Holiday Inn Express – Hilton Head, SC

image from Holiday Inn Express

Destination: Hilton Head, SC
Date: May 2016
Hotel: Holiday Inn Express
Brand: IHG
Elite Status: spire
# of travelers: 2
nights: 1

Making the Decision

Super last minute I found out that I would have some extra vacation time, so I began planning my Memorial Day weekend adventure only a few days before leaving.

And even worse than only having a few days to plan (Have you seen my hotel planning checklist?!) is only having a small amount of money to spend during the trip.

The ultimate goal, however, was in visiting the beautiful Hunting Island State Park (which I'm so glad we did!) and seeing the cute little town of Beaufort (of which I expected very little and found so much! – yet to be blogged about).

Most of the Beaufort, SC hotels were booked solid, so I instead focused in on the areas of the Charleston airport (night 1) and Hilton Head (night 2) based ultimately on price. (We used IHG rewards to cover some of the cost of the room lowering the price to a reasonable amount for a holiday weekend.)

(Though I must admit a view of a lagoon and getting to see alligators and turtles lounging by said lagoon + being within walking distance of the beach didn't sound too bad!)

Getting There, Checking-In, Extra Charges, & Location

Justin and I spent the early part of our Saturday visiting Hunting Island State Park until we got rained out. We then drove over to Charleston for a beer and dinner before heading to our hotel at around 8pm that night. The drive between Charleston and Hilton Head is an hour, so it's not really a drive for the weary. Definitely consider eating more locally at Beaufort (30 minutes away) or Hilton Head (where there isn't too much to choose from) rather than making the drive to/from Charleston (even despite the amazing restaurants they have there!). Unlike me, you should use google maps and plan carefully! Plus, that hour long drive wherein you must travel slowly due to cops (because they will pull you over!) especially if you are driving in the rain at night when you are tired is not fun!

When we finally arrived to the hotel address, we drove around confused looking for the front desk. We circled and circled the main hotel. An accident had occurred and an ambulance had been called leading to even more confusion (not us!). Finally, I had my husband pull into the limited under-building parking that was available and we walked into the "lobby". Only, as it turns out, it wasn't the hotel "lobby" but merely the building-with-hotel-rooms lobby, if that makes any sense. The hotel front desk and main lobby was located in an entirely different building! I guess we should have known this would be the case when the doors to the not-lobby required a key card. *shrugs* But when you can't find the real lobby, what else can you do except try the not-real one first?

Personal pet peeve – I think they should put a sign on the door of the not-real lobby with a map and directions to the "real one". And even better, place well-lit signs (for those of us searching on a rainy night when it seems pitch black out) directing hotel customers to the front desk.

We ended up getting unhelpful directions from another hotel customer.

And then, just as Justin was about to give up altogether, I called the front desk. (They were pretty much unhelpful too, but it gave us at least a starting point.)

Finally, we found the front desk!

It was in a small one-story looking house with only a little bit of signage indicating we had arrived and absolutely no under-building or underground parking. To check in and get our room key, we would essentially have to become soaked by the miserable rain.

Side note: I had already soaked my only pair of flats that I had brought along with me on the trip. So essentially, to wear those flats, I would have cold and wet feet. Not unlike wearing the only other pair of shoes I had brought – my flip flops. 😦 In other words, it greatly annoyed me to discover I would have to go running across the parking lot in soaked shoes getting more wet by the minute after struggling to find this building to begin with! Any other not rainy day or night, I might have been less agitated.

(This was during the weekend of Hurricane Bonnie's arrival to the east coast.)

Front desk staff seemed less than understanding about our struggle to find them. Not only did they check us in, but they also charged us extra for their resort property, which I hadn't remembered reading about prior to my stay.

That was neither here nor there though when we went back to the "room building" to locate our room and park the car.

Parking, View

Justin parked the car temporarily under the building in one of the two lots of 10+ spots and we unloaded onto a hotel cart. Then, I impatiently waited in the secondary lobby as he attempted to park listening to an "entitled" couple who had been in the accident (where the ambulance had been called, as mentioned earlier) and were considering going to the hospital "just in case". The poor man just looked at his wife like "WTF? I don't want to spend my vacation in a hospital room", but he solemnly agreed like the good husband that he was.

