12 Family Hotels That Offer a Free Breakfast

Okay, even if you don’t looooove chain hotels, you gotta admit — the free breakfast is awesome. Even if it’s just a bowl of cereal or a pastry and orange juice, that’s one meal out of the way. You can avoid  taking your gang of ravenous, borderline-manic children into a Denny’s or breakfast diner (hmm, or is it just me with that problem?).

Hanna Pauli

Your breakfast will not look like this. “Breakfast- Time” painting by Hanna Pauli.

I created this list of free breakfast-serving hotels in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Some of these are not just fine, but great — you’ll get a hot meal, a cooked-to-order breakfast omelet or an evening reception. Not bad at all. Many chain hotels also provide indoor pools (preferable in our always-undependable climate)  so the kids won’t mind if there’s not much of a personal touch. Free breakfast and a pool — I’m ready to go now.

Caveats: Check with the specific property you’re booking to make sure that they are offering breakfast. Always, always check.

1. Staybridge Hotels. These hotels offer a hot buffet breakfast, including fresh waffles. Evening receptions as well, Tuesdays through Thursdays. See the lists of Staybridge Oregon hotels, Washington hotels and BC hotels.

2. Embassy Suites. Free breakfast might include a cooked-to-order omelet, bacon, eggs, breakfast potatoes and pastries. Also, an evening reception (with wine!). Most locations are clustered in the Puget Sound and Portland. Also in the Hilton family: DoubleTree sometimes offers a continental breakfast. The roomy Homewood Suites provides a full, hot breakfast like Embassy Suites — along with a weeknight free manager’s reception featuring dinner items. Most are in the Puget Sound, Vancouver/Portland metro and in Medford, Oregon. Oh, and 15% off for active and retired military service members.

3.  Comfort Inns. The common Comfort Inns now advertise a free hot breakfast, including eggs, sausage, waffles and fresh fruit. Many locations in Oregon, Washington and Canada.

4. Oxford Suites. This contemporary-focused hotel chain has a free buffet breakfast and many also offer family rooms. Locations on the Oxford Suites map ? Six hotels in Oregon, six hotels in Washington State — stretching from Klamath Falls, Oregon to Silverdale, Washington.

5. Hampton Inns. While not so common throughout our area, Hampton Inns have a free hot breakfast served daily, with fresh waffles and oatmeal. If you’re in a hurry, the “On the Run Breakfast Bag” gives you the basics: apple, cereal bar, muffin, water. Check the map in this Hampton Inns link to find two in Oregon (Salem and Astoria), two in BC (Vancouver and Surrey) and more in Washington. I’ve stayed at the one in Burlington, and found it just fine, with easy access into the North Cascades.

6. Ramada Limited, Super 8, Travelodge. The Wyndham family offers free continental breakfast at many of the budget properties, including Ramada Limited, Super 8, and Travelodge.  I’ve stayed at Super 8s a few times; not my first choice, but it might be yours. See this listing of BC Ramada properties and use the Ramada map for Oregon and Washington free-breakfast hotels.

7. Holiday Inn Express. This hotel chain isn’t skimping on the free hot breakfast bar; here you’ll find cheese omelets, bacon and sausage, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, an assortment of cereals and pancakes at a few locations. View the British Columbia Holiday Inn locations, Washington State hotel and Oregon hotels.

8. Best Western Plus. Best Western Plus provides a free breakfast at the PLUS locations (and even then, I would call and make sure — also, some non-plus locations will offer breakfast too.). Here are locations for Best Western in Oregon, Best Western in BC and Best Western in Washington.

9. Days Inn. Pick up a complimentary breakfast at “participating locations,” Days Inn says. Which means you should double-check, but you’ll probably find the juice and pastries out at Oregon Days Inns and Washington State Days Inns. More than 108 Days Inn hotels dot British Columbia.

10. La Quinta Inns and La Quinta Inns and SuitesLa Quinta Inns and La Quinta Inns and Suites serve up a continental breakfast. These properties are mostly found in Washington and Oregon, with just one in Richmond, BC.

