The Incidental Tourist

The Best Little Extended Stay Hotel in Texas

If you’re in need of a place to stay for a week or even just a few days in NW Austin, there are plenty of options to chose from, many of which are Extended Stay hotels with kitchenettes that cater to the long-stay business traveler.  This week I was in Austin for a team gathering and those of us who flew in from out of town were put up at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott.  It’s located at 10024 Capital of Texas Highway in NW Austin.

welcom-tpsuitesArriving late due to flight delays out of Charlotte, we arrived well after dark to the Hotel.  The first thought I had was that our SuperShuttle driver had turned into the wrong place, because quite frankly, the hotel looked like an apartment complex.  Two buildings, barely marked, limited parking.  We stumbled into the lobby at just a bit after midnight and that’s where the adventure begins.

I’ve stayed at some of the finest resorts and hotels around the world for work, and to be honest this ain’t one of them.  As I just said, it looked more like an apartment complex than a hotel.  The inside, while looking freshly painted and renovated, still had that feeling of a 50-something on the prowl for a much younger lover.  A middle aged frumpy housewife dolled up in the latest college fashions.  All in all, definitely not what I am used to when traveling with my company.  However, as the old saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  For all the hotel’s flaws, I really enjoyed my stay and will certainly consider staying there again in the future.

My good impressions of the TownePlace Suites started with the guy on the desk that night.  He greeted us and was as attentive and professional as the staff at any 5-star joint I’ve seen.  He was affable and friendly and we chatted a bit and joked about comic books, cartoons and other things as we got through the check-in and on to our rooms.

As you may have picked up, the rooms also looked dated in the same ways the hotel did.  There were some modern appliances, but the cabinetry looked like it came from the late 80s.  The bathroom was small and not as well lit as it could have been, the tub small, the shower head low.  The water heated up reasonably, though I would have preferred it to be hotter.  The bathroom definitely needed more lighting, however.

The room lighting was a mix of overhead and lamp, and the main alcove light had a nasty buzz, indicating that the ballast was probably going bad in it.  The carpets were dark, the walls a kind of mustard yellowish color with an orange couch that oddly enough did not look out of place.  The AC/Heating unit was certainly a bit long in the tooth and loud and the corresponding thermostat was of the old, gold colored round variety that probably looked modern back in 1963.

The kitchenette was reasonable, but cramped, and came with the things I’d expect, some utensils, some pots and pans, a small amount of dish wear, coffee maker and some cleaning supplies.  So overall, my first impressions were just so-so.  But then I laid down on the bed and my opinion changed.  The bed was as comfortable as any I’ve tried.  It was firm, yet had a plush pillow top that I just sank into.  The sheets were soft, clean and the pillows were perfect and while I’m sure they were polyfill or some other down-alternative, they felt just like my down pillows at home.  I slept VERY well all week.

Each morning, we were treated to breakfast in the small dining area.  The breakfast was also nothing to write home about, consisting of some cereal, juices, scrambled eggs, sausages, potatoes and a waffle maker along with a small coffee station.  For those on the go, or looking for a midnight snack there is a small snack shop in the main lobby that is available 24 hours a day along with complimentary coffee and tea for guests.

Now lets talk about where this place really shines.  The staff.  The staff was amazing, and I’m really not overstating.  They went out of their way to welcome me in a manner I’ve never encountered before.  From the guy at check-in that first night onwards, I was always so very happy to just chat with the staff who treated us like long-time friends, never seeming rushed, or acting as though we were bothering them, no matter what the request.  They left a small gift basket in each room, and I received a hand-written letter welcoming me to the hotel.  A Hand Written Letter.  Who does that?  They do.  I’ve stayed in some amazing places and have never received such a simple, yet wonderful welcome from hotel staff.

Our shuttle driver to and from our work location every day was a pretty red-head who was very fun to chat with during our brief rides and any time we saw her in the lobby.  She was also a wealth of local knowledge who never steered us wrong when we were looking for places to eat or shop.  It turns out, she was also the general manager for the hotel.  So the general manager personally drove us around in the hotel shuttle rather than having someone else do it.  She even took a few of us over to an excellent steak house on our last night there when she should have been heading home, simply because we were going to be walking on a cold evening and she didn’t want us to have to do so.

Staffing and proper management is everything in the hotel world.  You can have the most comfortable beds, the trendiest rooms and the largest bar, but if your staff is inattentive or unfriendly, then a stay at your hotel becomes just a footnote.  You can have an average hotel that is perhaps on the higher end of mid-range places and stand well above any higher rated hotels by having a staff that TRULY treats the guests like friends and family.  That is where the TownePlace Suites really shines.  The hotel itself is passable, but nothing too memorable, but the staff make it truly shine.

Misty, it was a pleasure meeting you, and thank you for everything you and your staff did.  I didn’t get the chance to thank you after dinner Friday night, but you were spot on about the Roaring Fork, that was the best steak I think I’ve ever had.


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