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A Popular Alternative

All-suite hotels have become more popular, with a greater number of chains -- budget to luxury -- offering such properties. But the growth of all-suite style accommodations means the possibility of more distinctions between offerings, and the need to determine in advance what the specifics are.

Prices, which can be competitive with standard hotel rooms and also have assorted discounts, are a key factor. So is location, such as whether the property is in the central business district, on the outskirts of a city, or near a major sightseeing attraction. But other values can also come into play.

To illustrate, find out if such an accommodation will provide two separate rooms or one relatively large room where the bedroom and living areas are divided in some fashion. If one room is in- volved, an idea of its size can be helpful. Learn how the division between the sleeping and living areas is handled.

Generally, cooking facilities are available but will the accommodation have a full kitchen or kitchenette. And will this area be separate or part of the living area?

Will the sleeping area have a regular bed or a sofa converting to a double bed? Some all-suite properties are targeted at business travelers, while others may be more appealing to families who want more space and to be able to eat in more often than would be the case at a regular hotel. Find out how many people the suite can sleep and what charges may be levied for any extra bedding.

One of the latest twists, introduced at a few Florida properties, are "Kidsuites" which are an oversized hotel room including a separate playhouse/bedroom designed for children, a separate room for adults, and a mini-kitchen. The children's room, designed for three, has a bunk bed and a twin bed and comes with a TV, VCR, video game system, radio-cassette player, etc.

Business travelers should find out what items come in the work area of the suite. Will there be computer hook-ups? Faxes? If there are separate rooms, will there be a phone in each room? Similarly, will there be separate TVs in each room?

Inducements can vary between chains, with some offering com- plimentary local phone calls, CD players, VCRs, etc. While all-suite hotels may have less public rooms, ask if there any on-property amenities such as saunas, pools, and exercise facilities/rooms. Are there any tie-ins with health clubs in the vicinity? If the chain has a regular hotel nearby, are you entitled to use any of its facilities and is there any shuttle -- free or otherwise -- between the properties.

Some chains may offer gratis continental breakfasts and/or evening cocktails/beverages and hors d'oeuvres. Ask if there is any shuttle service -- again, free or otherwise -- to and from the airport or to any other part of the city such as the business district.

If you're driving, check if on-property parking is available, and if it's gratis or not.

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