budget and a sandwich and coffee shop in the lobby, where we ended up dining several times. The hotel also featured a spa, gym, and mini Japanese garden to walk through, which is a great attraction for antsy kids.

Location:

The hotel is in a more residential area, but a  convenient location, nonetheless. It is minutes away from many public transportation stations, two 7-11 convenience stores,  three major grocery stores where you could get meals to go and five minutes away from the 100 Yen store (a major favorite with us.)

Families staying at the hotel who want budget friendly meals, with unlimited sodas like in the U.S., should try a food chain called Jonathan’s right around the corner.

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo lobby

There is a kid-friendly park five minutes away if your child needs to let out some  steam or is just profusely jet lagged and wakes up at ungodly hours,
(Note: the park is locked at night).

Price:

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.

Parking:

Covered self-parking – JPY 1,500 per day

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo entrance

 

Rooms:

The Sheraton has several rooms types available: Suites, Japanese-Style Room, Garden View Room, Starwood Preferred Guest Room, Balcony, and Connecting Rooms.

Be sure to mention allergies especially feathers at booking since Starwood has the “heavenly bed,” which is feather-based (down comforter and pillows).
Also, Make sure you request a non-smoking room at booking if any of your family members suffers from asthma as. Japan, unlike the US, still both smoking and non-smoking rooms available.

Our connecting rooms were spacious for Tokyo standards, and we were upgraded to the 11th floor, with a view of the city.

Our rooms, decorated with dark wood furniture  had comfortable beds.

 

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo beds

The sitting area, with a lounge chair and ottoman had a huge plant that was taking up much-needed space.Also, each room had a desk with a comfortable chair, perfect for anyone who needed to work.

The A/C system and windows were excellent: we did not feel the heat outside, and windows the city sounds out while keeping the chilled air in.

The bathrooms were a decent size and featured japanese (electric ) commodes which we had to unplug after our son with autism became apprehensive thinking he would be electrocuted when using it.

Like many Japanese hotels ,the property supplies slippers, bathrobes, and even kimonos for guests, so guests don’t need to pack any from home.

The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo amenity kit

Front Desk/Concierge:


Both the front desk and concierge were fluent in English and provided excellent customer service support.
The front desk volunteered to call the next two hotels on our itinerary and remind them we needed connecting rooms with hypoallergenic bedding while the concierge skillfully arranged our day trips and advised us how to get from place to place using the exceptional Tokyo public transportation system.

Housekeeping:

We benefitted from Impeccable housekeeping, and always received our requested items within 5 minutes.

Special Perks:

  • Great breakfast buffet spread! Our family enjoyed the different dishes offered and liked trying the Japanese breakfast delicacies.
  • Excellent bathroom amenity kit that included not only the regular shampoo and soaps but hair brush, comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste.The Sheraton Miyako Tokyo breakfast


    Autism Travel Tips:

    We found the neighborhood setting calmer and less overwhelming than other neighborhoods for the autistic traveler.
    The hotel is within walking distance to a large train station with the quintessential Mcdonald’s, Starbucks, and Baskin Robbins that will make most kids feel right at home!.

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