Hotel Smackdown: Holiday Inn Express vs Country Inn & Suites

I enjoy travelling, but over the past two weeks we’ve done more driving than I care to do in such a short time having driven somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000mi in that time. Over the first week of that, we stayed in four different hotels, three of which I’m going to compare here.

Holiday Inn Express, Cambridge, OH

We stopped here for a single night on the way to our destination in Mansfield, OH, and in my opinion it was easily the best of the three hotels in this review. First, a few pictures of the room:

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Good, clean room, complete with a fridge, microwave, and DirecTV, which is a nice change of pace from the standard hotel cable setups that have no interactive on-screen guide.  Another big thing with this room (can’t say the same for the Country Inn rooms), there were plenty of outlets, including at least two on each nightstand. Lack of outlets in hotel rooms is why i carry two Belkin SurgePlus units with me, but neither were necessary in this room. For the type of hotel, the rooms have been done really well also, especially the beds. While none of the mattresses in the hotels I’m reviewing were bad, the pillows are what set the Holiday Inn Express apart from the other two, as it’s something few hotels get right in my experience. They included four pillows on the bed, as shown, with two being firm and two being soft. Nice labeling, too:


I had one of each, and was pretty happy with both. None appeared to be true down pillows either, something I’m allergic to that could have caused me to wake up with a nasty headache (I carry Flonase with me when travelling just in case). The other thing that set this hotel apart from the other two is the breakfast. Holiday Inn Express has really stepped up their game in this area, apparently. The usual choices were there, eggs, bacon, breads, etc, but the cinnamon rolls stood out. Wow those things were delicious. Additionally, the brand has what I can only describe as a 3D pancake printer:


The sign did not lie, 60 seconds after pressing the button it spit out two perfectly cooked pancakes on the right side of the unit. Wowza. Love it! No messing with batter or hoping that your waffle isn’t going to stick to the cooking plates, just magical pancakes that show up as if from nowhere.

The front desk staff was super friendly as well, even upon arrival sometime after 10pm. My only real complaint on the hotel would be the difficulty in finding it, which might not have been an issue during the day when we weren’t as tired. Both our GPS and our phones kept telling us where to go, but neither could really pinpoint the location, and the sign seemed a bit hidden to us, so my wife called the hotel and got clarification of where to turn. No biggie, though. Overall, a great hotel and a chain I wouldn’t hesitate to stay at again!

Country Inn & Suites, Mansfield, OH

We stayed here for four nights while visiting family. I recommended this while we were looking at hotels based on past experience with the chain, specifically multiple stays at the one in Bloomington, IL while on business in the past. I always liked that location, but was let down by the one in Mansfield. Again, let’s start with room pictures:

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The hotel itself looked pretty similar to what I remember the one in IL looking like, although the room appeared slightly outdated. It was clean, however, and the mattress was fine, but I couldn’t stand the small square pillows. They seem to be popular these days, with the Hilton we stayed at a few days later in Arlington, VA having the same type. My other main disappointment was breakfast. I recall the one in IL having a decent sized layout, a good selection of warm items every day, and never having an issue with keeping things stocked. That was not the case here. The breakfast area was small, with few warm choices. They did have the standard do it yourself waffle maker, and a few cereal choices, but they only had three warm selections each day, and of the stuff I had (eggs and bacon one morning, that was it), they really weren’t that good. The bread station was an issue too, as it wasn’t stocked very well, to the point that on our last morning, there was only a single donut left (I never saw more than 3 in there any morning), two plain bagels, a few slices of wheat bread, and nothing else.

As I said, it was clean, and all of the staff members we encountered were very friendly, but I think next time we’ll check out the Holiday Inn Express in town.

Country Inn & Suites, Frederick, MD

After leaving Mansfield, we stopped here for one night on the way up to DC. We’d booked this at the same time as the one in Mansfield, again mostly based on how I remembered the one in Bloomington. This location was slightly better, and it looks like it’s undergone a small renovation the Mansfield location hasn’t seen yet. The room:

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That last picture shows the welcome sign at the front desk for Club Carlson members, with my name second on the list. Not something that I look for or need in a hotel, but a nice touch. Again, a very friendly staff, so that piece was a wash for all three hotels. Also notice on the bed is a small plastic bag of goodies we were given on check-in with a couple bottles of water and bags of snack pretzels as another welcome for Club Carlson members. Again, nice touch.

The room was clean and comfortable, but they still have the square pillows that I don’t like. Other than that, no complaints on the room.

The breakfast area was bigger than the one in Mansfield, so I had my hopes up, but once I got down there in the morning, disappointment set in again. The same meager selection of warm items, plus a waffle maker, so I had myself another waffle. The bread selection was a little better than the previous location, at least. This was a better stay than the previous one, but still left me a bit disappointed vs the one I used to stay at in Bloomington.

Overall, you can probably guess where I’m going with this: The Holiday Inn Express was easily my favorite, and a chain I’ll look to in the future when traveling. You can’t go wrong with either brand in my opinion, but the pillows, breakfast buffet, and magical pancake dispenser easily push Holiday Inn Express over the top in my eyes.

Author: Wanderlist Vacations

We're just an average family that loves to travel. I'd trade my desk for a balcony any day of the week!

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