ONCE there was a time when the prospect of a stay at an airport hotel sent shivers down the spine of even the most-seasoned traveller.
Pokey rooms, planes roaring overhead like they were about to come through the walls, rattling windows at every take-off and landing, non-existent lounges or bars in which to escape, and restaurants whose offerings were best forgotten were the norm.
No more. Today airport hotels are up there with the best, including with social and recreational facilities, business centres, dining and bar offerings - and sound-proofing.
And the more so in value, when you search out the bargains: the Ibis Sydney Airport Hotel, for example, has autumn and winter rates that begin from just $129 per room per night - stay two nights and you get a 15% saving and pay from only $120 per room per night (prices based on pre-paid bookings).
As well, the hotel has a day rate for those perhaps arriving in Sydney in the morning and not flying out again until the evening: $99 gets you a room up to 5pm.
Day rates are a particular boon for long-distance travellers, with many overseas airports now having hotels right within their passenger terminals, so you can fly and then flop for a few hours without leaving the terminal.
Japan also has those somewhat bizarre "capsule hotels", up to 700 capsules that look like luggage lockers at 2m by 1m by about 1.5m high and stacked two rows high.
Check your bags into a baggage room, climb into your tiny locker and pull either a fibreglass panel or curtain down behind you for privacy, watch TV, listen to the radio or sleep.
Bathroom facilities are separate. The capsules cost from just $30 a night.
In America, the UK and Europe, airports have in-terminal "Yotels": a fast-growing brand of hotels with rooms as small as 6m by 4m, but complete with bed, ensuite, TV, desk, Wifi and costing from around $50 for a minimum four hours.
And as well as Fresh Up Rates that start from Thai Baht 2000 (about AU$62) per four hours, the huge 612-room Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel Bangkok has an interesting "24 Hours Flexi Meal" offer that others could follow: breakfast is included with your booking, but if its more suited to the time you're there for a Fresh Up stay, you can swap brekkie for a lunch or dinner buffet at no extra cost.
Sydney's Ibis Airport Hotel has Wifi and broadband access in all 200 rooms, car parking and a regular shuttle service to the domestic and international terminals (small fees apply for these services).
And its iBistro - open from 5.30am to 10.30pm - brings some particularly pleasant surprises.
The dinner menu, for instance, runs from various breads and dips for starters, through to soup of the day, a half-dozen entrees, 12 mains, five desserts, and a children's menu for those aged 12 years and under.
And Ibis area general manager NSW and ACT Larry Raffel has a great idea here for wine-lovers: all 20-plus sparklings, reds and whites are available by the glass, rather than the usual couple of reds or whites that may not be your regular varietals of choice.
If you do overnight here, don't look past the antipasto plate for two in the entrees list.
It comes with grilled Mediterranean vegetables, chorizo, olives, haloumi, dolmades and tapenade served with Turkish bread ($22 for two).
Mains include beef tortellini with tomato-basil sauce ($20,) creamy penne pasta with chicken, bacon and roasted garlic cream sauce ($21,) fish of the day ($28,) thyme rubbed lamb shoulder with cannellini bean puree, grilled fennel and sun-dried tomato pesto ($29,) and for steak lovers come a 300g beef rib-eye cutlet ($32) or 300g beef striploin ($30), both of which have chat potatoes and café de Paris Butter.
And for children, the menu includes cheeseburgers, fish and chips, pastas, chicken nuggets and chips, and hot dogs (prices range from $7 to $8.50).
End your meal with a choice of $10 desserts including a decadent dark chocolate fondant with vanilla ice-cream and crushed hazelnuts, or an Aussie cheese platter with dried fruits, lavosh and water crackers ($17).
For bookings or more about the Ibis Sydney Airport, hop on to ibishotels.com.au or phone toll-free 1300 65 65 65.
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