While it might be comforting to know almost any megachain hotel is going to be the same whether you're in Miami or Milwaukee, you may find more bang for your travel buck, plus something regional or unique, at smaller chains.
Affinia Hospitality, a group of nine reasonably priced all-suite hotels in New York City, is still managed by the Denihan family, whose patriarch started the chain in 1962. Nearly all the suites in its nine properties are surprisingly spacious (given Manhattan's reputation for matchbook-size hotel rooms) and include large work areas as well as kitchen facilities. Extras include a pillow menu, high-speed Internet access, and convenient locations in Midtown and the Upper East Side. Its best-known properties include the Affinia Dumont, The Benjamin and the Surrey. Visit www.affinia.com, or call (866) AFFINIA.
The Kimpton Group, which is credited with kicking off the boutique trend in the late '80s in California, now operates a collection of 37 hip hotels in 15 cities nationwide. Most recently, the chain invaded the East Coast with hot new properties in Boston, New York City and Washington, DC. Kimpton's highly successful modus operandi is to renovate and reposition old buildings into charming, reasonably priced hotels paired with popular restaurants. While the group boasts a variety of hotel names, its flagship Hotel Monaco brand (in Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC) is its most recognizable. Visit www.kimptongroup.com, or call (800) KIMPTON.
Joie de Vivre Hospitality (JDV) is an eclectic collection of 25 boutique hotels in northern California (mostly San Francisco) with offerings for every budget and personality. To help match your personality to the right hotel, check out the "Hotel Matchmaker" on its Web site. Several properties offer trendy yet reasonably priced bars and restaurants in hotel lobbies. Better-known JDV hotels in San Francisco include Hotel Adagio, Hotel Rex and the Petite Auberge, all located near Union Square. Visit www.jdvhospitality.com, or call (800) 738-7477.
, travel correspondent for CNN Headline News, is author ofThe Unofficial Business Travelers' Pocket Guide.