New York’s Pod Hotel: Budget-Friendly for the Solo Traveler

by Gray Cargill on July 27, 2010

The Pod Hotel

The Pod Hotel

It is very rare in the U.S. to find a hotel that has single rooms–that is, rooms that are sized and priced for people traveling alone. Almost all hotel rooms in this country are priced “per person based on double occupancy,” meaning they are intended for two people to share. The message this sends the solo traveler is “You are an abnormality”.  It’s like being left-handed in a world where everything is created for right-handed people.  Thank God there are a few hotels out there, blazing the trail with single rooms for solo travelers.  At the end of June, when I was in New York City for TBEX, the Travel Blog Exchange conference, I was able to stay in such a hotel, The Pod on East 51st Street.

I’d been reading positive reviews about the Pod for the past year or so, especially in regards to its single rooms and tech-savvy–it has free wifi, iPod docking stations in every room, and lights in the rooms to show which of the shared baths are occupied.  But a couple of coworkers who have stayed there gave it mixed reviews.  So I braced myself for the worst.  Imagine how pleased I was to find I really loved this hotel.

What I loved about the Pod:

The Pod Hotel Lobby

Art in The Pod Hotel Lobby

The staff.  Every staff member I came in contact with was pleasant, and some were outstanding. The front desk staff didn’t blink when I checked in early at 10am, one of the bell desk staff directed me to the nearest ATM and a Fed Ex store where I could get on a computer, and I was blown away by the work of the housekeepers. Which leads me to. . . .

Pod Single Bed

Pod Single Bed

The cleanliness.  My room, my entire floor, the shared bathrooms, and all the public areas were impeccably clean during my stay.  The only time the bathroom was a mess was at one am one night, after a guest had taken a shower and let water run all over the floor without cleaning up after him- or herself.  That’s not housekeeping’s fault, it’s the guest’s.  Otherwise, those bathrooms were spotless.  I’ve stayed in four star hotels that weren’t this clean.  I stopped the housekeeper in the hallway one day to rave about what a great job she was doing, it was that impressive.

Pod Shared Bathroom Shower

Pod Shared Bathroom Shower

The location:  This hotel is within walking distance of Rockefeller Plaza and just a couple of blocks from the Lexington and 51st subway station on the 6 line.  I used the 6 line frequently during my stay, since almost everywhere I wanted to go (the conference, an after party, the Brooklyn Bridge, Chinatown, Grand Central Station, Central Park, etc.) was off that line.  I was never nervous walking home after dark from the subway station, either, because the 17th Precinct police station is on the block between the subway station and the Pod.  I figured it wasn’t too likely anyone would mug me there.

The Pod is located in a great neighborhood with restaurants and bars all around.  I didn’t have much time to sample them, but I did have dinner one night at a very good Thai restaurant that was a couple of doors down and I had a good and cheap breakfast at the Morning Star Cafe around the corner.

Pod Hotel Courtyard

Pod Hotel Courtyard

The public spaces: There is a lovely courtyard here where you can grab a bite to eat or a drink and sit in quiet contemplation without the city noises drowning out your thoughts.  There is a space in the lobby with a (very) small bar set up in the evening that also has tables where you can set up your laptop if you want, and there is a rooftop deck where you can sit and enjoy the cool evening air and the sight of New York City’s skyscrapers all lit up at night. (To get to the rooftop deck, take the elevator to the 14th floor, then take stairwell B up a flight.)

Pod Single Room

Pod Single Room

The rooms: I didn’t plan it this way, but I got to stay in both a single room with shared bath (for 3 nights) and a double room with private bath (for 1 night).  The single room was perfectly sized for the solo traveler.  It was pretty much the size of a prison cell, but much more appealing (really). I had room 1410, at the end of the hall, and it had windows on two walls, so it was plenty sunny.  Beneath the bed are drawers for your clothing, there is a desk, hooks and hangers on the wall for your hanging clothing, and a small sink/vanity area.  All in all, a comfortable and reasonably attractive room for a budget hotel.

Pod Double Room

Pod Double Room

I will say, though, that as much as sharing a bathroom didn’t bother me, I was pleased to have the double with the private bath on the last night.  The room was only slightly larger than the single, with a double bed taking up most of the space, but being able to get up to pee in the middle of the night without having to remember to bring my room key with me was a relief.  (The whole time I was in the single, I was so afraid I was going to lock myself out of my room in the middle of the night whenever I had to use the bathroom.)  The double room also had a room safe, which the single did not, and its own toiletries (all you get in the single room is soap).

Pod Hotel rain shower head

Pod Hotel rain shower head

The rain shower heads.  I’ve stayed in four star hotels that had minimal water pressure.  The water pressure here was terrific, and the rain shower head very, very nice.

