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Advice from Those Who Have to Those Who Haven't...

...stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, that is. I am sure that I am not the only one on CH for whom, the closest they have come to staying at a B&B is watching old reruns of Newhart. So to those who have had the experience, what amenities do you look for? What do you expect/hope for/or find surprising yet pleasing?

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  1. Easy. I look for a decent room, quality bed and an above average breakfast at the communal table. I don't look for a chatty host unless interests intersect. Same holds true for fellow guests.

    When the planets align, all is bliss.

    5 Replies
    1. re: steve h.

      I thought I would back up my 30,000 foot generalizations with some ground level experiences.

      Martine inn in Pacific Grove, CA is my idea of what a B&B should be: comfortable rooms; stealth service of the highest order; beautiful accessories there to be used rather than admired (silver platters, silver wine coolers); above average food.

      The Mainstay in Cape May, New Jersey is another solid destination. Deb and I sailed into Cape May and found this gem of a B&B. Solid top to bottom.

      1. re: steve h.

        The old world inn in Napa CA is really a wonderful experience too. I try to stay there when wine tasting.

        There are some really great B&B's in CA.

      2. re: steve h.

        'When the planets align, all is bliss."

        Exactly. I've stayed in a few B&Bs in Vermont, and several in the Republic of Ireland. A couple of the small ones in Ireland were enjoyable, because I *did* want to be able to speak to the locals about touristing in their area (even though I had already done my research).

        I guess it's just what you are looking for.

        1. re: LindaWhit


          Ireland is its own B&B category. Very special.

          As always, diligence is key.

          1. re: steve h.

            While traveling around Ireland with my mom we often rolled the dice and just showed up at a b and b when we were tired of driving. I'd always ask to see the room and meanwhile mom would talk to the proprietress or partner. We had a series of code words when we decided it was a no go but more times than not we found friendly hospitality in Ireland's bnb's.

      3. It depends a bit on what your travel style is.

        I tend to travel on the budget end. Not youth hostels anymore - I want my own bedroom and bedding provided, and reasonable levels of cleanliness and security - but cost is a strong factor.

        I find that you get a more interesting, less generic place to stay for the price than if you stayed at a standard hotel. I'm not too picky about the level of the food - pastries and coffee is fine with me. I do find that your'e more likely to get free wi-fi and access to a computer at a low end B&B than an expensive chain hotel, but less likely to get A/C.

        Some of the highlights - small place Rome for 60 euros a night (shared bathroom), walking distance to attractions, with a basic breakfast, a kitchenette and a shabby-bohemian atmosphere. A lovely place in Napoli with a breakfast of pastries/cheese/fruit/coffee/juice/served in the room.
        A lovely, big airy room in an old, creaky floorboard house in Santiago, with a very hearty breakfast and an owner who didn't speak any English. A room furnished in antique style in the Black Forest with an extensive breakfast.

        1. This really varies.

          On the price, the location, and the type of B&B.

          And the biggest variable is this. Unlike a hotel, at a B&B you are essentially a guest at someone's home.

          And like all homes, each host will have different customs, rules and traditions, and as a guest at someone's home, one must be respectful and appreciative of that -- both as a courtesy and just because of its quirks.

          So before you book a B&B, call and ask what they offer, what they provide (both in terms of physical amenities and non-physical ones), and then call other B&Bs in the immediate area and compare and contrast.

          It would be both unfair and incorrect to generalize one set of "baseline must-haves" for all B&Bs.

          Hope that helps, and enjoy wherever you end up staying.

          1. We stay at B&B's a lot. We have had great experiences and really crappy experiences.

            I always ask about business hours, especially arrival/check in times.They are not hotels and open 24 / 7. Also, It is someone's home and they usually don't give you a key. We often want to go out for late dinner and drinks and not return until @10 to 12 midnight. I don't want to feel like I am disturbing or waking someone up.

            I really don't like a communal table for breakfast. We have had some bad experiences with them, more bad experiences than good. We choose to have a private breakfast if possible, or just a quick pastries and coffee breakfast over a communal table.

