In today’s world life is BIG. There are BIG box stores, BIG lines, BIG traffic, BIG houses, BIG chain restaurants, BIG finances, BIG headaches, BIG projects and just BIG pressure to do everything quicker and have it all done yesterday. So for all of the BIG that you face every day in your life at home, at work and all around you; try taking some time and decompress by enjoying small and book an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast inn.
The new trend in lodging is for the large chain hotels are all trying to emulate the quaintness and personal service of a bed and breakfast to appear smaller and more familiar but this falls short of a true bed and breakfast experience. Still for many people the uniqueness of each bed and breakfast does add an element of hesitation. At least with the cookie cutter chains you may not know in advance if the décor is the blue or the green version but you know what the experience will be. A bed and breakfast is kind of the opposite – the website will have pictures of every room because each room is different so you will know the décor before you walk in but you will not know what the experience will be. So the ultimate question is, why stay at a bed and breakfast? And how do we get you to overcome this so you will be able to enjoy “small” at a wonderful B&B?
Small – that is what a bed and breakfast inn is all about. Each bed and breakfast is one of kind and will not have the same room that you just stayed in on your last trip to Cleveland, Chicago or Boston nor the same room that you could rent in every city in the US. As per the latest industry study by PAII, 79% of all bed and breakfasts are owner occupied and owner managed which means the person that is checking you in or serving your breakfast is truly vested in having your overnight stay be the best possible experience it can be. It also means that the owner/innkeeper lives in the community, eats at the local restaurants and shops at the local shops. They will not only know the roads off the beaten path that offer the best views, the local seafood dive with great food but no sign out front or the best place to hike given the time of year; they want to make sure you get a chance to experience them also.
Any professional bed and breakfast inn is likely going to have the same amenities that a traveler will find at a comparable chain hotel. If the bed and breakfast is also inspected by an independent source like Select Registry or AAA and gets a high grade like a Four Diamond rating than you know that there is a level of cleanliness; quality of furnishings, amenities and common areas; and concierge service that should help take the fear factor out of the bed and breakfast experience so you can truly enjoy small.
Here are some suggestions to help pick the perfect bed and breakfast experience for what you are looking for so you can truly enjoy all of the personal attention of enjoying small:
1.) Number of Rooms: Typically, a bed and breakfast or bed and breakfast inn that has at least 6 rooms is being run as a business and not as a “side job”. As a business, repeat customers and guest’s experiences matter. Bed and Breakfasts or Bed and Breakfast Inns that are greater than 15 or so rooms start moving into the boutique hotel experience as based on sheer size of the operation, your interactions will be more with staff than with the owners of the business.
2.) Owner/Innkeeper: Read the reviews, the website or the glossy brochure, are the owners the innkeepers? Are they actively involved in the day to day operations of the bed and breakfast? You want the answer to be yes. No matter how talented or dedicated an employee can be to a business, things are going to matter more to an owner because it is more than a job or a paycheck it is their entire investment, retirement and livelihood.
3.) 3rd Party Inspections or Rating: Is the inn part of Select Registry or have an AAA Four Diamond rating or a Mobile Rating? These types of 3rd party rating systems all conduct periodic on-site inspections and have specific criteria that must be met as it relates to room amenities, cleanliness, food quality, décor and concierge services or the property does not maintain their rating.
4.) Reviews by Past Travelers: For better or worse, we are a society where everyone can voice their opinion in lightning speed to an audience of bazillion people. One can read the “theme” of reviews on sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp.com, Bedandbreakfast.com, etc. to see if the experience described by the majority of reviewers (not the outliers) is the experience that you are looking for with your escape.
5.) Private Baths: It is a myth about bed and breakfasts not having private baths. According PAII, the fact is that in the US, 94% of all bed and breakfast rooms in the estimated 17,000 B&Bs in the US have private baths.
6.) Room Amenities: Again, for a bed and breakfast inn to be operated as a competitive business they too need to keep up with what today’s travelers expect when the travel – internet access, Televisions, hair dryers in the room, etc. Select Registry, AAA and Mobile Travel, all have specific criteria what a guest room has for amenities and the expectation that the guest room will be outfitted with the amenities that travelers in the US expect. Check the website for a list of amenities available in the room. By nature of the business, B&Bs post on their website all of the amenities they have available to guests because there can be a variance in what is offered. If a B&B has flat screen TVs in all of their rooms they are going to want any potential guest to know!
7.) Breakfast Service: This is where you will get a fair amount of variation within individual B&Bs but the information about breakfast service should be readily found on the inn’s website since “Breakfast is the other B in B&B”, innkeepers know they need to describe the experience to their potential guests either through a text description or a photograph. Check out if breakfast is served at individual tables or one time at one big table and pick the experience that best fits what you are looking for.
8.) Breakfast Menu: Are you a basic scrambled egg person or do you like to be daring with your breakfast fare? Again, the great thing about staying “small’ is you can usually have what you want in that the innkeeper/owner is usually the chef too in many places. You may not find the selection of choice that you could get at a breakfast restaurant but you will probably find a willing person who will hear what it is you like or do not like about the standard fare offered for the day and will create something else to your liking.
9.) Personal Space & Ambiance: Another myth often used as a reason for not trying a bed and breakfast inn is the thought that the innkeeper’s dining room is the dining room that you will have breakfast in or the innkeeper’s living room is the only common room in the inn. This is just not the case for a bed and breakfast inn that is being operated as a professional lodging business.
10.) No Hidden Costs: If you are going to comparison shop and bargain hunt for a “cheap” lodging alternative make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Most bed and breakfast inns include complimentary services in their rate versus the hotel model of adding extra room charges for Wi-Fi access ($10-$25 dollars/24 hours); access to in-room movies ($6-$12 per movie); access to complimentary beverages, snacks, coffee and cookies (compare this to the bag of pretzels in the honor bar for $12); parking ($10-$35 per night); multi-course breakfast ($12-$20 pp); and insight into what is happening in the area and where to go to have the best clam chowder or to see the sunset ……priceless.
There is a difference between BIG and small, and well personally, we think being small is a really BIG deal for our guests!!!!!!