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Where to stay is a big part of most travel. Being an autism family can shrink your radius – and make what can already be an isolating disorder feel even more so. Part of expanding your radius is being thoughtful about where you will stay in a new place. Here are four rules for choosing a place to stay, whether it be a special needs-friendly hotel or rental home. Your rules to find an autism-friendly vacation accommodation spell “SELF”: Safety, Ease, Location, and Floor plan. So take care of yourself – and your family – and plan a vacation now!
Where to Stay Rule #1: Safety
Are there doors that open to unsecured pools or unfenced yards or balconies? If so, maybe try another property. In homes or suite hotels, look for stoves that are not gas, ideally with a lock on any buttons or controls. Is there a bedroom without an attached bathroom? Can that room be secured in a way to make your loved one comfortable?
Where to Stay Rule #2: Ease
Is there a shower and a bath, depending on the needs of your loved one? Is there a dishwasher, a microwave and/or refrigerator? (Again, the importance of each will vary by individual). If your loved one is a water-lover like Mr. Diggy, is there a pool and/or hot tub on-site? Is the house full of breakable items (or a ton of tchotchkes – like the enormous shell collection we encountered in a beach house that kept us on edge for our entire trip)?
Where to Stay Rule #3: Location
Look for proximity to what you are there for- family, beach, trail, etc. You also want to check the distance from the airport – which can affect which flight times make the most sense for your family. Is there accessibility to a grocery store, Target – and in our case Trader Joe’s (which in states without them, involves packing a suitcase full of favorite products)?
Where to Stay Rule #4: Floorplan
Is there a room that has no exits to the outside, and preferably NOT attached to a bathroom? Is the room where the special needs individual can stay near the room of the parents or supervisor? Are there clear lines of sight in common areas? Are any stairs able to be secured? Is there a separate space for a nanny, therapist, or another caregiver to stay?
By keeping these four factors in mind, you should be able to identify a location that will work for your family. So whether you are traveling to see family, catch up with friends, or just to allow everyone to have a change of pace, you can feel more confident about where you’ll stay when you get there.