Are you wondering if a B&B inn is right for you? Here are our pros and cons of staying in a bed and breakfast so you can find the best accommodations wherever you travel.
What makes a traveler choose to stay in a bed and breakfast over a hotel when planning a trip? I think it’s enticing adjectives like quaint, historic, charming, or romantic. A bed and breakfast can be all of those things or none. I believe that staying at a bed and breakfast is a lot of fun, although that is not always the case. Like most things about travel, accommodations are not one size fits all. Here are some basics about staying in a bed and breakfast, including the definition of a Bed and Breakfast and how to find one.
What is a Bed and Breakfast?
A bed and breakfast, B&B for short, is a guest house or small inn offering sleeping accommodations and a morning meal. B&Bs are often located in older, historic homes, which adds to their appeal and charm. The owner may live onsite or nearby, and you’ll most likely meet them during your stay. A larger bed and breakfast or boutique inn may have several guest rooms, and smaller B&Bs may only have a few rooms. No two will be exactly alike.
How to Find a Bed and Breakfast
Like most travel-related things, Google and word of mouth are your best sources. Some states have B&B associations. The convention and visitor’s bureau (CVB) or chamber of commerce at your destination will offer recommendations. Sometimes B&Bs come up in internet searches for lodging in a particular area alongside hotels. You can also open your browser and type “B&B in Anchorage” (or Portland or Tallahassee, wherever you happen to be going) and see what pops up. Another option is this B&B finder.
Pros of Staying in a Bed and Breakfast
There are many great reasons to choose a B&B over a traditional hotel or luxury resort.
Meeting New People
Guests at a B&B are more likely to have meaningful interactions with other guests and the B&B owner. Travelers tend to stay in their bubble at a hotel, and talking to the hotel owner is very unlikely to happen.
Bed and breakfasts tend to have one breakfast serving time, although that can vary. Sitting around the dining room table with the guests staying in the room across the hall is a very different experience than making polite chitchat while you’re in line for the breakfast buffet. Generally, the host at a B&B will make an effort to get to know you.
Personalized Recommendations and Local Insights
While you can ask the hotel desk clerk for their recommendations for restaurants and activities, that person may not be invested or take a personal interest in ensuring you have a great stay in a particular location. Guests will typically get a more individualized response at a B&B, and hosts may even have curated lists of activities or a supply of brochures.
Truly Epic Breakfasts
Some of my most memorable breakfasts have been at B&Bs. Larger B&Bs may have a set menu or a buffet-style offering, while smaller B&Bs typically ask you what you like to eat for breakfast or get your input on what will be served. My husband and I stayed at a bed and breakfast on our honeymoon, and we got breakfast in bed as part of the package.
I recently stayed in the 1810 Emmerson House Bed and Breakfast in Beloit, Wisconsin (about an hour’s drive from Madison) and found my breakfast the absolute BEST part of my stay. My delicious morning sendoffs made my day: from the presentation to the actual food to the hostess’s attention to detail.
Charm and Style
A bed and breakfast typically (although not always) is located in a historic home. It’s common to find antique furniture, engaging artwork, knickknacks, and the type of architecture you will not find at a chain hotel. “Quaint” is a word often used in B&B descriptions and can apply to everything from handmade lace table clothes to antique serving dishes. Your host may tell you the house’s history or share stories about the original family that occupied it. You might also discover books or other artifacts that reveal the property’s story.
Most B&Bs I’ve stayed in have little extras for guests, such as schnapps, sherry in a decanter, or a dish of chocolates. One of my favorite B&B stays included a sweet treat hand-delivered to my room each afternoon.
Cons of Staying in a Bed and Breakfast
Staying in a B&B is not without drawbacks. Here are some things I consider cons of staying in a B&B. However, characterizing these attributes as cons is simply a matter of personal preference and is often based on how comfortable you are in social settings.
Lack of Amenities
If an onsite fitness center, pool, spa, and 24-hour room service are essential to you, a B&B might not be a match made in heaven. There most likely won’t be a parking lot or garage—you might even have to park on the street. B&Bs don’t typically cater to business travelers, although recently, I’ve enjoyed fast, reliable Wi-Fi during my stays as hosts seem to have realized this is important to guests.
Not (Usually) Suitable for Family Travel
B&Bs are best-suited to adults. They’re great for romantic getaways or couples trips sans kids. If you’re traveling with kids and want to stay in a B&B, make sure your host allows them. I had an owner of a B&B once tell me, “Everyone says their kids are well-behaved, but the people who say that are usually the ones who have kids who grind Cheerios into my dining room rug.” Perhaps this is implied, but that particular B&B did not allow children.
One exception to the no-kids rule is the Pecan Street Inn in Bastrop, Texas. Although I did not stay at this property with my kids, the property does welcome children. The Pecan Street Inn has outdoor spaces for kids to play and loaner bicycles. If you’re traveling with kids and want to stay in a B&B, I recommend doing thorough research, including picking up the phone and talking with the hosts about your travel plans. There’s a difference between a bed and breakfast that will allow kids to stay and one that genuinely welcomes them. A phone call should help you decipher the vibe of each one you’ve selected.
Not Always ADA-Compliant
If you have mobility limitations, a B&B may not work for you. Many are housed in old buildings with steep staircases and narrow hallways. That retro clawfoot tub might be aesthetically pleasing but difficult to climb in and out of for someone who isn’t fully mobile. Do your research and contact your hosts before your stay if you’re unsure about something. Getting there and figuring out a space that won’t work for you will usually cost you at least a deposit and may leave you scrambling to find replacement accommodations.
Lack of Privacy
This is the big one for me! Older homes with thinner walls might not provide as much privacy as you’d enjoy in a hotel room. If privacy is important to you, but you want to give a bed and breakfast stay a try, look for a room with en suite bathroom facilities, which means you don’t have to leave your room to use the bathroom. Somebody learned this the hard way! Somebody, by the way, was me.
I booked a B&B in England that had a shared hallway bathroom, shared being the critical word to remember. I knew I’d booked a room with a bathroom outside the room but didn’t realize we’d be sharing it with other rooms. When I went to freshen up and found a lovely Canadian gentleman standing at the sink shaving, I realized we were sharing our bathroom, and yes, he’d left the door open. While it was weird and not ideal for me, he was neat and pleasant. It could have been worse.
My room at 1810 Emmerson House did not have a shared bathroom, but the dedicated bathroom for my room was in the hall. The other upstairs room had an en suite, so I didn’t have to share. The other bedroom was vacant during this particular stay, so I had plenty of privacy, but I would have been uncomfortable if I’d run into a stranger in the hall in my nightgown.
Is a B&B for You? Give it a Try and Find Out
If you’ve never stayed in a bed and breakfast and you’re curious, pick a city you’ve wanted to visit and book a couple of nights in a B&B. Most properties have a two-night minimum.
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Embrace the B&B Experience
Your level of openness and need for privacy drives the enjoyment of a B&B. Most B&Bs I’ve stayed in give me the feeling of being physically closer to the other guests. Because you often run into other guests in shared spaces, I recommend packing a bathrobe, sweatpants, or modest pajamas. Even if you don’t care, they might. Headphones or a white noise app might help block out sounds. Even if you’re introverted, lean into the experience, get outside your comfort zone a bit, and talk to the host and other guests.
You might love it and want to stay in B&Bs all the time or cross it off as a one-and-done and go back to hotel stays. I’m probably somewhere in the middle. When booking your next vacation, plan to stay in a bed and breakfast for a few nights. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide, whether you stay in the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, or Europe. We also have some great suggestions for accommodations, from B&Bs to luxury hotels.