8 Mistakes That Will RUIN Your Weekend Getaway

By Terry Ward
March 16, 2012
Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham
Escaping for a long weekend can be the best, right? But these tragic—and totally avoidable!—blunders can turn your quick getaway into "get me outta here!" Here, eight things to know before you go.

When Budget Travel asked whether it would be worth flying six hours to a destination if you only had four nights to spend there, we were surprised when the majority of you said yes! So the next question is: How do you make the most of a short break? We consulted travel experts and real travelers to get their tips for making a long weekend holiday just as much fun—and just as satisfying—as a weeklong vacation. The surprising thing? Our go-to advice for saving on hotels and airfare when on vacation could actually ruin your short trip.

Mistake #1: Booking a hotel too far from the action

"I think this is the biggest mistake [that travelers make when planning short getaways]," says travel expert John E. DiScala of JohnnyJet.com, "It generally takes time to get to and from a city when you stay farther out, and you're going to have to pay more for transport, too." If you're going to Disneyland for a short visit for example, he says, it's worth paying extra to stay at a hotel right near the attractions. The same goes for short city visits, too. "You could possibly save money by staying in Hoboken [New Jersey] if you go to New York and public transport into the city is not expensive," he says, "But it will take more time—you have to factor that in and figure out if it's worth it." So while, yes, saving money by staying a bit outside of town is usually smart advice, on short trips it's a bad idea. After you do the math, chances are that even paying $50 more per night for a more centrally located hotel can end up being worth it for the time you'll save.


Mistake #2: Checking a bag

Nothing is worse than arriving in Manchester, New Hampshire, and finding out that your bag is on its way to Manchester, England. It could take four days to get it back-meaning you'll have it just in time to check it for your flight home. With all the savvy packing tips out there, there's usually no reason why you should check a suitcase for a short break. "If it's a warmer climate, it's fairly easy to pack light," says Mike Cooney of the Florida-based travel agency Cooney World Adventures. "But for colder climates you have the option of dressing in layers so you don't have to pack as much in the actual bag itself." If you have sports equipment that must be checked (skis, a surfboard), consider shipping it ahead of time or, better yet, opt for rental gear instead. And checking a bag usually requires more time at the airport-instead you can spend more time seeing the sights and then head straight to security on the way home.


Mistake #3: Trying to make the most of every second

Instead of rushing between Chelsea and Midtown—two neighborhoods in opposite parts of town—to see five different art exhibitions during a short trip to New York City, your time might better be spent really delving into just one or two spots during your stay. Figure out your goals for the trip ahead of time, says DiScala, and then schedule your activities accordingly. "Some people want to see it all, and others will go to Paris for a weekend and just want to hang at one café and soak in the culture," he says. And be realistic about what you can actually see in just a couple days. In the end it all comes down to personal preference—think about what you're looking to get out of your getaway and what you and your travel partners can sanely handle. After all, the last thing you want is to come back from your vacation feeling like you need a vacation.


Mistake #4: Booking a flight with multiple connections

The flights that float to the top when you're looking for cheap airfare on sites like Orbitz or Expedia are usually the ones that involve switching planes at an airline's hub. It's a fine way to save some dollars—until you find yourself spending extra hours on layovers and facing potential delays. "It's worth it to pay extra to get the nonstop option, especially when you have a short amount of time in a place," says DiScala, who logs more than 150,000 air miles per year, "If there's a cancellation or weather delays in a hub city, there goes your vacation." It's also worth avoiding destinations that require various forms of transportation to reach, such as islands only accessible by an infrequent ferry or resorts that require a private shuttle ride (especially one that doesn't depart until other passengers have arrived).


Mistake #5: Winging it

On a recent girls getaway with four friends to Miami Beach, Janet Malin of Tampa, FL, found herself wishing she'd figured out her group's dining logistics ahead of time. "We got to the hotel and had a few drinks by the pool, and next thing we knew it was time to go out for dinner," she recalls, "But we hadn't booked a table anywhere and couldn't decide on a place we all wanted to hit." The group ended up wandering aimlessly around South Beach before settling on a random place. Sure, it's hard to predict weeks in advance if you (and your traveling companions) will be in the mood for Italian or if you'd rather have tapas on any given night, but reservations aren't usually set in stone. Research dining options ahead of time, or call your hotel's concierge for recommendations after you book your room.


Mistake #6: Forgetting to prepare for a new time zone

Unlike some of the other tips on this list, the advice for dealing with jet lag on short vacations is the same as on longer getaways. "Anywhere you go, do everything possible to maintain the new time schedule you're on," advises Cooney. "If I'm flying to say San Francisco from the east coast, I would immediately go out after arriving at the hotel, walk around the city, have dinner, have a cup of coffee… the objective is to try and get on the new time zone as soon as possible." If it's already nighttime in your destination when you step on the plane, pass on the in-flight meal and movie and pop in the earplugs for a snooze instead—that way you'll be waking up with the locals, instead of feeling like it's time to sleep when you touch down. Plan lots of outdoor activities for your first day in a different time zone, too—the sunlight and fresh air will keep you energized. If there's no avoiding a snooze, try to limit yourself to a 20-minute power nap.


