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Jeff Herr

With basketball courts, BBQ grills, and other amenities, extended-stay hotels are trying to be less like hotels.

Traditionally, an extended-stay hotel was little more than a motel with big rooms, tiny kitchens, and discounts for guests staying awhile. Realizing just how lucrative the business-travel market is, major hotel corporations are jumping in.

Hyatt, for example, bought Summerfield Suites last year and is renovating the 20 existing properties and building 10 more; rooms are being outfitted with 32-inch high-definition TVs and down pillows and comforters. Next year, Starwood will open the first of its 600 planned Element Hotels as extended-stay counterparts to its Westin brand, with sleek decor that includes stainless-steel appliances.

There are plenty of extended-stay brands; we're focusing on those making properties especially homey--and attractive to business and leisure travelers alike. The standard for housekeeping is once a week, but maids come daily at many of these brands. (You can request fresh linens anytime.) Prices listed are for a standard studio suite in or near Houston, except for Summerfield Suites, for which we used Dallas. Guests receive a discount if they book for a week or longer, though some properties reduce the rate at five nights.

With five brands and a total of 680 properties around the U.S., Extended Stay Hotels covers the spectrum of the extended-stay market. Its top-of-the-line Extended Stay Deluxe brand, introduced in 2005, now has 108 locations, most of which are in the suburbs of big cities like San Francisco, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. Hardwood floors and earth tones give the rooms a fairly homey atmosphere.

SAMPLE PRICE $90/$490 per week

BEST PERKS All of the rooms come equipped with DVD players, pillow-top mattresses, and alarm clocks that connect to iPods and other MP3 players.

Most extended-stay hotels are in the outskirts of urban areas, but many of the 198 Hilton-owned Homewood Suites are in the heart of cities, including the ones in Seattle, New Orleans, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. One Homewood property in Chicago is a block from the shops and restaurants of North Michigan Avenue. As of this summer, a new online feature allows select Hilton HHonors members to view floor plans and photos before picking a suite.

SAMPLE PRICE $219/$1,253 per week

BEST PERKS MP3-player connections, free grocery delivery, barbecue areas.

The first Residence Inn opened in 1975, more or less creating the extended-stay category. Now owned by Marriott, Residence Inn has more than 500 U.S. locations--and a loyal following that seeks out perks that often include basketball and volleyball courts and barbeque grills. All Residence Inns come with daily maid service and a 24/7 food kiosk, and most give a price break after just five nights.

SAMPLE PRICE $209/$1,253 per week

BEST PERKS Weekly manager's barbecue, free grocery-shopping service.

InterContinental Hotels Group recently introduced its 100th Staybridge location and plans on opening 30 more this year. All of the properties offer a 24/7 convenience store and daily light housekeeping. Wired and Wi-Fi access, local calls, and laundry machines are all available free of charge. Certain locations also have pools, tennis and basketball courts, and a common room with a high-definition TV, plush chairs, and a DVD library.

SAMPLE PRICE $160/$840 per week

BEST PERKS Help-yourself library of DVDs, books, and board games; a reception three times a week with free wine, beer, sodas, and appetizers.

To create the look and feel of a hip, modern condo, Hyatt is overhauling its recently acquired brand by adding new carpets, furniture, artwork, and lighting. Daily housekeeping, barbecue areas, and grocery-shopping services are all standard. Unlike most extended-stay hotels, Summerfield doesn't allow pets.

SAMPLE PRICE $144/$833 per week

BEST PERKS Free hot breakfast, 32-inch high-definition flat-screen TVs.

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