Reserving our stay at Hill Country Resort kept us moving forward with our Texas road trip plans. Brian and I almost threw in the towel until we secured this 6-night stay. We completely neglected to take spring break season into account, which nearly derailed our energy AND budget for this adventure.
Though we entertained staying a night or two in different cities, we found that it was much more economical to stay in one location for most (if not all!) of the trip. Brian and I discussed traveling through Texas months ago. Hopping around was affordable then, but when we checked to solidify our routes…we found the rates more than doubled in some areas!
Using a mixture of our rewards programs and vacation ownership, we settled on the most affordable and central location available to us: Holiday Inn Club Vacation’s Hill Country Resort at Canyon Lake. This resort is one hour from San Antonio AND Austin. There were also many other small towns of interest within a 30-45 minute drive of Canyon Lake. Despite a few red flags, Brian and I booked our reservation and crossed our fingers for a decent enough stay.
Hill Country Resort
Hill Country Resort was acquired by Holiday Inn Club Vacations (HICV) in 2015. With 28 resorts throughout the United States, HICV provides great options for a “home away from home” while on the road. Units range from studios with kitchenettes to four bedroom villas with full kitchens.
Through research, we found that many of the units located at Hill Country Resort have largely been unkempt. Since HICV’s acquisition, there have been plans to complete an overhaul and full renovation. Unfortunately, many factors have plagued these intentions…including the overall scale of the project and storm damages.
The first and most obvious sign of concern appeared as I logged onto our HICV membership portal. The front page greeted me (and still greets me) with this notice:
Hill Country Resort at Canyon Lake Advisory
The Texas winter storm caused significant damages to certain building exteriors and guest villas at our Hill Country Resort at Canyon Lake. As a result, availability has been reduced and owners visiting this resort may experience construction and restoration work taking place on-property during their stay. Please be advised that these changes will be in effect over the next several months.Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Not only does this message appear at the initial log-in, it also displays when navigating to Hill Country Resort’s direct webpage. There is no way someone could miss it!
We have stayed on properties with on-going construction in the past; they weren’t our favorite experiences, but they were affordable places to lay our heads! Construction did not dissuade us from looking further into the property.
Next, Brian and I scoured online forums, reviews, and media to further explore the conditions of the property. It turns out the newest buildings built in 2013-2015 are also the cleanest. Many of the units in other buildings are reportedly filthy and/or outdated with broken fixtures and appliances. This was a major concern of ours. Some of the pictures we found were highly indicative that maintenance and housekeeping were clearly not priorities. We came across one review that indicated a prospective guest should “specifically request a unit in the ambassador building across the highway”. The Ambassador buildings received more positive reviews, as they were the last built and showcased the least wear-and-tear.
This is where things get tricky…
Brian and I decided to book a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom Ambassador Unit. It looks like the online cataloging was not streamlined upon HICV acquisition. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) owns HICV. However, there are inconsistent labels of each unit layout between the two websites.
IHG’s website refers to Hill Country Resort’s 2-bedroom units as:
HICV’s accommodation webpage refers to 2-bedroom units as:
When booking through HICV’s reservation webpage, however, the only options to reserve a 2-bedroom unit display as:
- Lock-Off Presidential
- Presidential Penthouse
Keep in mind – we were looking to reserve a 2-Bedroom Ambassador.
Booking this reservation through HICV was so confusing!! For example, why list the “2-Bedroom” as an option to reserve when the accommodations page has it listed as a cabin, lodge, or townhome? Which accommodation would you actually be booking? It didn’t make any sense.
I called the HICV reservation line twice and was told that the displayed options are the only ones available. The representatives claimed that the “2-Bedroom” listed was the Lodge, but had no explanation as to why it wasn’t displayed as the Lodge.
I was informed that a 2-Bedroom Ambassador was not an option. Therefore, I took a chance and booked the 2-Bedroom Presidential. Luckily, after phoning in a 3rd time, I spoke with a different representative who had access to layouts of all of the available units. She was able to confirm that the Ambassador was available, though she could not explain why it was not showing under the reservation options. She was able to re-book my 2-Bedroom Presidential Unit as the 2-Bedroom Ambassador! Success! We finally secured our base camp.
Base Camp Commentary
After a fun and eventful day in Houston, we took an easy 3.5 hour drive out to Canyon Lake. We were eager to see what kind of conditions awaited us. Luckily, everything was as expected (…though we did not have high expectations based on research).
Our check-in experience was fine. I have nothing to note out of the ordinary except that one must be prepared to say NO multiple times – that is, unless interested in a high pressure sales pitch. HICV is a timeshare program. Not interested in checking out an almost always deceptively marketed 1-hour timeshare presentation? Just say no and stick to your guns.
Ambassador Building No. 5
The Ambassador buildings are located across a public highway, separate from the resort’s main office, on-site restaurant, and most of the amenities. We weren’t bothered by this distance since we weren’t planning to stay on property much.
The 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom unit we entered offered everything we needed for our stay:
- A fully-equipped kitchen
- A spacious 1,000 sq. ft.
- Decent layout to accommodate work stations
- Comfortable king-size beds
- Washing machine and dryer
Brian and I thought the unit was great for our stay. While some things rang true per the reviews (such as lack of cleanliness throughout), we were happy enough overall. Unfortunately, there was dust build-up in hard-to-reach areas, the toilets needed a good scrubbing, and we had to handwash all dishes before use. Aside from these housekeeping issues, we had no other problems. We’re happy to report that we did not hear nor experience any construction.
All HICV properties we have visited provide a resort map and weekly activities guide. These properties tend to be family-oriented and offer different activities for all kinds of ages. Though we did not participate in any of the activities during our stay at Hill Country Resort, you can check out their guide below:
The only amenity we enjoyed was the hot tub located at one of the five outdoor pools. Other amenities on property include:
- On-site restaurant & bar
- On-site marketplace/convenience store
- Picnic tables & grills
- Movie Theater
- 18-hole mini golf course
- Basketball, tennis, and shuffleboard courts
- Sand volleyball and horseshoes
- Fitness Center
Would we stay at Hill Country Resort again?
Yes. Based on affordability and location, Brian and I would visit the resort again if we were to plan another extended trip in Central Texas. The location is excellent for day trips around the area. We would love to see progress with renovations, as well as improvements in maintenance and housekeeping. In its current state, I cannot see us reserving a stay for anything less than 5 nights.
The HICV reservation fee costs $64. As vacation owners, we paid for our stay through Club Points. Booking this reservation through the IHG website as a non-owner or rewards member would have cost approximately $1,500.
To further breakdown the real dollar value of our stay, we would calculate a cost per Club Point based on our annual vacation ownership fees. For transparency, the real dollar value of our stay includes the $64 reservation fee and $390 for the 6-night stay ($454 total).
Stay tuned as we take off on our first day trip from our Hill Country base camp!