Mistake #7: Dressing for only one part of the day

Does anyone still wear fanny packs and those zip-off cargo pants anymore? We hope not. When your time is limited, avoid dressing like a tourist on urban exploration, which most likely requires heading back to the hotel to change for the evening. The key is smart layering. For both men and women, a thin T-shirt with a cardigan or blazer is a good way to go in temperate climates. And for footwear, opt for comfortable leather shoes instead of the sneakers from your gym bag. Plus, choosing clothes that you can wear all day and into the night makes packing a breeze, and diminishes the chance that you will have to check a bag (remember Mistake #2?).

Mistake #8: Mapping out where you are—once you get there

Unless you're fine with just seeing where the wind blows you—and hey, we're all for spontaneous travel at times—you'll lose a lot of time on the ground if you don't have at least an idea of the layout of your destination before you arrive. If you are going international, grab cash from the ATM at the airport so you don't have to search out a bank hear your hotel. And make like grade school and do your homework: Study maps before you leave and figure out the best route to take from your hotel to the attractions and restaurants you plan to visit. Pre-planning extends to knowing the physical location of the airport you fly into, too, as it relates to the city center, says Malin, who's made the mistake of choosing a cheaper flight into a satellite airport that required more transit time to reach the city center.

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30 Hotel Chains Every Traveler Should Know