            1. B n Bs can be wonderful......or weird. I like anonymity and i'm not good at small talk with strangers before i'm properly caffinated.
              That said, the best b n b i've ever stayed at (aka maybe a dozen) would be the white swan in San Francisco- (http://www.whiteswaninnsf.com/mb/
              )more like a small hotel than a home, with a wonderful afternoon wine and snacks, several small tables at breakfast with a great selection of housemade breads, muffins, fruits, etc... Very homey decor but spotless and well kept. And a good value for SF. I have no affiliation with them at all fyi.
              But now with https://m.airbnb.com
              the old b n b format may soon be obsolete.

              1. We've been to two, never again. The first was a homey one in Vermont with high ratings but when we got there, we discovered you had to share the bathroom with everyone else, plus our room had a sloping ceiling so you couldn't even stand up straight. We left after one night, my husband said he felt like he was at his grandmother's house. The final straw was they made us go to bed at 9PM because all the other guests were going on some big hike the next day and needed their sleep. We went down the block to the local motel and were much happier.

                The other, way more modern but the walls were thin and the guest in the next room snored so loud that my husband had to put on the TV so we could try to get some sleep (didn't work unfortunately). Surprising but no way pleasing. If you like privacy, you may want to think twice.

                1. We've stayed in a number of very nice B&Bs. The very first thing I look for when searching online is a room with a private bathroom. Shared bathrooms? No way!
                  My other piece of advice, at least in my experience, is that you get what you pay for. The best B&Bs we've stayed in were not cheap, but they were very nice with plenty of amenities and did not disappoint.

                  1. I have stayed at them a few times, and they vary enormously. The worst was an overly chatty host who used the B & B as an excuse to overstuff every room with her collectibles. Breakfast was a box of Entenmans donuts, bad coffee, and underripe banana. My bathroom had evidence of the prior occupant.

                    The best was by far the Heritage Harbour House Inn in Charlottetown, on PEI. It blended the warmth of a home with the amenities of a hotel. The owners were friendly but professional, the breakfast was delicious (e.g. homemade oat cakes with homemade blueberry syrup, eggs benedict), and the rooms were homey but tastefully done. Our bathroom was modern and extremely clean. It was a highlight of a great tip.

                    So, in the end, I think what I am looking for is just that right mix of hotel and home.

                    1. I've stayed at a few in the past in New England and the UK, but not any more. Not my thing. I like my anonymity and really don't like to feel obligated to chat with the hosts about my family, my day, etc. I also don't like to feel obligated to come down to breakfast if I don't feel like it in the morning. Spouse won't share a bathroom. Finally, we were unable to lock the door to our room at one place where we stayed. No locks on any of the doors. No thank you. The only B&B I liked was in Ludlow VT, during ski season, where they had a roaring fire in the fireplace and made hot chocolate when everyone returned from skiing. That was cozy.

                      1. I do not enjoy it at all. I don't like the welcoming face to face when you arrive, you're dying to use the restroom, you want to drop your stuff off and get a drink and they're dicking around showing you where the towels are and creamer in the fridge. You have to smile and be a gracious guest.

                        I don't like it if they're super private or in secluded neighborhoods, you have to sneak in and be really quiet.

                        And I find the breakfast is normally not very appetizing. I would much rather go to some fabulous restaurant serving up pour over coffee and some local specialty.

                        But however, sometimes money talks, so when traveling, if it's a big savings in money, I buck up and smile and talk like nobody's business.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: waitress

                          Sounds like you have stayed in bad B&Bs. Well organized and proffesional B&B hosts will never be that intrusive and allow you to settle before the grand tour. The B&B we stayed at in Sonoma last November was amazing. Our host first allowed us a short rest, the greeted us with flutes of Prosecco before commencing the tour of the place. That's how a proper B&B should be run.

                          To the OP, do your homework before booking! While there are many places that are horrible, there are many that are wonderful!

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            What B&B in Sonoma did you stay in? We had a pretty off-putting experience there last summer where we were subjected to an hour long orientation right after our arrival. In retrospect, we should have made our excuses and ducked out, but we were too polite. We were tired and hungry and by the time we were all orientated the wine tastings for the day had pretty much ended.

                        2. Interesting responses.

                          I will never forget the guests at a b&b on Block Island, RI, many years ago. It was really a lovely property, but at breakfast we tried to hang low at a small table. After a day out and looking for a a relaxing hour or two of freshening up for the evening.....we walked by the parlor. There was a daily cheese and wine social going on. When we politely declined, the other guests gave us the stink eye for choosing not to participate. One of the hosts actually said, "but we have cookies just out of the oven, please join us!!!!!!!!!"
                          Thanks but no thanks.
                          However I would be happy to stay at another b&b with proper research on just how familiar people will be.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Bellachefa

                            I'm not sure this was their problem. Maybe you're just not b&b people? That's totally fine, I'm an introvert myself, but I don't get offended by being offered fresh cookies. Sheesh.

