Alternatives To Drab Chain Hotels (VIDEO)

02/24/2012 07:06 am ET | Updated Apr 25, 2012

Whenever I went on family trips as a child, we stayed in chain hotels. My relatives chose big-name accommodations because the standard was reliable. Unfortunately, the "safe choice" tends to be the boring one. I remember these rooms as a single beige blur.

Nowadays, I rest my head in more colorful environments. Watch my new "Travel SOS" video to explore two of these alternatives.

1) Boutique hotels

"Lifestyle hotels" have an indie rocker spirit. There are fewer rooms, and the staff puts extra effort into personalizing the stay.

For example, Vancouver's Georgian Court has a modern lobby, a fleet of elliptical machines, and free chocolates. The women-only "Orchid Floor" pampers female guests, at no extra cost.

2) Airbnb

On Airbnb, travelers can search for a private room or apartment, and rent it securely.

I was attracted to the bright decor and excellent ratings of this Rome apartment. After speaking by phone, the owner met me to hand over the keys.

For the price of a regular hotel, I stayed in an apartment full of personality, and experienced Rome like a local.

In the past, vacationers booked chain hotels because they knew what they were getting into. But now, it's easy to find user reviews online and determine if the room is right. The next time you're traveling, give these quirkier accommodations a try.

What's the most memorable hotel or rental you've ever stayed in?

Colorful alternatives to big-name hotels

Photos and video by La Carmina. Thanks to The Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver, Airbnb, Sebastiano Serafini, Francesco IV, and Lov/Recs for the music ("Human" by Trans-X).