Booking B&Bs

Here’s what you need to know before you book your stay at that cozy bed-and-breakfast.

Bed-and-breakfast inns cater to travellers who seek a friendly, charming atmosphere combined with a homey price These inns – usually private residences transformed into inns – offer an intimate setting, ranging anywhere from three to several dozen bedrooms. Typically family-run, they can provide the sort of personalized service and small touches hard to find in a standard hotel.

Included with your B&B stay are often elaborate home-cooked breakfasts, not to mention a “make yourself at home” attitude. While prices vary widely from one B&B to another, most offer a better deal than you’ll find a conventional hotel.

More proof that B&Bs are booming: Once the province of the countryside, they are now starting to pop up in major cities, making them an attractive option to business travellers looking for a home away from home.

But even with a B&B’s quaint charm and attractive prices, people who are accustomed to the conveniences of a standard hotel can find themselves sorely disappointed. Here are some questions you need to ask before booking:

1. What’s the bathroom situation? Shared or private? Shower or tub? Old or modern?

2. What are the perks? Internet access? Cable TV? Plush bathrobes? If you’re traveling for business, ask about available work space or meeting rooms.

3. Are kids and/or pets welcome? Some B&Bs, particularly the fancier ones, have a distinctly grown-up feel. If kids and/or pets are welcome, make sure to ask about amenities such as cribs, refrigerators in room — and a near-by park to walk Fido.

4. Location, location, location… Determine what your noise level might be, i.e.… are you near a school or a pub? What sites or attractions are nearby? If you’re staying in a city, check on the parking situation and proximity to public transit.

5. What kind of service can you expect? Ask if someone is available 24/7 at the front desk and if you can expect any help with reservations or bookings.

6. Privacy, please?… Staying at a B&B often involves more social interaction with other guests and/or the inn proprietors than in a conventional hotel setting. Group meals (particularly at breakfast) are the norm, as well as impromptu gatherings at the porch swing. Also because you’re likely staying in converted home, you might hear people talking or moving around in rooms near or above you. If you’re looking for “just us” or alone time, a B&B may not be the best option.

7. Breakfast details. Confirm that breakfast is indeed included in the cost, as this is not always the case. Ask what type of breakfast is served – is it an elaborate affair prepared with, say, locally produced meats and cheeses or a more casual continental fare consisting mainly of coffee and muffins. Also be sure to ask what hours breakfast is served to see if it fits with your schedule.

8. Cancellations and refunds. Check on the rules for cancellations
and refunds.
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