                            1. re: julesrules

                              sheesh yerself. stink eye is stink eye, and making a paying guest feel uncomfortable for choosing not to participate in a communal get together after a long day of touring, is not ok.

                              1. re: Bellachefa

                                The host can't help what the other guests do (gave you the stink-eye).

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  Why am I defending my personal experience again? Neither of you were there. As I explained above in fewer words, the host made us even more uncomfortable by trying to insist we join them and the other guests in the parlor, when we had already politely declined. It was very uncomfortable. And both of you have made my telling of a simple personal experience very uncomfortable.

                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                    Staying at a B&B, as others have pointed out, is a crapshoot. Even if you have done your homework, there are way too many variables out of your control. I'm ok with that because I can deal with things going south. Hell, I might even get a good story out of it.

                                    At the end of the day, you didn't share cookies with strangers. On the plus side, both you and they avoided each other. Sounds fair.

                                    1. re: Bellachefa

                                      I wouldn't have liked to be urged to join in, either. I'm very social, talk to everyone, but I prefer a hotel or b and b where the hosts are attentive to the surroundings and available if needed, but not obtrusive.

                            2. We frequently stay at B&Bs both stateside and in Europe. Generalizing about them is like generalizing about hotels,restaurants, etc. Some are well managed, other poorly run. As Ttoomey says, you get what you pay for. At a bargain price, expect shared bathrooms and minimal continental breakfast. At that price, you might prefer an economy motel. We always opt for B&Bs with private baths, generally en suite but occasionally across or down the hall but ours alone, accessible by key. Some hosts are a bit chatty for our tastes but generally we've enjoyed the personalized attention and touches.

                              Study the B&B's website and sites like Tripadvisor for details as to amenities, etc. Some B&Bs serve breakfast communally at a set time. Others have individual tables and serve breakfast over a range of time. If you have early morning plans before the official breakfast hour, let the host know in advance; the best will accommodate you with, at least, some coffee and pastries on a tray. Some serve only a set breakfast menu, others serve a buffet with a range of choices or offer cooked to order choices.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: masha

                                We've had the same A to Z experiences over the years. Once we rented a BB that was so horrible we each had a quick shower then slept in the truck till dawn.
                                B&Bs are always a crap-shoot no matter how beautiful the web site looks. Know that arriving.
                                Over time we developed a basic strategy: I'd go to the main house and ask if I could have a look at the room/cabin etc.
                                If I saw a flicker of hesitancy I made my polite excuse and we left. Otherwise I'd check out out the place........thouroughly! Top to bottom. If the B&B owner insisted on looking over my shoulder I made my excuses and we left. If the place was 100% perfectly spotless and the bed was OK and the overall vibe was 100% OK I'd put on the "It's so nice to stay in such a delightful spotlessly clean B&B but there is only one thing. My wife is suffering from a very bad migraine. (that's why she's staying in the car.) I'll sign in and take her to the cabin for a sleep".
                                We are then alone. IF the vibe is conducive to visiting with the owner and or other guests my wife is able to 'recover' from her bad headache. Works 100% perfect every time.
                                If the other guests are 'not our line of country' we don't have to listen to how their grand son is moving to Japan to be a 'male model' accompanied with his photo portfolio. Which happened once!!!!!

                                1. re: masha

                                  Some additional thoughts since my earlier post:

                                  1. The rooms at any given B&B are like snowflakes. No two are alike. Study the pictures and descriptions on websites and reviews and follow up directly with the innkeeper via email or phone about items that you care about. For example, my husband is tall so it is important to us that any footboard not extend above the mattress, so that his feet can hang out. If the picture of the room does not depict the footboard, I inquire directly.