11. Country Inn and Suites says that their free breakfast choices vary, but could include waffles, scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, hard-boiled eggs and biscuits and gravy. Nom. Unfortunately, there aren’t many in the Pacific Northwest —  one near Puyallup, one in Portland, none in BC.

12. Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Springhill Suites and TownePlace Suites. Several of the Marriott family of hotels offer free breakfast (hot and continental), including the Residence, Fairfield, Springhill and TownePlace. Only a handful in BC (a Fairfield in Kelowna, a Residence Inn with free breakfast in Vancouver), but there are many free breakfast buffets in the Washington hotels and in Oregon hotels.

A (Very Opinionated) Guide to Social Coupon Deal Sites in the Pacific NW & BC

By now, you’ve probably already signed up for one of the online coupon sites – Groupon, LivingSocial or another – so you can receive great offers directly in your in-box. But did you know it’s also a great idea for family travelers? If you sign up for a favorite city you’d like to visit, you may discover a great deal on a four-star hotel, a favorite family restaurant or an activity you’d always thought you’d like to try but never had the money for (heli-skiing, anyone?).

Right now, it’s mostly the cities that offer great social deals, from Whistler to Eugene, and focused on the big players (Vancouver, Seattle, Portland)

However, read the fine print and use your web research skills. While $40 worth of food for $20 seems like a great idea, but if your steak’s not cooked properly, the fries are limp and your margarita tastes like cleaner, its not such a hot buy. ALWAYS check Yelp.com reviews (in Canada, Dinehere.ca) for general restaurant reviews pre-purchase.

The same goes for hotels. The hotel may be offering the discounted stay because few people have heard of the gem of a stay – or it could be because people have read the Tripadvisor reviews and stay away in droves. Or because it’s located at the airport, which we all know is located NOWHERE NEAR THE FUN STUFF. Or it’s located in a suburb with nothing much going on. Check Tripadvisor and double-check the location. Check the fine print on whether they’re going to charge you extra for kids (and do not buy those that do, unless you have like seven kids and you really won’t fit into a hotel room).

And similarly for activities, services and memberships. I tend to think the memberships are a great deal, particularly in your own city – but sometimes also in cities you plan to visit. At 50% or more off, you may still be saving over the typical family admission. Check fine print about expirations and who’s included (adults only? Kids?).

Finally, one more caveat. Many small businesses feel like the coupon sites are a terrible deal for them – charging immense fees and leaving the small biz unprepared for the onslaught of cheapskate customers. A small biz will have to determine for themselves whether this form of marketing works, but I do advise always tipping for the full amount and not cheaping-out too much.

The sites:

Groupon.com. The Big Daddy of online coupon sites, Groupon is (at this point) one of the best sites to sign up for – there’s a daily deal for every metro area, generally, and most are pretty solid. I’ve seen amazing deals here — 50% off Victoria Clipper fare, great hotels, cool experiences. I dread reading the copy, however. I wish they’d ditch the hyper-adjectives and just give me the information. My sneaking suspicion: Groupon uses MadLibs to write each description.

Destinations covered: Vancouver BC, Victoria, Tacoma, Seattle, Portland.

LivingSocial.com operates much like Groupon, but it also offers the appealing “LivingSocial Escapes,” often to local destinations (Whistler, etc.). Without the annoying writing style.

Destinations: Bellevue, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Eugene, Vancouver (BC).

Wagjag.com has offered some fabulous boutique hotel stays and restaurants. I’d sign up for this one if going to Vancouver at any point soon.

Destinations: Vancouver, BC only.

Savvy Source and Mamapedia are both for parents, and often present cool deals for family-centric activities (plays, museums, symphonies, ballets). Of course, sometimes the bargains are a dud or not really family-pertinent, and they’re very limited in cities offered.

