Choosing the right hotel traveling with a child with autism

Picking a hotel when traveling with autism can seem like a difficult task. Safety is constantly at the forefront of a parent’s mind when traveling with a child with autism. I am constantly scanning every area we are in with Logan, looking for triggers and things that could be overwhelming for him.

Hotels aren’t any different, they can present with a lot of triggers. Picking the right hotel, communicating with staff, and ensuring your child is safe can make a huge impact on your traveling experiences.

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Location! Location! Location!

What do you look for when choosing a hotel while traveling with an autistic child? Location is always important for various reasons. There are several things you need to ask yourself when choosing a location.

How close do you want to be to the attractions that you plan on seeing? Do you plan on using public transportation, is it easily accessed from the hotel? Do you plan on driving into the area visiting? What is the cost of public parking? Is your child sensitive to noise?

A hotel in the heart of a downtown city may be more challenging. Perhaps being close to a restaurant that serves French fries is a must? Yes, things like this matter when you are traveling with an autistic child. A lot of places we choose to eat are based off if they sell French fries. Think of what is important for keeping you and your child comfortable.

Personally, we always stay at a hotel that only has indoor access to rooms. I prefer the rooms and hallways to be accessed through the main entrance. While Logan hasn’t eloped from a hotel, I try to be cautious about the fact that elopement is possible. We never stay at motels with direct access from one door to the parking lot or roadway. This just screams as a safety risk for me and something I am not willing to chance. In addition, motels tend to have less attentive staff and fewer amenities.

Little Boy Looking Out Hotel Window

Amenities

What kind of amenities matters to you and your family? Many hotels are stepping up their game in the amenity field, there are lots of hotels to choose from and they want to stand out for the reasons why you should choose them. Amenities matter when traveling with children and autism. There are several that I look for when choosing a hotel to stay at with Logan.

Early check-in and late check-out

Request it, use it, love it. Traveling with kids takes extra time and autism throws in some extra challenges. Early check-in allows us access to the room if Logan needs a place to decompress from traveling. It also allows me to set up the room and look for safety issues while getting things situated. Late check-out- is great when you are gathering things ups or want to get one last swim in before we leave. Check-in and check-out accommodations are also great for early and later flights.

Kitchenettes

Kitchenettes are a great pick if your child is on a strict diet or a picky eater. Having a kitchenette provides reassurance that your picky eater will eat while you are traveling. Traveling can be stressful and your child not eating can be an added stress. Being able to prepare something they will eat can be a huge stress relief. If you can’t find a kitchenette keep in mind that many hotels also will provide a small refrigerator in their rooms or by request. Even having a couple snacks like yogurt, Lunchables, fresh fruit, and drinks on hand can help any meltdowns triggered by hunger.

Hotel Tip: If you are in an area with AmazonFresh, have your child’s favorite foods delivered to your hotel room. Many grocery stores including Wegmans and Walmart offer online ordering and curbside pick up, making grabbing groceries with kids a breeze. You can even order these items to be ready for pick up the day you arrive.

Continental Breakfast

A lot of hotel companies offer continental breakfast or a free breakfast buffet. This can be hit or miss for us, they’re often things that Logan won’t eat being served but we have been lucky a few times. Generally, these meal times can be noisy and loud with lots of people talking and clanking silverware. I often will go alone and get our families breakfast and bring it back to the room. Logan loves picnics and a hotel picnic is high in the rankings.

Little girl with coffee cup a hotel

Hotel Tip: To go coffee cups with a lid are perfect for kids who don’t drink well from an open cup. You easily insert a straw and have a mess-free kid’s cup.

Free Wifi

Wifi is always a huge plus for us. We can use this to update our kid’s kindles, do some work after the kids go to sleep, and have access to Logan’s favorite shows.

Hotel Tip: Bring along a Roku or another portable streaming device and quickly have access to your favorite shows and apps. Easily connected to your hotel tv and easily packed.

Hotel Pools

Little boy in hotel swimming boy

Pools are a wonderful hotel amenity indoor or outdoor depending on the weather, just keep in mind that nearly all hotels do not have lifeguards and it is swimming at your own risk. Most hotels do not have floats or pool toys available so be sure to pack some in your luggage.

Hotel Safety Features

Safety features are a big deal when traveling with any child but autism needs additional safety measures. Safety features can include 24 hours camera monitoring, key operated access to floors and elevators. Logan loves elevators and tends to run off to them when we are in the hotel, he loves the motion and pushing the buttons. Key operated elevators prevent him from getting onto a different floor if he happens to run ahead of us and gets on the elevator.

Hypoallergic Rooms

Hypoallergenic rooms are a big hit for us, Logan has terrible allergies and mold and animal dander are two of his many allergies. Upon check in I always make sure that the room is hypo allergic or an animal-free room. I also check for mold. We have had to change rooms and hotels before due to mold.

Double Beds

Depending on your sleeping arrangements get the double beds. I usually put both kids together in one bed and the allows me and my husband to have a bed for us after hours. We usually order takeout, drink some wine, and watch a movie. Having separate beds allows us to have our own space and while our children have their own space.

