My wife and I only recently started staying at IHG properties. We used to always travel as cheaply as possible and stay at bargain basement motels. But we recently agreed we had reached a point in
life where we could be comfortable spending a little more for comfort on our vacations. This particular Holiday Inn was actually quite affordable compared to the competition at the time of our visit, though still not the cheapest. So how did we feel? Was our extra money well spent?
Absolutely. The service was above and beyond. We spent a substantial amount of time enjoying the pool area (which has a nice hot tub barely advertised on the web site, so it was a pleasant surprise to us). The Internet connectivity was reliable. The amenities were nice. We even received a complimentary upgrade due to it being a slow weekend (at least when we arrived).
The breakfast was also outstanding. First of all, I love that the restaurant opens nice and early at 6 AM, because we had plans that required us to be up and out by 7. Second, the food quality was great and the portions were generous. You can probably save a little bit of money eating elsewhere or bringing your own food (the room we were upgraded to had a pretty substantial kitchenette, so cooking can be an option if you make sure to book the right room). But honestly, for the level of convenience and enjoyment of the food, it was well worth it, especially with the discounted breakfast coupons they offer with certain room rates. My wife can be quite picky with American-style breakfasts, but her omelette was so full of delicious fresh vegetables, she ordered it 2 days in a row.
The location was quite convenient as well. I was a bit nervous booking it because I had read some mixed opinions on staying in this part of Santa Maria, but I can honestly now say those were blown way out of proportion. The area felt perfectly safe, and this hotel in particular was literally right next to the entrances and exits of 101 North and South, so you literally leave the property and are pretty much immediately on the highway if you need to leave town. There's also a really big supermarket within walking distance in case you need to stock up on food or drinks.
My only gripe would be that they were quite slow restocking the towels in the pool area. They were empty our second night, and since no sandals of any kind were provided, we ended up having to manually rinse ourselves and walk barefoot through the parking lot and into the elevator to get to our room on the third floor in order to shower and dry off. I hate having to do that because it makes the floor dirty. We notified the hotel staff a couple of times, but they were slammed at the time with a large bus full of people checking in. As a result, the towels were not replenished until late the next morning. I didn't deduct very much from my scores because in all fairness, they were really busy in the moment. But even so, the response could have been a little bit better. If you're planning on using the pool, I recommend either bringing your own towel or a towel from your room, just in case they happen to run out. This is probably common sense anyway, but it's easy to forget when you have other stuff on your mind.
All in all, this hotel was definitely a noticeable step up from the places we've stayed at in the past, and well worth the extra money to improve our vacation. We actually pretty much only used it as a launching point for various activities in Santa Barbara, Pismo, etc. There didn't seem to be all that much to do right in Santa Maria itself, but it was centrally located for all the things we wanted to do. [Less]