Holiday Inn vs. Holiday Inn Express: Which is Right for Your Trip?

Which is best depends on your needs. It all comes down to if you're traveling with family or for business.
Dec 14, 2021

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With 16 different brands, IHG Rewards members have many hotel experiences to choose from. Two of the most well-known brands are the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express. While these two brands have very similar sounding names, there is indeed a difference between them.

Here are some of the major similarities and differences between the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, so you can make an informed decision about which hotel is best for you when booking your next trip.

The major differences

The major difference between a Holiday Inn and a Holiday Inn Express is simply that one is full service, while the other is more limited. Holiday Inn is geared towards families looking for a comfortable spot to relax together, while Holiday Inn Express is aimed more toward the short-stay business traveler.

Here's a summary of general differences you're likely to encounter:

  • Level of service. The Holiday Inn — as a generally full-service hotel — offers guests on-site restaurants and bars, room service and bell staff, and conference rooms and catering services. The Holiday Inn Express, on the other hand, is less likely to offer these services.

  • Availability. IHG offers about 3,000 Holiday Inn Express locations, nearly 3x the availability of Holiday Inn locations, which sits right around 1,100.

  • Amenities. The Holiday Inn Express brand doesn’t have leisure facilities as a brand standard. You’re typically more likely to find swimming pools, spas and fitness centers at Holiday Inns.

  • Breakfast. Guests can expect a complimentary buffet-style breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express, whereas Holiday Inn guests might order room service or dine in the on-site restaurant.

Best for availability and locations: Holiday Inn Express

Holiday Inn Express

Almost half of IHG's 6,000-plus destinations are Holiday Inn Express hotels. Travelers can choose from more than 2,900 Holiday Inn Express locations around the world.

You can find Holiday Inn Express on six different continents, including popular travel destinations such as Japan, Australia, Thailand, France, Italy, Spain and all across the U.S.

New Holiday Inn Express locations are being added on a regular basis. For example, Holiday Inn Express recently added numerous new locations in China, including Holiday Inn Express Baoding Downtown, Holiday Inn Express Zhuhai City Center and Holiday Inn Express Linzhi Airport.

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn features more than 1,100 locations across the globe. While it has a much smaller footprint compared to Holiday Inn Express, it still has a presence in most major countries that travelers want to visit.

Locations include Hong Kong, Fiji, Aruba, Germany, Switzerland and across the U.S.

IHG continues to expand the footprint of Holiday Inn by adding new hotels. Recent additions in China include Holiday Inn & Suites Wuhan New City and Holiday Inn Jiuzhai Jarpo. In India, you can now find Holiday Inn Tirupati Tirumala.

Best hotel for family travel: Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn locations are the best choice for family travel because kids eat free. Aside from flights and hotels, meals can be one of the biggest expenses while traveling. Being able to have your kids eat free helps families stretch their vacation budget a little further.

Holiday Inn properties also offer restaurants and bars on-site, so you don't have to leave the hotel to enjoy a family meal.

Best hotel for business travel: Holiday Inn Express

Our pick for business travelers is Holiday Inn Express. With thousands of locations, you're sure to find one of its hotels nearby wherever your business takes you. Holiday Inn Express locations are "designed for the smart traveler" and offer a clean, consistent and comfortable stay.

While breakfast offerings vary by location, stays at Holiday Inn Express include a free breakfast each morning to get you ready for work.

Benefits of staying as an IHG Rewards Club member

When booking a room at Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express, you’ll get more benefits and perks as a member of IHG Rewards. You can redeem points for your stay with no blackout dates at any IHG hotel. If you don't have enough points or want to save some for later, you can even book a Points & Cash booking. Those with an IHG co-branded credit card can stretch their points even further by receiving their fourth night free when making an award reservation.

Earning points for your paid stays is also very lucrative. You'll earn 10x points for being a member and up to a 100% bonus based on your elite status. IHG credit card holders can earn up to 25x points, making your stay at a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express more lucrative. Occasional IHG promotions can yield even more points.

Credit cards that earn IHG points

IHG currently offers two co-branded credit cards through Chase: the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card, allowing you to get more from your stays at Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
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The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card card includes a variety of attractive benefits that make a difference when staying at a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express.

For instance, you'll enjoy such perks as:

  • Up to 25x points per dollar at IHG Hotels and Resorts.

  • One free night each year (up to 40,000 points).

  • Automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.

  • Fourth night is free when redeeming points.

Earn 125,000 bonus points + a Free Night after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There is an $89 annual fee.

IHG&® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card
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For IHG fans that want to earn points without paying an annual fee, the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card is the ideal choice. While its benefits aren't as lucrative as the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, it still offers some attractive features:

  • $0 annual fee.

  • Up to 15x total points per dollar at IHG Hotels and Resorts.

  • Fourth night free when redeeming points.

  • Automatic IHG Gold Elite status after spending $10,000 each year.

  • Travel and purchase protections.

Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, an extra 10,000 bonus points if you spend $20,000 and make one additional purchase each account anniversary year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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Although the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is not an IHG credit card, the points it earns can be transferred to IHG Rewards on a 1:1 basis.

You'll earn 2x points per dollar spent on all travel purchases when booking directly or 5x when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Your points are very flexible and can be used to pay yourself back or book travel for an extra 25% value.

Plus, you'll receive a 10% bonus every year based on the amount that you spend. And don’t forget about the welcome bonus. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The card does come with a $95 annual fee.

If you’re choosing between Holiday Inn vs. Holiday Inn Express

If you're wondering what's the difference between Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, and which one you should choose, it comes down to your preference. Do you want a full-service hotel stay or a more limited-service hotel experience?

Holiday Inn hotels offer more services, like an on-site restaurant and bar, while Holiday Inn Express locations are designed for the business traveler who just needs a fresh, clean place to sleep. While kids eat free at Holiday Inn restaurants, parents must pay for their own meals.

By comparison, Holiday Inn Express locations provide free breakfast to all guests, but the selection is limited.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

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