Late-night cravings that cause you to reach for a snack in the hotel minibar can be real money traps. Hotel minibars are notoriously known for their overpriced snacks, like the $10 bag of peanuts and $8 bottle of water — not to mention mini vodka bottle that can cost more than $19. But while most hotels stick to the traditional minibar concept, using it as a source of revenue, some hotels are going the opposite route and offering minibars that are totally free of charge.
Before you get too excited about the idea of free snacks galore, we should mention that one particular category is excluded from the minibar selection in most cases: alcohol. Instead the complimentary minibars at most hotels include a selection of beverages such as soda and juice as well as classic snacks like peanuts, chips, and cookies. But at a few locations, like Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley, Calif., guests are pampered just a tad more: the minibar here is filled with one bottle of local wine and a tin of chocolates, as well as more exotic beverages such as coconut water. At Kerry Hotel Pudong in Shanghai, guests can sit back and sip on a locally brewed beer from the hotel’s own brewery, the BREW, and at New York’s The Greenwich Hotel, the snack offerings include both a jar of brand-name chocolates and a basket of rotating savory snacks.
Though a free minibar might remove one source of revenue for the hotel, it is a way for hotels to show guests their high standards and attention to top-notch hospitality.
Mike Moran, director of sales and marketing at Auberge Resorts Calistoga Ranch, emphasizes that the free minibar is one of the many offerings Auberge Resorts gives their guests to provide exclusive five-star hospitality. "[The] free minibar is a standard for our brand Auberge Resorts. Calistoga Ranch is about pampering our guests and not having them nickel and dimed. Guests need to have the arrival experience of being in their home and be able to relax by enjoying a glass of wine from our own vineyard or a soft drink," Moran explains.
While the free minibar is still quite a rare amenity, especially when it comes to the more expensive items such as alcohol, the idea of giving guests "something extra" is slowly catching on in hotels all around the world. And while free unlimited booze might not be found in a minibar, a few hotels have established free drink specials in their lobby bars. Kimpton Hotels' "raid the bar" promotion gives its InTouch members a $10 ticket to use on a cocktail in the hotel bar, or on drinks and snacks of the same value from the hotel room minibar. In Paris, Pavillon de la Reine and its two sister hotels — Le Pavillon des Lettres and Hôtel du Petit Moulin — are going even one step further, giving guests free and unlimited access to the lobby bar for one hour. During this "dishonest hour," guests can both mix and drink their own drink(s) from staple liquors such as vodka and whiskey, and simple mixers of soda, juice, and tonic water.
Getting ready to scout out that complimentary snack stash for your next hotel stay? Whether you're planning a vacation in Los Angeles or business trip to Bangkok, our slideshow of 8 hotels offering free minibars will give you a few great options to consider.