How to enjoy free breakfast and dinner on your next hotel stay
Unlock free meals by picking the right hotel chain – and leveraging rewards cards perks
Making complex credit topics simple
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Dining out can add to your travel spending when you’re away from home, but your hotel may offer a money-saving solution.
Many hotels offer complimentary breakfast, but some include free dinner as an additional guest perk. A rewards credit card can also be useful in enjoying free meals.
As you prep for your next trip, here’s how to unlock free eats at hotels and increase rewards.
See related: 7 hotel rewards mistakes you should avoid
Free breakfast and dinner at hotels: A quick guide
Which hotels offer free breakfast and dinner?
More hotels are jumping on the free breakfast bandwagon these days, but free dinner is a bit more selective.
This table highlights what’s on the menu at some of the top hotels.
Free breakfast and dinner at some of the major U.S. hotel chains
Dining policies may be property-specific
When in doubt about whether a hotel offers free dinner, drinks or snacks in the evening, ask at the front desk if they offer those amenities, says Jessica van Dop DeJesus, a travel expert with DiningTraveler.com.
Free cocktails, finger foods or full dinner may be more common at extended stay hotels, luxury properties or smaller boutique brands.
DeJesus favors Kimpton Hotels, a boutique brand owned by IHG, because they offer free wine and appetizers to guests at a daily happy hour.
Breakfast and dinner availability can vary widely within a brand’s family of properties.
- All Sonesta ES Suites locations offer complimentary breakfast daily, says Sonesta representative Lorie Juliano, along with an evening social three nights per week. However, complimentary meals aren’t available at Sonesta’s full-service brands, Royal Sonesta and Sonesta Hotels & Resorts.
- At Holiday Inn Express, you can enjoy a free breakfast buffet daily, but complimentary dinner is only available at Holiday Inn locations. This benefit applies to the evening of your arrival only.
See related: 3 ways to use your cards at boutique hotels
Hotel loyalty programs can offer dining freebies
Joining a hotel loyalty program can yield dining benefits, but you may need to reach a certain status in the program before you can take advantage of free meals.
With the Hilton Honors program, for instance, complimentary continental breakfast is available for Gold and Diamond members.
According to a Hilton Honors representative, you’ll also need Gold or Diamond status to receive a food and beverage credit at Hilton’s luxury properties, including Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.
A co-branded hotel credit card can help you gain elite status in hotel loyalty programs faster by:
- Offering an automatic status upgrade for new accounts. The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card grants you Hilton Honors Gold status when you are approved for the card.
- Other cards that offer an automatic status upgrade include IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, The World of Hyatt Credit Card and U.S. Bank Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature.
- Offering annual bonuses toward elite status. The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card offers automatic Silver Elite status on your account anniversary each year and Gold Status when you spend $35,000 or more with your card annually.
If you’re joining a hotel loyalty program to get free dining benefits, read the rules carefully.
Jason Decker, travel rewards consultant with NomadTravelHacker.com, prefers World of Hyatt over other hotel loyalty programs because of its dining incentives.
However, starting Nov. 1, that program will only offer complimentary breakfast to World of Hyatt members who book directly – third-party bookings will no longer qualify for free breakfast.
Remember to take advantage of the program’s other perks, too, such as free Wi-Fi, room upgrades and a welcome gift at check-in, says Ahmed Bhuiyan, who runs the travel blog yourTripGuru. “For example, if you’re part of the Marriott Rewards loyalty program and have elite status, you get late checkout.”
See related: 3 ways many rewards cards give you hotel status
Don’t overlook rewards card, frequent flyer dining benefits
Your rewards credit card can also get you an invitation to free dinner.
“If you book a participating hotel, you’re able to get perks like a $100 amenity, which in many cases covers a free lunch or dinner,” he says. In addition, the program includes complimentary daily breakfast for two people.
Frequent flyer membership and airline credit cards can help you land free meals as well.
Marketing specialist and frequent traveler Adam Riemer uses the Hilton Honors program, which offers Gold status guests the option of earning points or a buffet breakfast in selected properties.
“What you’ll find is that many properties have free continental breakfast,” says Riemer, so you can choose the continental option and “get both the food and the points.”
Tip: Even if your hotel doesn’t offer free dinner, you could still turn rewards points into a free meal. The Hilton Honors program, for instance, allows you to use rewards to book exclusive dining experiences. Other programs that also let members redeem rewards for culinary experiences, such as dining cruises, include Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Rewards and Choice Hotels Privileges.
Consider a room upgrade to save on dining
Upgrading your stay can open even more free dining avenues. Both DeJesus and Decker recommend looking into hotels that offer club room access.
“Usually, club rooms offer complimentary breakfast and light snacks and drinks,” says DeJesus. Some of the hotel brands she recommends for club room bookings include Grand Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental.
If you’re planning an upgrade, do the math on how much you’ll have to pay in points or cash. Decker uses the Hyatt Regency Maui as an example.
“You can either pay about 7,000 more points per night to [book a room with] access to the Regency Club,” he says, or if paying with cash, “you can pay only 3,000 more points per night for access to the club.”
In return, you get benefits such as a full breakfast, snacks throughout the day and an evening cocktail hour complete with free alcoholic beverages, appetizers, salads and sandwiches.
“That could make a meal for the family to save some money since eating out is outrageously expensive,” says Decker. Just be sure that it’s worth what you’re paying in points or cash to get club benefits.
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