My Hotel Breakfast Beef

You know the drill when you travel with kids and it’s time for breakfast. You head down to the one restaurant that’s open in the hotel, sit down, and then a waiter recites that the serve-yourself buffet is $19 per person, and the continental breakfast—a smaller option usually with cereal, toast, bagels, and fruit—runs $12. Oh, and if you care to order à la carte there’s a separate menu. Your husband glares at you, while the kids declare they’re starving and really want the stack of pancakes with sausage for $13.95. You order one kid the stack, one selects Fruit Loops, and the third child convinces you that he should have the breakfast buffet because it’s all-you-can-eat and he’s a growing teenager. All I crave is a bowl of oatmeal and a half-dozen cups of coffee. In the end, you begrudgingly pay the $80 bill as you glance at the leftover pancakes, feeling unsatisfied and overcharged for the ho-hum sustenance.

I’m not a breakfast Scrooge. One of my favorite morning meals of all time was at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon bistro in the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. Sitting on the restaurant’s tranquil outdoor terrace with a gurgling fountain, my sister and I enjoyed brioche French toast with custard and silky apples, puffy beignets, homemade granola, and cinnamon oatmeal with berries, all for about half of my mediocre hotel breakfast with the kids. This is exactly how breakfast when traveling should be experienced. The entire affair should be a time to ease into the day, to linger over comforting food, conversation, and the morning newspaper.

Bagel and salmon artfully arranged at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Breakfast is a great affordable way for travelers to experience a luxury hotel in a location you’re already visiting. For example, having brunch in the elegant Palm Court of New York City’s Plaza Hotel, with classical music wafting in the background and stylish hotel guests to gawk at, is worth every penny of the $22 binge for made-to-order eggs. Plus, how many places do you get to eat where former patrons have included writer F. Scott Fitzgerald? Another place I’d fork out extra dough for a fruit smoothie and muffin is the outdoor poolside Cabana restaurant at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.  In Nantucket, you’re missing out on one of the best vistas if you don’t have brunch (the lobster omelet is sinful) at the White Elephant hotel overlooking the boat-filled harbor. All of these hotels have a hefty guest room rate, but splurging on breakfast or brunch—usually much less expensive than dinner on their property—can offer a perfect slice of the location.

So, back to my rant. Dear hotel X, please take a close look at your breakfast offerings and rethink the prices for cereal and toast. I’d likely spend more money in your restaurants, if I didn’t feel that I was being overcharged for bagels. Little kids can’t physically eat much more than a miniature box of cereal that, by the way, comes in quantities of 30 boxes for $10 at Costco. It’s time to think outside the cereal box. Shout out to the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort, where during our family’s breakfast one morning, our friendly waiter noted that kids pay the amount that is the number of their age for the hotel’s buffet. That ended up being ($6, $9, and $13) and I was happy to shell out the money. Kudos for their creative thinking and making parents feel a little better about the breakfast drill.

How do you feel about hotel breakfast prices? Leave your rant or rave in the comments section below.

Susan O’Keefe is an associate editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine.


  1. Anne
    August 1, 2011, 4:29 pm

    I agree with Susan- this is ridiculous. Hotels should offer food options. Although what I don’t like about hotels is the amount of packaging that goes into each individual item. I’d like to see a hotel serving a sustainable breakfast. Sustainable is more cost effective in the end. Just look at these baking supply prices. Cheaper, more sustainable, and better tasting!

  2. Sandra Sheridan
    Orlando, FL
    July 30, 2011, 5:04 pm

    By any hotel’s standard, hospitality should extend to the restaurant, including the greeting, service, presentation and pricing. Particularly, where children are concerned, it is a wise innkeeper who understands unhappy children equal unhappy parents/guests.

  3. jennie (Rhode Island)
    July 30, 2011, 1:42 pm

    Nineteen dollars for a bowl of Cheerios can be the best investment ever made if it mollifies kids preferring pools over Pompeii. Your husband’s glare may morph to that look of love when your remedy for tranquility . . . a box of reprocessed corn . . . saves the day. Touring with young kids is as much of a relocation as it is a vacation. Satisfying the kids serves the greater good of the family (and marriage!).

  4. mary ivanovich
    July 30, 2011, 10:51 am

    Splendid breakfast at Bouchon…a must, is a wonderful mimosa to accompany your puffy beignets…preferably with the company of an amazing travel companion, a sister who you adore…FYI: Vegas is not a good children’s playground as previously suggested in all there marketing attempts, so it’s best not to take any children to Bouchon, the patron’s would appreciate it, lol

  5. Judy
    July 30, 2011, 10:45 am

    Hotels that try to accommodate families should apply that to all areas of their stay, i.e., room price, restaurants, etc.

    As a shout out to Bouchon, my breakfast at Bouchon in Vegas a year or so ago was absolutely the most fabulous breakfast I have ever eaten anywhere. The waiters treated my friend and I as if we were royalty. In October, with a cool breeze blowing on the patio, it was divine!

  6. Mauritius Holidays Tips
    July 30, 2011, 8:11 am

    Once my breakfast was included in the total bill and I pigged out so much I couldn’t have lunch. There were plenty of cakes so it was worth it.

  7. Monica
    July 29, 2011, 6:51 pm

    Susan- Have you ever tried staying at a B&B? Breakfast is included. Altho it takes a little research to find one that can accommodate a family of 5, we certainly do that here at our B&B.

    Your list of hotels where you would happily fork over extra for their breakfast selection ($675/night for the ‘B&B’ option at the Palm Court) means you could definitely have a great family stay at a B&B. ($340/night for a 2-room suite with 2 bathrooms, 3 beds, private entrance.)

    Take a look at B&B’s next time you travel!

    White Cedar Inn

  8. Susan
    July 29, 2011, 4:40 pm

    Thanks for your comment. Linnea I absolutely agree with you that bringing kids food is a good way to avoid high cost of hotel dining. However, I still think that parents shouldn’t have
    to lug cereal and milk with them and hotels should offer affordable options, especially at breakfast.

  9. Linnea Lahlum
    United States
    July 29, 2011, 4:09 pm

    When traveling with kids, far easier to carry your own food (things you already know they like) and let them eat in the room. If you have a refrigerator, you’re really in luck. If you don’t, just takes a cooler and a little more planning. LIttle kids are usually happy with cereal and milk. Most cereals are also really tasty with orange juice instead of milk. Muffins are great. Instant oatmeal is easily made using hot water from the room coffeemaker. I’ve taken my kids all over the country on business trips. Not once have we eaten in a hotel restaurant.

  10. Susan
    July 29, 2011, 3:56 pm

    I agree that B&B’s offer breakfast with their rate and some hotels combine a room/breakfast rate (usually much higher than just the standard room). But most hotel chains do not include breakfast with the room.

  11. ffff
    July 29, 2011, 2:51 pm

    In civilised world, breakfast is included in the hotel rate…