Bed and Breakfasts Basics

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Bed and Breakfasts: Room and Board on the Road

According to the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, there were more than 20,000 bed and breakfasts operating in the United States in 2006. So you're hardly alone in thinking that a bed and breakfast might be a nice alternative to a bland hotel or roadside tourist trap. Whether you're planning a couples getaway, a family vacation, a trip for your boss, or a quick stop en route to a final destination, the Web sites we've found will help you discover the possibilities.

Bed and Breakfasts Basics

A visit to a bed and breakfast offers a more intimate type of lodging, with uniquely decorated rooms, luxurious private baths, homemade breakfasts, and plenty of pampering. This section offers a quick lesson on contemporary bed-and-breakfast culture.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Almost every Web site relating to bed and breakfast lodging will encourage the visitor to make reservations online. Be cautious about booking travel until you have given yourself a chance to peruse multiple B&B sites and comparison-shop.
  • Many bed and breakfast operations accept cash or checks only, but some allow you to prepay online with a credit card or through a third-party payment service like PayPal.
  • Because these transactions are not always the most high-tech, make sure your online payment is done through a secure server. To do this, look for the Web address to start with "https" instead of "http" (the "s" is for "secure"), or look for a little icon of a padlock in the bottom corner of your browser.
  • Many B&Bs have pictures of their rooms on the Web site. Visit sections entitled "Accommodations," "Rooms," or "Photos" to get a better look at the establishment.
  • Check out general travel Web sites like Frommers.com or Fodors.com for travel tips that can be applied to bed and breakfasts. Type in the phrase "bed and breakfast" in their search bars to produce related articles, destinations, and message boards.
  • Most bed and breakfasts on the Web have a section devoted to guest feedback. This page may be titled "Feedback," "Guestbook," or "Testimonials," but whatever it's called it's a good place to read up on what fellow travelers had to say about their stay. For more info on B&B quality, visit the "How do I evaluate the quality and reputation of a bed and breakfast?" section of this guide.

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Evaluating bed and breakfast quality

A B&B's Web site is not necessarily the best indication of its quality or character, but there are  other means of determining a bed and breakfast's standards. This section has Web resources to help you evaluate a bed-and-breakfast before you book.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Utilize the virtual tour. More and more B&B owners are posting virtual tours on their Web sites. These videos usually include large photos and 360-degree views. They are a good way to make sure the B&B actually has the amenities it advertises. (Check for that claw foot tub and bay window!)
  • Rely on the reviews of fellow travelers. Independent travelers are most likely to give you an unbiased review of a bed and breakfast they have recently visited. Follow up with a private message or e-mail if you need more information from a particular reviewer.
  • Check professional travel sites like frommers.com for star ratings. These can occasionally be inaccurate, but a five-star B&B usually doesn't disappoint.
  • Beware of overly enthusiastic reviews on innkeepers' Web sites. Is the testimonial section full of rave reviews, excessive exclamation marks, and annoying adjectives? Chances are, you're reading reviews from family and friends.
  • Consider developing a cross-site review system. When you spot a bed and breakfast that appeals to you, look it up on multiple B&B finders. If the reviews are similar and unsuspicious, you are probably safe to reserve a room.

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Bed and breakfasts by state

Each U.S. state has dozens (sometimes hundreds) of bed-and-breakfasts from which to choose. Below are Web sites devoted to every corner of the country, from southern hospitality to midwest charm, to the East and West coasts.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Many Web sites with state-by-state B&B listings allow you to click on a state and then narrow your search by region. If you're not sure what region of a particular state interests you, click on the regions to see the cities in that area. 
  • It is sometimes more difficult to find B&Bs in urban areas. If you are staying in a place like Los Angeles or New York, try searching in the surrounding suburbs for accommodations.
  • Don't forget about Alaska and Hawaii! Both states have beautiful and scenic lodging. Check out The Choice Bed & Breakfast Guide Web site in this section's Picks for a well-rounded list.
  • For help finding historic B&Bs in your home state, check out the "What if I want to stay at a historic bed and breakfast?" section of this guide.
  • If a travel site offers online quotes or price lists without making you commit to a reservation, take advantage. The cost of living varies greatly in the United States. One night at a B&B in Ohio may be a third of the cost for one night's stay in California.

