Skip mammoth-sized hotels
new smaller "lifestyle hotels" promise a bigger (and more fun!) bang for your buck


Let's face it, even the best vacation destination can be ruined by staying at a lousy hotel. Whether it's having to put up with long check-in lines, mold-smelling rooms, wimpy water pressure or room service that takes so long to arrive you miss water polo lessons, when it comes to picking the right hotel, your vacation may depend on it.


Of course, picking the right hotel hasn't exactly been easy. While affordable, there's a definite lack of amenities (and stain-free carpets) at places like Motel 6 and the Holiday Inn. And while the service is better, the price tag of luxury hotels like the Waldorf-Astoria make them out of the question.


What's a traveling gal to do? That's simple—take advantage of the latest trend in hotels: the lifestyle hotel.


Offering luxuries that used to be available only in the most expensive hotels at an affordable price for a wider audience (read: to us, finally!), the primary goal of lifestyle hotels is to give you the most personalized experience possible. Tailoring their decor, amenities, activities and even food to various lifestyles—such as divas, golfers, yoga addicts, even geeks—lifestyle hotels strive to make you feel unique, special and highly valued as a customer. Contrast that to the last time you checked into a 2000-room Hilton.


Speaking of those huge Hiltons, lifestyle hotels are known for being smaller and far more stylish with some of the most forward-looking design around. Their breathtaking lobbies and public spaces create an exciting atmosphere that draws a hip younger generation crowd. The off-beat rooms (one hotel offers you a room in the primary color of your choice, with matching candies) aim to please all the senses with spa bathrooms, the latest in high-tech home entertainment technology, super-comfortable beds, colors designed to evoke positive emotional responses, and aromatherapy. Even better: Their service is designed to make you feel like you’re their only guest.


Surveys show that having memorable experiences is quickly becoming more important to Americans than accumulating material wealth. Translation: On your next vacation, skip the chain hotels and stay in a lifestyle hotel that puts you on cloud nine.


Here are three of our favorite lifestyle hotels:


Opus Hotel, Vancouver


Catering to the on-the-go diva, the Opus Hotel is all about making a big splash. You'll find cherry red velvet couches and faux fur rugs and, most unusual, each room has its own personality, complete with name (like Susan, and Mike) plus CDs, books and other accoutrements to match the room's distinct personality. Feeling too tuckered from your many downtown Vancouver activities to continue partying the night away? Not worry. Knowing that no on-the-go diva should miss out on any event because of a little fatigue, the hotel conveniently sells cans of breathable oxygen, which is thought to boost energy. Of course, you won't need much energy to get to the hottest club in town—it's at the Opus.


Treat yourself: About $200 (Canadian) and up, OpusHotel.com


The James Hotel, Chicago

Yours will be a tech-savvy stay at The James Hotel. That's because it comes fully stocked with Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and handhelds, computers, free Internet access, flat screen TVs and a gym that's outfitted with a ton of hi-tech gear. Even the pool is wired, coming equipped with underwater speakers. But it's not all tech gadgets. The hotel also encourages you to indulge your sexy side with moonlight massages and adult toys that are sold in the lobby.

Treat yourself: About $100 and up per night, Jameshotels.com



The Indigo Hotel, Houston


This hotel prides itself on its soothing design. With an emphasis on getting back to nature and destressing, patrons of the Indigo Hotel will be treated to rooms designed with nature's beauty in mind. Not a beige wall in sight, you'll instead be treated to a sea of sumptuous blues,  green and yellow hues. Soft, natural fabrics are a welcome escape from scratchy polyester blankets found at even the priciest hotels. And their restaurants feature health-conscious fare (as well as the ubiquitous and not so health-conscious Starbucks).


Treat yourself: About $159 and up per night, ICHotelsGroup.com


—Douglas Lichterman



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