Capsule hotels, pod hotels, overnight caskets: Whatever you call them, modular hotels, long embraced by Japanese businessmen, have evolved into a hip and affordable travel option that has gained traction in parts of Europe and the U.S.
The westernized pod-hotel concept offers more space than its Japanese counterpart—think cruise ship cabin, not sleeping coffin. Plus, the modular rooms are generally built with double occupancy in mind, and many even have en-suite bathrooms. Often stylish and priced well under nearby hotels, this new batch of modular hotels embraces sleek design, efficient spaces, and integrated technologies such as Wi-Fi and flat-screen televisions.
Here's a review of the modular hotel up-and-comers. And of course, if you'll be in Japan, you can experience the original in cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Find current exchange rates for hotel prices at XE.com.
Locations: There are three in London (South Kensington, Earl's Court, and Victoria); one in Budapest, Hungary; one in Basel, Switzerland, and one to open mid-November 2007 in Zurich, Switzerland.
The scoop: Room types vary by location, but expect to find mostly six to seven square meter (75 to 97 square feet) "small rooms" (with or without windows) that come equipped with a private bathroom and shower, plus a flat screen TV (though it costs £5 to get 10 channels). The slightly larger "standard rooms" offer the same amenities in an eight to nine square meter space. Rooms at the London hotels start at £30 per night.
First impression: The London easyHotels' private bathrooms and clean new spaces are a step up from the typical hostel at a comparable price.
Price check: A small room with no window at the easyHotel Victoria on November 7 was £35; a small room with a window was £45.
Locations: Yotel! at Gatwick Airport is now open in the International terminal.The Heathrow location (in Terminal 4) opens later this autumn, and Amsterdam Schiphol opens in early 2008.
The scoop: Inspired by airplane cabin upper class suites, Yotel! is sticking to the theme and opening its capsule-style hotels not just near airports, but actually in airports. With rates from £25, it's the cheapest glimpse into first-class you'll find.
Yotel! offers two types of "cabins." Standard cabins measure seven square meters (75 square feet), and include a bed the website claims is large enough for two, bathroom with shower, work desk with stools, storage areas, free Wi-Fi, and flat screen TV with programming that includes television, radio, games, internet, and current airport arrival and departure information. There's an on-screen cabin service menu from which you can order food 24 hours per day. Premium cabins have all the standard amenities plus more, including a bed that folds itself into a couch at the touch of a button, bedside tables, and a fancier bathroom. And, at 10 square meters (108 square feet), it's a bit roomier.
You can book in four-hour increments or overnight. The airport location makes Yotel! a good option for layovers or early-morning, late-night, delayed, or canceled flights. Rates for four hours start at £25 for a standard cabin, or £40 for a premium cabin, and additional hours cost from £5 for standard cabins.
First impression: Sleek and modular, the perks seem ideal for everyone from business travelers with early departure times to exhausted vacationers waiting out flight delays.
Price check: An overnight stay on November 7 was available for £55.
Locations: The first hotel is already open in Amsterdam. Hotels in Antwerp and Maastricht will open in early 2008. Qbics are located in city centers.
The scoop: Design, novelty, and efficiency are the defining characteristics of Qbic Hotels' signature "cubi" rooms. Cubis include extra-long beds, private bathrooms with designer touches, flat-screen TVs, work-and-dine spaces, and free Wi-Fi, in rooms averaging a palatial (by modular standards) 30 square meters (323 square feet). You can even change the color of your space to yellow, red, or purple by pressing a button. Rates start at €39 per night.
The hotel's lobby has a self-service check-in terminal, vending machines with food from local bakeries and caterers, and a digital concierge with information about local restaurants and cinemas.
First impression: Stylish and well-equipped, and the dining area sets it apart from other pod hotels as a comfortable place for a slightly longer stay.
Price check: For the evening of November 7, the rate was €79.
Locations: Just one in New York City's Midtown East neighborhood.
The scoop: Formerly the Pickwick Arms, the Pod Hotel's variety of room types suits a variety of travelers. Queen and double rooms have private bathrooms and larger beds, while single and bunk rooms cost less and have shared bathrooms. Clean minimalism with the occasional touch of bold color characterizes the rooms. True to its claim of high style and high tech, all rooms have iPod docking stations, free Wi-Fi, and flatscreen TVs.
With advertised rates from $89 per night, New York City's Pod Hotel offers a more typical hotel experience than most modular hotels beyond the rooms, with a concierge, lobby lounge, restaurant, and rooftop bar.