‘Keeping Austin Weird’ at the Hyatt Regency on the River

I spent much of Labor Day weekend in Austin, and decided to stay at the Hyatt Regency there. Rates were on the high side, perhaps largely due to a Longhorns football game that everyone on property seemed to be going to, so I used my annual free night from the Hyatt Visa. (While the card comes with two free nights at any Hyatt as a signup bonus, each year cardmembers are credited with one free night valid at a ‘category 4’ hotel or lower, the best value category 4 is often considered to be the Hyatt 48Lex in New York but the Hyatt Regency Austin is a category 4 hotel as well).

You can’t make an award reservation and a paid reservation together online, but offline there’s no problem in doing so. I created one reservation when I combined the two free nights from the Hyatt Visa with two paid nights and use of a confirmed upgrade certificate when I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Singapore back in February.

When I checked in, though, the hotel at first couldn’t find my reservation. I had given them my name and the agent at the desk searched and searched. I pulled out my confirmation number and they found it ‘in a different system’ and seemed confused that it ‘didn’t transfer over’. No worries, while they were mostly full they had an upgraded river view room for me.

They explained that as my Diamond breakfast amenity I could take breakfast in the restaurant, just order and breakfast would be taken off the bill. I was asked whether I wanted the food or beverage amenity (why do so many Hyatts offer one or the other when it’s supposed to be a food and beverage amenity?), and whether I wanted 4pm late checkout. I chose the points, and let them know I wouldn’t need late checkout. I was also given two free drink coupons for use in the bar ‘for the inconvenience’ of checkin taking a bit longer than it might have, though there really wasn’t any inconvenience at all.

The hotel reminded me of an Embassy Suites, with an atrium and skylight in the center and rooms built out around the sides.

The elevators had one side made of glass looking into the atrium.

There’s also a coffee shop off the lobby.

My room on the 14th floor was nice, clean, and perfectly functional. The highlight was the view of the city out over the river.

The bedroom featured a desk, albeit with insufficient outlets (which is why I carry a compact power strip wherever I travel) and comfortable desk chair, and a lounging chair by the window.

While in Austin I was lucky to be able to meet up with Mommy Points and her husband The Man for dinner. (She tweeted same here.)

We picked Uchiko for dinner, though its sister restaurant Uchi is quite close to the hotel. Uchiko had reservations available, Uchi did not. Japanese may sound like an odd choice but it was excellent, and the last thing I was going to want to get started on was barbecue since I had a plan for that laid out for the following two days.

Austin is an interesting city, it’s the capital of Texas but it’s more San Francisco or rather Portland than it is Dallas or Houston. When I was in Portland a couple months back there were t-shirts everywhere, “Keep Portland Weird.” It’s a hipster city, skewered in the TV comedy Portlandia (“where the dream of the 90’s is alive”). Arriving in the Austin airport were similar “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirts. There’s decent dining, and a vibrant food truck culture as I’d find out later in my stay.

Returning to the hotel after dinner, there was a lot of noise coming from the next room over. It was a group of people, just talking though loudly. I hadn’t noticed coming into the room somehow that it was set up as an adjoining room, and that seemed to make all the difference.

I went down to the front desk and they were happy to change rooms for me, although they didn’t have a lot to offer.

They first suggested upgrading me to a river view room with a patio. But I was a little bit gun shy over the noise, since that’s what I was trying to escape, and I thought that the patio might mean folks in the next room would be outside. The patios are connected, and that might make things even louder. It probably would have been fine, and a nicer room, so I declined. Instead I took another river view king this time on the sixth floor. It wasn’t an adjoining room, and I didn’t have any problems with noise.

Breakfast at the hotel is in their restaurant on the second floor, which is an escalator’s ride up from the lobby.

I’m not a fan of most hotel breakfast buffets. Unless it’s in Asia, or at a really top end hotel, I’ll almost always prefer to order off the menu. They had an omelet station and the usual trays of eggs, sausage, bacon, platters of fruit. And though they looked to be doing a decent job with it, I think the decision to go with cooked to order was the right one.

The South Austin Eggs Benedict were quite good, with chorizo, avocado, and a chipotle hollandaise over a biscuit.

One shouldn’t ever actually order a bagel in Texas, but the smoked salmon was surprisingly good as well.

Interestingly, when the check came to sign it asterisked the orange juice as an item that would not earn Gold Passport points, and that one could not redeem Gold Passport points to pay for. If anyone knows the reason for that, I’d love it if you’d share it with me!

At checkout most of the tip that I left was still on my bill, though the rest of breakfast had been taken off. I’m often left curious as to the amount credited on a breakfast order with Hyatt, I’m pretty sure the full amount was supposed to be credited to me (what I ordered was less than the cost of the full buffet). I had simply had the hotel email me the folio, I didn’t see it before leaving the property, so need to follow up to ask about the $5 charge.

The other meal in Austin that wasn’t barbecue consisted of visiting local food trucks. There were two dessert trucks worth highlighting. The first was Holy Cacao at the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery.

The second was Bananarchy. I’m now a big fan of the ‘banarchist movement’.

The Hyatt Regency Austin absolutely did the trick, it’s clean and comfortable and the river location was great. I’d just be careful next time to ensure I’m not assigned to a connecting room, to avoid the risk of noisy neighbors.

