Hotel breakfasts: Extra value or just extra?

When I’m on vacation, I like to sleep in. So I usually prefer getting late checkout more than an included breakfast. But on the few occasions when I’ve had to wake up early to catch a flight, the hotel breakfast has proven to be a time-saver.

Here are a few instances when a hotel breakfast actually delivered extra value, if only for the convenience factor.

A few years ago, I went to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, which required waking up at the ungodly hour of 5am in order to beat the traffic to the launch site. Nothing was open, of course, so I was grateful to at least be able to grab some coffee from where we were staying (the Doubletree).

At the Element Hotel near the Houston airport, the breakfast burrito was a nice way to start the morning before catching the flight back to New York. And the Harney & Sons tea felt like a nicer touch than most basic Lipton varieties.

At the Homewood Suites in Seattle, my friends and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before peeling off to catch flights at different times. One of them, a pastry school graduate, ended up whipping up a rather decadent creation with the waffle maker. Guess it’s all in the presentation.

More often than not, however, I end up sleeping past the time the hotel stops serving breakfast, which always feels like a bit of a waste.

Hotel breakfasts: 10 questions to ask

1. What time does the hotel breakfast end? Will you actually wake up in time to enjoy the meal?

2. Does the hotel serve a continental breakfast, a buffet, homemade goods, or made-to-order requests?

3. If you don’t anticipate waking up in time to enjoy the free food, is there a cheaper hotel package that doesn’t include breakfast? Or are you paying for something that you won’t actually get to taste?4. How close (or far) is the nearest breakfast joint? What time does it open? Will it save you time to eat at the hotel before sightseeing?

5. Are you visiting a destination with a breakfast food that you absolutely must try at least once? (A bagel in New York, a beignet in New Orleans, a croissant in Paris, etc…?)

6. Are you more of a brunch person? If so, consider seeking out a neighborhood brunch spot instead.

7. Is the quality of your morning coffee more important than the food?

8. Can you get the food to go? I once stayed at a B&B outside of Santa Barbara, Calif., that offered to pack up some muffins and fruit in a to-go box after I explained that I needed to get back on the road as soon as possible.

9. Does your hotel room come with a kitchenette or a mini fridge? If so, it may be more convenient to skip the hotel breakfast and load up on some basics like milk, cereal, and yogurt that you can tuck into at your leisure.

10. Do kids eat free? Families stand to save the most if the hotel offers breakfast for everyone staying in the room.

[Photos by Amy Chen]