Last week I posted the first installment of my budget hotel study. Below is the conclusion.
All of the hotels in question are large, national chains, found all over the United States and some are even worldwide. The hotels were obviously not the most expensive option in the areas visited, nor were they the cheapest. I would inexpertly classify them as mid-range, businessperson’s hotels.
I know that’s not an all-together accurate term and that many families and vacationers stay at these hotels as well. That being said, I do think that they appeal to a wide-range of business professionals who, for one reason or the other, are in out of the way areas or simply trying to save some money.
The four hotels were also booked for and prepaid online, at the same time of year and in the same general geographical location. I think that this will help add some fairness to my INCREDIBLY unscientific results. Speaking of which, I don’t want to bash needlessly, but I do want to be honest. I also know that for each of the hotels, they represent just one property in a large network of hotels. Every location is different and in some cases, the chains may not have a lot of control over the specific locations.
I will be posting the reviews as part of an ongoing series, so stay tuned for more unbiased opinions.
Ok, enough background and softening the inevitable blows. Let’s get to it.
It was a new day and a new hotel as I checked in to the Holiday Inn. It had been FOREVER since I’d stayed at a Holiday Inn. I think we probably stayed at a few growing up, but they really went downhill in the late 1980s and 90s and I completely dismissed them from thought. Then, just recently, the entire chain went through a massive overhaul of its properties and more importantly, its image. I had noticed the brand relaunch and was excited that a Holiday Inn Express was a convenient stop on my trip.
My first thought stepping into the hotel was that it felt like a “real” hotel. That is to say, it didn’t have the same atmosphere that most mid-range places have, and it was a nice surprise. Service and check in were both phenomenal, but I was admittedly a little nervous about seeing what the room would actually look like. It was an older building., but the lobby was recently remodeled. From previous experience though, I know that when hotels want to freshen their properties, they put all the money into the lobbies and very little into the actual rooms. Maybe they think people won’t notice.
Unfortunately, this was one of those cases, but in comparison to the Pizza Den interior of the Hampton Inn, it looked like Mara Lago. Overall the room was great, wifi was free (Score!) and I loved what is apparently a new trend: pillow selections! Gone, I hope, are the days of crappy pillows the size of a pincushion strewn around hotel beds. At Holiday Inn they actually had choices, from soft-firm. It was really nice and just a little touch of service that improved the overall stay.
One MAJOR fault though is that the Holiday Inn was the only one of my test hotels that did not include free breakfast. Booooo. In the mid-range class of hotels, I noticed several themes and they tend to all offer very similar amenities. Unfortunately for Holiday Inn, one of those amenities is free breakfast and they don’t have it. If I were traveling, they would have to have another major inducement for me to stay with them, otherwise I would quickly move on to another hotel that includes breakfast.
If the Scandinavian ancestors of the international, mega-conglomerate Radisson were to visit this particular property, they would cry in shame before quickly jumping into the nearby river.
To say it was awful would be an understatement. First, the physical property was abysmal. As bad as it gets from the outside. In fact, when I arrived I almost cancelled on the spot, but quickly remembered I had prepaid. Damn.
The one bright spot was the service; everyone who worked there was professional and kind, obviously in a desperate attempt to compensate for the Soviet-style architecture of the hotel.
The room was not much better, although thank GOD they had updated the bedding somewhat. Even though they technically do offer free wifi, the service was spotty and many guests couldn’t access it from their rooms.
In an unusual move for me, I decided to try the attached restaurant. I don’t normally eat in hotel restaurants and certainly not budget ones, but I was tired and just wanted a quick and easy meal.
I should have known something was wrong when I walked in and noticed that I was the only customer under the age of 70. Everything about the establishment reeked of age and lack of attention and is a prime candidate for Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.
I won’t go into the meal, but it was nasty and inedible and I was sick for a day. Unfortunately for the Radisson, the quality of the restaurant reflects on the hotel and made an average experience a horrible one.
BUT, I’m not trying to be too picky about a single location, they did offer free wifi and breakfast, which is good.
After my miserable experience at the Radisson, I wanted to run screaming and was thrilled that I ran smack into the welcoming arms of Hyatt Place.
Hyatt Place is a newish brand for the large multinational and is their effort at catering to the mid-range market. From start to finish, my experience at the Hyatt Place was amazing. Check in was as friendly and fast as any I have received in 5-star hotels and the overall quality of service was very high.
The hotel itself was very well decorated in a modern, Scandinavian aesthetic. The real stunner though was the room. When I stay at midrange hotels, I really do prefer the ones that are suites and offer the guest more room in which to work and relax. I was thrilled to discover that Hyatt Place, although not advertised as such, is a full-suite hotel and the rooms are perfect.
Not only did they have a couch, but it was a super-comfy sectional couch within easy view of the 42 inch HDTV. Yup, 42 inch! I stretched out, laid back and it honestly felt like I was at home, minus the three furry pups that are usually climbing all over me.
The rest of my Hyatt experience was equally great, the workspace made working a breeze and the night’s sleep was great. Add in the free wifi and breakfast, and I was a very happy camper.
Hyatt Place does tend to be a little higher priced than other mid-range hotels, but not by much and frankly, it’s totally worth it. I am a Hyatt Place convert and will absolutely seek them out whenever I travel.