Savvy Source Destinations: Seattle

Mamapedia Destinations: Portland, Seattle

Goodnews.com and Stealthedeal.com are also both offered in Vancouver, BC only. Goodnews.com combines local deals with local charitable causes – so you can feel doubly good about your discounted dinner or gelato.

Destinations: Only offered in Vancouver only at this point.

Dealpop.com is the WhitePages entry into the market. Eh. There have been one or two items that are mildly appealing.

Destinations: Seattle only.

Did I miss any coupon sites that offer savings for family travelers?

How to Score a Four-Star Priceline Deal

I love using Priceline to go on our frequent trips. Using Priceline, I think I’ve stayed in almost every four-star hotel in Vancouver, BC and Portland, Oregon. But I rarely pay over $80 per night for these rooms, while other hotel visitors are spending over $175! I’ve stayed in Vancouver for $65 per night (winter), Portland for $50 (winter) and  Seattle for $75 (summer!).

This approach works best for staying in four-star hotels (and sometimes three) downtown, and in big cities: Seattle, Vancouver BC and Portland. For Whistler, use Suite Secrets (no rebid, but good deals). It is difficult – if not impossible – to use Priceline in Victoria, BC. There just aren’t enough hotels participating. I wouldn’t waste any time on that mission, and instead seek out a good deal on a family-friendly hotel.

Before you start:

Check rates and availability on Expedia and Travelocity (one or the other) for three-star and four-star hotels. What’s sold out? What’s available? Is the whole weekend sold out everywhere (you don’t have a chance – pick another weekend!). You can also visit the site BiddingForTravel.com, a message board where you can research average prices people are winning in your destination.

For the below, I suggest opening a new browser window and following along, step-by-step, long before you’re actually planning to book.

How to use Priceline in Seattle, Vancouver BC and Portland:

  1. Go to Priceline.com, click on “Hotels,” and then click on “Bid Now.” Enter the city you’re going to (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver BC) and the dates when you will be staying.
  2. The site will now show a page displaying hotels and prices. Look for the tab that says “Best Deal: Name Your Own Price.” Click on that.
  3. The site will now offer a page showing a map and a list of Priceline’s geographic zones for that city. Example: In Portland, Priceline has 11 geographic zones: Beaverton-Hillsboro, Clackamas, Convention Center, Downtown Portland, Gresham-Troutdale, Lake Oswego, North Harbor, Northwest Portland, Portland Airport, South Waterfront District, Vancouver, Washington.
  4. Make a list of those zones on paper. Click the checkbox next to the zone and scroll down a little to the “Step 2: Choose the star level for your hotel”– is the “4-star” option greyed-out? That means there’s no four-star hotel option in “Beaverton-Hillsboro.” Does it have a three-star? Yes. Write down “three star” (or just draw three stars, whatever you want). Now, uncheck the first zone, and click the next zone. Do this for each of the zones Priceline lists for your destination city. Example: Portland, Oregon has four-star hotels ONLY in Downtown Portland. (for now – it may have changed since publication of this article – the only way to make sure is to check for yourself)
  5. De-select all other zones, select just your preferred zone (downtown), and in the hotel star-level section select the “4-Star Deluxe.” Under the name-your-own-price section of the Web page, enter $50 per night, particularly in the off season. In summer, I’d start with $60. If you see a red pop-up bar that says “Based on recent data, your price has almost no chance of being accepted,” then raise it by increments of $5 until it no longer says that.
  6. Enter your name, address, credit card information. Select trip insurance if you like the reassurance. Send Priceline off to check your bid.
  7. If your bid is accepted, yay! You got it right the first time. But if your bid isn’t accepted, Priceline returns a form to you for a second chance. You have to change the geographic zone, the date or the stars. Don’t change those last two items (date or stars)! Instead, you’ll change the geographic zone to one that does NOT have a four-star hotel. No, you won’t actually stay there – because there’s no four-star hotel, and Priceline weights the star level over the zone. Example: Beaverton-Hillboro does not have a four-star hotel. Add it. Increase your bid by $5-7 (for some reason, I find that odd-numbered bids are often accepted first!).
  8. Accepted? Yes? Yay! No? Add another zone that doesn’t have a four-star hotel and increase your bid, again. Example: Lake Oswego does not have a four-star hotel. You will now have downtown Portland, Beaverton-Hillsboro and Lake Oswego selected
  9. Accepted? Yes? Yay! No? Keep repeating step 8, but leave off those zones with four-star hotels.
  10. If you run out of zones to use, wait 24 hours and try again the next day. Or you can ask your partner to replicate this process with a different credit card. You may be bidding too far away (rooms haven’t been released to Priceline yet) or too close to your departure date (sold out). You may need to start at a higher rate (say, $75) and be willing to go up to $150, if it’s a popular summer weekend. Also, if going to Canada, remember that the fluctuating exchange rate can impact your bids. The room you won last summer at $65 may now be closer to $90.

