Being a Chicago-based traveler, it’s not often that I find myself schelpping my bags across the Illinois/Wisconsin border to catch a flight. Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport (MKE) can hardly hold a candle to the number of carriers and destinations one can reach from either or Chicago’s two massive airports. One of the few advantages MKE has on occasion is that a traveler can score relatively cheap flights by choosing it as the originating airport over Chicago O’Hare. This was the case on one of my most recent trips to Asia. I was able to save about $800 on my fare by starting my trip from MKE, so it was clearly a no-brainer when I booked this ticket over my hometown turf.
One of the complications of doing so was figuring out how I would catch my flight out of MKE. After debating a few options, including having someone drive me the 2 hours between my house and MKE, I settled on a $25 Amtrak ticket the night before my flight from Chicago’s Union Station directly to MKE. The trip takes approximately an hour and a half and drops you off within sight of the airport. MKE has a shuttle bus waiting for the train when you arrive, and in less than 5 minutes I was dropped off in front of the airport and waiting for the next shuttle to the Hyatt Place MKE, which I had booked at a low rate of $90 for the night. So I ended up spending $115 to save the $800 on airfare. Definitely worth it.
Let’s be honest – Hyatt Place is a lower to middle market brand that hardly inspires a traveler to think of luxury or exemplary service. Considering this hotel happened to be located a 5 minute drive from a mid-tier city airport, my expectations for the evening were very low. So imagine my surprise when I dialed up the hotel to inquire about the next shuttle pick-up time only to have the woman on the other end of the phone greet me with what felt like genuine warmth and immediately offer to hop into the hotel’s van and come get me so I didn’t have to wait any longer.
Sure enough, within minutes the Hyatt Place MKE’s shuttle was pulling up in front of me and Karly (not her real name) was offering to help me with everything from stowing my luggage to getting into the van. The short ride to the property was punctuated with Karly’s non-intrusive but very engaging chit chat about my travel plans.
As we pulled up to the hotel, I noted that there was very little around this property. A few other hotels dot the road leaving away from the airport, but overall it’s exactly what you’d expect from an airport hotel – within ear-range of jets taking off into the sky and surrounding by other hotels.
As soon as we pulled up to the hotel, Karly was hopping out of the van and grabbing my small suitcase out of the back of the van before I had even unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door. She walked me into the lobby and proceeded to check me in for the evening. She noted my elite status with the Hyatt brand, and apologized that Hyatt Place offered so little for me since many of the perks of my status level are already provided complimentary by this brand (free WiFi, free breakfast, no high floor rooms to upgrade into, etc.). She poked away at her keyboard for a minute and handed a key over to me. She then said that she noticed I wasn’t registered for Hyatt’s newest promotion, and she had taken the liberty of signing me up so I could earn additional points for my stay. At this point I had to admit that I was very impressed with Karly’s holistic, effortless service style.
I ran up to my room and surveyed what Hyatt Place MKE offered in a room. It was at this point that my stomach began to grumble and I realized I needed to eat some dinner before calling it a night. Considering the lack of offerings surrounding the hotel as described further up, my only real option for dinner was the casual dining options in the lobby.
Surprise, surprise… Karly also is the waitress for those who are interested in ordering a meal. The menu is fairly standard for a mid-tier hotel brand. Hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, soups, salads, etc. I placed my order at the front desk for a chicken pesto sandwich and a chicken tortilla soup. Karly took my payment and then said I could take a seat anywhere in the cozy lobby and she’d bring me my food when I was ready. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, she proceeded to bring me my soup and iced tea, check in 3 guests, clear my plates and bring out my sandwich, help a guest troubleshoot WiFi access on their iPhone, and bring me my bill. All without anyone seeming to be inconvienced by her multi-tasking. Again, I was very impressed.
The food was serviceable. The quality and flavor was on par with what one would expect from a Corner Bakery or Panera Bread outlet. Nothing fancy, but it got the job done and I went to sleep that night satisfied.
Overall, the most impressive thing about the Hyatt Place MKE was the service, particularly from Karly. In the morning I was driven promptly and without fuss to the airport by another member of the staff, who was also very friendly and provided excellent service. Seems to be a hallmark of this property.
Let me start off by apologizing about the poor lighting in most of these pictures. They looked much brighter when I was taking them…..
If you’ve ever stayed at a Hyatt Place property that was built in the last few years, you already know exactly what the MKE airport property looks like. The rooms are remarkably consistent, in my experience, no matter which Hyatt Place I’m staying at.
Immediately on your left as you walk in the door is a empty fridge to story your own items as well as a vanity counter top with a standard issue coffee/tea maker and associated accessories. Directly across from this was the room’s desk.
Also on the left from the door was the signature living room that Hyatt Place properties are known for. This one, like all the others I’ve stayed at, featured a large L-shaped couch with a leather topped coffee table in front of it.
These living rooms are the reason I don’t mind staying at Hyatt Place properties despite not being very high on the luxury brand continuum. I love laying in bed as much as the next guy, but after an hour of surfing the web and typing while laying down my back is always aching, no matter how plush the mattress. I also cannot simply sit at a desk and work on my laptop. I’m just not one of those people. The couch set up at Hyatt Place gives me the ideal environment from which I can keep up on travel news and keep in touch with friends.
The bed was large and comfortable. You can see the availability of outlets directly under the floating nightstands, which is a big plus to me. I become irked when I lay down to sleep in a hotel and I can’t charge my phone (which doubles as my alarm clock) within arms reach. The window next to the bed provided a lovely view over the parking lot behind the property.
The bathroom featured a combo bath/shower with a new shower curtain. The cleanliness stuck out to me quite a bit here for some reason. Not that I regularly run into dirty bathrooms, this one just struck me as particularly well scrubbed.
Amenities were standard Hyatt property Portico products.
Another nice feature of the Hyatt Place brand is that they offer a fairly large complimentary breakfast for all guests. Unfortunately, my flight out of MKE was too early to take advantage of the spread, as it officially “opened” about 15 minutes after I was scheduled to leave. I did manage to snap a few pictures of the offering while my driver was pulling the car around for our quick hop to the airport though.
There was also a section set up for hot food which I didn’t get a picture of since nothing was laid out at that time. It looked like there was space for breakfast sandwiches as well as eggs/bacon.
Don’t let the name and location fool you, I was pretty impressed with the Hyatt Place MKE. The level of friendly, attentive service was one of the best I’ve experienced this year, including properties rated much higher than these in number of stars and accolades. While the room and food offerings are nothing to write home about, I genuinely felt welcome at this property and it felt like the employees really wanted to make sure I enjoyed my stay, walking away ready for my morning flight. If I ever find myself taking a flight out of MKE again (and with my constant scrounging for low fares, I’m almost guaranteed to be), I will definitely be staying with Hyatt Place MKE again.