What's the Most Surprising Thing You've Seen at a Chain Hotel?

(Courtesy Super 8
A Longhorn-themed room for the Austin Super 8’s visiting sports fans.

All too often, the surprises we encounter when traveling—particularly when we're trying to cut costs—are of the disappointing variety. Your foreign hotel's star rating doesn't mean what you thought it did, say, or a great car rental rate went through the roof after all the fees were tallied.

On a quick trip to Austin last weekend, I had the exact opposite experience. My dirt-cheap hotel room at the Super 8 Airport South (with a pop-up booking discount on the hotel's site, it ran about $86 per night, including all taxes and fees) was a veritable cornucopia of pleasant surprises.

First, there were the racks of loaner DVDs and books in the lobby (decent stuff, too—not just video rental closeout material), just across the way from the tray of free cookies set out nightly from 6pm-9pm. Then there was the mini-sauna (just big enough for two!) in the mini-gym, and the laundry hamper under the bathroom sink for carrying your sweaty duds to the guest laundry room down the hall—plus the welcome basket of free snacks and water waiting in each guest's room.

Everywhere we turned, there was some little thoughtful extra that made it clear the hotel was run by real human beings with one objective in mind: winning over repeat guests.

Have you ever had a chain-hotel experience that totally surpassed your expectations? What's the best surprise you've ever found in a budget accommodation?


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