5 ways to get your hotel breakfast for free

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but odds are that on most days, breakfast at home is a pretty hasty affair. If we manage wheat toast, jam and a piece of fruit, we’re doing great. But, when we’re on vacation, it’s normal to want to take the time for a real breakfast, either to simply enjoy or to fill up so you can devote the better part of the day to sightseeing. So, access to a good breakfast at the hotel is important to many — especially if there are little mouths that wake up hungry.

Free breakfast is nice for everyone, but the math becomes even more important for families. For example, at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort — a popular hotel for families visiting nearby Walt Disney World — the breakfast buffet at the on-site Harvest Bistro costs $28 per person (although currently suspended). Even just the continental version of the buffet (fruit, cereal, yogurt, breads and pastries, oatmeal, grits and smoked salmon, minus the made-to-order egg dishes on the full buffet) costs $18 per person. In normal times, a family of four could spend more than $500 on continental breakfast alone on a weeklong visit. That money could be better spent elsewhere.

Related: The best hotel credit cards for families

Even for solo travelers or couples, a hotel breakfast — while convenient — can break the bank before you even brush your teeth. Fortunately, there are a handful of ways you can be strategic and fill your belly without emptying your wallet. From hotel chains that give free breakfast to all guests, to loyalty programs that offer it as a perk for attaining certain levels of status, these are five easy ways you can snag free breakfast during your next hotel stay and keep more money in your pocket for the really fun parts of travel.

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Hotels where breakfast is free

The easiest way to get free breakfast on your next vacation is to stay at a hotel that offers it for free to all guests. Plenty of budget and mid-tier properties, many of which TPG considers to be some of the best hotel chains for families, offer this amenity as part of the room rate.

Of course, not all free hotel breakfasts are created equal. Some chains offer a simple grab-and-go continental breakfast buffet while others up the ante with a hot meal that might include oatmeal, waffles, cinnamon rolls, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes or even made-to-order omelets. Due to COVID-19, however, you’ll find that many properties are handling breakfast slightly different than what they’ve done in the past.

Here are the major hotel chains and which of their brands offer complimentary breakfast to every single guest, every single day. (The meal has a hot breakfast component unless noted otherwise below.)

Best Western*

  • Best Western
  • Best Western Plus
  • Best Western Premier

    *Breakfast is available at most locations

Due to COVID-19, the breakfast options at many Best Western hotels will include a self-serve grab and go or table service with prepackaged plate. The options will be based on the circumstances and regulations where the hotel is located.

Choice Hotels

  • Comfort Inn
  • Comfort Suites
  • Econo Lodge (continental breakfast)
  • MainStay Suites (continental breakfast with oatmeal station)
  • Quality Inn
  • Sleep Inn

Currently, at Choice Hotel properties that offer breakfast, you’ll find that many hotels that typically offer a breakfast buffet are instead offering prepackaged items due to the pandemic.

Hilton

  • Canopy (“artisanal breakfast” made with fresh local ingredients)
  • Embassy Suites
  • Hampton Inn
  • Homewood Suites
  • Home2 Suites
  • Tru

Despite COVID-19, these brands within the Hilton umbrella are still offering breakfast. However, depending on state and local guidance, the delivery of breakfast may vary.

Hyatt

  • Hyatt Place (you must be a World of Hyatt member and book your reservation directly through Hyatt)
  • Hyatt House
  • Hyatt Zilara/Hyatt Ziva (all-inclusive resort brands)
  • Miraval (adults-only wellness all-inclusive brand)
  • SLH partner hotels (continental breakfast for two when booking through Hyatt)

Hyatt is still offering breakfast, but depending on the location — and mostly at Hyatt Place and Hyatt House properties — you might find more individually wrapped, prepackaged items. Their all-inclusive brands are still offering a hearty breakfast.

IHG

  • Avid (grab-and-go breakfast)
  • Holiday Inn Express
  • Staybridge Suites

IHG doesn’t have a blanket policy on how they are handling breakfast due to COVID-19, but most properties are replacing their buffets with grab-and-go bags. Some might include cold breakfast, such as bagels, muffins, yogurt and fruit, while others offer a rotating menu where hot options, such as omelets and sausages, are available.

Marriott

  • Element
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites
  • Residence Inn
  • SpringHill Suites
  • TownePlace Suites

Similar to many of the other hotel brands, you’ll still have breakfast at these properties, but the options and method of receiving breakfast vary based on your location and government regulations regarding COVID-19.

Radisson

  • Country Inns & Suites by Carlson

Radisson has pivoted their breakfast options and you’ll now receive prepackaged items due to safety concerns.

Wyndham

  • Baymont Inn & Suites
  • Days Inn (continental breakfast)
  • Howard Johnson (continental breakfast)
  • Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
  • La Quinta
  • Microtel Inn & Suites (continental breakfast)
  • Super 8
  • Travelodge (continental breakfast)
  • Wingate by Wyndham

Wyndham is still offering breakfast, but you’ll find individually wrapped items at select hotels.

