For the last 20 years, my husband and I have celebrated our anniversary by going to a different Bed and Breakfast in California. Since our trip involves a lot of planning ahead with differing schedules and childcare to align, we want to make sure our money is well spent.
We’ve found that going to a B&B is worth the extra money for the added amenities, attention to detail and ambiance. Often, you pay the same price per night as in a hotel. The key to finding an affordable B&B you love is taking the time to do a little research.
What is a Bed and Breakfast?
A bed and breakfast is a quaint home that the owners (innkeepers) may or may not live in. Breakfast is included in the price of your say.
Tip: Find out if the inn offers a full, traditional breakfast or just a continental breakfast. A big, hot meal can sustain you and save you money on lunch. Conversely, some prefer a light breakfast and dinner and splurge on a large, midday meal when prices are lower.
Don’t reject a B&B because you’re uncomfortable eating with other guests. You can easily find one that offers restaurant-style tables or the choice to have breakfast in your room.
One misconception about B&B’s is that you always have to share a bathroom with other guests. This is sometimes true, particularly in some other countries, but I’ve never stayed at a B&B where I’ve had to share a restroom. If this matters to you, ask ahead.
When I search for a B&B I look for the following:
2. Price range for the dates I want to go (off season is usually cheaper)
5. King Size Bed
6. Full breakfast included (not continental)
Here are the ways I research to make sure I find a B&B I’ll love.
The first thing you need to decide is where you want to go. You don’t want to be bored, so choose one or more activities to base your trip around such as zip-lining, resting by the ocean, hiking, horseback-riding, see a play, skiing or exploring a quaint little town.
Use trip advisor to search for a B&B that is within your price range and that has the ambiance you’re looking for. Do you prefer a cabin style? Historical victorian homes decorated with antiques? Modern decor? I use both www.tripadvisor.com and yelp.com and enter the dates of our stay and the location where we’d like to visit. For example: search “Bed and Breakfasts in Half Moon Bay.”
Look at Pictures
Look at both the professional and travelers’ photos. Obviously, the establishment will use their own pictures and sometimes you can be disappointed when you discover what the rooms really look like. The travelers’ photos will tell you a lot more about the inn. When the travelers’ pictures look as nice as the professional photos, then I know it’s a place worth staying!
Some people turn their regular homes into a Bed and Breakfast. You’ll find a lot of places like this on AirBnB.com. You can save some money going that route and sometimes even get to know interesting local people, but I’m usually looking for something more special than someone’s guest room. There are many elegant inns to choose from.
I’ve used this method to search for hotels as well. I’ve found some pretty disgusting reviewers’ pictures in some otherwise nice hotel rooms. I rarely find these kind of pictures from Bed and Breakfasts, though. One reason is due to the fact that the innkeepers often live on the premises and as a small or family-owned business, take great pride in ownership.
Once I’ve found a B&B that catches my eye, I’ll go to their website and look at each individual room and its amenities (fireplace, Jacuzzi tub, king size bed), size and price.
The 5 Star Rating
While you should definitely consider the rating for each B&B, also keep in mind how many reviews each inn has. An inn can have a perfect star rating with only 5 reviews or a 4 1/2 star rating with thousands. Read as many good and bad reviews as you can to get a more realistic idea of what you might run into.
Read the reviews and know what you’re looking for
You should decide what you’re looking for when you read reviews. Your questions just may be answered.
Do you want a good night’s sleep? How many reviewers complain that the bed was too hard or about noise? Is cleanliness your thing? How often do people use words like “immaculate” or complain that something was gross?
I always keep in mind that sometimes people can be super ridiculous or simply have very different needs. One person complained that they were too tall and could see over the curtain into the shower. We stayed in this same room and one of the things we loved most was this well-functioning, clean, antique shower/tub!
Read the room tips
It took me a while to discover this, but there is a section on trip advisor where you can look for room tips.
People will tell you what they like or don’t like about their room. Reviewers will tell you if the room is by the kitchen, a busy freeway or a loud bar across the street. You can find out if the room is upstairs and what kind of view the room has.
So there you go! I hope you find a B&B that you love. Believe me, the research is worth it! Remember when you arrive that the innkeepers are there to help you. They can tell you the best places to eat and even make reservations for you.
Have you ever stayed in a Bed and Breakfast? I would love to hear about it in the comments.