NEW YORK (AP) — Looking to break out of that big, boxy, cookie-cutter hotel for your summer vacation?
Then consider Stayful.com, a website that launched last year offering discounts at hundreds of boutique hotels around the country. The site promises a chance to try hotels and inns with more local character and to save a few bucks along the way.
Stayful only lets you book up to 30 days in advance and once a room is booked it is non-refundable. They aren't all small independent hotels — the Peninsula New York showed up on one search — but most promise to be different than a typical hotel stay.
Some of the better-known properties include the Gansevoort Park Avenue in New York, The Standard Downtown in Los Angeles, Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans and the Viceroy Miami. There are also plenty of lesser-known lodging options.
Right now, the site is limited to 10 cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
Stayful asks you to bid on a hotel price. Some provide instant answers. Others can take up to a day to reply and once the hotel responds, you have just three hours to complete the booking. But this isn't like Priceline or Hotwire where you are locked into a hotel without knowing all the details. Stayful gives you the specific hotel name and tells you — before a credit card is required — if your bid has been accepted. Room types, however, are assigned at check-in.
In Seattle, a one-night stay at The Belltown Inn was suggested for $128. A bid of $124 was offered and instantly approved. With taxes and fees, it came to $145.34. Booking directly through the hotel's site, the same stay would have come to $192.03 with tax. But the reservation came with a cancellation option and at least guaranteed a queen bed. Note: Expedia wanted $185.80 for that same queen bed that could also be canceled. It sometimes pays to shop around.