This is the second in my series on how I feel Hotel loyalty programs help make traveling with an autistic child easier. As I stated in my previous blog, I am a loyal Hyatt guest, but have also stayed at many other brands over the years. This blog is my opinion on how it has helped me, along with some of the feedback I have gotten from others who travel with an autistic child or children.
I look back and think about some of the “attitudes” I had before on traveling with kids. Teaching kids how to behave in public truly can go straight out the window when you have a special needs child. This is one of the main reasons I felt the need to write this blog, it isn’t only for fellow autism families and how loyalty programs help, but also my hope is that hotel owners and managers make sure special needs families are in their dialogues.
First let me discuss what I think would be helpful for hotels to incorporate to help those who travel with people special needs. First and most important is a quiet floor. If the hotel is an inside hotel, then it really would be great to have a quiet floor. If it is an outside hotel, have an area that is away from as much noise as possible, maybe even landscaping and such to buffer the noise. We stayed at a hotel that was outside entry and the design was such that there were areas more secluded. They put us in one of those rooms and it actually was very quiet. If a family tells you their child is autistic and sensitive to noises and other environmental stimuli, please be understanding of room cleaning with vacuums etc..also, try to place them away from noise of elevators, ice machines etc… I once had a hotel front desk person, say they would be conscious of who they put in the room above so that there wasn’t constant walking etc…I wish hotels would understand it isn’t only the rooms next to yours. It can be who is above or even below, especially if your child is a pacer! Try to place them over the workout room, conference room etc…so the night time pacing doesn’t disturb the person below. Trust me this takes a ton of stress off of the parents. Refrigerators and microwaves are almost essential for those with food allergies. Extra pillows, blankets, soft light bulbs, no humming connections from clocks, air conditioners/heaters that aren’t loud….these are just some of the issues we face that can ruin a stay…while some of these can be annoyances for most, for children with autism, it can be almost debilitating. Also, HIGH SPEED internet…many times their iPads, phones, tablets, laptops etc…are their lifeline and if they can’t connect, (and stay connected) it can be beyond stressful for them.
How can being in their loyalty program help? Many of the chains have preferences on file when you are in a program. This can cut down on the risk of getting a room that is full of “negatives”. I also find when you are in a loyalty program, both the hotel and corporate tend to work with you easier. I know with Hyatt, since we are diamond, if we are staying at a grand Hyatt, we get free breakfast in a restaurant. This is great as we can have a high protein breakfast, as well as sit in a more private area. Also, many hotels offer extra perks to you when you are in a loyalty program such as free bottled water, high speed internet rather than just Internet. Microwaves and fridges can be added to rooms, if they aren’t in there. Suite upgrades come with some programs as do priority rooms. Quick or pre check-in as well as extended check out. These all can come in handy when traveling and your child is stressed which can lead to a melt down. Many times it’s the little things as well as an understanding staff that make all the difference in a stress free versus a stressful stay!