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Holiday Inn vs. Holiday Inn Express: Why you don't need to pick only one.

Updated: Jan 14, 2024. Tim Das.
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Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express belong to the same company — InterContinental Hotels Group, or IHG. They are pretty similar sounding (you already knew that). In fact, IHG puts both brands in the same category (In case you are curious, here’s a list of various IHG brands and their classification). However, that’s where the similarity ends.

Holiday Inn (HI) and Holiday Inn Express (HIE) are two very distinct brands, and each of them plays a significant role in the IHG’s brand portfolio.

The same goes for us, customers. Each brand can play an important role in our travel plans. Before we dig deeper into that, let’s first understand the differences between both brands.

Holiday Inn vs. Holiday Inn Express

Holiday Inn, is a full-service upscale hotel brand, providing a comfortable stay for both business and leisure travelers. It’s no InterContinental. It’s not even a Hotel Indigo. But it’s a no budget brand either.

On the other hand, Holiday Inn Express, is a mid-priced hotel chain designed for the budget-conscious traveler seeking convenience and value.

Services: HI vs. HIE

The key difference between Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express lies in the service offerings.

Holiday Inn provides a lot more services suitable for various travel needs. These include full-service restaurants serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner; 24 hours room service; meeting and conference facilities; fitness centers; swimming pools; onsite bars; executive lounges; bell service; concierge desk; and often kids stay and eat free deals.

In contrast, Holiday Inn Express offers limited services focusing on essential needs with an emphasis on simplicity and efficiency. They provide a complimentary breakfast known as ‘Express Start Breakfast’, free high-speed Internet access, coffee/tea facilities in rooms but do not usually have an on-site restaurant or room service. I have seen pools at Holiday Inn Express hotels, but that’s more of an exception than a norm.

The idea is to maintain lower operating expenses while offering competitive rates to guests. They are also minimally staffed. In fact, at some HIE properties, you may not even find housekeeping staff post 7 pm.

Holiday Inn Express Lobby Phuket Holiday Inn Express, Phuket: Lobby

Rooms and Experience: HI vs. HIE

Holiday Inns are typically larger than their express counterparts with more spacious rooms that typically include luxurious amenities such as premium bedding options, mini-refrigerators, microwaves, work desks with lamps etc., creating a comfortable environment for longer stays.

On the other hand, accommodation at a Holiday Inn Express is designed for short-term stays, with guest rooms that are comfortable but more compact. The focus is on providing a clean, consistent, and convenient stay with essential amenities.

You will also find more room types at Holiday Inn hotels. e.g., Premium rooms, suites, villas, pool-access rooms etc. Holiday Inn Express are typically basic rooms only.

Unfortunately, consistency is a big issue with HIE. I have first-hand experience of how inconsistent the Holiday Inn Express experience can be. I have been to a HIE where I had to check out in one day. It was so bad. Then I have stayed at several HIE hotels where I have extended my stay by weeks.

It’s not that complicated to figure out, though. Reading reviews in advance can help. Moreover, the newer ones are generally good. Never had any issue with newer Holiday Inn Express hotels.

Holiday Inn Silom Bangkok Suite Suite at Holiday Inn Silom, Bangkok.

Price Point: HI vs. HIE

No surprises here. Given their full-service offerings and often prime locations, Holiday Inns usually command a higher price point compared to Holiday Inn Express. The latter’s limited service model allows them to offer competitive rates appealing to budget-conscious travelers.

Which is better — Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express?

From my perspective, it isn’t a fair comparison. When considering the hotel experience and amenities, Holiday Inn surpasses Holiday Inn Express. However, it’s also significantly pricier.

In fact, for a well-planned trip, you don’t have to pick one of them. There are several reasons why both Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express should be a part of your itinerary.

Reason 1: Optimize your travel budget.

On certain days, it’s common during a trip to not stay at a hotel for a full day. This could be due to having a late-night flight or only visiting a city for a couple of days while spending most of your time out of the hotel, exploring. You might also need to check into a hotel near the airport a day early because of transport issues.

In these cases, choosing Holiday Inn Express is an ideal solution. You are not going to use any of the hotel’s extra services. Then why pay for them.

By alternating between stays at Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express hotels, you can effectively manage your travel budget without sacrificing comfort or quality.

Reason 2: IHG One Rewards Status.

We discussed the similarities between Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express hotels earlier. We skipped one important one.

Both Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express offer the opportunity to earn IHG reward points and elite nights credit. Helping you save on your stay and qualify for higher elite status levels with IHG.

Another significant benefit is that you are more likely to find elite qualifying Bonus Points Packages (often referred to as BPP) when booking Holiday Inn Express hotels. This is an efficient way of attaining an elite status with IHG. You can learn more about how powerful IHG’s Bonus Points Packages are here.

Reason 3: Longer Holidays.

While some travelers are restricted by time constraints when planning their holidays, others may have no such limitations but are bound by their budgets. Here’s where choosing to stay at Holiday Inn Express hotels can prove beneficial.

For explorers who prioritize discovering new countries or cities over luxurious accommodations, the affordability of Holiday Inn Express is advantageous. Typically, offering savings between 30% — 50% compared to full-service Holiday Inns, these hotels can help extend the duration of your vacation.

Conclusion

In essence, the choice between Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express boils down to what you value most in your hotel stay – whether it’s full-service offerings and more luxurious amenities or affordability with essential convenience. Both brands let you earn reward points, and elite night credits, to help you qualify for a higher status faster.

We recommend using a mix of both to optimize your travel budget.

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