These days, you can get miniature versions of just about everything: Magazines, toothpaste, mascara brushes … the list is endless. But now travellers are searching out mini-sized hotel rooms that can serve as a sort of glorified locker while one heads off to explore a destination.
The concept of the pod or capsule hotel stems from Japan, where they were designed to give people with busy working lives — not to mention those who had a few too many shots of sake at a client dinner and missed the last bullet train home — a place to crash in for a few hours sleep.
The focus here is on cheap, comfortable and compact but stylish rooms that still manage to cram the latest technologies, from iPod docks to flatscreen TVs. Choose from these top five capsule hotels from New York to Tokyo:
The Pod Hotel, New York: Pod and blog
The concept: Although there is no denying the simple, stylish and high-tech pods are great value for money, this is of secondary importance at The Pod, where the focus is on saving energy (and cash) for socializing, interacting and discovering New York City. Stop at the Pod Café, a rooftop bar serving home-style organic food for a chat with your pod pals, or find out about their experiences on the Pod Community Blog, where guests can post comments about their stay, making it a sort of online concierge service.
Expect flash updates on what’s cool in town, including music, free events and activities.
Price per pod: From about $112 per night.
The site: thepodhotel.com
The Jane, Manhattan: Survivors, sailors and holiday makers
The concept: This landmark hotel in New York’s West Village was built as a hotel for sailors and restored for its centenary in 2008. The building’s cabin-style rooms sheltered the stranded survivors of the Titanic in 1912, but you’re now more likely to come across hip but cash-strapped travellers than seafarers these days. The pod-sized rooms have the look and feel of a luxury ship’s cabin — mixing iPod docking points and free Wi-Fi with antique fans. If you get a bit of cabin fever, the rest of the hotel is fortunately not based on the compact cruise ship concept — the grandiose ballroom lounge is always buzzing with guests also in search of open space.
Price per pod: From about $112 per night.
The site: thejanenyc.com
Yotel!, Heathrow Terminal 4, Gatwick South Terminal and Schiphol: Capsule cabin
The concept: Missed your flight? No need to strain your neck sleeping on a row of seats in the departures lounge when you can snooze for a couple of hours in a capsule-sized cabin with 24-hour room-service, monsoon showers and a jukebox to sing along to.
The pods are modelled after the interior of a plane — you are after all, in an airport — with rooms designed for travellers with overbooked schedules and a thirst for technology and comfort.
If you have time to kill before check-in, opt for a premium cabin featuring a techno wall with flatscreen TV, surround-sound and iPod docks. But don’t get too comfortable, or you may miss your flight.
Price per pod: From about $53 for four hours or $114 per night.
The site: yotel.com
Qbic, Amsterdam: Cubed and Tuned
The concept: A four-poster bed, a shower and chair packed into just seven square metres — this is no dollhouse, but an average room at the Qbic, where interior designer Philippe Starck created the decor.
Everything here functions on self-service, from check-in to the Grab & Go vending machine that dispenses everything from snacks to toothpaste and neckties.
The high point of your short stay? In your quirky Cub’ living space you’ll be able to adapt the lighting — mellow yellow, red romance, deep purple love — to suit your mood.
Price per pod: From about $125 per night.
The site: qbichotels.com
Capsule Inn Akihabara, Tokyo: Inn Tokyo
The concept: You can sleep in a capsule that’s the exact replica of a jet airplane cockpit in Tokyo’s original pod hotel.
Like other pod hotels, Capsule Inn has separate floors for men and women, although sharing would be physically impossible as these functional pods are about the size of the average tanning booth rather than a hotel room. They are definitely not for the claustrophobic. There’s also a main lounge area for those waiting for their next shuttle train home, or to the office.
Once nestled in your capsule bed, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that there’s still the space for a TV, radio, adjustable lighting and of course, an alarm clock — to make sure you actually make it back to work in time.
Toothbrushes, robes (Yukatas) and razors (to get rid of morning stubble) are supplied free of charge and although the inn has no eating facilities, there is a world of options waiting outside. If you need to check your email or join a conference call, the ground floor lounge has free Internet.
Price per pod: From about $55 per night.
The site: capsuleinn.com