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The people have spoken: Nearly 50% of travelers consider free breakfast to be the most valuable perk that hotels can offer.

The Points Guy surveyed members of the TPG Lounge, our Facebook group of experienced travelers with more than 36,000 members, many of whom travel frequently throughout the year both for work and for leisure. For many travelers, the most important meal of the day is also the most important benefit they took into consideration when selecting a hotel, especially for leisure stays.

With hotel chains increasingly eliminating free breakfast from basic hotel room packages, even for their elite customers, the prospect of free breakfast is to travelers what free pizza and beer is for college students. “With 2 people, free breakfast can save you hundreds” over the course of a multi-night stay, says TPG Lounge reader ZB Feenk, who recently saved about $400 during a trip to Hawaii, thanks to daily complimentary breakfast.

But not all breakfasts are created equal. While continental breakfasts with a tepid selection of boiled coffee and mediocre pastries may be the norm in lower-end hotel chain dining rooms, the first meal of the day can involve a veritable spread at higher-end hotels. A full English-style breakfast can include a stacked buffet as well as a menu to order from, and is easily worth far more than a bagel and juice on-the-go. And on the luxury end of the spectrum, breakfast at places like the St. Regis Maldives is nothing short of “phenomenal,” to quote TPG himself — here, Brian estimates he saved a whopping $678 over the course of a five-night stay by utilizing his free breakfast perk.

Coming in second with 30% of the vote was the option of complimentary access to the hotel’s private club or lounge, while 20% of travelers said that complimentary room upgrades were top of their list. Only 2% of more than 2,600 travelers said that they’d prefer free transportation to or from the airport or other nearby must-see attractions.

A number of travelers qualified their “favorite perk” votes by disclaiming that the value varied depending on the situation. “Club access makes sense at Marriott,” says TPG reader Tim Seifert, “but free breakfast is worth far more at Hilton, where many locations don’t have a club but do have a restaurant with a typically pricy breakfast.”

Other travelers don’t bother weighing the financial pros and cons of free breakfast, going instead straight for the hotel lounge with its food and drinks, all on the house. “I love the lounge access option,” says TPG reader Brian Blackwell, because “not only do you get the free breakfast, but other meals too.” While many tourists may not even realize that their hotels offer exclusive lounges, seasoned travelers make a beeline for them as a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of constant travel life.

How do travelers score such perks, you ask? Some co-branded credit cards include complimentary access to hotel clubs or lounges, while elite status often includes perks such as late check-out, complimentary room upgrades or free breakfast included with any booked hotel stay. And in the past, we’ve even discussed how to score free breakfast on award redemptions. In some parts of the world such as Buenos Aires, Argentina or Taipei, Taiwan, breakfast often comes complimentary with most hotel rooms, no matter the budget — offering travelers a fantastic opportunity to dine like the locals.

But in case none of these factors are working in your favor, there’s still hope. As the old adage says, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” TPG international contributor Lori Zaino says she asks for free upgrades every single time she checks into a hotel or into a flight. While Zaino observes that her trick almost never scores her a cabin upgrade on flights (although she can usually get a better economy seat), she reports a 70% success rate at hotels around the world, even at chains where she does not hold elite status. As with any other situation, politeness will get you a very long way with harried and harassed customer service agents who deal with upset travelers all day — and don’t forget that the $20 hotel upgrade trick is always an option, especially in high-traffic destinations such as the Las Vegas Strip.

As TPG editor Nick Ewen says, “With hotels, it never hurts to ask.” Godspeed!

If you manage to score a cool upgrade, drop us a line about it at info@thepointsguy.com, with“Reader Success Story” in the subject line and including details about what you received, and how you got it. If we publish your story, we’ll send you a gift that will help tide you over the next time you have to pay for breakfast out of your own pocket.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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