Book the right way

Free breakfast as a chain-wide amenity is convenient, but sometimes your travel plans include a more moderate or high-end hotel that doesn’t normally include breakfast in the room rate. Then what? This is when you need to book through the right sites.

Many sites and agencies book travel on behalf of their clients in ways that include breakfast. The consortium could be run by a group of travel agents, like the popular Virtuoso, or as a benefit for customers of banks such as American Express or Chase. They add value to a client’s hotel bookings and sweeten the deal with bonuses like free daily breakfast, early check-in and/or late checkout, a spa credit or another perk. When you book through these sites or groups, complimentary daily breakfast is often part of the package.

Use one of these booking methods, and you might just secure a free breakfast. However, in today’s world with COVID-19, you’ll want to call the hotel directly to see what the breakfast options entail. What was once a top-of-the-line five-star buffet breakfast might end up being a continental grab-and-go bag. Sometimes you can find slightly lower rates by booking directly with the hotel and using a discount code such as AAA, so you’ll want to ensure if you are paying a slightly higher rate, the benefits are still worth it.

American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts

Those with a Platinum Card® from American Express can access the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program that specializes in bookings at, well, fine hotels. It doesn’t cost extra to book hotels through this portal and all reservations receive the following perks:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival (when available)
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • Noon check-in (when available)
  • Guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Unique property amenity worth $100 or more (could be a spa treatment, food and beverage credit, etc.)

Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

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If you carry certain Chase cards — think: the Chase Sapphire Reserve — you’re in luck. The bank offers a similar program in its Chase Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection. The benefits of booking a hotel through this method include:

  • Room upgrade (if available)
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • Early check-in (when available)
  • Late checkout (when available)
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Unique property benefit (lunch or dinner for two, golf greens fee waiver, a spa treatment, airport transfers, a welcome gift, etc.)

While this program is very similar to Amex’s program, there’s a slightly different hotel lineup for each and the perks can vary, so we recommend checking both sites when possible.

Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection

If you have certain Visa cards in your wallet (including the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card), you can access the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. The benefits when booking a room through this collection include:

  • Best available rate guarantee
  • Automatic room upgrade upon arrival, when available
  • Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, when available
  • Complimentary breakfast for two
  • $25 food or beverage credit
  • Late checkout, when available

Virtuoso

If you usually stay at luxury hotels, you’re likely familiar with Virtuoso travel agents. If not, add this research to your to-do list. Members of this group offer clients a range of benefits and extras at hotels that participate in their program. The perks may include:

  • Room upgrade on arrival
  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Food and beverage credit
  • Early check-in
  • Late checkout
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Spa treatment credits
  • Special Virtuoso experiences

Signature Travel Network

Like Virtuoso, the Signature Travel Network comprises travel agents that offer personalized service and benefits to their VIP customers. When you book a hotel reservation with a Signature Travel Network agent, you’re entitled to:

  • Daily breakfast for two
  • Benefit that’s unique to each property ($100 dining or resort credit, spa treatment, airport transfers, round of golf, in-room gift, etc.)
  • Room upgrades (when available)
  • Early check-in (when available)
  • Late checkout (when available)

Room rates that include breakfast

If the hotel you’ve chosen doesn’t offer free breakfast as part of its regular room rate, and it’s not part of a luxury booking option, you may still be able to get a break on breakfast.

Price out rates that include breakfast and compare them to rates that do not to see if there’s some value in booking it upfront. See the example below that displays rates for room only and room plus breakfast for up to two people.

Eat free with elite status

Hotels programs reward repeat guests with many perks, sometimes including free breakfast for elite guests when other folks have to pay up for the eggs and bacon.

Hilton Honors elite breakfast benefit

Gold and Diamond Hilton Honors elites can elect free breakfast for themselves and one additional guest on their reservation at the following brands that don’t normally include breakfast as part of the room rate. (If you don’t pick free breakfast as your amenity, you can opt instead for a set number of Hilton Honors points.) Top-tier Diamonds also get Executive Lounge access at any property that has a lounge (Gold members also get access to the lounge when upgraded to the executive floor, when available).

  • Conrad Hotels & Resorts — free continental breakfast
  • Curio – A Collection by Hilton — free continental breakfast
  • DoubleTree by Hilton — free continental breakfast
  • Hilton Garden Inn — free hot cooked-to-order breakfast
  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts — free continental breakfast
  • LXR Hotels & Resorts — free continental breakfast
  • Tapestry Collection by Hilton — free continental breakfast
  • Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts — free continental breakfast

While the program materials state that you’ll receive continental breakfast, many properties — especially those outside the United States — offer elites a full, hot breakfast instead.

