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Just in time for summer travel: 4 budget hotels and motels out to redesign ‘cheap’

If you’re planning to stay at your favorite budget hotel on your next road trip, expect to see changes. Four budget or midscale hotels and motels — Super 8, Sleep Inn, Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn Plus+, are out to redefine what “budget” means by adding cool new furniture, inspirational photos, pillow-top beds, flat-screen TVs and other amenities that kick it up a notch.

Super 8: This Wyndham chain started off its redo with a crazy idea: Rip all the old art off the walls of its rooms and give it away to anyone who wants it.

It worked. “It went a lot faster than we thought,” Michael Mueller, senior vice president, says of the “art fair” held May 4. “There’s quite an appetite for old hotel art in New York City."  

Super 8 is out to de-clutter its guest rooms — “there was no purpose to this art other than to fill wall space” — and create a sleeker, newer space.

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New headboards reflect black-and-white photos that evokes a place near the hotel. Mueller calls it “hyperlocal imaging” that he hopes will inspire travelers to want to see the pictured scenes during their Super 8 stay.

The brand also is adding oversized vintage postcards in the lobby for the sense-of-place feel.

Changes estimated to cost $100 million when completed are being implemented at the chain’s 1,800 North America hotels. So far about 60% have already incorporated the new look; Super 8 is hoping for the shift to be complete by year’s end.

“What we’re trying to do is get out of the perception that all economy hotels have to be cheap,” Mueller says.

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For Super 8, that means rooms with more modern and modular furniture — no sharp-angled pieces; a tan-and-olive color palette and an accent wall behind the headboard.

Room prices vary widely according to location, but an average cost would be $65 a night. That includes free breakfast (they’re known for the cinnamon rolls) and free Internet access. Info: Super 8

The common area of the new Sleep Inn design includes work spaces as well as cozy chairs and benches. (artist’s rendering)
The common area of the new Sleep Inn design includes work spaces as well as cozy chairs and benches. (artist's rendering)

Sleep Inn: This chain, which mostly has properties in the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast, in May rolled out a new prototype for its midscale hotels. 

It’s all about newly built sites — about 500 are planned or in development — that will feature a new exterior and interior.

The signature tower will have a “warm, gray exterior” with a slimmed-down arrival area.

Rooms will accent simplicity, with decorations like black-and-white photos that are inspired by nature and reflect the local area, an accent wall, an open-closet redesign (so you don’t leave anything behind) and a white triple-sheet cover instead of heavy quilts or bed scarves. 

Free breakfast and free high-speed Internet come with the room too.

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The idea is to woo budget-conscious “millennials ... but also keep the appeal of the baby boomers,” says Anne Smith, vice president of brand strategy for parent company Choice Hotels International.

The new prototype is an extension of a redesign that began in 2010; no time line on when new builds will be completed.

Rooms on average cost $85 to $95 a night. Info: Sleep Inn

Motel 6’s renovated double rooms have been phased in over the past few years. The chain hopes to complete the new decor in all properties in 2017. It feature beds with a pillow top mattress, carpet-free floors and accents in bright colors.
Motel 6's renovated double rooms have been phased in over the past few years. The chain hopes to complete the new decor in all properties in 2017. It feature beds with a pillow top mattress, carpet-free floors and accents in bright colors.

Motel 6: The brand that promises “to leave the light on for you” also has been in the midst of spiffing up its guest rooms. 

Last year the company announced a massive renovation of its motel rooms. About 75% of its 1,330 properties in the U.S. and Canada have made the switch. By the end of 2017, all rooms should be updated with the new, hipper colors and amenities.

Updated rooms have a pedestal king- or queen-sized bed with pillow-top mattresses, a flat-screen TV, a wood-like floor (no more carpets!), a nook for personal electronics and a multimedia panel to connect a laptop or an MP3 player.

Redone bathrooms feature a black granite counter top with a bowl-like sink and a walk-in shower.

Room prices vary widely, based on location. The only early-morning freebie at this chain is coffee in the lobby.

Info: Motel 6

Red Roof Plus+: These 45 (and counting) premium properties in the Red Roof brand are described as having trademarked “Next-Gen” amenities.

What does that mean? Pillow-top mattresses, flat-screen TVs, bowl sinks, wood-like floors and an accent wall (red, of course). Rooms also have coffee makers, an iron and ironing board, mini-fridge and microwave.

Things like free high-speed Internet and more electrical outlets were added based on guest feedback.

And there’s an extra treat too: a free snack box with bottled water, popcorn, orange juice, trail mix and granola bars. And most locations have free breakfast too (amenities vary by location).

You’ll find the Plus+ properties on the website; there’s one at San Francisco International Airport and one in west Phoenix too. Average room prices start at $76; prices start at $123 for an upcoming weekend at the San Francisco site.

Info: Red Roof Plus+

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