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Best Budget Hotel Value:
Holiday Inn Express
Holiday Inn Express is no stranger to the value-conscious business traveler who spends a lot of time on the highway. Since its launch in 1991, it has opened 1,500-plus properties worldwide (most along major roadways or near airports), offering modern and dependably clean rooms and free Express Start continental breakfasts for an average rate of just $60 to $90 per night.
Not resting on its laurels, the chain has been adding new features since 2003, from hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast to the SimplySmart shower, featuring a new proprietary Kohler shower head, thicker towels, shower curtains with curved rods (adding 25 percent more showering space) and an upgraded line of bathroom amenities. Guests also enjoy free high-speed internet access and local calls, as well as the ability to earn points in the Priority Club Rewards frequent-stay program. For reservations, call (800) HOLIDAY, or see www.hiexpress.com.
Best Midprice Hotel Value:
Hampton Inn & Suites and Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn raised the bar for midprice hotels last year with a chainwide upgrade that made its value proposition even more appealing. As a result, nearly all of Hampton Inn's competitors in the midprice space have been scrambling to match the enhancements. First, Hampton added eight new hot items, such as eggs, pancakes and biscuits, to its popular free breakfast. (New Breakfast Bags are also available for those in a hurry--great for the food-free plane trip.)
All hotel lobbies were redesigned with red-carpet welcome mats and local art on the walls. Free high-speed internet is available in the rooms, and beds are thicker and taller. A new clock radio was designed for the chain, with easy-to-follow instructions for setting the alarm.
Bathroom upgrades include massaging shower heads; larger, fluffier towels; and a curved shower curtain rod, adding more space and light in the shower. Small boardrooms are also available at most hotels for meetings.
Hampton was the first chain to offer a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, and it still says if you're not satisfied, the company doesn't expect you to pay for your stay at any of its 1,300 hotels worldwide. Guests also earn points in the popular Hilton HHonors frequent-stay program. For reservations, call (800) HAMPTON, or see www.hamptoninn.com.
Best Upscale Hotel Value:
W Hotels have taken the business travel trend toward boutique hotels and supersized it (some are as big as 700 rooms), but maintained the boutique-style quirks, charms and reasonable prices. Business travelers with a sense of style can't get enough of the W Hotel chain for its hip factor, great locations, luscious beds, contemporary design, trendy lobbies and general buzz.
The first W Hotel opened in New York City in 1998, and the chain has since grown to 20 hotels in major cities in the United States and abroad (W Hotels are now in Mexico City; Montreal; Seoul, Korea; and Sydney, Australia; two more are in the works in China).
The chain combines a keen sense of style and customer pampering with a price that won't blow your budget. Depending on the location and the season, rates range from $159 to $459. All rooms have high-speed internet access and CD players. Bathrooms stock Bliss bath products, cotton terry bathrobes and fluffy towels.
The hotel's full-service meeting facilities are bound to wow attendees. At most W Hotels, the lobby bar area--and sometimes the entire lobby--are filled with guests and locals, eager to see and be seen in such cool surroundings. Guests can earn points in the Starwood Preferred Guest program. For reservations, call (877) W-HOTELS, or see www.whotels.com.
Best Hotel Value, Chicago:
Hilton Garden Inn Chicago/Downtown/Magnificent Mile
If you're looking for a good location, lots of amenities and a great price, check out the Hilton Garden Inn Chicago/Downtown/Magnificent Mile. For rates starting at $99, travelers get free in-room high-speed internet access and extras including refrigerators, microwaves and stunning views of the Chicago skyline. There's also a free business center and meeting space as well as an indoor pool and gym. A Starbucks kiosk is in the lobby, and the Weber Grill, which is next to the hotel, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner cooked on--you guessed it--those kettle-shaped Weber grills. Room service is also available, and you can graze in the hotel's 24-hour Pavilion Pantry. The hotel is located in the heart of the Magnificent Mile and adjacent to the River North dining and entertainment district. Call (312) 527-1989, or visit www.hiltongardenchicago.com.
Best Hotel Value, New York City:
The Affinia Dumont hotel, located just south of Midtown on East 34th Street (between Third and Lexington), could be the best-kept hotel secret in Manhattan--and a real find for the health-conscious. Built in 1986 and renovated in 2003, its spacious rooms are actually suites, which include kitchenettes; big, fluffy beds; 27-inch TVs; oversized desks with Aeron chairs; free high-speed internet access; and two-line phones. All rooms are large enough to accommodate exercise equipment that can be delivered to your room free of charge, or you can choose to work out in the hotel's Oasis Day Spa.
Fitness freaks can check in to the hotel's one-bedroom fitness suite, featuring cardio equipment, free weights and a sauna. Standard room rates range from $219 to $340 per night, with the lowest rates guaranteed at www.affinia.com, or call (212) 481-7600.
Best Hotel Value, San Francisco:
Courtyard by Marriott Downtown
If an overpriced hotel on Nob Hill is more than you need to take care of business in San Francisco, this hotel is for you. Budget-conscious business travelers have a long-standing love affair with Courtyard by Marriott. And now that the chain has snatched up most of the good suburban locations, it's moving into expensive downtown areas like San Francisco, offering many full-service amenities at a great price.
It's one of the newest hotels in town, so you'll find meeting space, a lobby bar with a big-screen TV, an indoor pool and spa, and free high-speed internet in all 405 guest rooms. Another plus is the hotel's location south of Market Street--a five-minute walk from the Moscone Convention Center or the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. As at many Courtyards, there's a free wine and cheese reception in the lobby each evening. Rates run in the $129 to $239 range. Guests also earn points in the Marriott Rewards frequent-stay program. Call (415) 947-0700, or visit www.marriott.com.
Chris McGinnis is Entrepreneur's "Biz Travel" columnist.