How To Choose a Bed and Breakfast
For many travelers seeking accommodation, bed and breakfasts are an appealing option. Some of the motivating factors include the opportunity to meet other travelers, to have direct access to the knowledge of the host, to be in an 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.
Choose an Accredited Accommodation
Bed and breakfasts are 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 and courteous person on the other end or do you get voice mail? If you do leave a message, is your call returned promptly? If you email the establishment do they answer 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 & Breakfast That Suits Your Needs
It’s important to be very clear at the outset 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 better you are going 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 Google Maps 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, gluten free, 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 a non-smoker? Do you require a refrigerator for special food or medication? Do you require internet access 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.
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 the policy is at 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 traveler’s cheque 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 convention.
To conclude: know what you want, ask the right questions, and enjoy a wonderful stay at the bed and breakfast of your choice! That is what bed and breakfasts are all about.