                                  2. If you have never lived in an old house you may be more annoyed by certain aspects of most B&Bs. Our house is 100 years old so a certain draftiness near the windows and compromises as to plumbing are things we understand. Good B&Bs have modern plumbing but it's still a challenge for the innkeeper to retrofit en suite bathrooms into every room. Therefore often the bathrooms are small because the innkeeper has divided a once-spacious bath into 2 smaller ones or converted a closet into a bathroom. The best B&Bs manage through good design to outfit compact bathrooms with sufficient shelves, etc so there is a place for everything, and compensate for the size with luxurious bath linens, good water pressure etc. But that's at a price to the guest. If you prefer modern construction, stay at a chain hotel.

                                  3. Especially in Europe, many B&Bs offer a "table d'hote" dinner option where you can dine with other guests for dinner -- reserved in advance and for a surcharge above the room rate. This is a wonderful opportunity to sample local cuisine, assuming the host has good cooking skills and to interact with other guests, some of whom may be local to the country. In the fall of 2008, we had a wonderful dinner at a B&B in the Loire, where all of the other guests (4 couples) were French. Not only was the food fabulous but we got to trot out our very rusty French language skills for a wide ranging conversation that covered the personal backgrounds of all the guests, and the American presidential election ( the first Obama-McCain debate had been the day before). In the Lake District in England we had an equally delicious dinner at a small B&B where we were the only guests. The hosts previewed the dinner menu for our approval; it is too long ago to recall the full menu but it was a memorable introduction to sticky toffee pudding, which we'd never even heard of before.

                                  1. re: masha

                                    When we're traveling "cheap" (say, just a place to stay while visiting our kid at college, or doing the college tour with the younger one), I'm most happy at a Hampton Inn kind of place. You know what you get, and the price is right. However when my DH and I are spending a weekend on our own, we almost always choose a B&B. But mind you, the price tag where we stay is probably three times the price of that Hampton. You really do get what you pay for. I've never felt that the owners were pushy, or the walls thin, the bathrooms sub-par. But we paid for that. I love having a nice room, usually with a sitting area and/or porch where we can enjoy a bottle of wine and a nice view. And we've had wonderful breakfasts.

                                    1. re: masha

                                      Like Steve H, above, I'm happy to name some of the best B&Bs where we have stayed.

                                      Boltengate Old Rectory, http://www.boltongateoldrectory.com, is the B&B in the Lake District, mentioned upthread. Wonderful food (this is CH), comfortable rooms, and beautiful locale.

                                      Le moulin du port, http://www.lemoulinduport.com/index.p..., is the B&B in the Loire, also mentioned upthread. Room was clean and comfortable but not luxurious. But the food, again was great, both at dinner and breakfast.

                                      In the States, both the Morrill Mansion -- http://www.morrillmansion.com -- and the Inn on Carleton -- http://www.innoncarleton.com -- in Portland, ME are exemplary. Same for the Ash St. Inn in Manchester, NH, http://www.ashstreetinn.com.

                                    2. Somewhat off-topic, but we've had two good AirBnB experiences, in case you want to explore that option. One was a small (very small) ground floor studio in Oahu with a kitchenette; the other was a room in a condo in Key West. No breakfast provided at either one, but no unwanted socializing, either. Our Oahu hosts lived in the house next door and were available if we needed them. Our host in Key West was almost never home, although we did hang out with her in the living room one evening. In both cases, we got pretty good advice about local restaurants, too.

                                      1. I look for soft beds and high thread count sheets.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Mooseknuckler

                                          I'm sure you know that some of the highest thread count is sub par to the medium thread count! It's a bit like a muscle car vs bedding....size doesn't always count,

                                            1. re: Bellachefa

                                              Yep. I remember reading a super high end hotelier's advice to priortize Egyptian cotton over thread count every time.

                                              That advice has changed my life. :-)

                                          1. Having experienced a wide range of B&B stays, I have a few criteria when choosing a property:
                                            Menu that I like :) Also, I won't return to an inn that has poor coffee/tea, unless location is fantastic.
                                            Bright/airy room: Check the photos in the advertising, keeping in mind that photos may have been enhanced :)
                                            Private or minimally shared bathroom.
                                            Linens supplied. For longer stays, I ask how often the linens are refreshed.
                                            Check-in/out and Breakfast times which suit my schedule.
                                            Access times which suit my schedule. I ask the innkeeper directly before booking, whether or not I'll be able to stay in the property during the day.
                                            Parking, if I am on a road-trip.
                                            Access to kitchenette or coffee/tea making. Access to a fridge to store personal snack supplies.

                                            Air conditioning/heating, as appropriate to the climate, is a nice touch. Or, a room fan available.

