We’ll just come right out and say it: far too many travelers and vacationers give far too little thought to where they’re staying. Maybe we’ve just been trained to assume a nondescript hotel is the only option when it comes to spending a night away from home, but whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, things get a lot more interesting when you deviate from the norm. Not that we’ve any particular issues with hotels — in fact, we’re downright in love with some of them — but if you’ve never given consideration to a bed & breakfast, you should. Immediately. If you’re the type who prefers to get more ingrained in the culture of wherever you’re staying, personal service, homemade breakfasts and travel tips from locals who know the ins and outs of wherever you are, a B&B may be perfect for you and yours. Join us past the break as we seek to show you what you’ve been missing out on.
Okay, so maybe it’s more like culture and beauty, but either way, you get a good helping of both when you select a Bed & Breakfast. Way more than at your average hotel, that’s for sure. In our experience, most B&Bs are somewhat off of the beaten path, which means you’ll be surrounded by fewer stoplights, automobile horns and stray Segways. All the while, you’ll likely be surrounded by more natural beauty, trees, streams, etc. We recently had a chance to stay at the magnificent Hisega Lodge in South Dakota, and while it was only ten minutes or so from Rapid City, it was completely enveloped in the Black Hills, sat next to a babbling brook and miles away from our nearest care in the world. Our stay at the Arrowhead Head in Durham, North Carolina has a similar story; it’s just minutes from the rigors of town, but once you’re on the property, you’re whisked away into a world that knows only rose gardens, tree-hung swings and private walking paths through the forest. There’s just something special about residing in a place that you’d visit anyway just to see the surrounding beauty, and the vast majority of B&Bs offer this very perk.
Personal service and expert tips
If you’re lucky, your local corporate hotel chain will have a bookshelf stacked with pamphlets about local attractions, which you’re free to take and investigate yourself with all that free time you’ve surely got. Some hotels have a staff that’s willing and able to help you plan a day or three worth of activities in the local area, but that’s definitely the exception rather than the rule. Hotels are designed to run as well-oiled machines, and you asking for half a hour of someone’s help to book activities isn’t part of said plan. A B&B, however, is there to do exactly that — cater to your every curiosity, and to get you headed in the right direction once you finish up a hearty breakfast. Most B&Bs and inns are owned by a couple (plus a few extra helpers if necessary) who genuinely love their guests; they love the company, the love to see others traveling, and they obviously love whatever part of the country that they’ve chosen to set up shop. At a B&B, you aren’t apt to feel as if you’re a nuisance for asking about awesome Italian eateries, the best horseback riding tour in town or the best ice cream shop within a half-hour’s drive. Oftentimes, these suggestions from seasoned locals can turn you onto things you would’ve never found on your own, and hey, who can say no to service with a smile?
Argue all you want, but hotels are lonely. Even if you’re there with a raft of kids, no other guests go out of their way to mingle with whomever else is staying during the same time. Ever noticed that? At a B&B, fellowship amongst the guests isn’t just encouraged, it almost comes naturally. Most venues have all of their guests down at around the same time for breakfast, and for budding extroverts (or the outgoing among us), the setup is primed for enjoyment. Meeting someone from Asia enjoying America for the first time, seeing a honeymooning couple from Barrow, Alaska and toasting coffee mugs with a foursome of newly graduated college kids from NC State? It’s all possible at a B&B, and even if you don’t make a lifelong pal, chances are you won’t soon forget the shared travel stories from those who have ended up in the same inn at the same time as you. When’s the last time you met Mr. Interesting at the Hotel John Doe down by the airport?
Speaking of joining the group for a morning meal, we should probably mention just how important breakfasts are to bed & breakfast facilities. As you may expect, it’s a pretty vital part of the experience, and every owner we’ve ever encountered takes it very seriously. To say that B&B meals are likely to be some of the best you get on the road is a severe understatement; during a stay at the charming Rose Cottage B&B in Portland, Oregon, we were treated to a four-course breakfast that was prepared by hand in front of our eyes by one of the most spunky grandmothers we’d ever seen. Every bite was better than the last, and a year later, I’m still talking about it. To boot, getting the opportunity to converse with the B&B owner as they serve you is a truly rewarding and enriching experience, particularly for curious travelers who can never hear enough tales. Seriously — those gratis cereal and fruit buffets at Holiday Inn Express, and particularly those $30 room service pancakes, can’t hold a candle to the grub shown above.
B&Bs represent a fantastic value
It’s a common misconception that a lodging venue that provides personal service, a homemade breakfast, a relaxing atmosphere and more surrounding beauty than most hotels could dream of providing is markedly more expensive than the more traditional options. Fact is, most folks don’t even do the research and compare the prices. In Portland, Oregon our B&B stay was just over $150 (including tax) per night; the room was comparatively huge, the breakfast would’ve cost at least $40 – $50 if sourced from an upscale restaurant, and the fellowship / relaxing atmosphere was simply priceless. Try finding a decent hotel in the Portland area for less, with a comparable level of service, room amenities and breakfast. Chances are, 4- and 5-star hotels will cost you just as much as a stellar B&B, and oftentimes much, much more. In markets saturated with hotel options, the delta may be greater, but many owners are willing to work with you on pricing — particularly if you inquire about rates during the off season. Still, if you’re looking to splurge on a stay, there’s no better way to do than at a B&B; in our many experiences, it has always been money well spent.
[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]