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Boutique Hotels on a Budget

When it comes to hotels, the term “budget” often evokes visions of bland bedspreads, insipid artwork, rabbit-ear TV’s and a color palette of boring beige. Traditionally, travelers looking for luxurious digs or distinctive design have had to shell out big bucks at boutique hotels like W or Kimpton, while those watching their wallets settled for cookie-cutter budget chains. But over the past couple of years, this has started to change.

A number of new hotel chains are seeking to make boutique style accessible to travelers on a budget. Sometimes called “lifestyle hotels,” these unique properties feature cutting-edge design, high-tech amenities (like flat-screen TV’s and connectivity hubs for electronic gadgets) and lively public spaces intended to encourage mingling among guests — all at a modest price point.

To help keep rates low, most of these hotels feature some element of self-service; many have 24-hour self-service cafes, and some even let you check yourself in when you arrive. You’ll also find the bulk of these properties in suburbs, airport locations or smaller cities rather than in major downtown areas.

Many of these hotels target young business travelers, but they’re also a great option for leisure travelers looking for a stylish getaway — especially on weekends, when road warriors head home and rates go down. So if you’re sick of boring budget properties or you can no longer afford to pony up for a traditional boutique hotel, check out the following chains before you book your next trip.

Hotel Indigo

Atmosphere: A division of the InterContinental Hotels Group, Hotel Indigo welcomes travelers with bold colors and stylish accents, and keeps things fresh by updating its decor every few months. Guestrooms boast hardwood floors, luxurious beds with oversized pillows, and spa-inspired bathrooms. All rooms have free Internet access. Public areas include a restaurant, bar, business center and fitness center. Green travelers, take note: The chain has implemented a number of environmental initiatives such as water reduction, composting and the use of eco-friendly cleaning products.

Locations: Hotel Indigo currently has 28 properties in the U.S. (including Atlanta, Chicago and Boston) as well as several international properties in Ottawa, Shanghai, London and more.

Rates: We found rates as low as $81 a night for an upcoming weekend stay.


Atmosphere: aloft bills itself as “a vision of W Hotels,” and is part of the larger Starwood family. With nine-foot ceilings, exposed beams and oversized windows, guestrooms capture the trendy vibe of an urban loft. Business travelers and gadget geeks will love the “plug & play,” a docking station where guests can hook their laptops, cell phones, PDA’s or mp3 players up to a flat-panel HD television. The chain encourages mingling in its many public areas, including the “w xyz” bar and the “splash” pool. Guests can grab a snack 24 hours a day at “re:fuel by aloft,” a self-serve food and beverage area.

Locations: There are currently more than 40 aloft properties in places like Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Beijing. Dozens more are in the pipeline, including quite a few in Asia.

Rates: We found rates as low as $69 a night for an upcoming weekend stay.

Hyatt Place

Atmosphere: Hyatt Place brings high-tech amenities — like 42-inch flat-panel TV’s, free Wi-Fi and state-of-the-art workspaces — to a mid-budget crowd. In addition to Hyatt Grand Beds, guestrooms also feature sleeper sofas and bathrooms with granite countertops. Food and beverages are available in the Guest Kitchen, where guests can order off a touch-screen menu; items are charged to the guest’s room in an easy, cash-free system.

Locations: Hyatt Place has more than 150 locations throughout the United States, with a few more on the way.

Rates: We found rates as low as $53 a night for an upcoming weekend stay.


Atmosphere: The only brand on our list that isn’t affiliated with a larger hotel conglomerate, NYLO is an independent chain founded on an ultra-modern urban sensibility. Accommodations are known as “guest lofts” and include exposed brick walls, high ceilings and huge windows that let in plenty of natural light. Allergy or asthma sufferers can book a PURE Loft, which features air filtration systems and hypoallergenic bedding. Bold colors and striking contemporary design dominate public spaces, which include a restaurant, bar, library and courtyard.

Locations: This brand-new chain currently only has three properties open for business in Plano, TX; Providence/Warwick, RI; and Dallas/Las Colinas, TX. However, the chain has ambitious expansion plans for the next few years.

Rates: We found rates as low as $70 a night for an upcoming weekend stay.


Atmosphere: Another Starwood brand, Element seeks to provide a healthy, harmonious getaway for both the traveler and the planet. Fresh gourmet options such as salads, yogurt and artisanal cheeses are on the menu in the “restore” pantry. Guestrooms, designed for both short getaways and extended stays, feature Westin Heavenly Beds, ergonomically designed workspaces and kitchens with energy-efficient appliances.

Element is committed to going green, incorporating recycled materials into its design wherever possible and providing recycling bins in all guestrooms.

Locations: So far Element has seven properties in places like Las Vegas, Houston, and Lexington, MA. Future locations include New York City, Atlanta and several others.

Rates: We found a rate of $89 a night for an upcoming weekend stay.

Cambria Suites

Atmosphere: Part of the Choice Hotels family, this all-suites chain offers amenities for business travelers — such as free Wi-Fi and two-line speakerphones — amid spacious, stylish accommodations. Luxuries include flat-screen plasma TV’s, upscale bath products, stereos and CD players. The barista bar in the lobby serves coffees by Wolfgang Puck, while a 24-hour convenience store offers a wide selection of food and beverages, including gourmet sandwiches and organic snacks.

Locations: There are about 25 Cambria properties across the U.S. in small cities such as Savannah, Green Bay and Indianapolis. On tap: Pittsburgh, PA; Roanoke, VA; and more.

Rates: We found rates as low as $79 a night for an upcoming weekend stay.

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