We just returned from a trip to North Carolina and South Carolina. The main reason we went was to attend a friend’s wedding in Charlotte but since we are rarely in that area, we decided to turn the trip into a whirlwind weekend of visiting South of the Border, the cheesy tourist trap right off of Interstate 95, on Thursday, meeting up with friends in Raleigh for dinner on Friday night, and then attending the wedding on Saturday before flying back home on Sunday. When the trip was all said and done, I managed to put over 500 miles on our rental car over the three days.
When Sharon and I travel, we prefer to pick a base and then stay for several days. Unfortunately, that plan just wouldn’t work for this trip and we ended up staying in a different hotel each night. Our hotel stays were:
- Quality Inn – Dillon, SC
- Hyatt Place Raleigh West – Raleigh, NC
- Hampton Inn Charlotte-Belmont – Belmont, NC
817 Radford Boulevard
Dillon, SC 29536
AAA Rate – $84 ($94.08 after taxes)
We stayed at the Quality Inn in Dillon, SC for our first night. The main appeal of this hotel for us was that it was located 6.2 miles to the south of South of the Border, on I-95. TripAdvisor did rank this as the #1 Hotel in Dillon, SC, so how bad could it be? The stay here would also give me some activity on my Choice Privileges account, extending the life of my points I have there (you need to have account activity once every 18 months to keep your account active).
This hotel would be a typical hotel located just off the interstate that you can find anywhere across the USA. There were not many cars in the parking lot when we checked in around 5PM. The front desk clerk was very cheery and assigned us to room 119, which was located on the right side of the building. I did find it amusing that she was very impressed with the design of my Citi Prestige card (by using this card I earned 3x Thank You points for this stay). I’d imagine she doesn’t see many of those cards at this hotel. Anyway, as this was a typical roadside hotel, the entrances were all on the exterior by where you park your car.
Below are some pictures from the room. Note that the bed did not have bed runner but the blanket had a pre-printed stripe to make it look like it did. The bathroom shower was a pre-fab and had the strangest design that, unfortunately, did not show up on the picture very well. We were trying to decide if the design was meant to look like marble, if someone had written on it with a black sharpie and then tried to use a magic eraser to clean it up or if someone shook off his/her hair after applying black hair dye. The bathroom also had one of the worst design flaws I find in a hotel. The bathroom air vent was directed at the shower curtain so the wet curtain was blown towards you when taking a shower (ICK!). Why do they do this?
By far the strangest design of the room. The light switch on wall behind the oversized desk. This was the only way to turn on this light (there was no other light switch) and unless you were at least average heigh or taller, there was no way to easily turn the switch on and off.
All in all, this hotel was just fine to sleep in for the night. Given the price was almost as much as the other two hotels where we stayed, I’d say it was a bit overpriced. However, you have to consider that most people who stay here are probably just looking for somewhere to sleep for the night before hitting the road the next morning and it’s perfectly fine for that.
710 Corporate Center Drive
Raleigh, NC 27607
Category 1 Hyatt – Redeemed 5000 points for 1 night stay
The second night of our stay was in Raleigh. We were meeting friends for dinner downtown and wanted something close by. All of the hotels downtown were pretty expensive so I looked a bit out of town in the direction we’d be driving the next day and found the Hyatt Place that is rated #8 of hotels in Raleigh on TripAdvisor. Rooms were going for around $90 plus tax for the one night stay but there was availability to book a room for 5000 Hyatt points. Hyatt points are valued around 2 cents each so I decided to use points for this stay and save us some money.
This was our first time staying in a Hyatt Place property and quite honestly we were blown away by how nice this place was.
I am honestly amazed in how nice this hotel was and that it was only a category 1 Hyatt hotel. We didn’t get pictures of the breakfast but they had cage-free scrambled eggs with local brand sausages along with oatmeal, donuts and individual packages of cereal. To top things off, the staff went around and gave everyone a “last call” for breakfast, letting us know that they were going to start taking it away in 5 minutes. I heard someone ask about the coffee and they were told that the coffee would be left out for 30 minutes after the breakfast time was over. This is so different from many places that start to take the breakfast away 30 minutes before the posted time, or when the food platters are empty, whichever comes first.
I just can’t say enough good things about this hotel and it definitely will make me consider having us stay at other Hyatt Place properties in the future.
820 Cecelia Alexander Dr.
Belmont, NC 28012
AAA Rate – $116.10 ($130.90 after taxes)
On the third night of our trip, we needed to stay close to the location of the wedding we were attending that day. We picked the Hampton Inn primarily because it was the second closest hotel on the list that was provided by the bride and groom. I didn’t do much research otherwise, but I now see that it is rated the #1 hotel (out of 2) in Belmont on TripAdvisor. I checked into our hotel with the Hilton app and was shown our assigned room on the first floor. I didn’t bother to try to change it but maybe I should have given a little more thought into it. We were on the ground floor, just past the exercise room, facing the main parking lot. When I checked in, the agent didn’t even look to see if there was a better room available but just handed me the keys. Fortunately, there was not much noise from other guests or from cars since we were in the far end of the hotel.
As you can see from the photos, there were some things about the design of the room that made it less user friendly for those who are not at least 6 feet tall (which I am. Sharon, not so much). One thing I do like about Hampton Inn is that they usually have a curved shower curtain rod that keeps the curtain away from you when taking a shower (unlike the Quality Inn).
We also found that the temperature in this room ran much warmer than the other two hotels where we stayed. While we were able to keep the other two rooms at 72-70 degrees, we had to get up to turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees (and it still never got that cold). I’m wondering if this is one of the hotels that centrally control room temperatures.
On a minor note, as a Hilton Gold member (by way of my AMEX Platinum card) I was supposed to get bottled water and a snack on check in. I realize it’s not much but I’m all for getting what I’m supposed to. When checking in, I had to ask, “Aren’t I supposed to get some waters?” to which the front desk agent said, “Oh, here,” and grabbed two bottles from the fridge behind the desk. I never did get offered a snack. It’s saying something when I received a more pleasant welcome at the Quality Inn.
I’d say that of all 3 of the hotels where we stayed over the weekend, I was the least impressed with the Hampton Inn. I’ve stayed at other hotels with the same brand and had a slightly better experience. The hotel looked very nice but it just seemed as the staff wasn’t trying all that hard.
The Quality Inn stay was pretty much exactly what I was expecting. Most people, I’m sure, only stay for overnight while traveling on I-95 and the hotel is perfectly suitable for that purpose. However if your travel plans are a bit flexible, I’d possibly suggest staying in Florence to the south or in Lumberton or Fayetteville to the north on I-95. You’ll find a greater variety of hotels in any of those towns.
The biggest takeaway from this trip for us was how great the Hyatt Place was. We are still new to staying at Hyatt hotels but I can now see why so many travel bloggers rave about them so much. I’m now a convert and will be looking out for their hotels on future trips.
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