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Hotel Review: Hampton Inn & Suites Merced


The Hampton brand

I quite enjoy visiting the States, but one thing I don’t enjoy so much is the relatively poor Hilton elite recognition you get in the country – the upgrade rate seems poorer, and properties really limit you to continental complimentary breakfasts (no hot food). I know that’s what’s in the T&C, but given that I’ve previously really enjoyed making use of Hilton Gold/Diamond status around Asia, I’ve found little love even as a Diamond member in America.

Strangely enough, I found greater value in patronising the budget end of the the Hilton family. There’s still no significant elite recognition to speak of, but at the price range it’s not really expected like in pricier full-service properties. The Hampton brand tends to offer a rather decent (and reliable) standard of accommodation that won’t break the bank either, usually costing about US$100-150 per night (especially if booked via the Hilton MVP portal).

It’s especially useful when doing a road trip – when all you really need is pretty much the ability to drive up to the property and rest for the night, you don’t really miss executive lounge access all that much.

Parking

After leaving Yosemite, we headed towards Hampton Inn & Suites Merced, possibly the nearest Hilton property (depending on which direction you exit the valley). This review is based on that visit, though I think it’s safe to say that one US Hampton property is pretty much the same as any other.


(Image from Hampton Merced website)

One of the elite benefits that Hamptons offer is dedicated parking lots for Diamond members. It’s a benefit that the FlyerTalk folk seem to enjoy, though the Hamptons I’d stayed at didn’t ask for my vehicle number at check-in, so I’m not sure what’s to prevent non-Diamonds from taking those lots. In practice, I’m pretty sure it’s not policed.

Still, there’s something to be said about the glorious feeling of pulling into a premium parking space that’s reserved just for the deserving, the crème de la crème, the people who know how to type accents and sound fancy. Never mind that just about everyone else can do it too. Never mind that these special parking spaces typically save you a mere couple of minutes walking to the lobby. No, you can drive up to any Hampton and get yourself a Diamond Elite Parking space because you deserve it. From the very moment you step out of your vehicle, you’re aware that you’re an Elite.

Checking In

And then you snap back to reality, because at the end of the day, a Hampton property is pretty much a budget hotel. There’s a small check in area, usually manned by one or two agents. As a Gold/Diamond member, you’re entitled to “250 Hilton Honors Bonus Points per stay or choice of snack and non-alcoholic beverage”. I’ve got my preferences set to gain the bonus points, but I was usually still asked to take some freebies anyway (I usually opted to take free chocolate bars).


(Image from Hampton Merced website)

Just behind the check-in area is a ‘suite shop’, where you can get various snacks and travel items like single-use laundry detergent. The items aren’t dirt cheap, but they’re pretty affordable. Since it’s quite possible for there not to be a grocery store nearby, these shops could prove to be rather convenient.

The Room

The Hampton rooms tend to be rather basic (and possibly rather dated), but also clean and comfortable, which is what really matters after hours of driving on the road.

The same goes for the toilet/shower area – clean and well maintained.

It’s a good thing it was clean, since they placed the coffee machine in that very room – a rather unusual choice of location, but I suppose it helps to save space.

Full sliding shower doors for the shower area…

Lots of space on the counter around the sink, along with the Neutrogena-branded toiletries.

Breakfast

Another Hampton feature – free breakfast with every room; no need for status. I particularly enjoy the waffle machines.

Some basic fruit and salad (the former is pretty convenient for grab and go).

There’ll be some hot food served as well – the meal we saw at Merced was actually one of the better ones, comprising bagel toppers (bagels with melted cheese and bacon) and fried potatoes.

Some bread and pastries…

…and cereal, if that’s what you prefer.

All in all, the breakfast wasn’t really something I looked forward to having, but it served its purpose.

Facilities

I didn’t actually use it at Merced, but Hamptons come equipped with a business center (with an iMacs and a laser printer). Pretty useful for printing stuff, actually – came in pretty handy when I later wanted a hard copy of the Comic-Con programme for easier reference.

Other places I didn’t even notice during my stay – a gym and a swimming pool. Man, this place actually had everything!


(Image from Hampton Merced website)


(Image from Hampton Merced website)

Conclusion

All in all, I find Hampton to be a perfectly decent budget brand within the US Hilton portfolio. The property in Merced is pretty representative of the chain – it’s nothing luxurious, but does offer reliable quality at a relatively low price range, while continuing to chalk up points and stays/nights if you’re a Hilton member. Many are located in rural areas, so they’re probably best used for road trips, where you’re unlikely to spend too much time at the hotel anyway.

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