                                            1. I with the others who have had a less-than-stellar experience.

                                              If I have to choose an inexpensive chain (i.e. Hampton Inn) vs. an unknown B&B....I'll take the inexpensive chain every time.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: pedalfaster

                                                Wow, not me.
                                                Although I have had some negative experiences (mostly with the perceived weirdness of the hosts), I would expect that any B&B would beat a medium priced chain hotel any day. Medium priced hotels mean bed bugs, cheap coffee and tea, continental breakfasts of frozen bagels and cream cheeses, mediocre furnishings and cheap sheets, pillows, blankets, soap, shampoo and towels.
                                                Even in my worst B&B experiences, I have always had much better than that.

                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                  Any place open to travelers has an equal likelihood of bedbugs. That's just how the critters roll.

                                                  Even public libraries, including my local one. They come in on the books. Libraries are using heating devices to cook returns as a result.

                                                  Some b and bs are slummy, some are lovely, some budget priced hotels are super clean (my biggest requirement) and some high end ones are not well cleaned at all, at every price point. IME, anyway.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    Sure, but my chances for all "kooties" might be less as the b and b's are not housing all kinds of people every night, just weekends!

                                                    As I work with law enforcement, I also appreciate that private residences don't house meth heads like hotels do too. You would be surprised what happens in "medium priced" hotel rooms...many kooties :(

                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                      I would not be surprised, I do a LOT of due diligence and we inspect ever inch of bedding, corners, air vents, etc, before bringing any luggage into any room. My experience has been that some budget places are spotless and some high end ones look luxe til you inspect closely and get skeeved out.

                                                      B and Bs aren't strictly weekend places in tourist areas, but you may be referring to small, private home stays, whereas many don't have owners living on site, IME, just nearby, and some are sizable, too.

                                                      Kooties come in rental cars and their trunks, taxis, airplane overheads and cabins, etc. I tossed expensive luggage to buy slick, plastic, light colored suitcases instead. I'm a kootie phobe. :-)

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        Yes, I only stay in the smaller, private b and b's, or Inns/lodges. Otherwise, I go for a nicer hotel.

                                                        The journey is part of the travel to me.

                                              2. There are two big lessons I've learned staying in budget end hotels and B&B's on four continents.

                                                The first is to be careful about your assumptions. Things we would regard as standard in North America aren't necessarily so in other countries, even developed ones. Germany doesn't do A/C, even though it can get up to 40 C in the summer. Hotels in India may not come with hot water. Things like lizards, spiders and giant flying cockroaches are really, really hard to keep out of buildings in tropical climates. For B&Bs I know to check about things like A/C and heat, private bathrooms, a secure place to store valuables, curfew hours, etc.

                                                The second is that when I look at reviews for budget places, the highest priority is reviews that stress friendly, helpful, honest owners, more so than space or amenities. By following that, I've had some great stays in some very cheap, sometimes dodgy areas, including places like Pahar Gange in Delhi.

                                                I've seen reviews for some of the places I really liked that were absolutely scathing, based on the reviewer's lack of understanding of price vs amenities/quality, and expectation of a 3 or 4 star level at a $20 a night backpacker hotel, and the inability to tell the difference between scruffy and dirty.

                                                1. I have stayed in at least 30 US and Canada B&Bs and as many “zimmer frei” accommodations in Germany and Austria. My dad liked to travel on the fly and we never knew where we were staying from one night to another. Dad also liked to travel cheap and that resulted in some very interesting experiences!

                                                  To answer the OP’s questions, I expect a private bath (never assume), a very clean room and decent linens. Access to light food and beverages is a nice touch, along the lines of a small fridge of complimentary beverages and fruit and crackers.

                                                  As an adult, B&Bs are not my first choice of accommodation. We live in a restored, historic home so the “quaint” element of a B&B stay holds zero appeal for me. However, often the locations suit our needs perfectly and I do like the convenience of an on-site breakfast.

                                                  Our favorite stays were B&Bs that have expansive outdoor common areas (trips along the coast or wine country) where we could stretch out at the end of the day and relax with a bottle of wine.

                                                  Probably because I learned the hard way, my B&B stays over the past 20 years have been fine. Most of these have been more like small inns than someone’s home. Like someone else mentioned, these were not budget accommodations and cost more than a hotel in the same area. Most owners/managers were very professional.

