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Vacation Meal Plans: 10+ Hotel & Food Plans Defined (EP, AP, CP & More)


American plan, European plan, continental plan – what do these mean? Full-board vs all-inclusive? In this guide, we explain all vacation meal plans for you.

A “European plan” sounds like a great idea, right? But, it means more than organizing your travel around Europe. What is half-board? What foods come with a continental breakfast? What does EP stand for?

Don’t worry.

In this post, we explain all these vacation meal plans and more.

european breakfast buffet at hotel with meats and cheeses
Typical breakfast buffet in Europe, with cold meats and cheeses. Taken by F. Schekolin via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Glossary of Common Hotel Meal Plans & Breakfast Options

À la Carte Plan – In a hotel, resort, or cruise ship, an à la carte plan is a vacation meal plan where you purchase all extras, including meals, separately (à la carte). An à la carte plan is perfect for travelers wishing to explore the local cuisine or street food of their destination city rather than dine on possibly more familiar food at a hotel or resort restaurant.

All-Inclusive Plan – An all-inclusive plan is a vacation meal plan where

American Breakfast – An American breakfast is a hotel or resort breakfast option, usually a self-serve, buffet-style affair, with juices, coffee, cereal, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and other Western-style food items. The American breakfast offers much more food and beverage options than the continental breakfast.

American Plan – On a cruise or at a resort or hotel, an American plan is a lodging rate which includes three full meals per day with the lodging. The American plan provides an American breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all served in the property’s dining hall or kitchen. When you see “AP” in your cruise or hotel rate options or fine print, the meaning of AP is that you’re getting three square meals per day for each night of your stay booked. The American plan offers slight less than an all-inclusive plan, as a guest would not be entitled to alcoholic beverages and snacks throughout the day. The American plan is just about the same as a full-board rate.

AP AP is short for American plan.

Breakfast Buffet – The breakfast buffet is a serving style where guests help themselves to food and beverage items set out on a table in the dining area. When hotels offer breakfasts, whether continental, full, or otherwise, most of the time they are served in the breakfast buffet format. Guests at a breakfast buffet may return for additional helpings as much as they would like.

Breakfast in Room – Some hotels offer a breakfast in room option for extra convenience for hotel guests who like to sleep in. Guests can inform the staff of their breakfast requests the night before, or mark it on a door-hanging card for nightly collection, and a room service attendant will deliver it the following morning. Breakfast in room is sometimes referred to as a room service breakfast.

Related Read: 50+ Types of Hotels (A Glossary of Hotel Property Types)

Continental Breakfast – A continental breakfast is a small breakfast including items such as coffee, tea, juices, pastries, bagels, rolls, and fruit. It is typical to find a continental breakfast in lower-rate hotels and motels, as well as in Europe. A continental breakfast is essentially the opposite of an American breakfast or full breakfast, both which are much heavier and offer way more foods. Most continental breakfasts are cold, offering items that can be eaten at room temperature, such as croissants, cereals, and maybe cold cuts. However, some places may offer a self-service microwave or waffle maker, while others may even include several hot pans with eggs, bacon, and potatoes, for example.

the continental breakfast is one of the most common hotel meal plans
A typical continental breakfast. Taken by C. Viloria via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Continental Plan – A continental plan is a resort, cruise, or hotel dining plan rate which includes a continental breakfast along with the room or cabin for each morning following a paid room-night. The continental plan may be abbreviated on a hotel invoice or other documents as CP.

CP CP is short for continental plan.

Demi-Pension Plan – See half-board.

EP EP is short for European plan.

European Breakfast – A European breakfast is essentially the same as a continental breakfast, offering a modest selection of mostly room temperature food items. Depending on the country, hotels may serve local delicacies among the common foods, such as wursts in Germany or Vegemite in Australia.

Related Read: 25+ Types of Hotel Rooms from Singles to Presidential Suites & More

European Plan – A European plan is a hotel rate which means that the price only includes the room. Though other plans correspond to a breakfast, the European plan does not necessarily mean you get a European breakfast. The European plan is often abbreviated as EP. It is basically the same as the à la carte plan.

Full-BoardFull-board is a cruise ship, hotel, or resort plan where three meals are included per day for each night a traveler is a guest. For each hotel or cruise night paid for, the guest receives a breakfast, lunch, and a dinner. The full-board is essentially the same as the American plan.

Full Breakfast – A full breakfast is a large morning meal type offered mainly in the United Kingdom, usually consisting of meats (e.g., bacon, sausages), baked beans, eggs, black pudding, and perhaps some tomatoes or other vegetables, along with a hot beverage (e.g., coffee, tea) on the side. Regions and countries inside the United Kingdom give the full breakfast more local names, such as English breakfast, full English, full Welsh, full Irish, full Scottish, and full Cornish. These names may also imply that there is a slight variation to the full breakfast, often with a dash of local fare included. Many people in Britain refer to a full breakfast as a “fry up.” A full breakfast is essentially the opposite of a continental breakfast, which is much lighter.

A full breakfast or a full English is a popular dining meal plan at many hotels in the UK
Standard full English breakfast with eggs, meats, and baked beans. Taken by A. Wang via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Related Read: How to Check in Early at a Hotel?

Full-Pension – See full-board. May be abbreviated as FP.

Half-BoardHalf-board is a hotel or cruise rate plan where breakfast and one other meal is included in the price. A half-board meal rate almost always includes breakfast and dinner (no lunch), as the breakfast provided is usually way too filling to follow immediately with a lunch. The half-board plan can also be called as a half-pension plan, modified American plan, or demi-pension plan. Sometimes, the hotel or cruise ship allows you to choose which meal you prefer in your rate aside from breakfast.

Half-Pension Plan – See half-board.

Lunch Box Breakfast – A lunch box breakfast is a breakfast that is packaged ahead of time for hotel guests to pick up and take with them, often to important business meetings when they’re in a hurry. With a lunch box breakfast, hotel guests still get the breakfast they paid for, though usually not the variety they’d receive at the breakfast buffet bar (or the hot foods). Lunch box breakfasts are usually a secondary breakfast option at hotels.

Related Read: 35 Fun Hotel Facts: Interesting Facts About Hotels Around the World

MAPMAP is short for modified American plan.

Modified American Plan – See half-board. If you see MAP in the rate details, MAP means you’re paying for the modified American plan.

Room and BoardRoom and board is an offer where someone is provided a room for the night and board, which are meals. The board options are usually half-board or full-board.

Room Service Breakfast – See breakfast in room.

Related Read: Why do Hotels Overbook Rooms? (& How to Deal With It)

Well, that’s our guide to hotel dining plans and rate options. Got any questions, feedback, or other vacation meal plans we missed? Write to us in the comments area below, and thanks for reading! If you are hungry for more articles about food, check out our guide to pizza, coffee glossary of terms, and our introduction to baba ganoush.

Christian Eilers
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Christian Eilers
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