While I am still in South Africa on vacation and my friend Vivian (Mtnbound) has graciously offered to write a guest post. Mtnbound and husband never take the same vacation twice. They just returned from a two week trip to Italy. You an read about their adventures on her blog, From the Mountains to the Sea and the Cities In-Between
When you hear that a traveler stayed in a “bed and breakfast,” do you imagine a Victorian mansion filled with antiques and a full breakfast cooked by an elderly woman? We’ve stayed in lots of bed and breakfast inns over the past 25 years and only one or two of them have fit this description!
When we travel as a couple, my husband and I prefer to stay in B&Bs for several reasons:
1. B&Bs are an authentic way to experience the culture you are visiting. Bed and Breakfast inns are usually in a typical residence, decorated in the fashion of the people living there. It is much easier to understand the culture when you are living in it, rather than in a hotel room that looks the same if it is in New York City or Sedona, Arizona.
2. B&Bs provide personal customer service and show pride of ownership. Most Bed and Breakfast inns are run by the owner of the inn, who has a vested interest in providing great customer service. Innkeepers are in the business because they want to be. No rude reception staff!
3. B&B owners are happy to share inside information about places to go. Bed and Breakfast innkeepers are experts on the activities, restaurants, and sites in their area. They can provide tips about how to access that off-the-beaten track hiking trail or where the locals go to eat the specialty of the region.
4. B&Bs offer an opportunity to interact with other travelers. Breakfast is often shared at tables where you are seated with other guests with whom you can swap stories and ideas about your travel experiences.
5. B&Bs are quiet. There will be no girl soccer players staying in a B&B, kicking a ball down the hall at 11:00 PM. (True story of a hotel stay)
What is a Bed and Breakfast? The simple definition is that the lodging is provided in a private home or building similar to a residence. Breakfast can be served in a variety of ways, from being delivered to your bedroom to sharing a table in the dining room to being given a voucher to the restaurant down the street. Most B&B rooms have en suite bathrooms. However, we recently stayed in one where our private bathroom was across the hall from our bedroom.
Selecting a Bed and Breakfast I usually locate Bed and Breakfast lodging through websites such as TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Booking.com, and AirBnB. We read through the reviews carefully to look for the recommendations and warnings from other travelers.
Wikitravel offers these considerations for choosing a Bed and Breakfast:
Is the location convenient to attractions and your transportation plans?
Do the hosts have pets? Are guests able to bring pets? Important if you are allergic to animals or will have a pet with you.
Are children welcome? If you are planning to bring your children, you may need additional rooms.
Is the building or designated rooms non-smoking?
Is the lodging compatible with your expectations for level of luxury? Facilities can range from basic to spa-like. Some accommodations are only a bedroom, others are suites or studio apartments with a kitchen.
What are the amenities in the room? Bed size, bathroom availability, toiletries, hair dryer?
What are the breakfast details? Is there an extra fee for breakfast? Times served? Can special dietary requirements be accommodated?
What are the check-in and check-out times? The innkeeper may not want to stay up past his/her bedtime for your arrival!
Of course, B&Bs are the not the solution for everyone. They are not practical for families because most rooms only accommodate two people. People who like to have amenities such as a fitness center or business center also will prefer hotel facilities. Some travelers may like to have the security and familiarity of a hotel chain that they know and trust.
Notable Bed and Breakfast Inns
Here are a few of our favorite B&Bs, near and far:
Virginia: Cedar Post Inn, Big Island, VA – The owners built this cedar log home as a bed and breakfast lodge and their residence. There are beautiful mountain views and the breakfast is outstanding. Sally and Kevin were so warm and welcoming that we left there feeling as if we had just spent the weekend with friends.
North Carolina: Augustus Zevely Inn, Old Salem, NC – We stay at this inn when we visit our daughter in college. The inn is located in historic Old Salem, a lovely Moravian settlement. This house is filled with antiques, but is not stuffy or formal. Breakfast is very nice.
Hawaii: Poipu Plantation, Poipu, Kauai – We had a spacious suite in the main building. Breakfast was always delicious and included Hawaiian fruits. The host spent time with us every morning to provide advice for our day’s plans and to explain Hawaiian customs.
Italy: Ca’ San Vio, Venice, Italy – This B&B is in a great location away from the tourist spots, but close to one of the bridges that cross the Grand Canal. The bathroom for our room was across the hall. Other bedrooms had en suite bathrooms. Breakfast was delivered to our room when we let the host know that we were ready. Our only complaint was that the wifi did not work in our room. But, hey, we were in Venice! Who needs the Internet?
Italy: 50 sm Studio in the Historic Centre, Bologna, Italy – We loved this unique studio apartment. The walls were from Roman times and the owner has preserved a well and wine container that were found when they renovated the basement space. The kitchen was handy for us to prepare simple meals. This accommodation does not include breakfast as there is a wonderful pastry shop across the street. The apartment is walking distance to the main town square and very convenient.