Sites, like booking.com, usually have an option to pay for breakfast in advance. What is the general recommendation? Is paying in advance cheaper than just showing up and paying in person if you like the breakfast?
Assuming that you actually want to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant:
Collecting hard price data is difficult:
When booking in advance selecting the "best room-only rate" and adding the optional breakfast separately often already seems to result in a different rate than the one offered for the same "room inc. free breakfast" ...
None of the hotels I recently stayed in published online what they'll be charging you when you opt-in for breakfast at check-in, nor what they charge for simply walking in the restaurant. You'd need to contact them directly for that.
That makes it hard to say if there is any difference in rate for :
- pre-booked room+breakfast rate
- pre-booked room-only rate and switching to a room+breakfast rate onsite at check-in
- or paying separately (at check-out) for your breakfast(s) from the buffet
Anecdotal data suggests that it can go either way :
At some hotels the price for a breakfast is always the same. (in the local currency - currency conversions on sites like Booking are sometimes slightly deceptive)
Then there is no price difference when you book a room rate without breakfast, compared to upgrading to a room+breakfast rate (in advance or at check-in) or paying (at check-out) for the breakfast in the hotel restaurant in the morning, breakfast simply costs the same.
At some hotels (usually the ones that also allow non-guests to join the breakfast buffet) as a hotel guest on a room-only rate I was charged the price from the menu, which seemed (much) higher than a pre-booked combo deal would have been.
At some hotels rather than/instead of a buffet, the breakfast can be ordered from a menu. Then paying separately for a small appetite (i.e. only a simple coffee and croissant) is beneficial and when your appetite is larger; then a rate including breakfast might prove to be cheaper.
Reasons why I book a rate including breakfast:
I think I'll actually want to have breakfast in the hotel (buffet) restaurant
The price for including the breakfast isn't crossing my subjective "too expensive" (for the location) mark.
There appear no nearby alternative locations to get breakfast
I'm on a business trip and when the hotel rate includes breakfast my per diem isn't reduced, meaning that breakfast is "free" for me and I can afford to spend some more on lunch, dinner and/or drinks.
Some loyalty programs don't only count the number of nights, but also the price per night. Paying separately for breakfast at the hotel earns fewer loyalty points.
Reasons why I book a rate without breakfast:
I know beforehand I won't actually be having breakfast in the hotel restaurant.
- Planned meetings/excursions in the early morning.
- Time differences and jet-lag - and I'll most likely instead order from the room-service menu.
The price for including the breakfast does cross my subjective "too expensive" mark.
- Which is reached quicker when the hotel offers a kettle/coffee maker and other amenities in the room.
- And there are suitable nearby alternatives to the hotel restaurant.
I wanted to explore those alternatives anyway.
When I checked the prices of hotels recently the 'include breakfast' option was cheaper than buying the breakfast in the same hotel on the day. In some cases it will be the same, it can even be more expensive if the hotel wants to risk that.
But knowing the area and how much I eat at breakfast, I bet I can get more food for less money in the supermarket near that hotel.
It will be like that in many locations but not in all. Having a hotel breakfast will be easy and less fuss, but mostly more money than other options.
On the other hand, if you are lucky, the breakfast option is a very good deal compared to going out to breakfast in a hotel or restaurant in the area you stay and cheaper options may not be available.
It is a risk you need to weigh. Mine is mostly to include breakfast but I do look at its price and the cost of other food options in the area, compared to what I would spend on breakfast at home. If it is a few cents extra, and double the local cost I might well go for it, even if it is double the cost. On the other hand, the time the hotel did charge €17 each for breakfast we went out and had a good breakfast each for €5.
This is not specific to booking.com but pretty common across the hotel industry. I have seldom if ever found breakfast to be cheaper if booked in advance but there are so many small differences between countries and hotels that I certainly cannot rule that out.
It's mostly about the convenience of having it arranged in advance, especially if someone else is booking for you (no need to expense it separately after the fact). In really small hotels, knowing the day before is also important to help planning so you may be asked whether and when you intend to take breakfast, even if it is already paid for. In my experience, if you haven't booked breakfast, you will always be asked again when checking in.
My general experience is that it's cheaper to buy in advance, at worst the same.
However you may not be able or want to have breakfast at the hotel every day of your stay (you may be wiped out from lack of sleep and jet lag the first morning and miss the window, you may have to leave at some ungodly hour on your last day, you may have meetings or leisure excursions inbetween that require very early departures, and finally on a stay of more than a few days you may simply get sick of the repetition of hotel breakfasts, even if the food is quite good. Local restaurants may have fantastic breakfasts that you would prefer to enjoy without leaving money on the (hotel) table- and if you are expensing the trip you might have to justify the duplicate breakfast to someone other than yourself.
The quality and value of hotel breakfasts is also quite variable, so a bit of research may be called for if the total amount of money is significant to you. At least read the reviews critically and adjust for local standards (a US motel is not likely to be in the same league as even an inexpensive hotel in northern Europe).
In my experience (though I suspect this is hugely market-dependent), it's usually cheaper than eating in the hotel restaurant, but significantly more expensive than buying food elsewhere.
When I've had long stays away for work, or been traveling with a group, I generally find stocking up on breakfast goods via a nearby supermarket works out much better. It's cheaper, you don't have to wait for service or a table, and (depending on your preferences) you may well have a better range available.