European Plan: What it Means for Hotel Guests

Find Out if the European Plan Includes Food at a Hotel

breakfast table in a hotel room with fruits and juices, coffee and tea
••• Order breakfast in bed — or even in the hotel restaurant — and it will cost you if you are on the European Plan. Frank Rothe/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The European Plan, sometimes abbreviated as EP in hotel listings, indicates that the quoted rate is strictly for lodging and does not include any meals. Any food provided by the hotel is billed separately. Taxes and tips are usually additional as well.

Depending on the policy they adhere to, a hotel will offer guests the option of being on the European Plan, American Plan, a Modified American Plan, or a Continental Plan.

Note: The European Plan is not only limited to hotels in Europe. Properties all over the world offer it. 

What are the Advantages of the European Dining Plan?

The European Plan is the one most commonly offered across Great Britain and the European Union, and it does provide certain advantages:

  • You're not limited to eating at the hotel. Know that cuisine is one of the main reasons travelers choose to visit Italy, France, Switzerland and their luscious European neighbors. These countries are internationally renowned for their cuisine — and it would be a shame not to try a variety of restaurant experiences and sample local food along as well as beers and wines. 
  • It's easier to save money. If you're staying in a hotel that contains a fine-dining restaurant, it can be lovely to get dressed up and eat there on one night as a splurge. Yet you probably won't want to take every meal there.
  • It's more romantic. Discovering modestly priced local ethnic restaurants as a couple adds to the romantic charm of a European honeymoon or romantic getaway. Research the best places to eat online before you go out to dinner. You can also ask the front desk or the concierge at your hotel for a recommendation, but be aware that some of them (as well as many cab drivers) may get a kickback for sending your business their way.  
  • You can still have breakfast in bed. If you're overnighting in an urban location — which is where couples are most likely to encounter a European Plan — you will likely be close to bakeries and supermarkets. The night before, pick up bread or pastries along with bottled juice so that you can have a continental breakfast in your room. If there's fridge, all the better; add milk and yogurt (just remember to ask for spoons).
  • Lunch is free-style. The mid-day meal can be anything you want, from a picnic in a park to a restaurant's low-cost lunch special to a lazy afternoon at an outdoor café ("More wine, garçon, s'il vous plait") to a meal in a museum to sampling another hotel or restaurant's fare.

What are the Disadvantages of the European Dining Plan?

  • It's harder to budget. If you travel knowing that one or two meals of the day are covered, you won't have to factor in those expenses to what your vacation will cost. Under the European Plan, none of your meals are provided by the hotel.
  • No "free" breakfast. If you're the type of couple that wakes up hungry, you're going to have to get up, get dressed and find some place nearby to eat soon. (Note: Hotels that offer "free" breakfasts simply roll the price of the morning meal into your room rate.) Or plan ahead (see "breakfast in bed" above.)
  • Foraging in lousy weather. During those times when it's raining or storming or freezing outside, you may not want to stray far from your hotel (and hotel bed) and will wish you had a hotel with room service or a restaurant. But with nothing to eat, you're on your own. 
  • Not every local restaurant is a winner. If you choose a restaurant simply because it's cheap or nearby and you can't source reviews, you're on your own. At best, you'll agree after your meal that the two of you have found a gem. At worst, be glad that the bathroom is nearby and someone loves you enough to let you use it first.

    Other Hotel Dining Plans