Hyatt Regency Irvine vs. Orange County: No Escape from Screaming Children!

I just returned from a trip to Orange County, CA, last weekend, and although I normally delay, forget about, and then return to some of my trip reports, my experience at the Hyatt Regency Orange County rubbed me the wrong way. To be fair, I wasn’t expecting either it or the Hyatt Regency Irvine to be an “awesome” experience, but one is a much better proposition for those of you heading to this area in the near future.

You may recall that when my sister stayed at the HR Orange County a few weeks ago, she thought it was a great hotel. Or at least one of the better ones she stayed at during a trip up the California coast. During my visit, I spent one night at the Hyatt Regency Irvine before heading to Disneyland for the day followed by an evening at the Hyatt Regency Orange County. Even though the HR Irvine was hosting the Model UN, with hundreds of middle schoolers occupying two-thirds of the hotel (and seemingly oblivious to the distinction between the EU and the European Economic and Monetary Union), I would choose it again in a heartbeat.

Service Matters, Regardless of Price

For only $80, we got a relatively small room at the HR Irvine on the 13th floor with a cramped balcony that let in a small amount of freeway noise. Not great, but we got what we paid for. I had purchased one of Hyatt’s e-standby upgrades for about $20 than included breakfast and parking (this was before I applied for a Diamond trial), only slightly more than parking alone. The clerk had no evidence that I’d paid for parking but happily waived it at check-in and gave me details on our free breakfast.

picture of plain hotel room

Irvine – Simple but adequate bedroom

picture of hotel desk

Irvine – Small desk, but the WiFi worked

The next morning, we were told repeatedly that we had the option of made-to-order eggs along with our buffet choices—which is good because as is common the scrambled eggs at the buffet were awful—but we passed anyway as we were in a rush to get to Disneyland. (Everything else at the buffet, surprisingly even the pancakes, was very good.) Megan’s coffee and my customary grapefruit juice came quickly, we had a pleasant view by the window, and our server even brought Megan an extra cup of coffee to-go along with our check, completely unrequested. Maybe the room was nothing special, but this hotel had its s*** together. There was a clear effort among all the staff to make sure we had everything we wanted. Sorry I don’t have much else to say, but it should be viewed as a good sign that there weren’t any significant issues to complain about.

picture of hotel breakfast area

Irvine – Nice view at breakfast

Don’t Make Me Argue with You

Let’s contrast this with the HR Orange County, at a 50% higher rate of $120. Although only a couple miles from Disneyland, the hotel charges $5 a person for a shuttle to the park on top of hotel parking. The bell staff, who insisted on holding my keys while I checked-in, had no clue who I was when I came back ten minutes later asking to be let back into my car. (I admit I put myself in a rare situation, since I usually park first. But in this case my sister warned me that the lot was far away.)

picture of trees inside hotel lobby

OC – I’m glad I didn’t have an interior balcony

At check-in, I was “greeted” by a surly clerk who started off on the right foot, acknowledging my Diamond status, but steadily declined from there. He said, “Let’s see if there are any suites available,” and came back with nothing except for some family suites that have a separate room for children—one we won’t need or use. He then proceeded to debate with me whether I really wanted this upgrade. I was so tired I just asked, “Don’t you have anything with a living room?” I mean, that’s the point of an upgrade. Eventually he came through with a family suite that also included a living room. Diamond status is awesome. :D But then when I asked for miles instead of points for my stay due to the current Hyatt promotion, he turned sour again, acting as though I was being difficult.

picture of hotel television and closets

OC – I hate modular closets

picture of hotel bunkbeds

OC – It got very dark back in the children’s room

As for this suite–boy, what a room. It reminded me of my college dorm: basically a huge space lacking any functional design but with plenty of cheap furniture to make up for what the architects left out. The bathrooms had exposed plumbing underneath; the coffee table was worn with a chipped finish; the television stand was a huge piece that also served as the desk, minibar, and assorted other functions; and there was a single window to illuminate all this space. Despite being a three-room suite, apparently no one bothered to figure out how to put the towel rack outside the shower, and there were no robes or plastic laundry bag.

picture of large hotel desk

OC – The living room had this hulking media center/desk

Looking at the evacuation map by the elevator, I’m pretty sure the entire floor consisted of suites just like this one, and that was made very clear when, at seven in the morning, the screams of excited children exiting their rooms awoke me far too early. If you’re given a choice between a standard room on a high floor and a suite on a lower floor, go for the higher floor. Trust me. And while Irvine may have had a view of the 405, the OC had a view of a parking lot. And awful Wi-Fi. I could barely get a signal the entire time I was there.

picture of empty table at a restaurant

OC – Really? I got to look at this for 30-45 minutes

I really wasn’t sure who was serving us at breakfast, and to be honest I was glad at this point that we were mostly left alone. But isn’t it customary when seating two people at a four-person table to clear the extra plates and silverware? Not here. They just stacked them up at the end of the table and never cleared them away. My grapefruit juice didn’t arrive until well after we’d finished visiting the buffet and waiting for an omelet, and the clerk at check-out had to be reminded to remove the breakfast charge from the room. Every time I wanted something from the staff, it was like arguing with a small child. That’s fine if you’re a small child. Not so fine if you’re running a hotel.

Conclusion

Given the choice to stay at either of these hotels, my suggestion ultimately rests on what you want to do. If you have small children, the HR Orange County is targeted to your demographic. It is close to Disneyland and it has lots of these family suites with enough room and separation to comfortably house a family of four. How many hotels do you know with bunk beds? Sure I had complaints, but what does it matter to have screaming children wake you when they’re more likely your own? All of the issues I had are minor compared to the challenges of keeping kids under control and happy during a trip to Disneyland.

But if you don’t have such children, just stay at the HR Irvine. Its staff are friendlier. Its outdoor public spaces are nicer. The Model UN can’t meet every weekend. And although the lobby of the HR Irvine is nothing special, its outdoor spaces are prettier nor would anyone want to spend much time in the HR Orange County’s echo chamber/atrium. Not to mention that if you’re going to Disneyland or anything in that area, it’s only a 15-minute drive from Irvine.

About 

Scott created Hack My Trip while traveling on a budget during graduate school and continues to share his thoughts on better travel. He maintains elite status with American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hyatt, and Starwood.
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  • Mommy Points

    Ha ha – love it.  I stayed at the Hyatt Regency OC in March (still on my to-do list to review) and I loved it for the purpose it served…..of course I was there with my two year old and my friend was there with her one year old.   They did clear away our extra silverware, though if they didn’t my kiddo would have destroyed it.  ;)  I would agree that it caters to families, and it sounds like you and I encountered different employees, as the ones I dealt with were super helpful while I was trying to wrangle my two year old by myself.  The waitress remembered us the second day and gave me a big Diet Coke to-go as she remembered be asking for one the day before.  She said, “I know you are going to need this!” in a very sweet sort of way.  PS, my kid might have been the screaming child once or twice there. 

  • Laurynas

    I think what matters most is the hotel rate and the place itself if it is near the vicinity of the place you want to go. The cheaper is really the better but the comfort..i think that is what matters most.
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