10 ½ tips on choosing the right hotel and the right hotel room for your ASD child.

Motel Hell - a sign along route 395 in the Eastern Sierras of CaChoosing the most suitable hotel and then the most suitable room at that hotel is one of the big challenges in vacation planning for anybody. That challenge can be even greater when traveling with a child with ASD. Here are some tips to help you.

Choice of property (hotel/resort).

Tip 1. The advice to everybody is to choose a property that offers the activities that you want or that is close to those activities. (If you want to visit lots of museums, you won’t want a cabin in the Rockies.) For families with typically-developing children, they know which activities will work and which new activities will be worth trying. For you, for us, we probably know extremely well one activity which will work and have no way of predicting which others might.

Once you have found a property that includes any activity that you know will work, look for the biggest variety of activities that you could, at least, try. Let’s illustrate that. While every child on the spectrum is different, we do find that the vast majority enjoy water/swimming. If that applies to your family, you’ll want a place that has a nice pool. This will give you an “anchor” activity and allow you to try as many other activities as you can, thus improving your chances of finding something that really works.

Tip 2. When it comes to grade of property, a long standing piece of advice has always been that even the least expensive room in a high-grade hotel is better than the best room in a lower-grade hotel. Why is that? Hotels are graded by the amenities offered and the service level offered. In that high class hotel, no matter which room you occupy, you have access to all of those amenities and to that level of service. In the best room in a low-grade property, you don’t. (Think about the Presidential Suite at Bates Motel!). You, however, may need to “adjust” this advice.

You also need to take on board the general principle that the cheapest rooms in any property are probably the smallest and the most expensive rooms at any property are probably the biggest. You may need more space than other families and, consequently, a bigger room may be worthwhile provided that the sacrifice of amenity and service isn’t too great. (Do avoid Bates, no matter what!).

Tips 3-7. Sensitivity to noise is a frequent concern for those on the spectrum. Noises are also, frequently, accompanied by other stimuli that can lead to sensory overload. This comes up often enough that we have 2 tips regarding choice of property and 3 more regarding choice of room.

Tip 3. In general terms, smaller properties are usually quieter than bigger properties. There is, however, a trade-off. Again, in general terms, the bigger properties tend to have more activities than the smaller ones. Balance this tip against your needs as in Tip 1.

Tip 4. All other factors being equal, reckon that low-rise properties are quieter than high-rise properties.

Choice of room.

Tip 5. This applies particularly if you’ve opted for a low-rise property. Most of the amenities (restaurants etc.) will be clustered in a central location and rooms located away from those amenities should be quieter than those close to it.

Tip 6. This is more likely to apply if you’ve opted for a high-rise property but holds good for some low-rise establishments. The last room in a given hallway should be quieter than any other in that same hallway. Why? Firstly because there will only be a room on one side of you and not on the other. The remaining rooms have a room on either side. Secondly, as the hotel is allocating rooms they, in very general terms, tend not to put people at the far end of hallways and you have a slightly better chance that even that one room next to you may not be occupied.

Tip 7. This is a variant on tip 6. If you are in any property that has more than one floor, asking to be located on the top floor will give you the guarantee that there is no room above you. There is a caution to this tip. In many properties, particularly high-rises with good views, there may be quite a premium for top-floor accommodations.

Tip 8. If your child doesn’t like small spaces or doesn’t deal well with close proximity to strangers, you should look for a room that won’t require use of an elevator. These will be rooms on the first floor or, at least a low floor.

Tip 9. If your child is sensitive to strange smells/odors, you will want to ask for a room that is located away from the restaurant(s) and the accompanying air vents.

Tip 10. If your child is prone to wandering off, you will need to look at rooms that are far from the main entrance to the property. This won’t stop them wandering (you probably have some counter measures for this already) but it will slow them down in terms of being able to leave the property altogether.  This can be particularly important if that main entrance is located close to a main road.

Too many choices?

Tip 10 ½. As you see there are many considerations that need to be balanced against each other in order to come up with the choices that will be right for you and for your child. How do you figure that balance? Ask a professional travel agent for help!


  1. Thanks for the tip to choose a hotel that is sitting on wonderful property that offers the activities you want. You also said that the least-expensive room in a high-grade hotel is better than the best room in a low-grade hotel. I think it’s a good idea to choose a hotel that has a reputation for keeping their rooms very clean and not smelling like smoke.

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