Hotel Tip: If you are worried about your child rolling out of the bed, roll up some extra towels and place them under the fitted sheet to create a safety barrier.

little boy and girl sleeping in a hotel bed

Call Ahead

Life has become so easy to make reservations simply using a phone or laptop, it’s almost easy to forget that reservations can be made over the phone. I one hundred percent recommend calling ahead and talking to the front desk about your reservation.

When calling ahead there are many things I discuss with the hotel desk, if I can tell that the person on the other end doesn’t sound receptive to my questions or understand anything about autism I will ask to speak to a manager. I explain that I am traveling with an autistic child. I have never had a hotel that was not receptive to this conversation.

I ask for a room away from other guests, if possible. Logan’s stimming includes loud noises sometimes in the late hours of the night. I want other guests to enjoy their vacations as well. I also ask for a room away from the elevator and the pool. Logan loves elevators, and it’s a great way to show him numbers and let him push buttons but it also is a place he wants to elope too. Having a room down the hall and around the corner can make that temptation less. A room away from the pool because pools tend to be noisy and safety wise I want to keep Logan away from the pool unless we are going swimming. Autistic children tend to be drawn to water and pools, keeping Logan a good distance is for his safety.

If your child is sensitive to noise be sure to ask for a room away from vending machines, ice machines, elevators, these tend to be the loudest areas on the hotel floor. I also discuss getting a hypoallergic room, and I like to make sure this is taken care of beforehand. Calling beforehand easily allows this request to be accommodated by a hotel with enough notice. It would be a little more difficult just showing up and asking for a hypoallergenic room, but prior notice has always had a greater result for success.

Calling ahead and speaking with the staff allows me to explain our situation of traveling with an autistic child. When explaining this to hotel staff they always have responded attentively, appropriately, and have been so accommodating. They want Logan to be safe and have an enjoyable time as well.

In addition, calling ahead allows the hotel to provide other information regarding their amenities that are being offered not advertised on their website. For example, we have stayed at hotels that have included dinners, happy hours, ice cream socials, playgrounds, and nightly entertainment.

Before You Unpack

Once we get checked in usually I will go into the hotel room before my family. I quickly disconnect the phone. Logan and Olivia both love the hotel phone and unfortunately when you pick it up it goes right to the operator, so disconnecting the phone prevents any unnecessary calls and nuisance to the hotel staff.

I look around for things that can be hazardous to both kids. I start by getting at eye level. I put toiletries out of reach, I put the glass mugs and wine glasses on the top shelf of the closet. I move the coffee maker out of reach and I lock the windows and secure any blind strings. I also rearrange furniture because Logan and Olivia love to jump and climb so sometimes chairs get moved instead of being a diving board for the bed.

Trash cans get put up as well. Logan loves to place trash cans and baskets over his head and pretends to be a robot, trash cans are germy and yucky and out of sight out of mind is a good bet with Logan.

If you have a child that is prone to wandering then definitely utilize an additional hotel door lock. I am always cautious to keep the chain lock latched. However, Logan is quick and could unlatch it very easily. There are several locks additional locks that can be purchased and brought along while traveling depending on your preference.

There are several safety devices available that are easily packed in your luggage and are TSA approved. These locks include locks that work on the door lock itself, devices that act as a door stopper, and door alarms.

Having the additional safety device may calm nerves and reassure your child’s safety.

Special Touches

While prepping the room for your child place a few touches of familiarity in the room. I bring along my son’s favorite bedding and a familiar book and toy. Familiarity can help decrease the anxiety of a new environment. Plus, this gives both my kids something to play with while we get ready for our day. Place one of their favorite stuffed animals on the bed so when your children walk in they instantly see a favorite familiar item and a sense of comfort. Be sure to bring any sensory toys that your child enjoys.

During Your Stay

Little kids playing in hotel lobby

Reach out to your hotel concierge. Some hotels have packages with local attractions, which can be discounted for you as a guest. Ask your concierge about any autism-friendly businesses or attractions around the area you are visiting. The concierge can also point you in the direction of the closet playground, friendly restaurants, and even drug stores.

Take advantage of your hotel, explore the building together, enjoy areas outside of your hotel room. We have stayed at hotels that have family games in the lobby such as blocks, connect four, and even selfie spots.

The pool is a great sensory input, the pool is a soothing environment and swimming provides a repetitive motion which can cause a calming effect on an autistic child especially while traveling.

If your hotel has a gym, they may have an exercise ball. Exercise balls can be bounced, rolled, and tossed and help improve body awareness. An exercise ball can also be laid on and pushed against the body to promote a calming effect.

Start Planning Your Adventure

While it might seem like a lot of things to consider when trying to make accommodations for travel, it is definitely worth the extra research and extra phone call. Ensuring a safe and enjoyable room and stay can be one of the most important parts of accommodating your child on your trips.

Your hotel room can be your place to restore, calm down, and regroup from your adventures so be sure to find one that is accommodating and supportive.

What are your favorite travel tips for traveling with your child?  Comment below and share what has been helpful or disastrous for you.

Be sure to make getting to your hotel a smooth transition and check out my other post on traveling with a toddler on a plane as well as tips on how to keep your sanity while road tripping with kids. 

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