Opting for a bed and breakfast over other types of lodging is a great way to personalize your stay, get to know the locals and, in many cases, find a warm, cheerful room for the same price as a major hotel chain.
There are so many varieties of B&B’s that choosing the perfect one may seem overwhelming. In fact, the term has come to describe anything from an upscale, sprawling estate of restored cottages to a room and morning coffee at an unassuming farmhouse. There are plenty of great resources for searching out B&B accommodations, both online and off. Read on for our top bed and breakfast tips.
Is a B&B Right for You?
Bed and breakfasts are a favorite options for many travelers, but they’re not right for everyone. You may want to consider a B&B if:
- You prefer smaller, more intimate accommodations than a large hotel.
- You appreciate rooms that are individually decorated, especially with antiques or period furniture.
- You enjoy getting to know other travelers over a lavish communal breakfast.
- You prefer charm over amenities, and don’t mind if your room doesn’t have Internet access or other modern conveniences. (Editor’s Note: More B&B’s are adding such modern amenities every day — so ask your innkeeper!)
- You like staying in residential neighborhoods or quiet rural settings.
- You’re looking for adults-only accommodations (many B&B’s do not accept children).
- You enjoy the experience of a “home away from home” — including quirky touches like the innkeepers’ cat curled up in the corner of the living room.
- You like having the personal attention and expertise of an innkeeper at your disposal.
- You appreciate transparent pricing (many B&B’s list nightly rates on their Web sites).
On the other hand, you may want to avoid B&B’s if:
- You appreciate amenities like gyms, pools, room service and business centers.
- You appreciate the privacy and anonymity of a big hotel.
- You’d rather eat breakfast alone or with your travel companion than make small talk with a bunch of strangers.
- You’re on a very tight budget (B&B’s tend to be a little bit more expensive than ultra-budget hotels and motels).
You’ll be checking in and out at weird times (very early or very late); unlike a large hotel, B&B’s tend not to have 24-hour front desk service.
Ask the Innkeeper
Even if you decide to book your accommodations online, we recommend that you call the innkeeper at least one time before you go. Here are some topics you should consider discussing.
While some B&B’s are sophisticated and somewhat costly, others are very simple and can be a real bargain. Ask what you can expect in the way of room accommodations.
Most B&B’s have fairly strict check-in times. Find out what the policy is, so that you are not (as is often the case) barging into someone’s home after hours.
Most inns have individual in-suite bathrooms for all the guests, some will require that you share a restroom with an adjacent suite and some offer just one bathroom for several rooms. Ask!
Contrary to what you may think, breakfast is not always included in the price of the room. It can also vary from a bagel and coffee to a sumptuous feast, and may be offered in the privacy of your room or in a public dining room. Also inquire when breakfast is served.
Unfortunately for families who enjoy traveling together, you should not assume that an establishment will welcome children. Even if it does, find out if there is an age minimum.
Does the bed and breakfast allow pets? If so, are there size and breed limitations?
Ask if credit cards are accepted, and inquire about cancellation policies.
Is there a restaurant on the premises?
Is the B&B handicap-accessible? If it’s in a historic building, it may not be.
Always ask about special promotional offers or coupons.
If you smoke, you must inquire as to the B&B’s policy. You will find that a majority of them do not permit smoking of any kind. Some allow it outside or in designated public areas, but many will not allow it anywhere on the grounds.
What kind of amenities are provided in your room? Some hotels offer free wireless Internet access, while others don’t even have a TV.
If you have allergies or other dietary restrictions, be sure to let your innkeeper know ahead of time so he or she can accommodate you.
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Online Booking and Researching Resources
A great place to start is BedandBreakfast.com. The site has a vast database of B&B’s all over the globe. You can find inns in places as obscure as Vietnam and Botswana, if you’re so inclined. The site offers gift cards that can be used at participating properties across the U.S. and Canada.
SelectRegistry.com contains only about 400 recommended B&B’s in the U.S. and Canada, all of which have been inspected for quality. The database is searchable by location, amenity and price. Select Registry also offers gift certificates for use at member properties.
BetterBedandBreakfasts.com has thousands of B&B’s in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the Caribbean, plus money-saving package deals and delicious recipes from innkeepers.
BnBFinder.com offers thousands of B&B listings, special deals and even a B&B blog. You can also buy gift certificates for stays at more than 1,500 inns across the U.S. — a great present for your favorite traveler.
Pamela Lanier, a well-known bed and breakfast expert and author of many guidebooks on the subject, hosts the site Lanierbb.com, which allows you to search thousands of listings worldwide by location or type (beach, gourmet, handicap-accessible, etc.). The site even has a B&B store where you can shop for mattresses, wines and cookbooks.
For international listings, try IBBP.com (International Bed & Breakfast Pages) or the Canadian BBExpo.com.
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