My wife and are planning to spend 4 nights in either Val Gardena or Alta Badia and 3 nights in the Zillertal area. I've noticed that many of the accommodations in these areas offer half board which I believe means breakfast and dinner included. Are these a good value? Or, am I better off going different restaurants each night? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
Personally I won't stay anywhere unless breakfast is provided.
I think from a value point-of-view, it can be a good deal to get dinner included. For me, I like to try different kinds of food and experience all the different atmospheres that a variety of restaurants provides.
My other consideration is the time of year. If it's winter, and it gets dark early, then I want to be back to the hotel/inn earlier than I would if it is summer and it's still light outside. If it's light late, then I don't like feeling that I have to rush back to the hotel for dinner simply because I have paid for it.
I would find out how late they serve dinner. If they serve it until 9 or 10 then it probably isn't an issue either way.
If you like to try different places though, then maybe you don't want to tie yourself down to the same place every night?
I've used it all our European ski trips. Its a very good value. It is a different menu every night. Depending on the level of the hotel, usually an appetizer, followed by a choice of 2 or 3 first courses, then a choice of 3 second courses, then dessert. Often a salad bar and/or dessert bar.
Hate to say it, but it eliminates the "Where shall we go? Do we need a reservation? Is it expensive (usually)? How do we find it? How do we get there? How do we get back?" Maybe its just about being lazy on vacation. But I've never really had a bad meal. Selva di Val Gardena, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Canazei, Madonna di Campiglio, Soelden, etc.
We did quarter board (breakfast only) on a group ski trip to Germany with the option of taking dinners at the hotel. We ended up only eating dinner out two nights and took the hotel dinner eight. The small German village dinner options were limited and the hotel both more convenient and satisfactory.
On subsequent group ski trips (Italy, Austria and Finland) we went with the half board. Unless you are a real foodie, resort area hotels seem to be as good a choice as any for evening meals with the convenience of not having to roam about looking for dinner options. In small villages, the hotel may be the only real alternative or at least the only convenient alternative.
And of course, on a hut to hut ski tour, the hut or mountain lodge may be the only choice.
You can use Google Maps or similar to check dinner restaurant options in the vicinity of your hotel.
I will add that two of our last four locations (Asiago, IT and Fiberbrunn, AT) served plated dinner entrees (with several selections from a daily changing menu). The other two locations (Oberweisental, DE and Voukatti, FI) offered buffet choices. All had salad bar type pre-entree offerings. We did not go hungry.
Breakfasts were buffet type bord set-ups. Again, we did not go hungry and breakfasts were sufficiently calorie and protein rich to get us through the middle of the day with a small snack at a local cafe or on the trail.
It looks like you will be there in July?
I cannot speak to Austria, but with half-board in the Dolomites you can generally expect fine quality food at a very reasonable price--- much less than you would pay for the same four-course dinner at a restaurant.
We have learned from experience to take half-board in the Dolomites, as in the smaller villages there are few if any restaurants. On our first visit, we stayed at a small Garni in Colfosco which did not offer dinner, only breakfast. Our choice for dinner was a small pizza restaurant, or booking dinner at one of the other hotels ( and paying more for the same meals as the guests who had booked half-board, as there was no ala carte menu). We ended up at the pizza restaurant all three nights. Fortunately they had salads and other things on the menu as well.
The European guests almost universally take half board at their hotel, as it is part of their vacation package. Most places, even small family-run hotels, pride themselves on their food, and we have had some excellent meals this way. Sometimes there is a choice of main course, sometimes not---so if you have dietary limitations you may need to check on that.
Some of the best food we have enjoyed in Europe was at our small hotel in Santa Cristina, in Val Gardena just up the valley from Ortesei. Mateo is a gracious host and I believe he does the cooking as well. We would love to return. In fact I should put it on our itinerary for our next trip. . . .
We've stayed several times in the Dolomites (Alta Badia and Val Gardena) and never had half board. We stayed once in the Zillertal (Finkenberg) and didn't have half board. Breakfast buffet is the norm though, which is included in the room price, not an extra charge.
We stay in places like these:
in the Dolomites-
You know, it all depends on your definition of a good value. I've read about people staying in hotels for double or triple what we spend a night and then have to go out to get their own breakfast and still call it a good value and say they would return. All depends on the person and how much the half board is against breakfast only.
I'm not going to comment on the value, because I've never done any kind of price comparison. But in general, I have found the food provided by Alpine hotels to be of excellent quality. And as the others noted, it's usually a different menu every night. Go for it, you won't be disappointed.
Thanks for the advice. I'm think I will try the half board at least at one of the locations.
We had half board in the Val Gardena, and like Lola, found it very good quality cuisine, convenient, and more economical. We've been disappointed by restaurants in other mountain areas, so decided to take half board and were glad we did.
As mentioned, in places with limited restaurant options, half board is generally a good idea. I seldom use it because I prefer a very light evening meal. Half-board prices are usually competitive with what you will find in area restaurants (if you can find any).
