To endure a long layover before the next leg of an international trip, or to ensure that there's no missing that early-morning flight, spending the night near an airport makes perfect sense. The downside? It could translate to the trip's low point: Think chain hotels filled with iceberg lettuce salads, cookie-cutter room decor, and a token lousy sports bar.
Fortunately, there are some exceptions to the rule near some major American airports, from LAX to MIA, and many points in between. Book a night at one of these stylish, independently owned boutique hotels and your trip will be off to an excellent start with perks like free airport shuttles and full breakfast spreads. Airport hotels never had this much character.
1. Custom Hotel, Los Angeles (LAX)
Recalling vintage La-La Land with 1960s decor, Custom Hotel is set just four miles from Los Angeles International Airport. Sip cocktails in a cabana or by the fire pit, or bite into rock-and-roll shrimp (coconut-infused) or black spaghetti (with wild mushrooms, shrimp, scallops, lobster, and calamari) while lounging poolside at DECK33 Bar & Restaurant. Or, sink into a seat at LAX Lounge, inspired by club lounges inside airports (there's even a digital display of departing flight schedules). Plus, free Wi-Fi allows you to easily check in for your flight.
Insider's Tip: Book a free shuttle ride (between 5am and 2am) to LAX in a sleek black Mercedes-Benz van.
2. The Inn at Oyster Point, South San Francisco (SFO)
Located six miles from SFO, in the backyard of Oyster Bay Marina, The Inn at Oyster Point boasts gorgeous views over San Francisco Bay. Inside, it's just as beautiful. Look for a bold but surprisingly tasteful design scheme rich with leopard-print and floral-print armchairs, plus geometric-patterned and pinstriped pillows in each of the 30 rooms. Free parking and an airport shuttle (from 7am to 10pm) are just two conveniences for San Francisco airport-bound travelers. SouthHarbor Waterfront Restaurant and Bar pours dozens of California wines and the cuisine pulls ingredients from local farms whenever possible.
Insider's Tip: Ask for a free continental breakfast delivered to your room so that you can pack while you eat.
3. The Timbers, Denver (DEN)
A night's sleep in this Mile High City is elevated even further when it's at The Timbers. Rooms are all suite-sized with a full kitchen featuring granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. Free Wi-Fi lets you stay in touch with what's going on back home or at the office, while a 24-hour airport shuttle gets you to the gate in time. At Peoria Grill, Chef Joseph Westley's fresh-from-the-grill dishes are often paired with live jazz.
Insider's Tip: Free parking at the airport is available for 10 days, a special perk for Denver-area residents.
4. Regency Hotel, Miami (MIA)
Preceding a jaunt to the Caribbean or Latin America, consider dropping off in Miami at the Regency Hotel, just three miles from Miami International Airport. For airport-destined guests who want to recharge, there is a free shuttle to and from the airport, plus an outdoor pool and fitness center. Food and beverage options at Prieto's Restaurant are anything but mundane, including a signature "Miami Vice" cocktail, key lime pie, and Regency 305 burger (with ground beef and chorizo).
Insider's Tip: There's no need to rent a car to head outside of the neighborhood as Regency Hotel rents 2014 Volvo S60s to guests on-site.
5. NYLO Dallas/Las Calinas, Dallas (DFW)
In the Big D, just 10 minutes from the airport, look for this elegant intimate hotel—NYLO Dallas Las Calinas, technically in the Dallas 'burb of Irving—that sports lots of style. After checking in at the reception desk—the wall behind it decorated with Warhol-inspired art—fuel up at The Loft's raw bar for dinner (breakfast and lunch are also served here). Rooms feature exposed-brick walls, polished-concrete floors, original art, high ceilings, and free Wi-Fi, so it feels less like a hotel and more like your friend's cool loft.
Insider's Tip: Pack workout clothes as the gym is state-of-the-art and packed with modern machines.
6. Hotel Preston, Nashville (BNA)
With a hotel bar called The Pink Slip, you already know Hotel Preston—less than three miles from Nashville International Airport—is not your normal business travelers' launch pad. At Café Isabella, enjoy Italian-themed comfort food with a Southern twist (if you're too tired to trek downstairs, simply order from the menu for room service.). Back at the room, high-back headboards, high-thread-count sheets, cherry-red glass lamp bases, and chocolaty brown hues are both calming and inspiring. Free Wi-Fi and in-room organic coffee also helps make your Nashville room feel like home away from home.
Insider's Tip: Available upon request when you check in are off-beat amenities like a lava lamp, rubber duckie, or art kit.
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living, and American Way. In 2006, she co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen or through her web site.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Custom Hotel and the Regency Hotel