Categorized | Travel

Bed, Breakfast and Befriend

Posted on 17 September 2008

I love everything about bed and breakfasts. I love the voyeuristic aspect of being invited into a total stranger’s home; enjoying a hearty, home-cooked breakfast prepared by someone other than myself; meeting people from around the country and around the globe over a cup of coffee and blueberry pancakes.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend hates bed and breakfasts for all the reasons that I love them. When on vacation, he loathes making inconsequential small talk with other guests; feeling obligated to chat with the proprietor; and sneaking home like a teenager after 10 p.m., trying not to wake Mom and Dad.

That’s the thing about bed and breakfasts: you’re staying in someone else’s home, which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. If you’ve done the hostel thing before, then a B&B will feel like an oasis of privacy. And if you plan ahead, B&B lodging doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. (Rooms start as low as $20/night in sparsely-touristed regions). It’s a great way to experience a foreign country or just to explore your own region. But it’s not for everybody.

Are you cut out for bed and breakfasts?

Here are a few ways to determine if you’re potential B&Ber:

  • You like to talk to strangers. You will be required to make polite small talk with the owner, and perhaps chat with other guests during meals, so it helps if you’re a people person. However, I did once get drawn into an hour-long discussion of our elderly innkeeper’s out-there theory on the effect of gravity on ocean tides. Lesson: it’s OK to politely excuse yourself and head to your room.
  • You like to get the local scoop. Your proprietor will be more than happy to steer you toward the best local attractions; plus, you’ll get to hear about the favorite finds of your fellow travelers over breakfast. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was in a neighborhood pub in Dover, England, feasting upon real Dover sole. I never would have found the place without our innkeeper’s recommendation.
  • You enjoy planning the trip almost as much as going. Finding the right B&B will take a little more legwork than locating the nearest chain hotel, but you’ll learn about the area in the process.
  • You love history. Or breakfast. Or both. Many B&Bs are located in beautiful old homes, so if you love antiques or local lore, you’re likely to get your fill of both. And you can’t beat the homemade breakfasts (included in the room rate): pancakes, French toast, omelettes and muffins that put hotel buffets to shame.

Tips and etiquette

If you’ve decided a B&B might be for you, here’s some tips on how to best enjoy the experience:

  • Know the difference between a B&B and an inn. Bed and breakfasts are typically smaller establishments, with six rooms or less. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of staying right in someone else’s home, make sure to ask if the guest rooms are located in a separate wing. If privacy is important to you, book at a slightly larger inn or ask if you can have an ensuite (private) bath.
  • Do your homework. Guidebooks and recommendations from friends are two places to start, especially if you’re going abroad. Or just hop online and do some research. Many state and local bed and breakfast associations have web sites that function as hosting services for area inns.
  • Plan ahead. B&Bs book up fast on long holiday weekends, so give yourself a two-month lead time if you’re looking, say, to see fall foliage in New England over Columbus Day. During peak season, some inns may impose two or three night minimum-stay restrictions.
  • Understand the rules. Because B&Bs are small businesses that depend heavily on every room being filled, you’ll have less flexibility than if you were to stay in a hotel. You’ll often be expected to send a deposit check (typically one night or 50% of your stay) ahead of time. If you need to cancel, give the innkeeper plenty of warning.
  • Ask for referrals. If you’ve waited too long and everything is booked, ask full-up innkeepers to recommend other establishments.
  • Be polite. If you’re staying in a small establishment and you’re going to be later than you anticipated, call your host and let them know so they’re not sitting around waiting for you. And it’s always a nice gesture to make your bed, as your host, not a maid, will be making up the room.

By the way, my boyfriend and I finally found a way to resolve our differing feelings about B&Bs. On our last trip, after waiting an hour and a half for the other guests to finish showering in the lone bathroom, I made him a promise. We’ve agreed only to stay at inns that have more than six rooms, all with private baths. I can live with that, as long as those pancakes keep on coming.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. dating manual says:

    I was going to say the bathroom issue is what keeps me from them.

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