(Note that the Hyatt Visa offers a referral credit to me if you use my link when applying, which I greatly appreciate.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hey Gary,

    Great report! Thanks for writing it up.

    Carrying a compact power strip is a great idea. Question:do you do this abroad as well? I have a voltage converter, and all of my gadgets can handle 220V, but does it work to simply plug the power strip into the converter?

    I know you’re not an electrician, but if anyone has experience dealing with outlet issues all over the globe, it’s you 🙂

    Thanks!
    Len

  2. Hey Gary,

    I’m also impressed with the idea of a compact power strip. Do you have one in particular that you recommend?

  3. @Gary — when you meet other bloggers in real life, is it hard to start referring to them with their real names?

  4. I love, love Austin! Thanks for the update–one of my favorite cities.

    But where DID you go for BBQ? Did you try Franklin’s (it’s my next BBQ stop when I go back, since it keeps getting rated as the best BBQ in Texas/the US/the UNIVERSE!) or Gourdough’s (food truck–best donuts I’ve personally ever had)?

  5. The Hyatt brings back pleasant memories. I used to go with some of my undergrad friends for fajitas @the Hyatt back around 1983 or 1984 when I was a grad school. The Hyatt was one of the places that had great fajitas back at that time. 🙂

    I didn’t have alot of funds at that time but I always managed to have enough $ for those special occasions.

    I try to get to Austin whenever I can since I lived there from 1980-1986 & LOVED it!!

    Glad you enjoyed Austin!!

  6. Gary, we had a blast with you and your wife. So glad the timing worked out! Minus the noisy neighbors, glad to hear the rest of your trip sounds like a winner. Austin really isn’t like the rest of Texas at all – it is a city all its own. You are totally right about the sea of Burnt Orange taking over the Hyatt and the city that weekend. For anyone planning a trip to Austin, keep an eye on several schedules when planning your trip. Texas Longhorn Football, SXSW, ACL Fest, and now Forumula 1. Unless you are looking to attend one of those (fun) events, avoid those dates in order to keep prices and crowds a bit lower.

    We were in a rush Saturday morning and did the breakfast buffet (the menu is the way to go unless you are rushed as we were), and we also had not only the gratuity we left still on our bill, but another strange approx $2-$3 breakfast charge on our bill as well. I think it was also coded as some sort of gratuity even though we had already been charged for the separate gratuity we left. I didn’t notice it until we left, as the front desk told me that breakfast was taken off other than gratuity.

    I’m probably not going to remember to follow-up on it, but you aren’t the only one with small strange breakfast charges from the Hyatt. We do like that hotel though as it typically has fair rates, is in a good location without being in the crazy part of downtown, and almost always upgrades us to a room with a view.

    Look forward to reading about your BBQ adventures!

  7. I still miss the old western mural behind check-in! That was my regular Austin haunt for years —I must haveracked up three or four stays a year for 10 or 12 years — until the soft furnishings upgrade a few years go. After that, it jumped two categories and is not the value it used to be— especially when the Four Seasons often has weekend specials. (and when imthere for work, their “government rate” is usually always above the set per diem– often by 50 bucks. (not so at the W, Hilton, etc)

    That said, it’s great to be able to fall out of bed and onto the trail! (and I had “no connecting rooms” listed in my profile there, always found the noise level high)

    I I ever leave DC, it’ll be for Austin!

  8. I’d be very interested to hear how many connecting rooms are typically in hotels. I find myself put in them frequently and it’s a pain to switch once
    the noise gets bad.

    I understand families find them useful but there sure seems to be far too many at some hotels.

  9. FYI-Austin started the “Keep…Weird” slogan and the others are copycats. Great pic of the skyline with reflections in the river. Your photography seems to be getting much better.

  10. Nice write up. When you stay at a Hyatt, which credit card do you use to settle your bill? Hyatt or some other card?

  11. @David – I use Hyatt Visa for 3 Hyatt points per dollar (rather than Chase Sapphire which would give me 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points).

  12. AFAIK, tip AND tax is supposed to be included with the diamond breakfast benefit at all Hyatts worldwide. I’ve previously had the same issue with random miscellaneous breakfast charges showing up at this property, however upon bringing it to their attention at checkout, they did remove the charges, very annoying though (similar to having to ask when a Hyatt doesn’t automatically remove internet charges). Seems as if they are not following the rules 100%, would definitely be interested to hear if you have any issues getting the charges removed…

  13. I stayed at this Hyatt a few months ago, and my room rate (corporate negotiated rate) included the breakfast buffet. I’m only Hyatt Platinum. I had already received my final folio (which I need for expense reports) before I went to breakfast, so I tipped in cash. I ended up with the Hyatt charging a $2.?? for a mandatory tip and adding a separate charge to my credit card after my bill had been settled. When I saw the charge on my credit card several days later and called to follow-up, they told me that the breakfast does not include this charge, and they did not make an adjustment.

  14. Gary – offer is still on the table to conduct the BBQ tour of the country side if and when you come back. Several alternatives, all good. Ajit — wife and I sat at the Texas Monthly BBQ festival with six of the best briskets in the state before us. Our choice, by a nose, was Franklin, over our previous fave, Snow’s. For BBQ lover, the TM festival is not to be missed.

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