I've taken Halb Pension at three places. I've never been sorry I did.
The first place was in a Pension in the Oberallgäu, where the owner was formerly a chef on a cruise ship. He ran the Pension like a cruise ship. The dining room was only for guests; dinner was optional, but almost everyone there took it because it was reasonably priced, and he was a great chef. There was one sitting for dinner and only one item on the menu. He posted the menu for that evening at breakfast; if you didn't like what was for dinner, he would fix you a Schnitzel instead, or you could opt out and eat at one of the restaurants in town.
At the other two places, both of which had restaurants open to the public, dinner was not something on the menu, but a special that was, quite frankly, a cut below the menu items. I can only remember one night, but it was goulash. Simple, but filling, and less expensive than eating out. In fact, at one of those places, a 5 night package with HP was the same price as 5 nights booked on Booking.com, without dinner.
I have also seen places where the Halb Pension was whatever you wanted off of the general menu, but I never stayed at one of those places.
If you can get a gist of what you will get beforehand that would make a big difference. I have had terrible half pension, (dinner included) and some very good. Some of the best let you order form the dinner menu, some offer many choices to include vegetarian and vegan. The worst have a meat out of the can with a heavy sauce or a leftover night and you use the same cloth napkin for days (horror stories). I have gone out for pizza after the terrible dinner at some of the worst. I generally avoid half pension (lessons learned for my tastes). Breakfast included is more often acceptable with the best offering eggs to order with bacon and fresh fruit. Some have bread out of the package or the small Semmel/rolls warmed in the kitchens that are not as good as from the local Bakery.
The hotel at which I regularly stay in Seefeld in Tirol does a wonderful multi course dinner on white tablecloths with fresh flowers (sometimes flowers in the food, too) so we always take the halbpension. We never need go elsewhere. Value for money is always excellent.
The same applies at the guesthouse we use on the outskirts of Salzburg. Most excellent, and really enjoyable with great value for money. We usually split our tactics there with some nights including dinner and wandering off to some favourites in the town on other nights.
Austrians, in my experience, take their food seriously.
Our hotel in Moena, Italy in the Dolomites had half-board. All of the meals were "home-cooking" type which gave us the chance to try their local food and know the family better who owned the hotel.
I don't know about your hotel, but every one I have been in with HP has given you the option daily of opting in or out on HP. Ask you hotel. If you can, try it the first night and play it by ear after that.
mchpp: for reference, I have never had a bad breakfast in Germany. The rolls are always fresh, baked early that morning. I've gotten to like the cold cuts and cheese, the real butter, the fresh fruit, and the soft boiled eggs. Next time you are in an American restaurant that advertises "eggs any style", ask for soft boiled and see the blank stare!
RE: I have never had a bad breakfast in Germany.
Good and bad can be relative and from my mainland American perspective German (Austrian, Italian, Scandinavian and UK) breakfasts have all been pretty good. Definitely better than a bowl of cereal, yogurt and one of those packaged batter do-it-yourself waffles and American coffee.
A number of years ago we were at a week plus long event in Idaho where a large contingent from Germany shared our motel that served an upscale (relative to the usual American motel) breakfast. Upscale meaning more than cold cereal and a package pastry. One German family visited the local grocery store and brought sliced meats and cheese to supplement our American breakfast and a container of instant coffee to strengthen the motel coffee.
We've also never had a bad breakfast in Bavaria, Austria or the Italian Dolomites. Coffee is fantastic, an assortment of breads, rolls, butter, jams, cereals, OJ, milk, yogurts, cheeses and cold cuts and many times an egg. We look forward to breakfast more so than dinners.
Lee, Paul et al, breakfast in most cases is acceptable in Austria and Germany and not a problem. I like them very much when good. For most Americans it is a European flair. Much better than some American hotel chains with all out of the package stuff, with the exception of some fresh fruit. There are still small Gasthaus with Oma in the kitchen making the perfect soft boiled egg to order. There is a wide range and it is hard to determine by star rating, but generally the better three stars (truly three stars) and above have the better breakfast. For me the normal continental German style Semmel, Wurst, Käse und Marmelade is the standard. As of fashion the last few years are the small frozen rolls and Croissant out of the package purchased from a purveyor baked and warmed in the hotel kitchen. These are easily identified by their smaller than normal size. Good, but not the same as the bakery down the street. I think some hotels to survive have aligned themselves with large firms that promote, assist with booking and provide purchasing options for food and beverages etc. Breakfast with any room is the standard and not the problem. The half pension dinner on the other hand is often not the best and if not in a good hotel I would avoid.
I would say having breakfast in Germany in a Pension, small hotel or even at a German hotel chain (I've only used one), I have never had a bad one, better than acceptable whether it was included or extra. This applies to the traditional German breakfast served without all the other international offerings, which you see now in contrast to 40 years ago when the breakfast served then was just the typical traditional German breakfast, the same day after day.
One time at this small hotel it was pretty mediocre, even for my tolerance but maybe it was just that day, since I had stayed there other times prior with the breakfast decent.