Three Affordable Mini Chains

090423_minichainsQbic Hotels
Courtesy Qbic Hotels

With rates as low as $36, these flashy new European hotels take the convenience of the pod concept and expand it with style.

Where: Inside terminals at London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports (in Terminal 4), and Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

The concept: Catering to those with a long layover, these glossy, no-nonsense capsule hotels are small but convenient for business travelers—or someone just looking for a nap and a shower.

What you get: A windowless room (about 75 square feet) that looks like a cruise ship cabin—there's a shower, a TV, a fold-out work desk, and an overhead storage rack; Wi-Fi is free. Bonus: a 24-hour room-service menu of snacks and drinks delivered within 15 minutes.

What it'll cost: There's a four-hour minimum, which costs about $36 for a standard cabin in the London locations. After that, pay by the hour (about $10). Premium cabins are probably better for shares—those start at $57 for four hours.

Where: Antwerp, Belgium; Maastricht and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The concept: A completely self-service hotel. You check yourself in at the kiosk and buy everything with your hotel key card.

What you get: In the center of each room is a Cubi, a 75-square-foot enclosed platform for the bed, a bar-like work-and-dine space, and the bathroom. The lighting is at your discretion—Mellow Yellow, Deep Purple Love—it's all pretty club-like. There's a vending machine in the lobby filled with drinks, locally made snacks such as organic bread, drinks, and things you may have forgotten—like neckties.

What it'll cost: From $91.

Where: Near Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and in central Amsterdam's posh Zuid neighborhood, which started taking guests this April.

The concept: Keeping prices down by using prefabricated everything—the 150-square-foot rooms are built in a factory, stacked up, and then shot through with plumbing and electrical wiring. We wrote about citizenM in our February 2009 story on Boutique Hostels.

What you get: Only single-bed rooms are offered, each with an ultramodern cylindrical shower. Use a control panel (called a moodpad) to manage the room temperature, blinds, alarm clock, stereo, and lighting—there are clever choices like "I'm here to party," with intense colored lighting and dance music. There's also a 24-hour self-service cafeteria; if you're craving a martini, a bartender is on duty in the evenings.

What it'll cost: From $109.

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