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The kids are back at school, the Christmas stuff is back in storage, our 2016 trips are all now memories in my head and pictures in my phone, and we are looking forward to what 2017 has in store. However, before I go full throttle on the new year, I want to share a bit about our last trip of 2016. Just before the end of the year my family of four took a road trip to Austin, in large part to join our friends Gary from View From the Wing and his lovely wife at one of their favorite Austin restaurants, Kyoten Sushiko.
Planning a Trip to The Driskill
We really don’t get out much, so this was a pretty big event on our calendar that necessitated an overnight stay in Austin. I hemmed and hawed over which Austin hotel to stay at more than a normal person probably should. In the end I settled on a return trip to The Driskill since I had Hyatt Diamond status to put to good use, and I knew my parents would hopefully have fun exploring the historic hotel with the kids while we were off at our fancy dinner.
I had first stayed at The Driskill shortly after it joined the Hyatt family a few years ago. At that time I found it to indeed be a grand hotel in a prime downtown location, but in need of a few updates to bring it in line with some of the service standards I had grown accustomed to at a full service Hyatt. You can check out that linked post above for some background info about the hotel, its location, etc, though the kid program mentioned in that post seems to sadly no longer exist.
This time around I booked a Junior Suite with two queen beds for our family of four since I knew that would probably be easier for our one night stay than battling over trying to get the 18 month old in a strange crib in a small room. I also knew the extra floor space and sitting areas in a junior suite over a standard room would be useful for the babysitting grandparents that evening.
While in town we were also going to see some other friends and we secured a room for them at The Driskill via the Visa Signature program at a good rate so they would have a $25 food and beverage credit, free breakfast, late check-out, and maybe even a room upgrade. We booked the cheapest (ie smallest) room for them and hoped between my Diamond status and the Visa Signature program they wouldn’t end up in the closet.
Check-in at The Driskill
Now you have the background of the trip…fast forward to the day of the stay. We arrived into Austin a little before 4PM in the afternoon after a 3 hour road trip with a toddler and seven year old, and we were more than ready to get out of the car, get into our room, and start getting ready for our 5:30 dinner reservations.
Everyone we interacted with at valet and check-in at The Driskill was polite and professional, but they had to break the news to us that even though we were at official check-in time, only the one small room we booked for our friends was ready. Our Junior Suite was not yet ready as some other guests before us had late check-out, and housekeeping had not yet prepared the room. We hadn’t planned on disturbing our friend’s room prior to their arrival, but given the situation we kind of had to. Our suite was put on priority for housekeeping and they were to call my phone as soon as it was ready.
A Small Room and a Junior Suite at The Driskill
We headed up to the fifth floor and while we enjoyed the artwork and memorabilia in the hallways on our way there, upon opening the door, it was immediately obvious that my friends hadn’t lucked into any sort of upgraded room.
Since we were a party of four + my parents + after a bit my friends who the room was intended for, we spilled out into the hallway as we changed diapers, nursed a baby, stored our stuff, and tried to prepare for dinner out. It was kind of funny.
Their room was certainly nice enough for a night with just two adults eventually laying their heads down, but since the hotel was not sold out that night I was surprised at just how small the room was given it was booked in using my Diamond status and via a “luxury hotel program”.
So, if you book a very small room at this property, even if you book with status or via a luxury hotel program, be prepared to stay in the very small (but cute) room. That of course goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway because even I was a little surprised. The hotel was opened in 1886 and some rooms were originally staff quarters at just 220 square feet.
After an hour, and as the time neared for us to leave the hotel for dinner at about 5PM, we still had not been called that our junior suite was ready. On our way out my husband checked in with the desk about the status of the room. The suite was indeed now ready, we just hadn’t been called. So, we quickly transferred our stuff and our family from our friend’s little room to the junior suite before heading out for the evening.
Now I knew a Junior Suite wouldn’t be over-the-top, but here is the room description in the confirmation email.
