A Hotel Junkie Goes Aloft

If there's one thing I've learned to do over the years it's lower my expectations when it comes to airport hotels. As a former hotel guy myself, I can fully empathize with the challenges these turn-and-burn factories face on a daily basis. All I'm pretty much expecting at an airport hotel is a bed, a door that locks, and an outlet to plug in my phone. Anything else is merely a bonus.

After two recent stays at the Aloft Hotel near the Jacksonville airport, those expectations may be changing entirely.

The Aloft brand is billed as "A Vision of W Hotels" but really it's nothing more than Starwood's version of a Hyatt Place or Hotel Indigo - trendy yet moderately priced hotels designed with the savvy business traveler in mind. It's that whole "W Hotels" part, however, that both excited and gave me pause when booking the Aloft.

You see, I'm a big fan of W Hotels. Any hotel that calls their lobby the "Living Room" is OK in my book, even though their desire to be uber-hip is just a little over the top. And therein lies my one and only complaint with W Hotels... I'm just not cool enough to stay there.
Even the alarm clocks are retro-cool.

So I couldn't help but wonder if the same would hold true at the pseudo-connected Aloft brand. We boarded the elevator with another couple after checking-in, and it was there that I got my answer.

"I wonder if there's an Aloft in Prague. We totally should have stayed there."

You've been to Prague? Congratulations! 

Sure that's what I wanted to say, but thankfully I looked at my reflection in the elevator door first - my Pinehurst shirt and Sawgrass hat making me the poster child of pretentious golf course braggart. So I settled for a good solid eye roll instead.

What does all of this have to do with our stay at the Aloft? Not much, other than to say the W vibe is definitely present...
See what I mean?

Before our encounter with Mr. & Mrs. Prague, my overall first impressions of the Aloft were pretty good. I was a big fan of the reserved parking for hybrid vehicles right up front, especially since we were on an airport parking package and were going to leave our car at the hotel all week.

From there, check-in was a breeze and the agent gave us a rundown of all of the amenities - something I always appreciate even if I have no time to use them as was the case here. There's simply nothing worse in my book than the "Here's your keys, elevators to the right, now go away so I can go back to playing solitaire" treatment.
A nice selection at the self service re:fuel station.

The lobby was a little sterile and looked almost as if an Ikea had thrown up all over the place, but that was pretty much to be expected. The WXYZ Bar looked like it might be a popular spot for the after work crowd, if this particular Aloft wasn't found in basically the middle of nowhere.

Our room was easily the nicest one we've ever experienced at an airport hotel. That might sound like the golfer saying he won a match against his hacker buddies with a 97, but if we had this room pretty much anywhere it would definitely do. The bath featured the same toiletries as W hotels, and I can say with 100% certainty that the shower beat the LaQuinta next door. Sadly, the W bed wasn't present, but to have hoped for that might have been reaching.

Aside from a comfortable and inexpensive place to crash for a few hours, I typically need one additional thing from airport hotels: security. We usually book some sort of parking package that allows us to leave our car on-site as opposed to the airport (typically offsetting the cost of the room). This stay was by far the longest I had ever left our car at an airport hotel - 10 days - though I was assured by the desk agent that since we were staying both the night before and after our trip, that the length wasn't an issue. Thankfully, when we returned from Alaska the good old Honda was right where we left her.

Overall, I'd say our first experience with the Aloft brand was a success, and they can call me a new fan. Sure all of the trendy lingo and furnishings are a little over the top, but that certainly doesn't offset the value that these hotels bring to the table. A W-esque experience for a fraction of the price? You can always count me in for that.

Enjoy Your Stay

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