                                                  At our last stay, upon learning we would be checking out prior to breakfast, the owner made us up a box of fresh muffins, cookies and fruit along with bottled water and juices for us to eat on the road.

                                                  We learned to avoid communal breakfast tables as my husband has ZERO tolerance for that sort of annoyance.

                                                  I know someone that owned a successful B&B for many years. She said she learned that guests preferred to have a hearty continental style breakfast where guests could eat at their leisure (she had one communal table and a sunroom with bistro tables) over a full, hot breakfast at a set time.

                                                  I also know someone who failed miserably at attempting to run a B&B and her stories made me laugh and cringe.

                                                  1. When we travel, we are all about good food, a good clean bed (King sized, or dueling full size), a good clean pool, and privacy. Because of those things, we don't frequent B&Bs...we've stayed in them only two or three times.

                                                    In our area, the breakfasts are very muffin-bagel-pancake oriented, and both times, our B&B hosts didn't get why my H "couldn't just try a nice stack" of their blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, or why he asked for V8 juice and passed on the fresh-squeezed OJ. It's just easier to stay at a hotel or an inn that matches our amenity wish-list.

                                                    1. As you can see from these replies, B&Bs are not for everyone. If you: like older homes; don't mind quirky plumbing or drafty windows; like or at least don't dislike socializing at breakfast; and enjoy meeting people on your travels, then you might enjoy a B&B.

                                                      If, however, you: are a person with allergies or celiac disease or are just a picky eater; prefer not to talk to people in your hotel; are traveling with younger children; want everything to be standard (beds, rooms, amenities, etc.), then you're probably better of at a hotel.

                                                      We stayed at B&Bs all the time before we had kids, but then found that either they were too expensive (the sleeping arrangements usually required two rooms) or they didn't take kids under 12, so we went through a hotel phase for a while. Now that one is out of the house and the other is a junior in high school, we're back to looking for a B&B first, and then hotels when a B&B is too expensive or unavailable.

                                                      We especially love the ones where people are allowed to bring their dogs, or where the owners have resident pets. We avoid the ones where there are shared baths. Hate that!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Isolda

                                                        I agree with Isolda. It really depends on what you're looking for. There is definitely an expected (but of course not required) social component of staying in a B&B - it's basically like staying in someone's home, and you're sort of expected to at least chat with the hosts at minimum, as well as other guests at breakfast or an evening social hour. If you're not a social person, don't stay at a B&B would be my general recommendation. And while some dietary restrictions can be accommodated, if you have issues along those lines be sure to let your hosts know before you book to make sure they can accommodate.

                                                        The benefits to me are great - I am a social animal so I enjoy the talk, and you get to meet people from all walks of life as well as pick the brain of locals (the hosts). The food is usually much better and made with love and care, and there are sometimes nice extras like fresh baked cookies upon your arrival. I love exploring people's homes, reading the guest books, seeing what games and books they have for you to peruse.

                                                        But yeah, it's not really for families.

                                                        1. re: Isolda

                                                          Actually, your mention of allergies as an issue in staying at B&BS -- which evidently was intended to address food allergies -- should also extend to resident and guest pets. We have severe allergies to dog and cat dander, so avoid any B&B with a resident pet or that allows guests to bring their pets into the rooms. (Also allergies to cigarette smoke although there are few B&Bs stateside that permit smoking in rooms, and Western Europe is catching up as to no smoking policies too.)

                                                        2. 1) B&B's are for places without a good hostel tradition.
                                                          Otherwise stay at the hostel, it will be more fun (also, find a private room).
                                                          2) In areas where bed and breakfasts are a tradition, you're looking for an "experience." A charming, quaint place which will eat a good deal of your day. The hostelers will expect you to want this, so if you don't, be upfront.
                                                          3) You don't go for the food, but it shouldn't be abominable either. Expect cafeteria style, without shortcuts. Possibly made while you wait.
                                                          4) it will be more expensive. you're paying for an experience.
                                                          5) Figure out who the hostelers are before you go. I've stayed with former college profs (who had nicked the chemistry lab benches, which made for fantastic places to put curios), and they were friendly and capable of recommending anything in the reasonable area.

