The hotel mini bar: is it OK to indulge or best to avoid?

December 9, 2014

Hotel mini bars are always tempting. Who doesn't like the idea of having food and drink within easy reach? For the price, is it OK to indulge or better to avoid the mini bar in your hotel room?

The hotel mini bar: is it OK to indulge or best to avoid?

What's in a mini bar?

Mini bars became a feature in hotels in the 1950s. Over the years, they have evolved to become a staple in most hotels that boast a culture of comfort, convenience and guest satisfaction.

A hotel room’s mini bar typically consists of a small fridge with a few items you can eat or drink. This typically includes:

  • Chips
  • Chocolate
  • Soda
  • Fruit beverages/juice
  • Nuts
  • Alcoholic drinks

For those of us that like to snack between meals, but would rather reach into a mini bar than trek downstairs or outside the hotel, they're a blessing.

How will the hotel know what I've eaten?

Mini bar items are not included in the cost of the room, and are rather pricey. This means you should expect an updated bill detailing the items removed and consumed from the mini bar at checkout.

  • Hotels usually have ways of determining what items a guest has consumed from a mini bar. The most basic one being a manual check done by the housekeeping crew.
  • Once you’ve checked out of your room, hotel staff goes to your room and performs a visual check to see what’s missing from the mini bar that day. These items are then added to your final bill.
  • Other hotels employ an infrared sensor. The sensor sends a signal to the hotel lobby with details of items taken out of the mini bar. In some cases, the hotel will not charge you if you took an item and returned it, unopened, before a certain period of time.
  • The hotel may provide you with a key that you can use to unlock or open the mini bar once you check in.

Convenience at a cost

Mini bars are often seen as overpriced and a way for the hotel to make more money—but they're the cost of convenience.

  • If prices are not listed, call the reception desk and ask them to send you a price list of all the things in the mini bar.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase snacks and drinks outside the hotel and bring them with you to your room. Before doing so, ask the hotel what their policy on outside food and drinks is to be on the safe side.

A great way to get the most out of your mini bar would be to ask if the hotel can customize its contents for you. In addition, always keep a tab on the items that you take out so you can compare your list with the final one on your bill at checkout.

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