Whether you favor basic, no-frills bargain hotels or accommodations with a happy balance of perks and price, you've probably already found a hotel chain or two that suits your needs—at least here in the States. But what happens when you travel abroad? We searched far and wide for the foreign hotel chains locals rely on most, from Mexico City to Moscow, compiling them all in this international cheat sheet to a good, cheap night's sleep (almost) anywhere on earth. Among our search criteria, consistency was key—we prioritized chains with reliable standards of service, cleanliness, and amenities (since you can't always trust hotel ratings abroad, and filtered out those with erratic pricing or less-than-desirable locations. But that doesn't mean there won't be some (pleasant) surprises in the mix—many of our bargain picks also include indulgent extras like monsoon showers, on-site spas, and design-mag-worthy interiors. SEE FOR YOURSELF: THESE HOTEL CHAINS ARE STYLISH, TOO Best Worldwide: NH Hotels Started in Pamplona, Spain in 1978, NH has grown to become one of the top 20 largest chains in the world, with more than 400 properties in 26 countries, from Andorra to Uruguay (most are concentrated in Europe and South America). The look varies from one hotel to the next, but many are set in historic buildings with original architectural details and filled with stylish, modern furnishings: solid, neutral-hued linens on the bed and abstract art on the walls. NH also often has several hotels in the same destination—so it's worth it to check out all your options for the best rate and location. Sample rates:from $120 at the Hotel NH Musica, Amsterdam; from $114 at the Hotel NH Anglo American, Florence; from $143 at the Hotel NH Tango, Buenos Aires. nh-hotels.com Properties: 400+ Average Size: Medium Typical Location: All Ibis Sure, the hotels may be cookie-cutter (furniture is of the basic, blond-wood variety) and the locations aren't exactly thrilling (most properties are near business districts and airports), but the brand definitely has a lock on convenience, thanks to 24-hour snack bars, WiFi, and often on-site parking. All 900-plus outposts, from continental Europe to Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Australia, also serve locally-influenced breakfast buffets (say, crepes in France, or tropical fruits in Brazil). Sample rates: from $100 at the Ibis Praha Old Town Hotel in Prague; from $117 at the Ibis Antananarivo Ankorondrano in Madagascar; from $94 at the Ibis Buenos Aires Obelisco in Argentina. ibishotel.com Properties: 919 Average Size: Large Typical Location: Transit hubs Mercure Most of Mercure's 725 hotels (across 49 countries) are in Europe, with the remainder in Australia, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.The three- and four-star properties include both business-friendly city spots and resorts—the latter of which are more likely to incorporate vernacular design elements such as thatched-roof cottages at a Bali resort or a hammam at a Morocco hotel. All have on-site restaurants, and most offer packages with conveniences like breakfast and internet. Sample rates: from $104 at the Mercure Montpellier Centre in France; from $63 at the Mercure Resort Sanur in Bali; from $66 at the Mercure Ouarzazate in Morocco. mercure.com Properties: 725 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: All TRYP by Wyndham Hotels A boutique brand from the Wyndham group, TRYP aims for the spot where form and function overlap, providing urban adventurers with 21st-century amenities (WiFi, fitness centers, flat-screen TVs), a streamlined aesthetic (neutral color palettes, hardwood floors), and legitimate social scenes (on-site bars and active lobbies designed for mingling). Spain, Germany, Portugal and Brazil have the most properties now, but there are one-offs in Europe, South America, Canada and the U.S. Sample rates: from $79 at the TRYP Valencia Azafata in Spain; from $99 at the TRYP San Jose Sabana Hotel in Costa Rica; from $90 at the TRYP Berlin in Germany. tryphotels.com Properties: 91 Average Size: Large Typical Location: City center Room Mate Hotels A spunky upstart based in Spain, Room Mate's outposts in Buenos Aires, Mexico, NYC and Miami cater to a nightlife-loving crowd: Most are located in hip, culture-centric neighborhoods, each one has live DJ-spun music, and hearty buffet breakfasts are served until noon daily. The décor is playfully avant-garde and picks up on motifs that reference some aspect of the destination. (In Mexico City, a pair of cartoonish white cacti stands in front of a colorful mural of ceramic fish scales, while the Granada hotel skews moodier and more elegant.) Bonus: The bathrooms are typically spacious, and Wi-Fi is always free. Sample rates: from $82 at the Room Mate Leo in Granada, Spain; from $79 at the Room Mate Valentina in Mexico City. room-matehotels.com Properties: 14 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: City center Best By Region: Asia & The Pacific Insider advice is especially helpful in Asia. While several countries have government-run hotel ratings systems, many are voluntary and self-assessed and, consequently, are unreliable. Plus, some countries—Japan, for one—don't use ratings systems at all. Australia is a bit easier: They recently revamped their popular ratings system, AAA Tourism, to focus on a combination of cleanliness, amenities, and quality, rather than just a checklist of facilities. APA Hotels & Resorts Japanese hospitality meets no-nonsense frugality in this robust nationwide chain. APA is an acronym for "Always Pleasant Amenity," and depending on your location, that might refer to a traditional public bath (available at no cost to hotel guests), a free breakfast of bread, coffee, rice, and miso soup, or a choice between a standard room (of the floral-bedspread variety) or a Japanese room, with tatami-mat floors for lounging. Sample rates: from $93 at the APA Hotel Takasaki-Ekimae in Tokyo; from $93 for a single at the APA Hotel Nagasaki-Ekiminami in Nagasaki; from $124 at the APA Villa Hotel Yudoyabashi in Osaka. apahotel.com Properties: 76 Average Size: Large Typical Location: All Centara Hotels & Resorts With their fancy pool decks, on-site spas, and concierges, properties from the Centara brand (Thailand's largest) all