The Death of the Hotel Minibar

The Death of the Hotel Minibar

Are the days of the hotel minibar soon to be gone?

Although these minibars are known for providing worn down travelers and business people a small snack or a way to wet their whistle, they are also known for their ridiculously high prices. They are one of the few places on the planet where a can of soda can reach prices near $8!

It may strike you as surprising, especially with the highway robbery prices they are charging, but hotel minibars have actually been reported as a huge loss for many hotel companies.  With most people just flat-out avoiding them, keeping the areas stocked with fresh snacks and drinks has become more of a hassle and money pit for hotels.  Another issue that has been contributing to the downfall of the minibar is theft.  Hotels have found that many people were stealing clear alcohol and replacing it with water, leaving the people who check the areas at a disadvantage.

According to the Hilton Hotel chain, between 5% and 20% of mini bar profits are lost due to theft and people disputing charges.  In an effort to calm the customer many times the hotel will just credit the item from the minibar rather than sticking to their guns and making the customer pay for it.  By that logic, maybe we should all start disputing these charges?

Many of the chain hotels have already gotten rid of the minibar.  Companies like Hilton and Marriott do offer a mini fridge in their hotel rooms, but they are no longer pre-stocked with drinks and snacks.  This leaves the hungry traveler with a choice of either vending machines or the over-priced hotel pantry store, which offers prices that are similar to that of a convenience store.

Granted these prices are a drastic change from that of what once was an $8 can of soda, but travelers will certainly feel the sting in their wallets if purchasing a large amount of goods from these stores.  Traveling with a family of four can result in a bill that reaches or exceeds the $20 dollar mark, and that’s just for snacks!

Certain hotels are offering minibars that are free of charge, however you can be certain that these prices will be factored into the cost of the room.  Other chains, like Kimpton Hotels are offering a perk to people who get their loyalty card.  The, “Raid the Bar” program allows members to spend up to $10 in the minibar on whatever they want and is written off as a credit.

No matter how you slice it, whether it is only a few cents more or a number of dollars more, the hotel minibar is certainly a pain in the wallet.

So what’s the best way to avoid paying these outrageous prices?  BYOS! “Bring your own snacks” that is.  If you know you are going to be staying in a hotel room, why not head out to a local grocery store and buy the snacks in advance.

According to all hotel chains, the most popular item in the minibar is a bottle of water.  Even if purchased at the hotel snack shop, at a greatly reduced cost compared to that of the minibar, you could end up spending nearly $2 on that bottle of water.  A quick look at grocery stores show that many sell cases of bottled water at a price of around $4.  That’s roughly 17 cents per bottle, saving you nearly $1.83 on each one.  Granted that may not seem like a lot for a one-time fee, but imagine it when you are traveling with a family of four or more.  If each person drinks a single bottle, three times a day that equates to nearly $22 in savings a day!

The Death of the Hotel Minibar Sundance Vacations
Take a look at the comparison between prices of the minibar and bringing your own snacks. Click to enlarge!

With more and more hotels foregoing the minibar and leaving you a small refrigerator to use, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?

Travelers can keep snacks for the kids chilled and ready to be accessed when they get a little restless or hungry between meals.  If you are traveling without the kids, couples may consider putting a bottle of wine or their favorite adult beverages in the fridge for a special treat while relaxing after a long day of activities.  The single or business traveler can use them to store left-overs from the restaurant for a late night snack, or drinks that can be used during the day or after those long meetings.

These small adjustments, like bringing your own snacks along, to your vacations can produce big savings for you and your wallet.  Although the days of the mini bar may be limited, the days of travelers being hungry is certainly not going away anytime soon.

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The Death of the Hotel Minibar