Ever hear of Country Inns & Suites? I hadn't until about a year ago, when they generously offered us a voucher to stay in one of their fine establishments. We were not able to take them up on the offer until our Christmas roadtrip to Austin, and I was pleasantly surprised by the accomodations they offer at reasonable prices. We enjoyed a complimentary overnight stay at the downtown location in Tucson, Arizona, during our long journey through the desert.
Like many of the better highway hotel chains, they offer free Wifi in the rooms, complimentary breakfast, and a pool. What sets Country Inns and Suites apart are the little things, like complimentary cookies and bottled water on arrival, a full hot breakfast (not just microwaved sandwiches and cold cereal, but bacon, eggs, the whole works), and a homey, charming decor. We found the staff to be friendly and efficient, as well as knowledgeable about the area.
On our December roadtrip, we left the Salton Sea Recreation Area and headed east on I-8 through the dusty California border towns toward Tucson. We were hoping to be in Saguaro National Park before sundown. Unfortunately, we arrived too late for the park. I dubbed this our "Too Late Tour," since it seemed like we always arrived at our destinations just after the sunset so we couldn't see anything. Frank said that he planned a perfect itinerary for summer, or anytime the sun stays up a little past 5:00 pm.
Anyway, we arrived in Tucson after dark and couldn't get to the Saguaro National Park on time, so we went straight to the Country Inns & Suites. We were welcomed with freshly baked sugar cookies in the lobby, a homey fireplace, and some bottles of water, which were great after a long, dry drive through the desert. The front desk staff was extremely friendly and answered all of our questions. There were some kids running around the lobby, and the hotel seemed to be extremely family-friendly.
Our room was nicely furnished and large enough for the three of us. The furnishings and decor were nicer and more traditional than some that we encountered later on our trip at similar hotels. It seems that the latest trend in hotel decor is blinding florescent lighting and migraine-inducing neon green bedding with fuschia accents and large black and white photos of doorknobs and exposed pipes in the hallway. I was happy to find the room to be comfortable and not over-done, with more muted colors and soft lighting. During our trip, we used Marriott and Hilton loyalty program points to stay at Fairfield Inn and Hampton Inn in different locations along the way. We liked Country Inns the best for food quality, service, and general ambience, although the three were pretty similar in locations, space, and pricing.
The hotel itself does not have an on-site restaurant, but there is a nearby Italian/Pizza restaurant called Bianchi's that delivers to the hotel. We decided to stay in and enjoyed a pizza, salad and pasta dishes that were delicious. The following morning, we were happy to find that the breakfast was not the usual yogurt and cold cereal, but a full array of bacon, eggs, waffles, pastries, and other goodies. We fueled up and hit the road.
Our only complaint about this experience was that the pool was outdoors and it was a little too chilly to try it out at night. This is probably not much of a problem in Tucson for most of the year. There was a 24-hour exercise room available, so I guess we could have set our energetic son on a treadmill to burn off some steam if needed.
All three of us enjoyed our brief stay at the Country Inns & Suites, and we would definitely go back and try out another location on a future roadtrip. Thanks to Country Inns & Suites and Carlson Hotels for giving us the opportunity to try it out! Alex can't wait to go back.
Disclosure: I received a voucher for a free night at Country Inns & Suites, but no other incentive to write this post. All opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Country Inns & Suites or Carlton Hotels