For stylish, wallet-conscious travelers, checking into budget hotels can be a bit of a tossup. On the upside, there's the cheap nightly rate; on the downside, there's the sterile, uniform design that's usually associated with these types of accommodations. Thanks to new, playful decor, there are budget properties from major hospitality brands that feel like boutique hotels. Here are four of our favorites.
Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown/N Loop/Michigan Avenue (Chicago, IL)
Open since 2015, this 143-room property (from $90 per night) is half-a-block off North Michigan Avenue and close to major sights like the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Millennium Park. Located in the LEED-certified, famed Art Deco Chicago Motor Club building, the lobby oozes with design elements from the 1920s, including splashes of platinum, wall accents, and light fixtures; a 1928 Ford Model A car is also on display. For a modern touch, there are curvy banquettes that face vibrant teal club chairs. Guests here will also find something that's not normally featured at other Hampton Inn outposts: a bar, where musicians perform on some nights.
Best Western Fort Walton Beach (Fort Walton Beach, FL)
This 99-room property (from $99 per night) on the Emerald Coast reminds us of a kitschy grandmother's home. From lime green walls to pops of pink, blue, and aqua on the furniture, it may be the most cheerful Best Western we've ever seen. The feature we love most here is the vintage-looking Swizzle Stick Lounge, a local favorite where we can totally picture the Pink Ladies and T-Birds spending a Friday night. Other neat amenities include complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool, free beach chairs and umbrellas (March to October), seasonal movie nights with popcorn, a poolside bar, and live nightly entertainment.
Days Inn Palm Springs (Palm Springs, CA)
We'll be honest: At first glance, this retro Days Inn isn't nearly as stylish as many Palm Springs properties. However, what really sets it apart from other Days Inn properties is its laid-back pool area (hello seashell-shaped hot tub!) that provides views of the surrounding San Jacinto Mountains. For those looking for a nod to the past, stop by Rick's Restaurant, which looks and feels like an old-timey coffee shop. Many of the 107 rooms (from $86 per night) offer private balconies that open to mountain views; for off-property sights, the downtown area is just a mile away.
Holiday Inn Express San Antonio North Riverwalk Area (San Antonio, TX)
From the ho-hum check-in area to the bare-bones amenities, your first impression of this Holiday Inn Express may be that it does indeed look like any other hotel owned by the brand. Upon further inspection, you'll notice that this is definitely not your average Holiday Inn Express. Located in the remodeled Bexar County Jail building, the 87-room hotel (from $80 per night) incorporates nods to its old life in the form of high ceilings and jail-style windows that could make for some interesting vacation stories. There's even a small outdoor pool, perfect for those hot San Antonio days.