Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Free breakfast offerings at hotels get bigger and better
Kimberly Button normally skips breakfast. But on vacation, the hotel breakfast buffet is a highlight.
She’s drawn to the oatmeal bar, where she transforms bland grains with an array of toppings — chocolate chips, coconut flakes and berries. Sometimes she grabs fruit to take with her and nosh on throughout the day.
At Disney World, the star of breakfast is Mickeyshaped waffles. When dining at the cafe inside Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa — which does not offer free breakfast — waffles cost $15 a pop. But for stays at nonDisney properties such as the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Kissimmee, Florida, you can indulge in as many Mickeyshaped waffles as you want as part of its complimentary breakfast buffet.
“I’ve eaten at hotel breakfasts around the world, but the breakfasts in Orlando hotels are the busiest I’ve ever seen,” says Button, who runs the Wanderful World of Travel blog. “When you can get a Mickey-shaped waffle for free, wouldn’t you?”
Complimentary breakfast is the most frequently used search query on Hilton’s website, according to the Hilton 2023 Trends Report.
Free breakfast can be a money-saver, especially for families or larger groups. A $100 room that includes food for four can feel practically free if you’d otherwise pay $25 per person at brunch.
And for some hotel guests, a free breakfast buffet is also seen as a perk that translates into time savings and convenience.
Gone is the anxiety of researching the perfect cafe, only to meet a waitlist after a pricey cab ride there. No debating which restaurant to patronize or which entree to order, as you can try it all at the buffet. And for early risers, they won’t have to sit in hotel rooms fighting off hunger pangs while waiting for jet-lagged companions to wake up, as they can dine on their own schedule.
But at some hotels, free breakfast can be mediocre or even downright gross, some travelers say.
Vered DeLeeuw, who worked for seven years as a flight attendant and now runs a healthy recipes blog, has experienced many hotel buffets. She eats low-carb, so she skips pastries. And she’s sworn off bland eggs and greasy sausages. But once she went for a hardboiled egg, only to find fuzzy green mold all over the bottom.
“As you can imagine, that incident turned me off for good,” she says.
But many big hotel brands are making changes to improve their breakfast appeal.
Some are doing away with breakfast buffets that have been sitting out too long. Instead, they’re giving travelers credits toward made-to-order food.
That’s the case for Hilton elite status members. As of last year, Hilton elites who were previously entitled to free breakfast now receive a food and beverage credit at some properties.
At the end of 2021, some Marriott brands that already offered free breakfast catered to trends like keto and gluten-free diets with new offerings such as a spinach-and-cheese crustless quiche.
It also started embracing customization, which makes it easier for people who have certain diet restrictions. For example, some properties offer build-your-own breakfast bowls consisting of a base (yogurt, oatmeal or cereal) plus toppings, including granola, pumpkin seeds or coconut.
Hotel prices are significantly higher in 2023 than they were pre-pandemic. Travelers seeking savings on lodging may be able to look beyond sticker price and find deals that save on food — even at hotels that don’t generally offer free breakfast.
Walt Disney World is offering guests at Disneyowned hotels for certain dates this summer credits ranging from $35 to $150 per room per night, for up to five nights (depending on the dates and room type). Travelers receive credits on a physical card that can be used at participating restaurants within the Walt Disney World Resort.