July 10th, 2010
How to choose a Bed and Breakfast
For many travellers seeking accommodations, the bed and breakfast option is an appealing one. Some of the motivating factors are the opportunity to meet other travellers, to have direct access to the knowledge of the host and in general to be in a more intimate environment and to experience the uniqueness of the establishment. It is fair to say that no two bed and breakfasts are the same. Yet it is precisely the lack of standardization that can make choosing a bed and breakfast somewhat overwhelming. Here are some guidelines that can help you, based on our experience as bed and breakfast owners in Vancouver.
CHOOSE AN ACCREDITED ACCOMMODATION
Bed and breakfast is the ultimate cottage industry. Especially since the advent of the internet, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a bed and breakfast. Find out if the bed and breakfast you are considering has any accreditation. Do they belong to a local bed and breakfast association? Are they certified by a government agency? Does the local tourist bureau know about them? If you get a positive answer you can know with some certainty that at the very least basic standards are being adhered to. Travel publications are a somewhat useful guide, especially those that offer critical evaluations, such as Frommer’s and Fodor’s. However, many excellent establishments are often not mentioned in these publications simply because their writers don’t know about them. Books such as the “Bed and Breakfast Encyclopedia” and “Lanier’s Guide to Bed and Breakfasts” are not critical guides. Bed and breakfasts pay to be listed and write their own descriptions, so there is no guarantee that what you read is what you get.The best thing to do is to invest in a phone call and have a chat with the innkeeper.
CHOOSE A PROFESSIONALLY RUN ACCOMMODATION
Just because a bed and breakfast is accredited, there is no guarantee that it is well run. When you call during regular business hours do you get a helpful, courteous person at the other end or do you get voice mail? If you do leave a message on voice mail is your call returned promptly? If you e-mail the establishment do they answer you quickly? Personal service and attention are what make bed and breakfasts special. If these traits are perceived to be lacking in your initial encounters, you have to ask yourself how you’ll be treated if you were to be a guest in that establishment.
CHOOSE A BED AND BREAKFAST THAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS
It’s important to be very clear at the outset as to what your needs are, so that you can ensure in advance that you won’t be disappointed. The more you can narrow the gap between expectation and reality the likelier you are to have a positive bed and breakfast experience. Here are some major considerations, not in any particular order of significance.
Where do you want to be? Do you require a location in or near downtown? Do you want to be some place quiet and secluded? In addition to checking with the innkeeper, or the inn’s website or brochure, it’s also a good idea to refer to Mapquest or similar sites. Once you’ve established the location, it’s then easier to determine if you’ll need a car, or if you can get by with public transportation. If you do need a car, you’ll want to make sure that adequate convenient parking is available. Most bed and breakfasts offer free parking.
2) Special needs
Do you have food allergies or dietary preferences such as low fat, vegetarian or vegan? Are you allergic to feathers or animal hair? Do you have difficulties with stairs? Do you need a particular kind of bed or bed arrangement? Are you a smoker or an anti-smoker? Do you require a refrigerator for special food or medication? Do you require internet access or a phone in your room? Will you be arriving/leaving very late or very early? Will you be needing a very early or late breakfast, or will you be missing breakfast altogether? These are all matters which should be discussed with your host prior to your arrival.3) Environment
Are you a morning person who loves to chat with strangers at the breakfast table, or are you a reserved person who prefers privacy and solitude? It’s a good idea to find out what the breakfast arrangement is in advance so that you won’t feel deprived or inconvenienced. Also on the subject of environment, how important is décor to you? Will you be bothered by a more feminine style of décor with frills, pillows and stuffed animals, or do you insist on simplicity?
Many bed and breakfasts are adult oriented, but if you have a preference to not being around children it’s best to ask what is the policy of the particular bed and breakfast you are considering. By the same token if you are travelling with children, you must tell the innkeeper in advance, or risk being turned away when you arrive.
Everyone loves a bargain, but if a bed and breakfast is priced very low you’ll want to be circumspect. Perhaps the room is small, or the bathroom is shared with several rooms, or it’s not well located or well maintained, or breakfast is of no significance. By the same token, a high priced bed and breakfast should offer amenities worthy of the price. Also with regard to money, make sure that you will be able to pay for your accommodations in a manner that is convenient to you. For example, some bed and breakfasts ask for a credit card to secure the reservation, but then ask for cash or traveller’s cheques to settle the account. It’s always best to know in advance.
MAKE A RESERVATION
Although there is a lot to be said for spontaneity, it is always best to make a reservation. Some people think that a bed and breakfast may not be as busy as a hotel and they can just turn up and get a room. Often this is not the case, especially during the height of a busy tourist season or a major event such as a big convention.
To sum up, know what you want, ask the right questions, and enjoy. It’s hard not to have a memorable time when the way you’re treated makes you feel special. And that’s what bed and breakfasts are all about.