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International bed and breakfasts

Bed and breakfasts have European roots, but are found all over the world. Peruse the sites in this section to find a B&B in almost any country, even remote locales like Greenland and the Pacific Islands.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Consider booking a "package deal" when traveling internationally. Although this is easier to do with hotels, some Web sites offer bed and breakfast accommodations combined with plane travel and car rental. Not only will you save money on the package, but chances are the B&B will be cheaper than the hotels in the same area.
  • Remember that B&Bs will vary from country to country. Australia will have different traditions than the United Kingdom, and the United States will be a different experience than Germany.
  • As you search for accommodations, keep in mind that B&Bs are most popular in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Other countries may offer boarding houses or hostels but these are not the same as a bed and breakfast. Clarify with the lodging manager before making a reservation.
  • If you've found the perfect international bed and breakfast but need to figure out how to get to your destination, the findingDulcinea Travel Guide can help.

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Historic bed and breakfasts

While many innkeepers try to create a traditional ambiance and old world charm, authentic B&Bs can be hard to pinpoint. The sites below help you step back in time, authentically.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • One way to spot historic distinction is by the National Register of Historic Places. Any lodging with this label on their Web site is a bonafide piece of history.
  • Visit the "About Us" or "History" page of a lodging's Web site. Innkeepers often post information on the building or its story that may give you some insight as to its history. You can also e-mail the B&B owner for more info.
  • If your interests include history combined with international travel, be sure to visit the "Where can I find international bed and breakfasts?" section of this guide.

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Bed and breakfast cuisine

Bed and breakfasts are notorious for their scrumptious AM offerings, and our Picks will point you to a mouth-watering compilation of recipes you can expect to find at inns around the world.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Some B&B owners post their breakfast recipes online for guests to enjoy back at home. You can also e-mail the owners for a recipe; unless it's a top-secret family formula, they will most likely be happy to oblige.
  • As is evident by the name, most B&Bs offer breakfast with each overnight stay. Many places offer two breakfasts, one for early risers and one for everyone else. Breakfast is usually served buffet-style and occasionally the meal is sit-down. Check the Web site of the B&B you plan to visit for meal times and a breakfast menu.
  • Vegetarians interested in visiting a bed and breakfast should e-mail the innkeeper ahead of time to give them a heads up. Most B&Bs have a plethora of recipes from which to draw and finding veggie dishes should not be a problem. Check out the Web sites listed under this guide's "What if I need special accommodations?" section.
  • Innkeepers sometimes invite their guests to make special meal requests. If you find this to be true with your B&B, visit their Web site to submit an online request form, or shoot them a quick e-mail request before you arrive.
  • The Cooking News delivers a tempting article on recipes for best B&B breakfasts. How does Crème Brule French Toast sound?

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What if I need special accommodations?

If you can't leave home without your dog, cat, oxygen tank, or three screaming children, don't panic. You are entitled to a vacation. Take at look at Dulcinea's selections for travelers with special needs, whatever they may be.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Use these sites as jumping-off points for finding bed and breakfasts that accommodate your particular needs.
  • If a B&B promises an amenity on their Web site, call or e-mail to double check. You don't want to arrive to find no wheelchair access or a missing dog run.
  • Most bed and breakfasts are designed to cater to an individual's needs. E-mail the innkeeper with your requests and don't be surprised if they grant your every wish.
  • Many B&Bs have separate cottages or back rooms for families. If you're in the market for an overnight stay with a family of four, look for pictures or virtual tours that reveal extra space.

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