At Thomas Shepherd Inn we have had quite a few guests who admit to us that they are “first-timers”. They often look a bit nervous when they arrive and even a bit sheepish about their admission. Well, I tell you, there’s a first time for everything and I’m so glad they came to stay with us. They vary in age from 20’s to 80’s and come from all walks of life.
I began to think that the decision to stay at a B&B that first time was a bit of a leap of faith, a jump into the unknown. We are all familiar with hotels and motels. We know what to expect and how to act. Not so much with B&Bs.
I wondered how many folks think about staying at a B&B but don’t just because of that leap into the unknown. They aren’t sure what goes on there or how to pick a good one or what is expected of them. Lots of questions without a lot of answers. Let me answer some of those questions for you.
1. I know what I’m getting at a hotel. How do I know that about a B&B?
You’re right. A Sheraton is always a Sheraton. Not so with B&Bs. Every B&B is unique, every building, every innkeeper. It’s part of their charm and also part of the mystery.
Visit their website, look at their photos, read their pages. You will begin to get a feel for the personality of the inn. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable visiting a friend in a home like this. Feel free to call and talk to the innkeeper if you still have questions.
Read reviews written by previous guests. TripAdvisor, BedandBrealfast.com, Expedia, or Google+ are good places to check. See if they went to an inn for the same reason you are considering a visit and see what they liked and didn’t.
Still concerned about quality? One great way to ensure the quality of a B&B is to stay at a Select Registry property. All Select Registry properties are independently inspected and have passed a rigorous 200 point inspection. Each property offers a consistently great, yet unique experience to their guests. You can’t go wrong with Select Registry.
2. If I like what I see, how do I book a room?
Most B&Bs offer a choice of booking options. Many of our long time guests like to call and talk with us when they reserve their room. If you decide to call a B&B to reserve a room, remember that many B&Bs because of their smaller size do not have front desk staff. You will very likely be speaking with the owner who may also be cooking breakfast or greeting arrivals. A good rule of thumb is to call between 10 am and 9 pm.
Other guests like to book online. It’s quick, easy and 24/7. A good option in this busy world. Many inns now have websites that translate very well to mobile devices making online booking easy from anywhere.
3. Will I have a private bathroom?
Good question. Most B&Bs have private, en suite, bathrooms. The inn’s website should be able to answer that question for you in their room descriptions. As an example – All the rooms at Thomas Shepherd Inn have private baths. Five of the six rooms have en suite baths and the sixth has a private bath across the hall. Always good to know before you decide on a room. Again, call and ask if you still have questions.
4. I know that breakfast is included. Will I have to eat with everyone else?
Each inn serves breakfast in a way that works for them. The website will let you know if its buffet, continental, or a full breakfast. It may also tell you if there are separate tables or a communal table.
The breakfast table is often where the true magic of the B&B experience happens. I can honestly say that there has never been a day at Thomas Shepherd Inn where there wasn’t great conversation, sharing, and laughter at breakfast. Our guests always seem to find a connection. It seems that we all have more in common than not.
5. What if I’m on a special diet or don’t eat certain foods?
Innkeepers do a great job meeting their guests needs. Let your innkeeper know as early as possible in the booking process of any special dietary needs or food dislikes. The more information they have the better to prepare a breakfast that is enjoyable for everyone. Most are skilled at meeting dietary needs be it gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, low carb, etc. Again, the website or a phone call can put your mind at ease.
6. A lot of innkeepers live at their inns. Will I have the same privacy I have in a hotel?
Many innkeepers do live right there at the B&B. The better to meet your needs as a guest! They are there to get you settled at check in, ensure the quality of your stay, and serve you breakfast. They also know that you didn’t come just to visit them. Many innkeepers enjoy talking with guests but will take their cue from you as to how much interaction you are comfortable with. Much of their work is behind the scenes and just as a hotel has a concierge, chef, waitresses, housekeepers, and maintenance staff, your innkeepers do all of these things and its nice to know that they are there when you need them.
7. How do I find out about check in and check out times?
There should be a “Policies” page on the website that will answer these questions.
Many B&Bs are small and have staff that wear many hats. Your innkeeper may also be the cook, shopper, laundry person, maintenance, and even housekeeping. They rely on the time between check out and check in to run their errands and make sure the inn is ready for the next guest’s arrival. At Thomas Shepherd Inn our early arrivals are welcome to park at the inn and enjoy the town until check in. Guests who have checked out of their rooms are welcome to use the common areas of the inn for as long as they like.
8. Can I smoke?
Most B&Bs are non-smoking. This will be in their policies. There may be designated areas to smoke. We allow smoking on the upstairs porch and in the garden. Most inns charge a fairly large fee if a guest smokes in the room. Unlike a hotel, each room’s furnishings are unique and if they need to be cleaned to remove smoke odors the room very often has to be shut down until cleaning is completed.
9. Who should I tip?
Very often B&Bs hire staff to do their housekeeping. If you wish to tip housekeeping staff you certainly may. Most inns will leave an envelope in the room for that purpose. Common practice if you wish to tip housekeeping staff is $2-$5 per day.
Your innkeepers do not expect to be tipped.
10. I need help finding things to do. Who do I ask?
Ask your innkeeper. They are as expert as any hotel concierge. They can help you with dinner recommendations and reservations, local events, directions and so much more. Also, share your experiences with them. Did you have a great/not so great dinner or visit an wonderful attraction? They want to know.
I hope your questions have been answered and its now a much easier decision for you. B&Bs are waiting to provide you with a uniquely enjoyable experience. We are so much more than a bed to sleep in.
Remember, its only your first time once. Don’t be nervous. Your innkeepers are waiting for you!