Meanwhile, my husband was driving around and around in circles. Turns out there was no parking next to the building! Or rather, the only parking that there was had been taken up by ginormous dumpsters!

Justin caught sight of a hotel employee while circling the building and asked where to park given that there was no parking. The guy informed him that he could park in front of the dumpsters despite the "no parking sign"; he promised it would be ok. :)

So Justin parked. And as he walked back to the building he spotted a legitimate parking spot. So, he moved the car.


Needless to say, by the time we got to our room, we were soaked and tired … and just done with life. We placed our wet shoes on the AC unit and our clothing nearby with the hopes that they would dry. This was definitely not how we had intended on spending our holiday weekend.

One nice aspect was that when we opened the sliding glass door to the veranda we were given, we could hear the rain pitter patter as it fell. The hotel itself was dark and we couldn't see too much, but we just knew that our room faced the lagoon and that was enough for me. :)

image from Holiday Inn Express


The room itself was large and spacious. We were able to spread out quite easily and comfortably. The hotel had recently done upgrades and it was quite obvious. We had access to a work desk, fridge, microwave, iron + board and hair dryer in our room. The hotel also provided soaps and shampoos ready for our use. Other amenities the hotel provides include a (seasonally) heated pool, grills, self-serve laundry, a business center, a shuttle to and from breakfast and to and from the beach, and, as per usual at Holiday Inns, free continental breakfast.

Breakfast + Shuttle

Even with the loud air conditioning unit, Justin and I slept well that night and awoke early for breakfast. We were the first ones on the shuttle for an early breakfast starting at around 7am. We had the typical continental options available to us – cereal, oatmeal, toast, bagels, and muffins, yogurt, bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, apples, bananas, and oranges, apple/orange juice, coffee, and milk. (I recommend avoiding the water unless you are used to "beach-water" that you find on the east coast.)

Our shuttle driver was quick and efficient talking to us and making us feel welcome. Clearly he was happy to be providing this service for us and more than willing to answer any questions we had about the property or the area. We learned during our drive that our particular shuttle driver was from the Beaufort area, and he gave us a few tips for implementing during our next trip to Beaufort. :)

Check Out

Justin and I fully intended on spending a bit of time in Hilton Head, or at the very least Hunting Island State Park, before heading to Asheville for the remainder of our four day weekend. With a dry morning forecast, we began our day with a visit to the local Catholic church, which is approximately a five minute drive from the hotel. The church itself was quite small and the service was nice and relaxing because of it.

Then we headed back to our room to wait out the rain that had just begun. I pulled out my laptop to get work done and we opened our sliding glass door so that we could listen.

I'm not going to lie. It was absolutely amazing. I was the most relaxed I have ever been on vacation.

And just as I was about to put away my laptop for a morning nap, the fire alarm came on.

And it didn't stop.

Not for another 5 minutes.

Long enough to convince Justin and I it was time to go. (There was no fire.)

We checked out, complained about the alarm, and … nothing. No "I'm sorry", no refund of any sort, nothing. It was the most frustrating way to end our hotel stay in Hilton Head.

Overall Review
★★★ (average)

I'm giving this hotel three stars, because my experience wasn't altogether terrible. It had a lot of "terrible moments", but I thought the view my room was nice, the bed was comfortable, and I loved being able to listen to the rain in my room. I felt that the bigger problems we faced like getting soaked and the fire alarm going off were circumstantial and not necessarily something that would happen to future visitors of the hotel. (However, be aware that TripAdvisor comments indicate that I may be mistaken.)

Your Turn

Have you ever stayed at a hotel where essentially everything that could go wrong did? And it wasn't necessarily the hotel's fault? … Or maybe it was? What would you do (or did you do) when faced with those types of circumstances? Did you leave early? Stick it out for the remainder of your vacation?

P.S. It is worth noting that this hotel is no longer pet friendly. If you have a pet, consider staying at another hotel in the area. Tripadvisor has not taken the information down regarding its "pet-friendliness" as of the writing of this post.

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