feel like splurges, even if they're not. You'll find them in most of the country's major tourist destinations, from Chiang Mai to Krabi, along with the Maldives, Bali, Vietnam and the Philippines. The brand includes several sub-categories: The five-star Centara Grand and the Centara Boutique Collection are on the pricey side, so stick to the four-star Centara and three-star Centra properties for comparable quality at better rates. And watch for deals when you're booking—often, the online rates are much lower (up to 60 percent) than standard published prices. Sample rates: From $46 at the Centara Duangtawan Hotel Chiang Mai; from $81 at the Centara Villas Phuket; from $62 at the Centra Taum Seminyak Bali. centarahotelsresorts.com Properties: 55 Average Size: Medium/Large Typical Location: All GreenTree Inns Whether you're in Beijing or Nanjing, you can expect this fast-growing Chinese chain to deliver clean, pleasant rooms with free WiFi, TVs, and basic amenities, all in locations that are convenient to universities, train stations and conference centers. Sample rates: From $34 at the Beijing Tuanjie Lake Spring Hotel; from $24 at the Chengdu People's Park Hotel; from $29 at the Shenzhen Huaqiangbei Express Hotel. 998.com/eng Properties: 300+ Average Size: Large Typical Location: All Lemon Tree Hotels Travelers looking to set up a home base in one of India's larger cities can take good advantage of Lemon Tree's growing chain. The hotels were originally designed for business travelers—but you'd never know it at first glance. The rooms are cheerful (brightly hued bedspreads, colorful expressionist and abstract artwork) and well-equipped (LCD TVs, orthopedic mattresses, free bottled water), and nearly every hotel has a decent swimming pool. There are even a few affordable resort outposts—one in Goa, and one near Vembanad Lake. Solo female travelers can book into a "Lemon Tree Diva" room, which is on a women-only corridor and has extras like reflexology foot massagers. Sample rates: from $72 at the Lemon Tree Electronics City in Bangalore; from $138 at the Lemon Tree Amarante Beach Resort in Goa; from $94 at the Lemon Tree Hotel in Chennai. lemontreehotels.com Properties: 15 Average Size: Medium/Large Typical Location: City center Rydges With the exception of the three five-star "Art Series" hotels (with slightly higher rates—and style quotients), this Australian-owned chain is known more for its reliable, middle-of-the-road rooms and much-touted signature Dream Beds—pillow-top numbers made from breathable latex—than for trendy flourishes. Founded in 1988, the brand has properties all over the continent as well as some in New Zealand, one in Dubai and one in London. Sample rates:from $191 at the Rydges World Square in Sydney; from $138 at the Rydges South Park in Adelaide; from $106 at the Rydges Hobart; from $170 at the Rydges South Bank in Brisbane. rydges.com Properties: 40 Average Size: Large Typical Location: All Tune Hotels At this Malaysian chain (with a few outposts in Bali, Thailand, the Philippines, and London), you get what you pay for—literally. While prices are rock-bottom for the rooms (under $20 for singles in many cases), you'll rack up fees for things that come standard at many other hotels (TV and Wi-Fi cost roughly $7.50 for 24 hours, while air conditioning, shower gel, and towels run from $5-$15, depending on the location). Still, the bright rooms are more than mere crash pads, with 250-thread-count bedding, power showers, housekeeping and 24-hour security. Book early and you may even luck into one of the extremely-limited-quantity $1 a night deals. Sample rates:from $18 at the Tune Hotel in Downtown Penang; from $30 at the Tune Hotel in Downtown Kuala Lumpur; from $20 at the Tune Hotel Kita in Bali. tunehotels.com Properties: 20 Average Size: Large Typical Location: City center EuropeWhile Great Britain has a fairly trustworthy hotel rating system, many other European countries use ratings that are far less predictable and intuitive. For example, French hotels earn stars based not on quality but the presence of certain features (air-conditioning and bathroom facilities, for example), while in Italy, a hotel can earn a single star just for changing the sheets on the beds once a week. Dedeman Hotels & Resorts Founded in Istanbul in 1966, Dedeman now has hotels and resorts all over Turkey, as well as in Bulgaria, and Uzbekistan. Rooms are more comfortable than cutting-edge, but the properties have worthwhile bonuses such as Turkish baths, indoor/outdoor swimming pools, and multiple options for on-site dining, drinking, and even dancing. Sample rates: from $147 at the Dedeman Ankara in Turkey; from $88 at the Dedeman Silk Road in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; from $169 at the Dedeman Istanbul. dedeman.com Properties: 16 Average Size: Large Typical Location: City center Husa Hotels No one-trick pony, this Spanish chain's strength lies in its diverse roster of hotels, each defined by the type of experience the traveler might want. In Barcelona alone, you can choose between nearly two dozen very different Husa options—12 branded "Urban" for their strategic city-center settings, and five in the higher-end "Luxury" level. Other lodging categories include "Holiday" (resorts like the beachfront Conil Park on the Atlantic Coast),"Well Being" (serenity-focused spots like Sant Bernat in the Sierra del Montseny, surrounded by woods and gardens), and "Mountain" (the Chalet Bassibé in the Valle de Aran, with a lobby fireplace and indoor-outdoor pools). At all hotels, however, you'll find well-priced rooms decorated with the kind of details that channel old-world glamour: leather, velvet, and wood-paneling. Often, you'll find top-quality fitness centers, serious restaurants, and spas. Sample rates: from $78 at the Husa Bonanova Park in Barcelona; from $67 at the Husa Conil Park in Conil; from $117 at the Sant Bernat in the Sierra del Montseny; from $112 at the Chalet Bassibé in Valle de Aran. husa.es Properties: 101 Average Size: Large Typical Location: All Jurys Inn Location is key at the Jurys Inn hotels, which are positioned in city centers all across England, Ireland, and Scotland (plus one in Prague). They don't take many risks with the décor—most color palettes revolve around gray