There is an additional strategy involving closing and opening your browser window, but if you’re ready for that, you are not the type of person reading this article – you’re already a Priceline Ninja. You can find information about that elsewhere.

Priceline Caveats:

  1. You are not going to get a swanky room, but probably the lowest-grade of four-star hotel room, which may or may not include a view of the HVAC system. However, if it’s unacceptable (first room smells like smoke), do ask for a new room, just don’t be a jerk about it.
  2. Four-star hotels have very expensive parking ($20-30/night in our region) and you should tip the bellhop, the cleaning staff, the concierge and pretty much all employees that you interact with ($2-$10, depending on job and service), because it’s expected.
  3. Priceline only guarantees a room for TWO people. Yes, you are traveling as a family, I know, I know. But really, it will be OK. The tiny room is mostly a problem in places like New York, San Francisco and Europe. I’ve never had a problem in our area. Sometimes – in VERY rare circumstances — you’ll need to be flexible (i.e. pay for a roll-out bed, sleep in two doubles, sleep in one queen). I recommend calling the hotels as soon as you’ve “won” your room and requesting a room with two queen beds. Get there as early in the day as possible to score your choice of rooms (do not check in after 4 p.m.!). We like to check in before noon.
  4. As I mentioned, this works best with four-star hotels. But if there isn’t any availability, you’ll have to go with a lower-star room — and be far more strategic about neighborhoods. You won’t get as many free rebids in the “3-star” category, but you will often have a better chance on a very busy weekend. I’ve even gone down to two-star hotel, at which point the quality starts getting really sketchy. But when you have to go to Portland for a family Thanksgiving dinner, you gotta go.
  5. The hotels you win will be big chains. No cute, funky boutiques with kitchens, no kid-friendly suites. Oh well. It’s four-star luxe for less!

Happy Priceline bidding! Let me know (below) if you score any deals or if you have any questions.

Families Travel! A mom to 15 kids tells you how she travels

Sarah Reese is a 36-year-old Bellingham mom to 15 kids. And she loves family travel. Yes, you read those two sentences correctly.

Sarah was a single mom to just one child when she met her husband Robert, who was a single father to four children. Like a Super Brady Bunch, the duo combined their children, then adopted foster kids and Haitian orphans. Eleven children live at home; four are grown and have moved out.

She blogs (beautifully and with vulnerability) about her journey and parenting struggles at Mom to 15. Many of Reese’s children have special needs – physical, medical or psychological. Seriously, her blog sucks me in. I admire her ability to parent with such reflection and compassion. She also takes excellent photos (the photo below is in Pioneer Park, in Ferndale, Washington). It’s difficult to get that many kids arranged and smiling!

“We’ve found that travel and having adventures is what brings us all together,” Sarah says.

So as you can imagine, Sarah knows a lot about how to travel as a larger family, how to save money on trips and why travel is so important for families. Let’s discover how she does it:

1. Where have you gone recently?

The most recent trips have been overnights to Seattle. We often try to combine Children’s Hospital appointments with adventures in Seattle. Typically we have all the little children plus a few bigger ones with us too.

