Bed and breakfasts have been around for a very long time. Well before the advent of Airbnb and vacation rentals, “Real B&B’s”, as I call them, provided a distinctive and personal lodging experience in the host’s home. Whether it’s the setting, location, architecture, design or reputation for exceptional hospitality, that distinctiveness or uniqueness is often what beckons travellers to bed and breakfasts in the first place. No two B&B”s are the same which is about the only thing they do have in common!
We got our start in the B&B business 20 years ago after being inspired by an anniversary trip planned with a copy of the “Best Places to Kiss in the Pacific Northwest”. It was our first experience in a B&B. Since being bitten by the bug, we have created two very different B&B’s reflective of their unique locales and sense of place.
Our first B&B, The Granaries on Bear Mountain, was housed in vintage prairie granaries transported to our rural acreage outside of Dawson Creek. It was well loved by locals from around the Peace Country in both BC and Alberta as well as guests travelling the iconic Alaska Highway.
Upon moving to the Sunshine Coast, we completely re-built our waterfront home to serve as our second B&B and added a new self-catering guesthouse on the bluff above. The Pointhouse Suites on Sargeant Bay have now grown to include a studio constructed from 2 shipping containers on the same property, and another 3 bedroom guesthouse on a separate property nearby. All are examples of contemporary West Coast architecture and design in harmony with nature.
Everyone should enjoy the perks of staying with a B&B at least once. To give you a better idea of what to expect, we’ve highlighted some of the frequently asked questions and a few tips on B&B etiquette.
Where do I Check-In?
By the time you arrive at your B&B you probably will have had several interactions with the host either on the phone, text or via email giving you helpful travel information, other pertinent local notes, parking instructions, check-in times and a little bit about your stay. Hopefully you’ll already feel welcome when they greet you at the door.
After initial greetings, your B&B host will show you to your guest room and orient you to the features there.Wifi is always free and there maybe some other complimentary treats. That is often followed by a tour of rest of the house to show you the common areas ie where breakfast will be served, the hot tub location, or other shared spaces or amenities, indoors or out, where you are welcome to hang out.
A home-cooked breakfast inspired by local ingredients and catered to your dietary preferences and timeline for the day is one of the greatest benefits of waking up in a B&B. If you are intimidated by the thought of eating breakfast with strangers, rest assured that many modern B&B’s have several dining tables or dining areas so that each guest can eat in their preferred setting. Breakfast in bed? In-room dining may be an option depending on the set up of the guest room and host policies.
After a delicious breakfast you’re ready for the day’s activities be it relaxing with a book or exploring, enlightened with recommendations from your host tailored to your interests. Restaurant suggestions, hikes, markets, and other attractions are also a specialty of most B&B hosts. Local tips and knowledge can really add authenticity to a destination.
Guests usually go out for their evening meal as most traditional B&B do not have restaurants or in suite kitchen facilities. While some bed and breakfasts may lock-up at a certain time, many of them have digital keypad locks that guests can use if they are out later. Additionally, a lot of modern bed and breakfasts have rooms with separate entrances.
B&B’s are more intimate and often more luxe than other standardized accommodations. Check out whether your innkeeper has romance, spa or other packages to enhance the celebrations of a milestone birthday, honeymoon or special anniversary. Some B&B’s might also be a great place to elope or host an intimate family wedding.
Common courtesy should guide behaviour in a bed and breakfast as it is a shared space with hosts as well as other guests.
Communication is key.
Check out house rules in advance, especially policies on smoking, pets, alcohol or extra guests/events. Policies and all-round etiquette differ from one establishment to the next.
It is also crucial to give B&B owners the heads up for dietary restrictions and food allergies so they can plan menus to accommodate as well as any other special requests or requirements relating to different abilities.
Your ETA is also a good idea to convey to the B&B owner or manager, especially if the establishment is a smaller one where you are likely to be personally welcomed to the property by whoever is on site at the time.
Same courtesy goes for other timing. Since most bed and breakfasts only accommodate a small number of people, it’s important to let your innkeeper know if you plan to skip breakfast so they don’t make extra food that goes to waste. If you are trying to catch an early ferry or flight they can often to make adjustments for breakfast or prepare something to go. Be on time if you have agreed on a particular time for your morning meal.
Remember that staying at a bed and breakfast means staying at a private residence, so certain standards of reasonableness should apply – just like if you were staying at a friend’s house.
That means you should not phone the B&B owner or manager during breakfast hours, or in the middle of the night. Nor, when you arrive at the property, should you simply walk inside. Again, do what you would do if you were staying with a friend – ie ring the doorbell, knock or these days guests often text or phone when they’ve arrived.
Respect the boundaries between private and public spaces
The B&B owner will probably provide a brief tour of the property when you first arrive, and make clear which spaces are open to you as a guest. The main kitchen is usually off limits as this is where the host cooks and prepares breakfast. There may be a separate snack kitchen or space for guests to use to make simple meals or grill food on an outdoor BBQ.
There may also be ‘private’ signs on any doors leading to the owner’s living quarters. These spaces are often pointed out so you know where to find your hosts in the event of an emergency. Your hosts will also outline the best ways to contact them during your stay for questions or other concerns.
I hope these notes on “Real B&B’s” help you better understand what a modern B&B entails and prompt you to try the experience for yourself soon.