Staying in a standard hotel room is a lot like ordering dinner at a fast food restaurant—you know exactly what you are going to get. And that is not necessarily bad. If you want nothing more from your hotel room than a quiet place to sleep and some privacy, most any hotel will do. But if you are looking to experience a little local flavor, mingle with the staff and other guests, taste some home cooked meals, and perhaps learn the local history, then staying at a bed and breakfast is a great alternative. If you like a full, cooked breakfast served at a given time usually in a common dining area, a bed and breakfast is for you. The food served in a traditional B&B is often prepared by the owners and is usually gourmet quality. Depending on an individual hotel’s facilities, breakfast may be a selection of cereals, breads and juices or a full buffet served in a large dining room. The overall pace of a bed and breakfast is generally slower which can turn breakfast into a more leisurely affair.
A hotel may be associated with a pub, restaurant or have a bar on the premises. Not so with a bed and breakfast, though some offer a self-service refrigerator for wine and beer or soft drinks.
Bed and breakfasts and inns typically do not allow pets, smoking indoors or very young children unless by prior arrangement. Most travel establishments accept major credit cards and personal checks, especially for making payment in advance. Many B&B’s charge a fee for cancellations, so be sure to ask about the policy. Also note that B&B’s often require full weekend lodging.
Many travelers choose whether to stay in a bed and breakfast or hotel based on specific needs. Those who desire a ‘’home away from home” experience may seek out a traditional bed and breakfast, while others may require the corporate amenities and convenient location provided by a hotel. A hotel may be located near a major airport or roadway for convenient commuting, while a bed and breakfast is often located near a natural landmark or tourist destination. Both a hotel and a bed and breakfast provide secure lodging for their guests, but there are some notable differences.
Most hotels are part of a chain, which insures a certain level of consistency, but can feel a bit sterile or corporate. A bed and breakfast, on the other hand, is usually owned and operated independently. The B&Bs are private homes that have been renovated for use as traveler lodging. Those who prefer a bed and breakfast to a hotel say that the more intimate atmosphere is a major selling point. Chain hotels are designed to handle larger groups and business travelers, who may not require the same personal touches as those on vacation.
Please consider that most bed and breakfast accommodations are in private family homes, often—older properties, sometimes several hundred years old, and consequently may have smaller rooms than you are used to at home or in modern hotels. The trade-off will probably be a beautiful antique bed to sleep in!
Another difference between a hotel and a bed and breakfast is the staffing. Because a hotel operates on a larger scale, it requires a larger staff than a bed and breakfast. Hotel employees must clean the rooms, wash the linens, operate restaurants and banquet halls, check guests in and out and provide entertainment. Guests may have a difficult time getting to know the hotel staff, since they work on various shifts.
Bed and breakfast owners, on the other hand, may maintain a very small staff and spend a considerable amount of time socializing with their guests. By booking bed and breakfast accommodation you will enjoy the social and cultural benefits of meeting friendly family hosts. Many bed and breakfast hosts go on to become friends with their clients and many people return year after year making the bed and breakfast accommodation a home away from home.
A hotel’s strongest advantage over a bed and breakfast is often the room rate. A typical bed and breakfast’s room rate is usually comparable to that of a mid-range hotel chain, although the rates for an exclusive bed and breakfast in a popular tourist destination can be significantly higher than those of a hotel located across town.
Other accommodation features you should not expect in a traditional bed and breakfast are air conditioning or elevators unless they are specifically mentioned. You will find that some of the homes have “en-suite” bathrooms, however at a number of other homes the private bathrooms may be adjacent to the bedrooms or a few steps away down the hall.
You will more than likely receive a key to the home. This is a courtesy that should be respected. If you intend to return late at night, please be considerate of other guests and the host family. The rooms are regularly serviced, varying from home to home, but there is no “room service.” You are staying “en famille”—a bed and breakfast is not a full service hotel.
There is no receptionist on duty to await your arrival, so it is vital that your host knows what time to expect you, as they have daily family business to attend and many hosts have other daytime jobs to work around as well.