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Would you stay in 'pod' hotel?

Posted by Melanie Nayer  April 26, 2012 08:46 AM

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checkin-out.jpgHotels in New York vary in just about everything: size, function, price, location, design, food and beverage, and even guests. You can find a bed and breakfast in Chelsea, a hostel in Spanish Harlem, a budget-friendly family-focused midtown hotel with grand buffets, or stay in lap of the luxury on the East Side. Right in the heart of Hell's Kitchen, you can find one of New York's newer hotels - YOTEL New York. The hotel just opened last year and is already drawing in guests who want nothing more than a clean room and a cool vibe at a reasonable price. The one caveat: a majority of the rooms are under 200 square feet.

YOTEL gained popularity when it first opened at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports. The concept was simple: give travelers a place to freshen up, grab a quick nap or even do some work in between flights or transfers. YOTEL was more than a "pod" room (most popular in Japan), better than an airport bathroom, and significantly less expensive than a city hotel. It took its design concept from the Japanese "capsule hotels", and added a bit more a space and a lot of technology. With only 12 hours to spare in New York City before catching a flight to Punta Cana (more on that soon), I opted to check out the YOTEL New York and see what all the fuss it about.

The first thing you should know about YOTEL New York is that looks are deceiving. The hotel takes almost an entire city block, but its the trendy, compact rooms that make an impact. The purpose here is function into form: take a small space and make it workable for travelers without making them feel claustrophobic or concerned about bumping into things in the middle of the night.

bed-single.jpgA Premium Cabin room at YOTEL New York. The bed is in "sit" mode so you have a little more space in the room. When you're ready to sleep, a button on the side of the bed extends the bed to lie flat.

There are a few various room types (see more photos below) - the most popular is the is Premium Cabin - and all the rooms include the basics you'd need for a night: bathroom amenities, hairdryer, lighted mirrors, flat-screen TV with airport flight times for JFK, LGA and Newark, endless outlets for plugging in, and a heated towel rack (which I considered the "luxury" of the room). The suites are a little more spacious, some with rotating circular beds, pool tables, fireplaces, hot tubs and wrap-around terraces. There aren't coffee makers or mini bars in the rooms, but on each floor there is a "galley" area that has water, coffee, tea, and a vending machine. Every morning from 7am-10am there is also complimentary coffee, tea and muffins on the hotel's fourth floor (the main lobby area) for guests.

The common areas include three bars, one Asian-fusion restaurant, an outdoor terrace, fitness center, meeting space and lounge. The lounge area also has private rooms with windows overlooking the city, flat-screen TVs, desk space, phones and L-shaped sofas. These rooms are first-come first-served, and are great for business travelers looking for a place to work or hold impromptu meetings. In my opinion, the rooms are way too small to work in for a few hours, which makes these private rooms in the lounge area perfect. I was able to grab one of these rooms and enjoyed three hours of work time while overlooking midtown Manhattan and still being "on the scene" in the hotel.

lobby-room.jpgThere are private rooms that line one section of the lobby area, which are available to guests on a first-come, first-served basis. All the rooms have wrap-around sofas, coffee tables, phones, Internet and flat-screen TVs.

Down the street from YOTEL New York, The Pod 39 Hotel (located on 39th street) is readying to open this spring, making it the second pod hotel to open in New York.  The 367-room Pod 39 will share its sibling’s concepts – a communal space for travelers to socialize and connect, guest rooms with a stripped-down, no-frills decor, and a casual dining restaurant. The hotel's public space -- a trend many hotels are rethinking -- is located on the 17th floor of the building, overlooking the river and the city's skyline. Room rates will start at $119 with three configurations available: bunk, double and queen, each with an en-suite bathroom.

One of my favorite features of this high-tech, low-luxury hotels, however, is found in the lobby of YOTEL New York. The Yobot is a robotic arm that can collect and store your luggage for $2 a bag, while you flit and flutter around the city before your flight or train. Recently, YOTEL New York synced Yobot with the JetBlue luggage handlers at JFK airport so you can store your luggage or have it transported from the hotel to the airport. (I didn't try this, but if you do let me know how it works!)

yobot.jpgThe Yobot stores your luggage in one of the secured bins while you enjoy a jaunt around the city.

A few more things you should know about YOTEL New York before booking:

  • 24-hour "Mission Control", which means there's always someone at the desk on FOUR, the hotel's main lobby, to assist with anything you need.
  • Premium cabins are perfect for the solo traveler, but those traveling in groups or families will want to be sure to reserve larger rooms. The purpose of the rooms is function, not fancy. The beds move from sofa to flat-bed for space-saving purposes, and most rooms are no bigger than 200-square-feet.
  • Free wifi throughout the hotel, including rooms and public spaces
  • There's a lot of local action here. According to a hotel representative, nearly 70% of the guests in the restaurants and bars are local New Yorkers (a pro for those travelers looking for a more "local" hangout).

Here are some more photos from the hotel, YOTEL New York:

jfk-dep.jpgTVs in all rooms display current flight departure times for JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports.

suite.jpgThe much more ample living room space area in one of Yotel's suites.

circle-bed.jpgA circular bed that rotates is one of Yotel's suites selling points.

bar.jpgThe decor of one of Yotel's three bars.

restaurant.jpgDohyo, the hotel's Latin-Asian inspired restaurant, features tables along the perimeter as well as communal, Japanese-style tables on the floor.

view-outside.jpgThe view of Manhattan from Yotel's outdoor bar space.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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