Hot Travel Trend: Bunk Beds in Boutique Hotels

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Bunk beds are associated with “The Brady Bunch,” IKEA catalogs, and summer camp. But hip urban hotels?

Travelers tend to encounter bunk beds only in a select few places: youth hostels, vacation homes, perhaps the occasional quirky flophouse hotel. A lodging establishment with bunks could be expected to be dated and grungy — shag rug, wood-panel walls, old mattresses, a funky must in the air. Not so anymore.

A new breed of cool, modern hotels may make travelers rethink the bunk bed. In New York City and other U.S. locations where square footage comes at a premium, hotels are embracing bunks to appeal to guests’ nostalgia, as well as the simple need to save money and space. And they’re pairing bunks with boutique amenities and atmosphere and hip, sleek, upscale design.

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Earlier this year, Wyndham opened the first TRYP brand hotel in North America, on West 35th Street in Manhattan, near Penn Station. While new to the U.S., TRYP properties have been found for years in urban areas all over Europe and South America. The brand has a sleek, modern boutique feel throughout—minimalist angular furniture, wooden floors rather than rugs, lots of silvers and earth tones—that appeals in particular to the hip and young. And its family rooms, which include sleeper sofas and bunk beds that tuck away up against the wall, as well as bottle warmers and foldout couches, appeal in particular to hip young families. Groups simply looking for good value will also be interested. Rooms at the TRYP hotel in New York City fit as many as six people, at rates that are often similar or better to hotels where the maximum room occupancy is four.

The TRYP joins a handful of other hip Manhattan hotels outfitted with bunk beds. Unlike the TRYP, though, other bunk rooms aren’t really geared towards families, but to young travelers who don’t mind sleeping on the top bunk if the tradeoff is more space and cheaper rates, with a décor and atmosphere that’s much cooler (and cleaner) than the typical hostel. The Jane, the Ace Hotel in New York, and the Pod Hotel all have bunk bed rooms designed to fit two guests max.

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Meanwhile, the Bowery House, an old flophouse transformed into a hipster hotel with Wi-Fi, 300-thread-count sheets, and a landscaped roof garden, has various bunk rooms, some that fit just two, others as many as 12. It opened last autumn. Similarly, the Out NYC offers bunks for $99 per night in “sleep share” rooms, which are shared by four travelers. Each bunk comes with a personal 22-inch TV and privacy curtain. The Out NYC, which bills itself as New York’s “first gay urban resort” and boasts its own sundeck and nightclub, opened earlier this year, and TIME’s Joel Stein, among other guests, offer rave reviews.

For obvious reasons (cost, space), bunk rooms make the most sense in pricey, densely populated cities. In addition to New York City, travelers can find trendy, family-friendly bunk rooms and bunk suites in San Francisco (Hotel Metropolis) and Washington, D.C. (Rouge Hotel).

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Boutiques with bunk beds are spreading beyond city center locales, though. The newest hotel in South Lake Tahoe is Base Camp, opening this month with 50 stylish, environmentally friendly rooms (efficient heaters, dual-flush toilets, reclaimed barn wood trim) that are just a four-minute walk to the gondola at Heavenly Ski Resort. Among the rooms are two-queen, two-bunk units that accommodate up to eight guests. Rooms come with amenities that appeal to a range of ages and interests in any family or group, including 300-thread-count sheets, gear racks, organic teas and coffees, HD projectors, and Xbox Kinect.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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