Last summer we did several local camping trips, including Olympic National Park, Vancouver Island (including Victoria) and the North Oregon Coast. On the Oregon Coast, we were with another family who had five children. It was a wild time!

2. What’s your family’s biggest challenge while traveling?

The amount of “stuff” that it takes for our family to travel, especially when we are camping. It’s difficult to not over pack and I am someone who always likes to be prepared. Now we have a good system down for camping and we typically make a list of each item and where it is; which bag, which container, and so on.

3. How do you save money when staying in hotels?

When we stay at hotels we typically stick to two brands: Marriott Residence Inn or Embassy Suites. The Marriott Residence Inn has a “penthouse” suite that we can get for less than two hotel rooms. It has two bedrooms and a fold out sofa. It has a full sized kitchen so we are able to stay on budget with food costs. Both hotels have free breakfast and swimming pools.

Embassy Suites we love because they have a room with a living room area that has a fridge and microwave. We do get two rooms but it’s almost like having four, because of the way that its set up.

If we have to stay outside of these two options we always call ahead to the hotels and let them know how many children we have and see if they have connecting rooms or can guarantee side by side rooms so there are no surprises.

We also always have extra sleeping bags and single air mattresses in the van in case we need to have an extra bed for someone on the floor.

We participate in reward programs, and use AAA or other discounts we can find online. We also always keep our options open to staying at a KOA or renting a cabin or home from VRBO.com.

We’d love to house swap, and have offered several times. Yet no one is taking us up on our offer- might be the family size!

4. How do you save money on food expenses when traveling?

We have half a family of vegetarians and several picky little eaters. This is how we save the most money — by not eating out.

We do try on each trip to have one meal out where we go someplace local and have the experience and the great food! In Victoria, BC, we had fish and chips on the water at a popular place and it was a hefty price, but well worth the experience.

I know that this doesn’t sound luxurious, but spreading out paper towels on the dashboard and laying down PB & J’s works just fine with us. Saving our money for great locally made ice cream or other indulgences is much more rewarding then going through a drive through each time.

We also try to bake muffins and other things so that we have them in the car for snacks and meals on the go. We pack fresh fruit and cut up vegetables and take a huge cooler that we restock on the road.

We also sometimes order pizza and have that in our hotel room or even heat up something in the hotel microwave. Our children are just as happy eating some cheese and crackers with fruit salad for dinner as anything else.

5. How about on things to do; how do you save money on activities?

We did our research and bought family memberships at many big places like the Seattle Aquarium, Pacific Science Center, The Seattle Children’s Museum, and so on. We bought the memberships specifically because they have reciprocal programs in many other places. We try to utilize them as often as we can.(Read more about reciprocal memberships)

We also divide and conquer. We split up and go to the activities that are really important to us. We would rather split up and give everyone the chance to do the things that they really want to do instead of paying entrance fees for everyone even though certain children are indifferent about going.

We also do our research ahead of time on Tripadvisor and other websites so we can see what other people recommend for visiting. We try to go to as many “free” places as possible. We use local swimming pools and recreation facilities if they are unique. We attend free events and try to avoid big theme parks and other money sucking places.

Each of the children typically have their own money saved ahead of time to spend on something for themselves but we don’t go overboard with buying things or shopping on vacations.

6. So many people give up traveling after they have kids. What do you think?

Travel is what keeps life exciting! Living in such a wonderful area of the world (Pacific Northwest) is certainly a blessing that we should all be taking advantage of. There are so many options for travel of any size family on size of a budget.

The longest trip that we have taken as a family was two months long. My husband was working from home at the time and was able to work on the road.

The farthest trip was across the country – yes — with all of our children. Once your family gets into a good routine of traveling the whole concept becomes second nature to the kids.

I would suggest for families who are able to travel outside of the busiest travel times to do so. It’s been incredible being able to go places that are popular and save a ton of money and have free reign because the crowds are non-existent.

Next Monday, for part two of this interview, we’ll find out what Sarah thought of her trip to Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia.