One of the most important elements of a vacation is choosing the right lodgings. It is necessary for parents booking the room to take the requirements of their child with autism or other special needs into account. If they have allergies, sensitivities, and other issues, parents need to make sure that these will be addressed otherwise the vacation might turn disastrous. For those unaccustomed to asking for accommodations, here is our list of what to look for when choosing a hotel.
Pick a property that is part of a chain
A benefit of selecting a hotel chain is that when guests encounter an issue, they can talk to their corporate office customer service. Customer service tends to listen and resolve problems quickly, especially when traveling overseas. Many chain hotels offer 24-hour service which comes in handy for a sick family member who requires sheets or towels.
Another benefit of staying in a chain is accruing points for future stays and obtaining a loyalty status that helps with possible upgrades. Chain hotels are usually designed to look similar, so children with autism will feel a lot more at home at each hotel.
Look for a property near a park or playground
Parents should never book a property located on a busy street unless it is a high-rise equipped with dual paned windows. Also, it is best for parents to choose a hotel close to places they intend to visit. It is not conducive to have to travel half an hour to the center of town each way, especially for those visiting a new city for two-three days and wanting to make the most of their visit.
Prefer a property with an Executive Lounge
Whether parents wish to pay extra for access, use points or ask for a free upgrade, Executive Lounge access is great, particularly when traveling with special needs kids. The lounge provides travelers with free breakfast without having to go outside the hotel as well as free snacks, beverages, wi-fi and even some dinner appetizers.
Research if any construction is planned on the premises or nearby
Construction translates to dust and noise even at night in some places. Also, certain facilities like pools or restaurants might become temporarily inaccessible which can affect a family’s stay. Parents should ask for a discount if the hotel is renovating and they still want to stay there.
Inquire about the last renovation
Parents should always ask how long ago the last renovation was on the property. This information is important to know for family members who suffer from allergies. A hotel that hasn’t been renovated in many years might translate into dusty, musty, smelly rooms that could trigger unwelcome attacks. A very recently renovated property might have strong paint or glue smells, and some carpet adhesives can also cause allergic reactions.
Ask about A/C and heat control in the rooms
Some older properties have it set to either/or, so families can be stuck with heat in winter when it is 80 degrees outside. Parents of children with temperature sensitivities should find out about the heating and cooling systems. They should also ask if both a/c and heat are accessible throughout the year.
Find out if there will be any special events going on in the hotel or city during your stay
With the crowds, noise, and even rowdy fellow guests, special events can negatively affect one’s stay. It is good for parents to know what they should expect so they can make an educated decision.
See if the property has an open atrium with rooms opening onto it
Some older hotels are designed around a central atrium which can be aesthetically pleasing but may be a problem for guests with autism. If the rooms have balconies or windows that open, those can be a safety hazard, especially on the high floors. Also, sound carries differently in a large open space so that any music will be amplified in rooms facing the atrium. For parents who want to book hotels with open atriums, they should ask for a room on the lowest floor possible
Find out if some balconies or windows open fully on high floors
It may sound like a basic safety issue to solve, but many properties still don’t have proper locks to prevent dangerous situations for kids with autism. Parents should always ask about locks on balconies or windows before booking any property.
If the property has pools or access to the beach, parents should also ask about safety measures they may have like lifeguards or locks on the doors leading to the outside.
Specify you want a quiet room for your family
Technically all hotel rooms should be quiet. However, for parents of children with noise sensitivities, they need a room away from and NOT directly over or under or above certain facilities. The following is a list of services parents should request a room away from while staying:
- The Laundry
- Executive lounge
- Vending machines
- Ice machine
- Hospitality suites
- Conference rooms
- Housekeeping equipment rooms
- Cooling equipment
- The roof
Ask if the hotel has smoking and non-smoking rooms
When traveling abroad, it is important for families to remember that many countries still allow smoking in public places including inside hotel rooms. In the case of a property like that, parents should know that some of the smoke will inadvertently get to a non-smoking area through the ventilation system. If smoking is allowed, parents should choose a different property, especially if your kid suffers from allergies.
Enquire about hypo-allergenic rooms
Properties like the Omni and Marriott have started offering rooms cleaned with natural products instead of chemicals. This fact is great news for allergy sufferers. Parents should find out about duvets and pillows, and if they can get foam instead of feathers.
Enquire about air fresheners and other chemicals used in the rooms and public areas
Collecting information about the air quality is important. Parents should not shy away from asking specific questions, such as inquiring about chemicals used in cleaning. Many hotels spray air fresheners that may be offensive to those with olfactory challenges or allergies.
Ask if the property is pet-friendly
Parents might think that pet-friendly means only dogs, but pet-friendly can also include cats and birds. If guests have brought their pets, cat dander or feathers can get in the air vents that might trigger unwanted allergic reactions.
Be wise about room features and design
Some rooms are just not designed to house children, especially ones with special needs. For safety reasons, it is imperative to know ahead of time if the bathrooms have separate showers or a tub/shower combo, hand-held shower heads, bathroom anti-slip mats, and glass doors on shower enclosures.
Cooler or fridge availability in the room
Though many rooms do come with a stocked mini-bar, some properties balk at the prospect of needing to empty it for the guests’ personal use. Parents who need to refrigerate medicines or snacks should ask ahead of time if that is an accommodation they offer.
Most hotels do their best to provide excellent customer service and go out of their way to make sure that their guests enjoy their stay. It does help the hotel staff to know ahead of time about guests who have autism or other special needs so they can plan in advance. Parents should never be afraid to ask questions to ensure that their stay is full of good memories.