Typically, to achieve Gold status, you need to complete 20 stays, 40 nights or accrue 75,000 Hilton Honors Base Points in a calendar year. Diamond status takes 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 Hilton Honors Base Points in a calendar year. However, due to COVID-19, Hilton is making it easier for you to earn status in 2021. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, you only need to have the number of nights, stays or base points to earn the respective status. And, all nights earned in 2020 will rollover as well.

Or, you can level up to status immediately just by having the right credit card.

Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

Enjoy Hilton Honors Gold status by having the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

If you want top-tier Hilton Diamond status, consider the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

Free breakfast for Marriott Bonvoy elites

Marriott’s breakfast benefit for elites is complex, and it’s not that easy to figure out what your status should get you at the chain’s more than two dozen hotel brands. TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg has you covered with his complete guide to Marriott elite breakfast benefits. If you’re considering Marriott status, that article is required reading.

In essence, depending on what hotel brand you’re staying at, Marriott Platinum and Titanium elites can pick free breakfast (or a food and beverage credit) as a welcome amenity. At properties such as Courtyard that offer a $10 food and beverage credit, that credit is for the elite member and one other person on the reservation, so you’ll actually get a total of $20 to spend on food and beverages.

At the following brands, Platinum and Titanium elites have guaranteed lounge access (though there’s not always a lounge), so you could enjoy free breakfast each day (meaning you can select points or something else as your welcome amenity):

  • Autograph Collection
  • Courtyard (outside the U.S. and Canada only)
  • Delta Hotels
  • JW Marriott
  • Le Méridien
  • Marriott Hotels
  • Renaissance
  • Westin

But, it’s not quite that simple. Some of the lounges at specific properties in the brands above aren’t open seven days a week, so there’s a backup plan: At the above brands, minus Le Méridien, Sheraton and Westin, you’ll get breakfast in the hotel restaurant when the lounge is closed. There are also 20 specific properties in the U.S. that don’t provide an alternative to breakfast when the lounge is closed.

Finally, the following brands do not offer any guaranteed breakfast benefit to elites:

  • Design Hotels
  • Edition
  • Gaylord Hotels
  • Marriott Grand Residence Club
  • Marriott Vacation Club
  • The Ritz-Carlton

The breakfast amenity, when available, is for the elite member and one guest on the same reservation. In practice, sometimes it extends to the whole family, but not always.

Staying 50 eligible nights will get you Platinum Elite status and 75 nights will earn you Titanium Elite elite status. If you stay 100 nights and spend $20,000 per calendar year, you’ll gain Ambassador Elite status. Although due to COVID-19, if you had status in 2019, Marriott has deposited bonus nights into your account to help you earn a higher status level for 2020. They have also extended your 2019 status through February 2022.

But, again, there are alternate ways to earn status — though not as easily as with Hilton.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card gets you automatic Gold Elite status, but Gold status won’t typically get you free breakfast at Marriott hotels and resorts. However, new applicants who apply by Jan. 13, 2021, will receive complimentary Marriott Platinum elite status for the 2021 status year.

World of Hyatt breakfast perk for elites

While Discoverist and Explorist elite tiers don’t get free breakfast by themselves, you can earn two Club lounge certificates starting with 20 annual Hyatt nights per year. You can apply the certificates to stays at Hyatt hotels with a Club lounge, where you can enjoy free breakfast (and more).

Hyatt’s highest elite rank, Globalist, gets you Club lounge access on all stays and breakfast there to your heart’s content. If your hotel doesn’t have a Club lounge, Globalists receive free full breakfast daily at the on-site restaurant for up to two adults and two children. (Continental breakfast is served at SLH hotels.)

Hyatt’s breakfast benefit is given to Globalists on both paid or award stays.

Globalist status requires 60 qualifying nights or 100,000 Base Points in a calendar year. However, you can spend your way to Globalist status with a hefty amount of annual spending on The World of Hyatt Credit Card.

If you are yearning to earn World of Hyatt status in 2021, all tier-qualifying nights earned between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 4, 2021, will earn a night toward status in both 2020 and 2021. If you have any stays through the end of 2020, this will give you a head start for next year.

Related: What is Hyatt elite status worth in 2020?

Use a secret password

Finally, here’s a fun way to possibly get free breakfast or another unexpected amenity when checking into a Kimpton hotel. This upscale brand under the IHG umbrella occasionally posts a “secret password” to its social media channels.

Before your next Kimpton stay, check the brand’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds to see if this promotion is running. If so, make a note of the covert phrase and mention it to the agent at check-in. You’ll get a random surprise perk. There’s no promise that it will be breakfast vouchers, though some guests have reported that to be the case. Other amenities have included complimentary parking, an in-room movie, a bottle of wine, dessert or even a room upgrade.

Bottom line

There are plenty of ways to ensure your family starts the day off with a yummy — and free — breakfast each day of your hotel stays. What’s your favorite way to enjoy a free breakfast when traveling?

Featured photo by Nicholas du Pont/The Points Guy

SPONSORED: With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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