Holiday Inn: Historic Downtown – Charleston, SC

image from IHG

Destination: Charleston, SC
Date: July 2015
Hotel: Holiday Inn
Brand: IHG
Elite Status: Spire
# of travelers: 2
nights: 1

Hotel & Brand: Making the Decision

Every year for my birthday, Justin and I travel to Charleston, one of my favorite US cities. I love the combination of beach + city, and the food found here is so so so good! Having spent a lot of money traveling during the 4th of July holiday to Savannah, Justin and I knew that for this getaway we would have to go light on spending. Having just recently opened up the IHG and Chase Sapphire rewards cards, we knew we had plenty of points to stay for a free night at any hotel of our choosing: the biggest question was where did we want to stay?

When I decided on booking the Holiday Inn, I have to admit that I thought if you booked with cash + points, you still received points for your stay. Since IHG was running a promotion to give you double the points (plus with Spire elite status I get 100% bonus points), I felt that staying with IHG would be a lucrative way to save money and earn points at the same time. Unfortunately, with any awards stay, I realized, you do not get points. However, the thought process behind this was mainly why I choose to stay with IHG. Plus, I was still trying to figure out how Chase Sapphire points could be redeemed… more on that in my next hotel stay post. :)

After picking the IHG brand to redeem points with, I had to decide between the downtown location, the river locations, or spots closer to the beach. One of the best things in life is waking up at a hotel on the beach, but given that IHG did not have that option for Charleston, rather than staying a few miles from the beach in a hotel where I would still have to drive to the ocean, I opted for either the more scenic views (near the river) or the downtown location. The deciding factor then became Justin (who preferred downtown) and the best use of points (which, as it turns out, was downtown where we could redeem our points at a higher value – 35,000 for approx. $250/night instead of 35,000 points for approx. $150/night at the river view location).

Getting There & Parking

Justin and I were so busy all the way up until this trip. We were ready for a weekend getaway – looking forward to delicious food and a gorgeous view of the beach. I went to work with Justin on his half work day – Friday – and we left from there around noon to make the 6-hour drive stopping only once at the mall for me to get a haircut. When we finally arrived at the hotel, Justin pulled up beside the door and a valet helped us unload our car. Then we went to check in. As a heads up, valet parking at this hotel is $16/night and there is no self-park option unless you use city parking on the streets.

A few other options for getting there:
• Amtrak + taxi ride, which IHG shows will cost $40 from the Amtrak station.
• airport + taxi ride, which IHG shows will cost $30

The Lobby & Checking In

The Holiday Inn hotel lobby is pretty simple without much decor. You can expect tile floor and a million brochures along with the front desk staff who appear as nice and helpful but really don't do anything to go above and beyond their call of duty. When we checked in, even with the highest elite status available in the IHG program, we were still not offered bottled water, free breakfast, extra points, a snack, or even a room upgrade. *shrugs* Perhaps it's because we used reward points? Anyhow, at least they had our room available and ready for us…

Image from TripAdvisor

Room & View

Justin and I didn't have much time to get settled in since we arrived so late and had reservations at FIG. Nevertheless, we found our accommodations to be typical in size and extraordinarily bland in decor. We did not receive a room with a view (aside from the valet parking area), but our room did have a large tv, a desk, drawers, an extra chair beside the bed, and a small bathroom. Honestly, this hotel screamed "easy to clean" rather than comforting and being a "home away from home".

Hotel Property, Amenities, Free Breakfast, Etc…

Justin and I didn't get around to exploring much of the hotel, so I don't really have a whole lot to share in this section. :-/ The hotel was very basic without too many outdoor areas and even the inside felt a bit cold and unwelcoming (IMHO).

As listed on their site, this hotel offers:

• an outdoor pool
• a fitness center
• on-site laundry facilities
• same day dry cleaning
• free wi-fi

Breakfast here costs $12/person for the buffet, so Justin and I found we could go out to eat (Toast, anyone?) for a cheaper and more enjoyable experience. There was free coffee in the lobby though to get Justin through until we had completed the 10-minute walk to downtown Charleston to our chosen restaurant.

Location & Price

When I originally booked this hotel, I expected an easy walk to downtown Charleston (or at the very least – a trolley like the Hampton Inn Downtown Charleston has). Instead, after putting on high-heeled shoes and attempting to walk to dinner that first night, I discovered the walk was much further than I had anticipated and ended up having to purchase $12 flip flops in downtown Charleston just so that I could make the trip back. (Clearly, I wore the wrong shoes, so I recommend learning from my mistake rather than attempting it yourself!)

Even though the hotel was in walking distance to downtown, I recommend staying at the Hampton Inn or Courtyard Marriott on Meeting Street (for chain hotels) to be that much closer since the prices are about the same as the Holiday Inn. (Plus, having stayed at the Hampton Inn two years ago, I can tell you that I love that particular hotel!)

Overall I have to say that the price ≠ quality in this case. In my opinion, you would get more for your money by staying at the Charleston Riverview Holiday Inn hotel over this one even if you have to drive into the city and pay for parking. Plus, you get a view…

Photo credit: Ron Cogswell via VisualHunt / CC BY

Overall Review
★★★ (average)

One of my first stays at an IHG hotel in Panama City Beach was wonderful, but I'm slowly losing that "loving feeling" the more I stay at other IHGs around the east coast. They all seem to be pretty basic and scoring very high on the average end of hotels. I'm grateful to find them in so many cities and reasonably priced, but I often find myself wishing they would do something just a little extra to make our stays more worthwhile and enjoyable. By taking the initiative to provide a room with a view or making me aware of shuttle service could have taken my stay from "I'm never staying here again" to reconsideration. However, they did not do that. And because of this, in the future, I will most likely choose a different IHG, a privately owned B&B, or the Hampton Inn if I stay in the downtown Charleston area again.

Your Turn

Have you ever stayed in a hotel in downtown Charleston? What are your thoughts on the IHG branded hotels? Are my expectation too high? Do you agree that IHG hotels are boring and bland or have I just been visiting the wrong ones? Feel free to voice your opinion below!

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