The system of room lights to indicate when shared bathrooms were occupied. I loved this concept, and I think all hostels and B&Bs should take note of this technology. Above the door in every room that shares a bath is a little wall mount that shows a red light when one of the shared baths is occupied. This way, you don’t have to trudge down the hall and stand outside the door waiting for it to be free. You know when it’s free while you’re still in your room. Brilliant!

Pod Shared Bath Lights

As you can see, bathroom 1 is occupied, while bathroom 2 is empty

The Price. By New York City standards, $200/night is considered “cheap”.  I cut my teeth on Vegas hotel prices, though, so it was depressing to realize how few hotel options I had for New York City on my budget. The Pod is very reasonably priced.  You can often get a single or a double for $159/night.

The art and decor.  The Pod has gone to great effort to decorate with bright colors and a youthful vibe (I loved the mural on the wall in the lobby and the brightly painted wall in the courtyard). It stands out from most hotels for that reason, and I liked it.

Pod Courtyard Wall

Pod Courtyard Wall

The international vibe. In the elevator, the cafe, and lobby, I heard all sorts of languages being spoken–Russian, Spanish, French, and some I couldn’t identify.  At times, I thought I might be the only American staying at the Pod.  Obviously, the Pod is a popular option for international visitors to New York.  In addition, much of the staff is Hispanic.

Pod Single Room Desk

Pod Single Room Desk

What I didn’t love about the Pod:

Telephone service. Whoever answers their phones needs an attitude adjustment.  Both times I called the hotel prior to my trip, the woman on the other end of the line was very unfriendly and acted like I was bothering her.  In addition, when I tried to call the 800 number, all I got was the screeching of a fax line.  I had to call the regular line to reach a human being.

No ATM in the lobby.  I had to walk to a nearby bank to get cash.  It’s not the end of the world, but a luxury I’m used to.

The Cafe.  The Cafe will do in a pinch if you’re hungry, but the menu selection is small and pricey.  You’d do better to eat elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Pod Hotel Shared Bathroom Sink

Shared Bathroom Sink Area

The towel hook in the shared bathroom. I believe the reason the guest made a puddle on the floor that night was because the towel hook in the bathroom was located on the wall next to the toilet–on the other side of the room from the shower.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the hook right next to the shower?

The Hidden A/C controls. It took me awhile to figure out how to control the air conditioning in my room, because the controls were hidden deep within the room’s heating/cooling system.

Pod Room Temperature Controls

Pod Room Temperature Controls

No Best Rate Guarantee.  This one is as much for their benefit as for mine.  When I was comparison shopping online, I saw that Expedia and Hotels.com had $127/night rates for the Pod, while the Pod’s own website had $159/night rates for the single room with shared bath. Because I prefer booking directly with a hotel over booking through an online agency, I called the hotel to ask them if they would honor the $127/night rate.  I explained where I found it.  They said they didn’t have a Best Rate Guarantee, and they couldn’t give me the $127/night rate.  Wow.  How incredibly short-sighted is that?

So naturally, I canceled my reservation with the hotel and booked it via Expedia instead, which meant that not only did the Pod get less money per night for my room on those nights, but they also had to pay a fee to Expedia for booking me. (Ultimately, any money I saved on those three nights was lost when my Monday night flight home was canceled, leading me to have to book one more night at the Pod at the $159 rate. But at least I got to try out the double room with a private bath.)

But in my opinion, the positives far outweigh the negatives here. I highly recommend the Pod Hotel for solo travelers headed to New York City on a budget.  I enjoyed my stay here immensely, and will probably stay here again on future trips to the city.

Some more photos of the Pod:

Pod Single Room Sink Area

Pod Single Room Sink Area

Pod Double Room, Sink and Closet

Pod Double Room, Sink and Closet

Private shower in double room

Private shower in double room

Pod Double Room Private Bath

Pod Double Room Private Bath

Toiletries in Pod room with private bath

Toiletries in Pod room with private bath

Where you hang your clothes, Pod single room

Where you hang your clothes, Pod single room

Pod Hotel, view from room 1410

Pod Hotel, view from room 1410

Pod Shared Bathroom

Pod Shared Bathroom was always clean

Pod Single Room

Flat panel TVs in the rooms

New York City Hotel Review

Veronika July 22, 2012 at 10:45 am

Hi!
I just wanna say THANK YOU because thanks of you and your blogs I lost my afraid to travel alone to NYC and Orlando.
It will be my first time in USA and my English is not so good (as you can see =D) but I really want to make this trip. I’ll be at The Pod too and I think it’s a good choice.
Thanks again and greetings from Perú.

Gray July 22, 2012 at 11:37 am

Hi, Veronika! Glad to hear from you! I’m so glad you’ve found my blog helpful. The Pod is perfect for solo travelers. I think you’ll like it a lot. Have a great trip!