“2 Queen beds:Separate living room:Comp WIFI: work desk: Plush robes: no view”
The website shows a picture of a couch with the room description (that was not our rate).
Let’s just say that there were indeed two queen beds, but there was neither a separate living room or a couch in our junior suite, though “no view” was accurate.
I wasn’t expecting a palace, but I was a bit underwhelmed when I opened the door…especially given that we were passed check-in and we hadn’t been proactively called to be told it was ready. There was absolutely more room in the junior suite than in our friend’s room, but while there was technically a seating area with two chairs, it wasn’t quite as suite-ish as I had hoped.
It was more of a “deluxe room” than a junior suite with a separate sitting area or living room or similar. Again, it was totally adequate for a night, but I think the hotel should reign in some of the descriptions and photos to under-promise and over-deliver rather than the opposite.
After getting everyone settled in their assigned rooms, we rushed out for the night, had a fabulous omakase sushi dinner, then stuffed ourself with a quick dessert at The Driskill bar, and ultimately returned back to “Mommy and Daddyland” before bedtime struck at 8:30PM. The beds were comfortable, and everyone slept free of ghostly encounters until the baby decided nighttime was over at the painful strike of 5AM.
Breakfast at The Driskill in the 1886 Cafe
The Driskill does have complimentary coffee in the lobby for all each morning, and the 1886 Cafe and Bakery starts serving at 6:30AM.
We were in the good company of many other families with young ones on our early morning weekend breakfast adventure, and thankfully the pastries were fluffy and the coffee was hot.
On our last visit to The Driskill we were given some vouchers for breakfast in the cafe with Diamond status, but this time we were just told we could order for up to four people and it would be taken off at check-out.
The 1886 Cafe really is cute, and you can watch the action in the kitchen or out the windows and onto Sixth Street, and get some pretty yummy bakery items for your whole crew in the process. It is one of the highlights of the property for us.
Soon enough breakfast was over and it was time to say goodbye to the grandness of The Driskill and drag our very tired selves back the three hours home.
Overall Impressions of The Driskill
Overall we had a good stay, but I do think there are still a few areas for improvement for this property. I know that late checkouts just happen, but I think when that impacts the check-in for the next guests after check-in time, some sort of drinks in the bar or similar should be offered. Additionally, if guests are waiting in the hotel to be called when the room is ready, then they really should be called as soon as the room is ready. If there was nothing provided for the late check-in and then a hotel misses the chance to proactively let you know the room is ready, then by this point some thoughtful “oops” gift from the hotel is entirely appropriate, and frankly the norm on our travels. Whether it is milk cookies sent up for the kids bedtime, or some wine for the parents, or a small snack amenity, the thought goes a long way.
I also think that elite recognition and room upgrades at this property could probably be improved a bit. I knew about the perks included for each of my rooms, but even still I had to probe the check-in agent to be sure that everything displayed on their end as I thought it should and find out how it all worked since it had changed since my last visit. A letter provided at check-in outlining the elite or perks available to the room via the various luxury hotel booking programs would probably benefit everyone involved. Finally, I think that a little housekeeping on the online room descriptions and photos would be handy so that travelers aren’t a little underwhelmed when they open the doors to their rooms in what truly is a special hotel.
All of that to say that I enjoy The Driskill overall, and its history and grand public areas really are something to enjoy. You can book a paid stay via Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection to get breakfast, a $25 food and beverage credit (though reportedly this does not cover alcohol), late check-out, and the outside shot of a room upgrade. If you want to use points it is a Category 5 Hyatt property that will cost you 20,000 points per night or Points + Cash rooms can be had for 10,000 points + $125 for the small petite room or 10,000 points + $150 for the vintage two queens room. Be sure to check paid rates for your dates as they can start as low as about $140-ish for the night and go up to $500+.
Have you stayed at The Driskill? How was your stay?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.