So, an aside from a friend about getting hot chocolate chip cookies at a Doubletree got me thinking about my substantial Hilton Family experience. And I thought that I might be able to do a useful community service by quickly running down the major brands in the Hilton Family. So, hopefully this is useful to someone, somewhere.
I have never stayed at a Conrad Hotel or a Waldorf Astoria Collection property, which (not coincidentally) are at the very top end of the Hilton line. I also haven’t stayed at a Hilton Grand Vacations property (which are available for hotel stays, in addition to the whole crazy timeshare concept). But I’ve stayed in several incarnations of each of the other brands.
It started, actually, when we had a free subscription to Money Magazine. They had a mini-article once about the best travel reward cards, and they recommended the American Express Hilton HHonors card. At the time, we had a Citibank AAdvantage card, but we had just moved to Blacksburg, our second city in a row without American Airlines service at our primary airport. So, it was time to move on. (In a perfect world, I think American might be my preferred airline. But not serving the airports I use is a pesky detail.) Plus, the HHonors card had no annual fee. We got the card and started using it as our main credit card. Around the same time, we (almost coincidentally) noticed that the Hampton Inn chain seemed to be the sweet spot for us in terms of cost/comfort when traveling. When I suddenly realized a couple years ago that we had accumulated over a quarter million HHonors points, I decided that I wouldn’t stay anywhere other than a Hilton Family property (when reasonable, of course). And we started using those points for free stays. (I haven’t paid for a non-business stay in a hotel since, actually. We haven’t traveled that much or taken a real vacation, but still.)
Anyway, here they are in rough order of preference. I’m rating them basically on how comfortable they are for me as a traveler. Your milage may vary.
Homewood Suites (4.5 stars) – Even I’m quite surprised that this came out on top for me. But when I started shuffling things around, I realized that I have really enjoyed every one of my visits to Homewood Suites. Technically, they cater to people on longer stays, but all of my visits have been single nights. They have lots of free stuff, which is important to me, apparently. Free high speed internet, free breakfast, and even free dinner. (It’s a light dinner and only available on weeknights, but still! Free dinner!) We really like having a suite when Charlie comes along for the ride, too — the other alternatives are to go to bed at 8 p.m. or sit in the hall. My only complaint is that all of the Homewood Suites that I have stayed in have been a bit off the beaten path — in the suburbs or whatever — but I’m not sure if this is characteristic or just coincidence. I wouldn’t much care for that if I was in a city without a car, but so far my visits to Homewood have always been in smallish towns where a car was pretty much de rigueur, anyway.
Hilton Garden Inn (4 stars) – I have found myself at HGI quite a bit lately, it seems. Usually, their rates are pretty competitive, and they are often located in the thick of things. Like their older sibling the Hilton, they don’t offer much free by default. But as a Hilton HHonors Gold VIP I get free breakfast, which is nice. And the rooms are very comfortable and well apportioned for the reasonable price.
Hampton Inn (3.5 stars) – The Hampton Inn is still a favorite of mine — they have free internet and free breakfast, after all, and the lowest price in the Hilton Family. But the rooms are more basic than the HGI, and some of the Hampton Inns are starting to show their age. And while we haven’t had any real problems at Hampton Inn, I have seen some signs of less-than-stellar management at some of their rural locations. (In this sense, I’m sortof comparing apples and oranges here. In many places where I stay at Hampton Inn, it’s the only real choice!)
Embassy Suites (3.5 stars) – I have always found Embassy Suites extremely relaxing and comfortable. They seem to work very hard to create an open, laid back feeling in their hotels. Sometimes, they push it a little too hard, though, into the realm of the tragically hip. Like with live music in the atrium when I’m trying to sleep. (Really, is loud live music in the atrium of a hotel late into the night ever a good idea? Remember, your customers are paying for a place to sleep.) Oh, but don’t forget the free breakfast. I should mention that this is probably the Hilton Brand at which I have spent the least time, though, so perhaps my comments are off base.
Doubletree (3 stars) – I really want to like Doubletree. The hot cookies on check-in are definitely a nice touch. Otherwise, though, they tend towards the high-price with no perks category.
Hilton (2 stars) – My least favorite of the bunch is the plain old Hilton. It is also the most expensive (generally) and supposedly the best. My problem with it is the same as my problem with all hotels at this level: For the price, which is high, almost nothing is included. No internet, no breakfast, no nothing. I sometimes get free breakfast as an HHonors Gold VIP, but even those perks vary from hotel to hotel and are sometimes lame. (The VIP perks are standardized for most of the other brands.) And some of the hotels are really old and in desperate need of refurbishment. I’m looking at you, Hilton Washington, although the same could be said of many Hiltons in which I have stayed.