                                                          14 Replies
                                                          1. re: Chowrin

                                                            You are describing B&Bs on the budget end of the spectrum, especially in your description of the food quality. The B&Bs that we stay at are best viewed as an alternative to boutique hotels or country inns -- the difference between a "B&B" and "inn" being that the latter is more of a full service hotel, typically with a full-service restaurant open for all meals and to members of the public who are not hotel guests.

                                                            The breakfasts that we've had at the best B&Bs feature home-made croissants or other breads/ pastries, typically accompanied by home-made or locally-sourced preserves, as well as delicious, gourmet hot entrees, etc.

                                                            1. re: masha

                                                              Cafeteria style without shortcuts is otherwise known as "personal chef" cooking. I'm describing it descriptively, not pejoratively.

                                                              I have stayed at $160 a night places, and been fed by a personal chef. It's still cafeteria style without shortcuts, with a bit of "made to order" for simple stuff.

                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                Cafeteria style (to me) means pre made, then the customer chooses and it is served. Personal chef food is more "made while you wait". I have never had cafeteria style food (pre made) at any B&B.

                                                                I have had mostly personal chef food at B&B's. Typically choosing from a few things like egg based breakfasts or french toast type items. Modifications are fine as they are cooked to order.
                                                                Baked items and fruit on the table, condiments, coffee and tea serve yourself.

                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                  I've had pre made cafeteria style food at b and bs in Maine, pricey ones, too. Not gourmet, either. But b and bs at the high end are often noted for gourmet meals, too.

                                                                  Have also stayed at nice ones with individual breakfast tables and fresh, hot breakfasts cooked to order.

                                                                  You just have to do your homework and make sure the one you choose matches your preferences.

                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                    Wow. I wonder why anyone would stay there? The second "B" is for breakfast! I have never (personally) encountered that at higher end west coast b and b's.
                                                                    I have stayed at inn's on the east coast, but not a residential B and B. Good to know.

                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                      I was kinda shocked after having read reviews (fully booked well ahead, too) of good hot breakfasts that it consisted of a not very good Bisquick type breakfast casserole and the owners "special" dolled up oatmeal. Otherwise, it met my main requirement for being CLEAN and comfy, well kept.

                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                        Well, I had never thought about the B and B "culture" being so different between the states, but I bet it can be.

                                                                        I stick to small B and B 's in my local states of WA, OR and CA. I pretty much know what to expect at what price point. Other sates, not so much.

                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                          I don't have a lot of experience, and it's all been NY and NE.

                                                                          I do think that if you're in someone's actual home, and it's a well kept b and b, you're MUCH less likely to encounter kooties, since they'd have to live with them, too.

                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                              buggers are hard to kill. at least if we're talking about bedbugs. Last time I was in San Francisco I had a hard time finding ANY establishment that didn't have 'em.

                                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                I couldn't, either, when I was looking up reviews.

                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                  Jtown had a few places, in case you're ever looking again.
                                                                                  (didn't get many american tourists in the japanese hotels)

                                                                    2. re: sedimental

                                                                      I've stayed at B&Bs where breakfast was laid out as a buffet, including hot food in chafing dishes -- typically in relatively small amounts, replenished frequently with new batches. In these situations the proprietor is often trying to meet the needs of guests who want a variety of food, served relatively rapidly, with flexibility as to when they take breakfast. Especially if the B&B has more than just a few rooms -- e.g., it sleeps 10+ people -- this kind of rolling buffet service is most practical for an establishment that is staffed by only 1 or 2 people. The alternative in these situations may be a communal breakfast for all guests at a set time, which is less convenient for the guests.

                                                                    3. re: Chowrin

                                                                      Sorry if I misconstrued your meaning.

                                                                2. An amusing anecdote - my husband and I arrived at a B&B in southern Arizona. Our room wasn't ready so we waited in the sitting area. The owner's small child (maybe 2 years old) approached us. She handed me a toy then proceeded to reach up and grab my breast. :-O I was highly amused.

                                                                  You never know what you're going to find!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. I have stayed in several in N California but only one in Sonoma (and it was extremely expensive to stay there)provided an actual cooked and delivered breakfast. Most had large eat in kitchens stocked with a lot of great foods. My favorite is a quaint old B&B in Bodega Bay that is also an art gallery. If you (like me) prefer extreme privacy, moderate to lots of luxury, the option of room service 24/7 then a B&B might take some adjusting to. I prefer a B&B in small places like Bodega Bay and Sonoma but not in larger metro areas.