or brown—but the rooms are spacious and the hotels have on-site restaurants and consistent, professional service. Sample rates: from $78 at the Jurys Inn in Cork; from $87 at the Jurys Inn Prague; from $104 at the Jurys Inn Glasgow; from $98 at the Jurys Inn Liverpool. jurysinns.com Properties: 32 Average Size: Large Typical Location: City center Median Hotels This small French chain's strong suit is simple: solid, three-star rooms at reasonable prices in some of Europe's most expensive cities (Paris and Geneva). They're mainly in business suburbs or near convention centers and transportation hubs, and facilities typically include parking, WiFi and an on-site restaurant serving a buffet breakfast. (Depending on the hotel, they may also provide dinner and lunch service.) Reception is open 24 hours, and most rooms have minibars. Sample rates: from $103 at the Hotel Median Paris Châtillon; from $116 at the Hotel Median Geneve Aeroport. medianhotels.com Properties: 5 Average Size: Medium/Large Typical Location: Airport/highway Motel One Boutique style at wallet-friendly prices is the hallmark of this German brand, which has more than 30 hotels in Germany, one each in Vienna and Scotland and dozens more in the pipeline (including places in Edinburgh, Brussels and Krakow). No matter which one you visit, you'll find the same design elements popping up in each: Mid-century-style egg chairs, damask-patterned wallpaper, and lots of turquoise accents. It may not look as current in a decade, but for now, the interiors strike a nice balance between playfulness and polish. Free Wi-Fi, flatscreen TVs, and monsoon showerheads round out the appeal. Rates start at $65 at each hotel. motel-one.com Properties: 39 Average Size: Large Typical Location: City centers Omena Hotels For fabulously affordable accommodations in a famously expensive region, check in to one of Omena's über-consistent Scandinavian locations. Rooms are nearly identical from one hotel to the next: All have a sleeping area with a double bed, a separate sitting area (with two armchairs that fold out into extra beds), an en-suite bath, and a TV, mini-fridge and microwave. One drawback: There's no staff on-site, so guests check themselves in with a security code from their online reservations, and contact a remote "reception desk" via phone with any questions. Rates start at $60 at all properties. omenahotels.comProperties: 14 Average Size: Medium/Large Typical Location: City center Premier Inn This is the fastest-growing budget brand in the UK, and it shows: With over 600 hotels in cities, near airports, and along highways, there's pretty much always a Premier Inn nearby. With that kind of presence, they don't really have to deliver much else, but they've still improved upon the bare-bones motor lodge model. King-size platform beds are standard, bathrooms come with tubs and showers (not always a given in Europe), and most of the properties have their own restaurants and bars. Sample rates: from $52 at the Premier Inn Dublin Airport; from $95 at the Premier Inn Plymouth East in Plymouth, England. premiertravelinn.com Properties: 600+ Average Size: Large Typical Location: All SORAT Hotels This German chain's hotels are all over the map when it comes to décor: In Brandenburg you'll find leather sofas in the lobby and a restaurant that resembles a library, while the Nurnberg hotel has plaid-upholstered armchairs and framed drawings of sheep, and the IBB Hotel Erfurt is a restored medieval inn with exposed beams. What they all share, though, are reasonable rates, solid service, and a not-too-big, not-too-small size that's perfect for folks who don't go for B&Bs or bland business hotels. Sample rates: from $68 at the SORAT Hotel Agneshof in Nurnberg; from $66 at the SORAT Hotel Ambassador in Berlin; from $79 at the IBB Hotel in Erfurt. sorat-hotels.com Properties: 13 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: City center UNA Hotels Enjoy affordability with style—and individuality—from this Italian brand. You can check into a converted 16th-century palazzo in Florence, a 2001-inspired space in central Bologna with white walls, primary-colored accents, and space-age globe lamps, or a historic hotel in Sicily updated with a modern-Baroque décor. Sample rates: from $137 at the UNA Hotel Vittoria in Florence; from $152 at the UNA Hotel Venezia in Venice; from $144 at the UNA Hotel Modena; from $162 at the UNA Hotel Roma in Rome. unahotels.it Properties: 26 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: All Mexico and South AmericaSouth American ratings systems tend to be fragmented (with different standards for different types of lodgings) or surface-level, taking into account only facilities, not service or quality. In Mexico, however, you'll recognize the same AAA Diamond ratings you see in the U.S. Casa Andina Each of this homegrown Peruvian chain's hotels has its own style and charm—and reflects its unique location, whether it's in the Sacred Valley or on the banks of Lake Titicaca. The brand is split into Private Collection, Select and Classic hotels, with the latter being the most affordable. Choices include the rustic, village-style Casa Andina Classic in Colca, which has clay-roofed stone casitas and its own planetarium and observatory; and the Casa Andina Classic in Cusco Koricancha, set in two adjacent colonial manor houses. Sample rates: from $142 at the Cusco Koricancha in Cusco; from $120 at the Miraflores San Antonio in Lima; from $92 at the Puno Tikarani in Puno. casa-andina.com Properties: 20 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: City center/Resort One Hotels There may not be much romance to Mexico's budget-friendly chain—hotels are typically located near airports or other transit hubs—but the rooms are bright and streamlined, with furnishings a step above Ikea, and man, do they pile on the perks. At most hotels, breakfast, WiFi, and parking are all free, and snack bars and coin-operated laundry stations are readily available. Rates from $50. onehotels.com Properties: 16 Average Size: Large Typical Location: Airports/highways Africa and the Middle EastAcross the African continent, efforts are being made to standardize ratings. The Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGSCA) revised its quality-oriented ratings system