Planning your Bed & Breakfast Stay

June 4, 2004

B&B Basics - Since the arrival of the Internet there are thousands of first time bed and breakfast goers. For the first-timers there are some basics to make your stay more comfortable for yourself and your innkeeper; and to help you understand the experience. Once you've stayed in a bed and breakfast, you'll never stay anywhere else!

First and foremost is to understand that you are staying in someone's home as was in the 'old days'. Most bed and breakfasts are owner-operated, and some are run by innkeepers. Most of the things in the home are usually antiques, fine linens and bedding, family heirlooms, and the like - which is what makes it so special. Those things are not replaceable as they would be in a hotel.

Almost all bed and breakfasts offer complimentary refreshments and a fridge in a common area to keep things cold, but don't allow eating in the rooms. So if you're not sure what is permitted, please ask.

Your innkeeper will also be happy to inform you of all there is to do in their area and supply you with maps and brochures, or make dinner and tour reservations. You receive much more personal attention at a bed and breakfast than you would in a hotel or motel. Your innkeeper will be happy to give you a history of their home and the area, the best places to go, the best places to eat, and the places to avoid.
Breakfast is always special. Not only are you enjoying the culinary talents of your host, but you get to meet and greet the other guests. Sometimes you'll meet people from the other side of the globe or run into an old high school chum you haven't seen in 25 years! Usually the menu is the same for all. Some places can accommodate special dietary requests, but I would advise asking when making your reservation.

There are some bed and breakfasts that accept babies and very young children. Most don't. Usually the cut off age is 7+. A bed and breakfast is normally not child proofed (unless a special room or cottage is available for families), and really not appropriate for very young children. Most folks who go to bed and breakfasts are looking for some peace and quiet. I can't vouch for everyone, but once you try it you'll never go back! Bed and breakfasts are great places for women traveling alone. They are also lovely and different places for small weddings, wedding breakfasts, dinners, small business functions and the like. Just ask your host what is available.

Do Some Advance Research - It's a good idea to do some research about a bed and breakfast before you visit - your idea of 'romantic' may be very different from someone else's! But remember that many guidebook authors stay for free when reviewing a bed and breakfast, and thus you may have to read between the lines to get an idea of the place. Does 'cozy' mean comfortable or cramped? Does 'friendly' mean gracious or intrusive? Read carefully, and whenever possible, consult visitors' reviews. Many e-mail discussion lists and sites on the web allow guests to share their experiences.

Handicap Accessibility - Many bed and breakfasts are not handicap-accessible. Make sure to notify the innkeeper and request a room on the main floor.

Let Your Host Know When You Will Be Arriving What makes a B&B owner happy is to know when the guests are arriving at their door. It doesn't have to be precise, but more or less accurate. Remember, not every B&B owner can sit and wait for you all day. Call or write and let the owner know when you are arriving. This consideration will save the host/hostess their time and you from arriving at the house without the host/hostess being there. If you are staying at a bed and breakfast and your stated arrival time changes by more than an hour, please make a call and let your hosts know.

Shared vs. Private Baths -Remember: MANY bed and breakfasts are equipped with shared baths. If this is a problem, request a private bath prior to making reservations

Special Activities and Packages - If for some reason you find yourself alone on a holiday, be sure to check with the local B&Bs about their activities. Many specialize in making everyone have a special time in their 'home away from home'. 'I'll be home for Christmas' doesn't say which home!!! Lots of owners have B&Bs because they have an empty nest syndrome - so not only will you receive happiness, but you will also bring sunshine into their lives!

Stay for More Than One Night - In planning your stay at a B&B, allow enough time to enjoy what the area offers, with some time for relaxation. Hosts appreciate a stay of more than one night for the opportunity to become acquainted, and provide help in seeing and doing what is of interest to the guest, without imposing on a tight schedule of time. You'll find a 2-night stay is more than twice as pleasant as a 1-night stay, and a 3-night stay more than 3 times better
Understand the Cancellation Policy - When you make a reservation with a B&B be sure you understand their cancellation policy. You will find that the cancellation period is often much longer than for motels. For holidays you may find cancellation periods as long as 45 days.