Tracy Antonioli April 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm

i realize this is an older post, but i found it through your ‘you might also like’ postings…and i have to say a big thank you for writing this up and including photos! i’ve contemplated staying here before–i’m only a short bus ride out of the city, but do ‘have to’ stay the night occasionally, and the pod seems like a good idea. i loved easyhotel and yotel (both in london) and adore the pod concept–but both of those have in-room facilities. i was a bit skeptical about the shared bath thing–but i love the light idea. that’s fantastic!

for my next trip i’ll be staying in a hotel i got for $115/night on a bidding site–i’m kind of scared!

Gray April 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm

You’re very welcome. The Pod is great. The idea of a shared bathroom always freaked me out, too, but theirs was very clean. The lights are brilliant. I have used bidding sites more than once, with mixed results. Good luck!

Macrina March 22, 2011 at 7:31 am

Thanks for the great review. It was very informative and had good photos that weren’t really provided on the website. I am thinking about travelling to New York in December and I think I will definitely choose to be staying here now. I love that there is the option for solo travellers without having to pay for the double occupancy.

Gray March 22, 2011 at 10:02 am

I’m so glad it was helpful, Macrina. I hope you enjoy staying there. It is a nice option for us solos. New York City can be SO expensive.

Gray January 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm

That’s the thing: Most of us solo travelers don’t need as much space and would be willing to pay less for less space, so I wish more hotels would offer that option. At least a few, like the Pod, do.

Cheap Hotel Rates December 1, 2010 at 9:16 am

finally somebody invented hotel rooms for single person hotel rates so it will be cheaper for someone traveling alone.

Cheap Hotel Rates December 1, 2010 at 9:16 am

finally somebody invented hotel rooms for single person hotel rates so it will be cheaper for someone traveling alone.

Grrrltraveler August 29, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Great review – very well-covered. And congrats on having a stay at the Pod! I’ve always been curious of that hotel after a friend raved about her stay there. But I have to admit, while it’s well-designed, clean and got some sleek perks, there are parts that are disappointing. I don’t like the idea of having to share a bathroom if you have a single! Its like a hostel experience with hotel prices. Also, no toiletries except for soap? Common… I’ve been in cheap but nice boutique hotels in developing countries who’ve offered that. Sometimes even a toothbrush & toothpaste. Shame on you, Pod hotel. Other than that, it is cute. The price tag? It’s a little overpriced. But then… it’s NYC.

Anonymous August 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Well, you don’t need the other toiletries in the single room, because there are pump dispensers of shampoo and bath gel in the showers. It’d be cool if they provided a travel-sized toothpaste, wouldn’t it? I agree, though, it’s too bad about the shared bath for the price. But this is NYC…I did a lot of research, and you really can’t get much for less. I’d have gladly stayed at a Holiday Inn or Best Western if I could have gotten one for a lower price, but I couldn’t….unless it were out in NJ or in another borough, and I wanted something central.

reeder July 28, 2010 at 9:26 pm

It might be worth checking into the chains where you can use your hotel membership points (or purchase them) like ich/starwood/etc. for short stays.
The Ace sometimes has a $99 bunk room deal which includes a private bath. Quikbook and twitter search are also nice ways of finding deals at many of the boutique hotels.

SoloFriendly July 28, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Thanks, Michael! I actually thought about submitting my review to you for DGD, but like you said, the $159 price tag seemed over the threshold. Then again, with New York City, you might have to bump up your threshhold, or you won't have any good digs to report! It's really hard to find anything decent under $150 in NYC. Believe me, I tried.

Michael Gonchar July 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm

hi Gray,
As I read your post I was going to hit you up for a review of The Pod for darngooddigs.com, because we are desperate for NYC digs. But the $159 price tag cuts it oh so close to our $150 cut-off – which just might not be realistic for a city like New York. Maybe we'll one day change our policy for outrageously expensive cities like Tokyo, NYC, and Paris. In the mean time, great review!

SoloFriendly July 28, 2010 at 11:14 am

I've heard the rooms there are REALLY tiny.

SoloFriendly July 28, 2010 at 11:14 am

Isn't it? It was so convenient.

Alouise July 28, 2010 at 3:24 am

nice review, I really debated staying at the Pod when I was in NY. The bathroom occupied light idea is really genius.

Candicewalsh July 28, 2010 at 3:06 am

Ahh, love the review. The Jane also had the whole minimalist thing going, but it was TOO minimalist. Barely room to breathe. Semi-steep price, though!

SoloFriendly July 27, 2010 at 9:54 pm

That is serendipity. 🙂

SoloFriendly July 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Weren't you way up on the West side, Caroline?

Bianca July 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I stayed there 2 years ago, and was pleasantly surprised by it, especially since I chose it at random, pretty much solely based on price and location.

Caroline Eubanks July 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Remind me for next year not to stay at some sketchy hostel just because it's cheaper. In what I didn't pay for the room, I paid in subway fare.

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