last year, resulting in lower ratings for many borderline properties; ratings will be reviewed annually.Malawi launched its first ratings system in 2010, and the East African Community (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) is currently working toward a unified ratings system. Abu Dhabi debuted a new five-star system in 2011, although a handful of super-luxe hotels in the region have declared themselves as 6- or 7-star properties. City Lodge Family of Hotels This South African brand's hotels are separated into four categories: one-star Road Lodge hotels, two-star Town Lodges, three-star City Lodges and four-star Courtyards. Not surprisingly, the Courtyard options are the most charming, and have studio and suite options with kitchenettes, which can help offset the higher nightly rates (a March price check at the Courtyard Cape Town revealed a promo rate of $139 per night). Still, most all hotels under the brand's umbrella have on-site restaurants and WiFi, and even the one-star spots offer 24-hour service, breakfast and, in some cases, swimming pools. Sample rates: from $146 at the Courtyard Cape Town; from $158 at the City Lodge Durban. citylodge.co.za Properties: 52 Average Size: Medium/Large Typical Location: City Centers Protea Hotels Africa's largest hotel group, Protea has properties in eight countries—Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Malawi—plus one outpost in London.They range from country inns and mountain retreats to seaside resorts and city-chic spots. The urban hotels tend to be edgier—a purple pool table here, neon-pink lighting there—while the out-of-town properties are more likely to feature native artwork or old-fashioned canopy beds and floral-upholstered furniture. Sample rates: from $131 at the PH Thuringerhof in Windhoek, Namibia; from $165 at the PH Cape Castle in Cape Town. proteahotels.com Properties: 120 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: Resort Rotana Hotels Beginning with the Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi in 1993, the Rotana group has grown to include dozens of properties in Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar and more; by the end of 2012, their roster should total more than 70 properties in a variety of price categories. The "young and fresh" Centro sub-brand is the most budget-friendly—and even those properties feel decidedly upscale, thanks to features like floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen TVs, and marble-topped desks. On-site dining and amenities like full gyms and rooftop pools enhance the experience. Sample rates: from $116 at the Centro Barsha in Dubai; from $81 at the Centro Al Manhal in Abu Dhabi. rotana.com Properties: 70 Average Size: Large Typical Location: All Plus: 5 New Hotel Brands to Watch Eaton Hotels A sub-brand of the luxury Langham hotels, Eaton Hotels are split into Eaton Smart and Eaton Luxe options, plus one Eaton House Apartments location in Hong Kong: Eaton Smart properties have on-site eateries and gyms or pools, while Eaton Luxe adds extras like 24-hour room service and complimentary internet—and an aesthetic that's straight from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog. There are currently one Eaton Luxe (Shanghai) and two Eaton Smarts (Hong Kong and New Delhi Airport.) More are set to open in China through the next two years, along with one in Bali in 2014. Sample rates: from $107 at the Eaton Luxe in Shanghai; from $142 at the Eaton Smart in Hong Kong. eatonhotels.com Properties: 4 Average Size: Large Typical Location: All dusitD2 Thailand's luxury Dusit brand has earned raves for its sleek boutique sub-brand dusitD2, which is both design-focused and more wallet-friendly than its exclusive sibling—and comes with resort-worthy perks such as on-site spas, spacious pool decks, and concierge service. At present there are only two dusitD2 locations—one in central Chiang Mai, another near the beaches of Pattaya—with two more in the works (New Delhi and Pasadena, California.) Sample rate: from $130 in Chiang Mai. dusit.com/dusit-d2 Properties: 2 Average Size: Medium/Large Typical Location: Resort CitizenM Citizen M's first outpost, at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, revolutionized the concept of the transit hotel. Now, the budget brand has expanded to city centers (Amsterdam and Glasgow currently, with London and New York on the way). Their "affordable luxury" concept shows up in swanky lobbies outfitted with Eames loungers and 24-hour canteens, and in the guest rooms, where colored mood lighting, wake-up calls, in-room movies, the thermostat, and even the window blinds can all be controlled from the same high-tech “mood pad” remote control. Sample rates: from $92 in Amsterdam City; from $94 in Glasgow. citizenm.com Properties: 3 Average Size:Large Typical Location: All The Big Sleep Hotel With their floral Orla Kiely wallpapers, pastel accents, and clawfoot tubs, this mini-chain of hotels (one in Wales, two in England) might be better suited for girlfriend getaways than stag weekends—but some of the rooms do come in blue, and the prices for the family suites can't be beat (from $55 for a double plus bunk beds in Cardiff). All rooms have flat-screen TVs, tea/coffee makers, and WiFi and broadband (for a fee), and rates include a buffet breakfast.Starting rate: from $46. thebigsleephotel.com Properties: 3 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: City center YOTEL Inspired by the mod—and modular—design of first-class airplane cabins, YOTEL's four branches (three at airports in London and Amsterdam, one on New York City's west side) feature supremely compact rooms (aka "cabins") with fold-down work desks, flat-panel TVs, and, in some cases, bunk beds. The WiFi is free, kitchenettes are in the hall, dining is on-site, and rates are by the hour. Sample rates: from $113 in London Gatwick for 24 hours; from $99 in Amsterdam Schiphol for 24 hours. yotel.com Properties: 4 Average Size: Medium Typical Location: Airport/highway SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL:14 Most Beautiful Home and Garden Tours in America America's Best Food Regions 11 New Hotel Wonders Planning a Quick Getaway? 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Southern Smackdown: Savannah vs. Charleston

