Looking for some NYC Vacation Tips for Children with Autism? Keep reading seven amazing tips for a smooth visit!

As a parent of a child with autism, vacations can often feel out of reach. However, experiences in new places can help your child learn about the world around them.  If you are dreaming of a family vacation to NYC, these tips will help you make the right accommodations for a fantastic trip!

New York is busy, noisy, and full of people.  If you are looking for things to do, there is always something on offer.  Museums, bus tours, street artists, shops, and more!  No matter what time of day or night, you can always find something to do.

NYC Vacation Tips for Children with Autism

A little travel housekeeping tip: New York attracts people from all over the world, which heightens the risk of accidents and injuries. If you find yourself or a family member affected by an injury while visiting NYC, check out a service like a personal injury lawyer in Bayport, Long Island. Now, let’s get on with some fantastic NYC vacation tips for children with autism

Where to stay

Noise can be a trigger for your autistic child, and New York is noisy 24/7.  When it comes to where to stay, there are two ways to go. 

The first option would be to stay at a hotel outside of the busier parts of NYC.  By doing this, you can reduce a ton of noise so you can have a restful place to retreat. The Hampton Inn Brooklyn Downtown NY is just a little over 4 miles from the Times Square area.  They offer free Wi-Fi and laundry service, which are much-appreciated amenities! The downside to this is the extra travel time getting to planned events.  NYC traffic is jammed packed most any time of day.

The second option would be the exact opposite and staying in the center of town.  Staying right in Center town offers the ability to quickly retreat to your hotel in the case of sensory overload.  The Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Times Square South offers premium channels for families.  They also have to connect/adjoining rooms.  This is an excellent feature if you have multiple children as it provides the ability for a quiet retreat for your autistic child. 

If you do choose to stay in the downtown area, make sure to select a room on an upper floor.  Doing this will help reduce the amount of street noise your child hears. If your child does fear heights, make sure to close the blackout curtains before they enter the room.

Holiday Inn Express Manhattan Times Square South

Traveling Around New York

Whether you choose to stay close or far from Times Square, you will need to plan out your travel accommodations.  Driving in New York is a nightmare for those new to the city, and parking is almost nonexistent.   Hiring a driver to take you back and forth from your hotel is one of our top tips.

The benefits of a driver are countless, but here are a few.  First, everything is planned out to a specific time.  This will help you come up with a schedule for your child to help reduce anxiety. Secondly, your stress will be reduced by not having to navigate the busy city with kids in tow.  Finally, it offers you the ability to be with your child to help talk them through the city.

When it comes to NYC vacation tips for children with autism, consider using the Hop on Hop off Bus Tour.  This impressive double-decker bus tour offers you the ability to ride around NYC and enjoy the sites.  It also provides the ability to get around town all day!  Just make sure to know where the first locations are that you can board on and what the end time is for your sites.  Once you have gotten your initial ticket scanned, you can get on and off at any stop.  Many stops are close to hotels, and busses run typically every 15 minutes.

Hop on Hop off Bus Tour

Seeing the Sights

New York is a fun and educational city for all the family. You will likely want to check out some of the main sights and learn a little history at places like the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Statue of Liberty.

The American Museum of Natural History offers some fantastic services to make their Museum accessible by all.  The Discovery Squad is a unique tour program designed for families affected by autism spectrum disorders. The program was developed in collaboration with the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

On select Saturday mornings, families can attend a 40-minute tour led by specially trained tour guides, then spend some time exploring the Discovery Room before the Museum opens to the public.

Timing is also crucial.  Most locations are less busy right when they open as opposed to midday.  It is always best to research each site you are planning to see what they may offer and what times they recommend coming. 

American Museum of Natural History – Image by Wikipedia

Dining Choices

New York is home to over 27,000 restaurants. If your child is less likely to become distressed around other children, perhaps check out one of the many child-friendly restaurants, spanning many price ranges, locations, and above all, menu options. 

One of the remarkable things about NYC is the countless pizzeria’s around town.  Everywhere you look, there is some pizza to grab.  Many of the smaller shops are less busy during off ours (prior or after the lunch rush, for example).  There are also three different McDonalds in the main NYC area.  You can either dine-in or go back to the hotel and order delivery. 

Bring Your Sensory Tools

NYC is a busy, noisy place.  Make sure to bring noise-canceling headphones, sensory toys, sensory chew items, and snacks.  When it comes to headphones, choosing ones that have Bluetooth offers an extra calming ability for your child.   The 3M Work Tunes offer NRR of 24 dB (Noise Reduction Rating) as well as Bluetooth

When bringing your sensory items, make sure to place everything in a string bag or travel bookbag.  That way nothing can quickly be dropped or pulled out of the pocket while in busy locations. 

Noise Cancelling Headphones


Even as adults, it can be easy to get lost in the crowds. With so many sensory stimuli, there is also the possibility your child may wander off.  Using an Angelsense GPS device will help in either situation.  Not only can you easily find your child, but you can also hear and speak to them through the device (via your phone), so you can help them stay calm.

Also, if your child needs to bring a lovie, make sure to place a Tile tag to track if it gets misplaced. The last thing you need is to lose a lovie!


Visual Schedule

Our final NYC vacation tips for children with autism is to make a visual or written schedule.  Plan out your day so that your child can mentally plan for the day.  When making your schedule, plan empty spots for time to get between places.  Discuss the possibility of delays, lines, and noisy places. 

Having pictures of where you are going can help autistic children of all ages and levels of autism.  Most sites have a website to find photographs of outside and sometimes inside the locations.  If the place you are going does not, try emailing or calling to see if they can help provide an image. 

NYC Vacation Tips for Children with Autism

If you are dreaming of a family vacation to NYC, these tips will help you make that dream come true! For more great autism parenting advice, make sure to subscribe to our email list below!

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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