21 Tips for Your Best Bed & Breakfast Inn Stay from a Veteran B&B Traveler

21 Tips for Your Best Bed & Breakfast Inn Stay
 from a Veteran Inn Traveler

by Kathryn Bechen
Copyright 2015

Since my husband Steve and I have stayed in a wide variety of over 65 Bed & Breakfast Inns in 17 U.S. states, I thought I'd share my top tips to ensure that your own future inn stay is a pleasant one, right from the moment you pick up the phone to inquire about a stay:

1.   Good manners and graciousness are much appreciated by both innkeepers and their other guests.  If you are friendly yet respect others' privacy, appreciative to the innkeeper, respectably dressed and groomed, and are a good conversationalist at breakfast, you're already well on your way to being the "Belle of the Bed & Breakfast Inn Ball!"

2.  If you can stay on Sunday night, it's usually considered a discounted weekday rate vs. a more expensive weekend rate, and it's usually less busy and therefore quieter too.  Inns are usually happy to do this because they'd rather rent a room for less than not at all.

3.  Many inns honor the AAA discount or other discounts like AARP etc., so be sure to ask that also when you book.  If they don't offer a legitimate discount though, don't press for them to make an exception just for you.

4. Inns have become very popular for weddings in recent years, so be sure to ask if there's a wedding party staying there when you book as it might be noisier and/or busier than usual, especially because wedding parties often rent many rooms and are having fun together as a group.  The innkeeper might be able to give you a room in another part of the inn, or you may elect to stay another time, or you could simply choose a different inn.

5.  Search  I Love Inns,  (my favorite inn site), to find an inn in a specific geographic location.  Then, go to the inn's own website for researching the details.  (And to be sure they are still in business.)  The first page you should read is their policies page.

6. On the inn's website, click on ALL the rooms to see the size, type of decor, and amenities that will be most comfortable for you and your mate.  For example, I prefer light bright decor and my husband likes a large room with a sofa and desk whenever possible, plus we both love a King bed, so I always look for that on the inn website room photos.  Expect to pay accordingly.

7.  Ask if the breakfast is a fully cooked breakfast or cold continental if that matters to you, and if it's included in the room fee.  Usually it is, but not always these days.  Also, every inn serves breakfast differently so find out ahead of time how they do it.  We love sitting around a dining table and talking with strangers, but not everyone does, especially at 7 a.m.  We also like a private breakfast in our room or on the terrace, which is sometimes available, and sometimes not. Serving times vary too so if you are not a 7 a.m. cheery-good morning-to-you kind of person, be sure to ask if you can still get breakfast at, say, 10 a.m., when you are well over your early morning "grumpies."     

8.  If you have special dietary needs for breakfast, be sure to ask when you book if they can accommodate your specific needs.  Some can and will, and some can't and/or won't.  Don't press nor whine if they can't, because inns have small staffs.    Some inns will let you put your own food in their kitchen fridge and some inns have mini fridges in the guest rooms as well.  It's okay to inquire about both possibilities before you book.

9.  Be sure to ask if parking is on the inn property and off the street and if it is free or there is a fee. Usually it's free with the room rate, but not always.  Sometimes you do need to park on a side street so if that bothers you for security reasons, be sure to ask before you book.

10.  If you have allergies, like I do, be sure to ask before you book if they use scented/fragranced products on their sheets, towels, and carpets, have strongly scented flowers and candles in the rooms, leave scented soaps out, or use fragrance plug-in air fresheners or sprays.  If so, you can ask them to remove items before your arrival, to not use scented products to clean your room, and to crack the window open before you arrive. Lodging establishments are increasingly being asked not to use scents in their rooms now because so many people get really ill from synthetic fragrance chemicals, so don't be afraid to ask (politely but firmly) for this legitimate health accommodation. 

11.  Many times you are staying in someone's private home that's being also rented out as a B&B inn and the owner or innkeeper lives somewhere on the premises.  Some innkeepers are uber-friendly and love to chat.  Others are simply quieter people who like to stay behind the scenes.   Even though you are paying to stay there, it's still their home, so be kind, honor their personal hosting style, and especially never ask to see their private quarters.  

12.  Many inns now require a two-night stay, or even a three-night stay.  But if you ask, they may waive that.  Some inns also now charge an exit housecleaning fee so be sure to ask before you book.  (I never stay at inns that charge exit cleaning fees because I feel cleaning is part of an inn's cost to do business not to mention I'm a total cleanie so I'm not willing to pay extra just because other guests leave rooms dirty, which prompted this cleaning fee policy to pop up in recent years, I would imagine.)

13.  Check out the inn website before you leave for lists of nearby restaurants and things to do.  Many inns post them on their site and that way if the innkeeper is unavailable or busy for some reason, you'll have your list with you, or on your smart phone, handy-dandy.

14.  If you prefer a private bath and a long romantic bath over a shower, be sure to check the inn website and/or ask when you book as not all rooms come with a private bathroom and not all rooms have bathtubs.  Some just have a shower.  And some inns only have shared bathrooms, or a combo of shared bathrooms and private bathrooms.   We personally don't do shared bathrooms, but maybe you won't mind.  ASK!    Also, California, where I live, is currently under mandatory water reduction restrictions, so some inns have closed down their oversized bathtubs and hot tub use, and don't provide fresh linens and towels every day.   Be sure to check on this if you were planning a romantic tub-for-two anniversary getaway!

15.  Many inns now have one or two tiny rooms with a single bed, sometimes in the attic or tucked away in a nook somewhere that they rent for much less, so be sure to ask if you're a solo traveler.

16.  If you are celebrating an anniversary or other special occasion, inns are a wonderful place to stay and often offer a romance package with chocolates, wine/champagne, and a dozen roses etc. so be sure to inquire.  They usually charge a premium for this extra flourish so ask if there's an additional cost for this celebratory package as usually it's not included in your room fee.

17.  Many inns are in historic and/or older homes with lots of stairs and several stories so if mobility is an issue for you, be sure to ask as some inns have guest rooms available on the first floor.

18.  If street noise bothers you, be sure to ask for the quietest top floor room, away from the street.

19.  Some inns serve wine and cheese and/or desserts in the afternoon which is a wonderful welcoming touch.

20.  Some inns now permit pets so be sure to ask if you plan to take your Fido or Fluffy, and be prepared to pay extra for them and to follow the inn's pet rules.  On the flip side, for those of us who have allergies, I no longer book into inns that allow pets as I just can't be sure of what I will encounter. And even if inns tell me they only allow pets in certain guest rooms, we don't stay there because honestly, neither I nor my husband want to be bothered by other guests' pets.

21.  Most U.S. inns, we have found, discourage bringing children under 18 and some inns don't permit children at all because they cater to mature adults who are discerning travelers seeking a quiet, romantic, and restful getaway to escape from the daily rigors of work and family life.

Yes, it's true from our personal experience, that many inns are sort of like staying and dining at the formal Downton Abbey, so if you love that show, book yourself into an historic inn soon and enjoy!