We pitted two of the most popular southern cities against one another to see which one would come out on top. We compared all of the things that give a city personality: boutique shopping, culture, creative cuisine and that special, indescribable feeling that makes you want to come back time and time again. Our conclusion? Each place has its own special appeal. Depending on your interests you'll gravitate to one or the other—keep reading to find out which one belongs at the top of your list (and what to see once you're there). SEE THE CITIES SAVANNAH, GEORGIA Best For: Art Lovers, Twentysomethings, Paula Deen Fans Founded in 1733, Savannah has numerous claims to fame: it was the birthplace of the Girl Scouts, the setting for John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and is home to Paula Deen's The Lady & Sons Restaurants. It's sometimes called the Hostess City of the South and the Creative Coast for its cultural attractions and architecturally significant buildings, including 18th- and 19th-century mansions, from stately Federal to the more ornate Queen Anne, Greek Revival, and Italianate. The city has a population of 136,256.URBAN EDENFour of Savannah's 22 public squares date to the city's founding, but only one feels brand-new. Buried under a parking garage for 50 years, Ellis Square was restored in 2010 as a sleek plaza with an interactive, kid-friendly fountain. In a town known for its haunted inns and cemeteries, why shouldn't a park have an afterlife? Barnard St. between Bryan St. and Congress St. YOUNG VIBEThis genteel Southern belle has a surprisingly hip side: cult film houses, indie music venues, and shopSCAD, which sells Savannah College of Art and Design student-fashioned pieces like ceramic skull tumblers and pyrite earrings. 340 Bull St., shopscad.com, tumbler $17.50. RETRO EATSEven queues around the block won't keep fans from dinner at Paula Deen's The Lady & Sons. For dessert, follow another Deen cue and head to Back in the Day Bakery, where Paula says the old-fashioned cupcakes taste just like her grandmother's (or try nostalgic Southern staples, such as red velvet cake or banana pudding). 2403 Bull St., backinthedaybakery.com, cupcake $3. ART HISTORYSavannah has been a regional art hub since 1886, when the Telfair Museums opened as the South's first art museum. Admission includes entry to the original building, as well as the Jepson Center for contemporary art and the Owens-Thomas House decorative-arts gallery. 121 Barnard St., telfair.org, admission $20. WHERE TO STAY Built in 1851 as the city's first hotel, The Marshall House doubled as a hospital for Union troops during the Civil War. The property was renovated in 2008, but it still retains its green shutters and charming wrought-iron veranda. 123 E. Broughton St., marshallhouse.com, from $119. CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA Best for: Foodies, History Buffs, Shoppers Charleston was founded in 1670, more than half a century before Savannah. Sometimes called The Holy City for the prevalence of churches found here (over 400 in total), the city is also known for the Charleston single house—a unique local style that is only one room wide, often pastel-hued, and famed for its two-story porch. If the town looks familiar, it may be because it was the setting for the film Porgy and Bess. Two things every visitor should sample here: she-crab soup and the potent Planter's Punch. The city has a population of 120,083. MARKET MAKEOVERA three-year, $5.5-million renovation has left Charleston City Market feeling more like a boutique than the tourist trap it once was. It's still a go-to spot for classics like benne (sesame) wafers and sweetgrass baskets. 188 Meeting St., thecharlestoncitymarket.com, wafers $5.HOME COOKING It's no secret that Charleston is a hotspot for African-inspired, seafood-rich Lowcountry cuisine. Now the city is also a hub of New Southern dining, thanks in part to chef Sean Brock's restaurant Husk. The James Beard Award winner promises that every ingredient—from Tennessee truffles to Texas olive oil to South Carolina oysters—hails from the South. 76 Queen St., huskrestaurant.com, oyster stew $12. DIXIE DELI By 1800, the city's reputation for spiritual tolerance helped draw America's largest Jewish population—more than New York City! After a visit to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, America's oldest temple in continuous use, nosh at Hyman's Seafood & Aaron's Deli, where pastrami shares the menu with grits and okra. 215 Meeting St., hymanseafood.com, pastrami $9. HISTORY No self-respecting history buff would miss Fort Sumter, where the Civil War's first shots were fired. But don't skip Fort Moultrie, which guarded the city from 1776 to 1947. Its original palmetto-log walls were so powerful, they earned the tree its spot on the state flag. 1214 Middle St., Sullivan's Island, nps.gov/fosu, $3.WHERE TO STAYLocated about a half hour from town on the Ashley River bluff, The Inn at Middleton Place is a minimalist gem with floor-to-ceiling windows and cypress paneling. Stays give you access to the on-site 1755 plantation house and America's oldest landscaped gardens. 4290 Ashley River Rd, theinnatmiddletonplace.com, from $129.   SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 16 Most Picturesque Villages 11 New Hotel Wonders How to Get a Free Upgrade Secrets to the 10 Most Popular Cruise Ports 8 Cool New Tools for Finding the Perfect Hotel  


11 New Hotel Wonders

If the best architecture aims at eternity, to paraphrase famed English architect Christopher Wren, then these new hotels are bound to be immortal. The 11 hotels on our list all opened within the last four years, and each is an example of awe-inspiring design in its own right. You can stay in a wave-like skyscraper in Chicago, a stack of cantilevered cubes in Portugal, or a hotel tucked into the wild cliffs of an Australian island. And, even better, it won't cost a fortune to spend a night in these architectural wonders. Seven of the 11 are under $200 a night. SEE THE WORLD'S MOST AMAZING NEW HOTELS 1. BELLA SKY COMWELL  Copenhagen, DenmarkThe two structures that make up the Bella Sky each incline at a slightly different angle. Or as the architects sweetly put it, the towers are drawn to each other, "yet seem a little shy." In fact, the creative use of angles is employed both inside the property and out—geometric angles give the exterior a filigreed look, while inside the hotel there are rooms where there are no 90-degrees at all (there are over 200 different room shapes in the 812-room hotel). The location, in the Copenhagen neighborhood of Orestad five miles from the city center, actually inspired the leaning-tower design. The buildings are so close to the airport that height restrictions dictate that they must not exceed 246 feet. 011-45/3247-3000, bellaskycomwell.dk, from $155 per night. 2. JUMEIRAH AT ETIHAD TOWERS HOTEL  Abu DhabiQueensland architecture firm DBI Design won the World's Leading New Hotel Award for 2011 for this stunning $1 billion residential and retail center. The complex is made up of five towers on a beachside stretch on a peninsula in Abu Dhabi. Constructing the buildings that now dominate the modern skyline posed structural challenges. The towers all curve, meaning each floor slab is a different shape. The 382-room Jumeirah hotel takes up 66 stories of one of the towers. 888/645-5697, jumeirah.com, from $192 per night. 3. HOTEL CONSOLACIÓN  Teruel, SpainPerched atop a ridge, this collection of 10 freestanding, wood-clad modernist cubes, or "Kube" suites, opened in 2009. Located in the rural mountain town of Teruel (a three-hour drive from both Barcelona and Valencia), the sleek cubes create a beautiful juxtaposition with the groves of olive and almond trees that surround them. Each suite has a sliding glass wall that opens onto a private terrace, and, inside, sparse interiors combine slate, copper-treated pine, and metal sheeting. The hotel incorporates some classic elements as well: a converted 14th-century hermitage serves as a communal area for guests. 011-34-978/85-67-55, consolacion.com.es, from $185 per night. 4. SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE  Kangaroo Island, Australia Architect Max Pritchard designed this lodge to blend into the dramatic surroundings of Kangaroo Island. Tucked back behind cliffs, the hotel opened in 2008 and consists of 21 suites cascading down a windswept slope, following the natural curve of the land, each with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and sweeping views of the Southern Ocean. Suites were constructed from lightweight materials—steel screw piles, timber framing, iron cladding—that could be carried in to create minimal disturbance to nature, and which also could handle the challenge of building on precarious soil conditions (several feet of sand atop solid limestone). Inside are environmentally sound sandblasted limestone floors and recycled spotted-gum walls. The off-the-grid location led to innovations such as sculptural containers for collecting rainwater. 931/924-5253, southernoceanlodge.com.au, from $1,000 per person, per night with a two-night minimum. 5. MARINA BAY SANDS  SingaporeThis trio of 55-story towers opened in 2010 and hold an incredible 2,561 hotel rooms, plus a museum, casino, convention center, waterfront promenade, shops, and restaurants. Architect Moshe Safdie has said that his challenge "was to create a vital public place at the district-urban scale-in other words, to address the issue of megascale and invent an urban landscape that would work at the human scale." His way of dealing with that was to design the complex around two central axes to give a sense of orientation. The towers are connected at the top by the cantilevered, two-and-a-half-acre SkyPark, home to gardens, 250 trees, a public observatory and a 492-foot swimming pool—all perched high in the sky like a fantastical cruise ship forever suspended in midair. 011-65/6688-8868, marinabaysands.com, from $350 per night. 6. YAS VICEROY HOTEL  Abu Dhabi This 499-room hotel was the first to be built straddling a Formula 1 racetrack (it opened in 2009 and was renovated in 2011 to become a Viceroy). The structure consists of a pair of 12-story towers joined by a sweeping, 700-foot curvilinear skin of glass and steel—actually 5,800 pivoting, diamond-shaped glass panels that reflect the sky by day and are illuminated up by an LED system at night. The architects' aim was to reflect artistry and geometries associated with ancient Islamic art and craft traditions, and from a distance the panels create the appearance of a spectacular veil. 888/622-4567, viceroyhotelsandresorts.com; from about $210 per night. 7. RADISSON BLU WATERFRONT HOTEL  Stockholm, SwedenThe piece de resistance at this 414-room hotel of white polished stone and rough black stone is its attached conference center—a glass structure with an exterior made up of 13 miles of semi-transparent stainless steel rods. They reflect the sky and water, radically change the skyline, and are what architect Hans Forsmark describes as "a reminiscence of the Nordic Light." The interiors of the hotel, which opened in 2011, follow straight lines and geometric precision. 800/333-3333, radissonblu.com, from $155 per night. 8. AXIS VIANA HOTEL  Viana do Castelo, Portugal The 88-room Axis Viana Hotel was a striking addition to the folkloric village of Viana do Castelo when it opened in 2008. The exterior is made up of reflective aluminum, black glass, and green stone, and the cantilevered design changes the shape of the hotel depending upon your vantage point. The contrasting interior consists of white finishes and materials including wood and stone. It's all edged by a shimmering outdoor pool and surrounded by views of the Lima River and Mount St. Luzia. 011-351/258-802-000, axishoteis.com, from $100 per night. 9.HÔTEL AMERICANO  New York, New York The 10-story Americano sits on the site of a former parking garage in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. Neighbors were likely pleased with the swap when the hotel opened in 2011. The building looks like a massive metal sculpture—perfect for the gallery-filled neighborhood—with floors connected by catwalks and wrapped with stainless-steel mesh. The industrial façade holds 56 rooms plus two restaurants, a lobby café and two basement bars; for urban escape, there is a roof deck with a pool, bar, and peaceful garden terrace. 212/216-0000, hotel-americano.com, from $295 per night. 10. MIURA HOTEL  Celadná, Czech Republic Rising like a geometric spaceship in the Beskydy Mountains is this distinctive hotel made of concrete, sheet metal, violet glass, Corian, and stone. Miura opened in 2011 and is divided into three parts, one of which seems to levitate above the ground, plus two side wings containing the 44 rooms. The arrangement means that all of the rooms have views of the surrounding mountains. The striking hotel also has an impressive art collection, with works by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Czech sculptor David Černý. Known for his large-scale installations, Černý's works here include an almost 30-foot-tall stainless-steel man pushing against the exterior of the hotel. 011-420/558-761-100, www.miura.cz, from $126 per night. 11. RADISSON BLU AQUA HOTEL  Chicago, Illinois Architect Jeanne Gang literally made waves in a city full of iconic skyscrapers with her showstopper building. The 82-story glass structure's exterior has undulating concrete balconies resembling the swirls and ripples of nearby Lake Michigan. Such a unique design brought with it a unique construction challenge—each floor plate is a different shape, which means a different concrete pour was required for every story. To manage it, the concrete was poured into a specially designed flexible metal edge that was reused over and over again—an important detail for green architecture. Much of the building is designated for private residences, but the 334-room Radisson Blu Aqua opened on 18 floors in November 2011. 312/565-5258, radissonbluchicago.com, from $175 per night.   SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 12 Elevators You Have to See to BelieveWorld's 16 Most Picturesque Villages15 International Food Etiquette Rules the Might Surprise You12 Hot Springs Worth Traveling For