Bed & Breakfast vs. Hotel – What’s the Difference?

Many of us are leery of distant travel after the busy holiday season, yet the travel bug inside us still remains.  Winter doldrums and longer periods spent indoors provide incentives for changes in scenery. Vacationing locally is a great way to go. Throughout America, whether in a bustling city or nestled into a quiet countryside, there are a bounty of bed & breakfasts and hotels from which to choose.

B&B

A traditional bed & breakfast (or B&B) is an accommodation in a private residence whereby a host family acts as caretakers during a visitors’ stay.  Typically they are established in larger homes which possess great character and charm. Since there are fewer rooms than a hotel, reservations may book up quickly during peak times of year such as Valentine’s Day weekend. Most times, a homemade breakfast is included in a bed & breakfast stay. Recently, my husband & I had the good fortune to stopover at a pleasant B&B on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.  Upon our arrival, we received a warm greeting from the staff. The room was quaint and comfortable. Due to a warm spell, we were able to make use of outdoor screened in porch to watch the sunset. When the sun went down, we warmed ourselves by the campfire, a nightly occurrence at the quaint inn.  In the morning, we woke to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling bacon. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of pastries, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit and eggs before taking a walk along the tow path. We asked for advice on things to see and do in the area, and the proprietors were more than happy to advise us. We greatly enjoyed our stay, but if you’re going to a B&B there are a few things you should know. The friendly atmosphere at most B&Bs are a great part of the appeal of the stay. Conversing with the owners and meeting other guests are part of the experience. Due to a lack of space, it is often necessary to dine with other guests. People who prefer to keep to themselves may choose to be adaptable or instead exercise private dine-in privileges. Rooms in a bed and breakfast may vary in accommodations. For this reason, it’s important to inquire what is included in the room.  In our case, my husband and I had an in-room television and private bath. We were quite lucky. Due to space shortages, some B&Bs may share common facilities. It’s important to know that check in time at a bed and breakfast is often delayed, as there is less staff to clean the rooms. Some B&B’s depend upon income from guests to survive, therefore, some may charge for cancellations or have a minimum length of stay. Always ask about cancellation policies before booking. Additionally, some of the services may be slower than a hotel. Once again, this is due to having a smaller staff and/or smaller home-style kitchen. Many B&B’s provide a home away from home experience, unlike a hotel. They often serve as romantic get-away locations geared for adults. When traveling with children, it’s necessary to find a family-friendly inn. Since most B&Bs are located in older homes, they often have staircases leading to the bedrooms and no elevators. The trade-off for the negatives of the compactness of these inns are the delightful locations in which B&Bs are nestled. Most are tucked away within close proximity to lovely towns, important landmarks, and/or tourist destinations.  If you desire an intimate atmosphere, a bed & breakfast is the way to go.

Hotel

A hotel stay provides a different perspective for guests. Most hotels are part of a chain of others, and offer a similar level of consistent service and accommodations. Unlike a small B&B, they offer more space and more rooms.  While a B&B is generally operated independently and on a smaller scale, a hotel is a commercial operation with a much larger staff.  Guests rarely get to know the employees due to changing shifts.  Earlier in the year, I had the pleasure of attending a business conference as the guest of my husband.  The hotel had a full service restaurant and bar, pool, gym, top-of-the line spa, hair salon, two gift shops, an art gallery, meeting rooms and a concierge desk.  As conference guests, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at a fine restaurant with my husband’s associates. Our room was spacious with a desk and television, however it lacked the charming hominess of the bed and breakfast and felt rather commercial. The elevator, lobby and common areas were quite crowded and had a bustling of people checking in and out. The hotel was much faster at delivering food to the room and the hotel had a lot to offer in terms of entertainment. The group of business people with whom we met stayed at the same hotel. As an added bonus, we all received a reduced (discount) rate as corporate guests.  On our own and without the discount, the normal rate would have been much higher than that of a mid-range hotel chain. Similarly, upscale and exclusive bed and breakfasts may also be “up there” in price.

Additional travel tips   

There are advantages and disadvantages to a bed & breakfast stay versus a hotel stay. One is not better than another; they are each exceptional.  Read, read, read reviews.  One bad review doesn’t mean a place is off the list.  Perhaps the writer had a bad day.  Look for what the majority has experienced.  Write a list of questions you have.  Call and talk to the owner or manager in charge to ask questions and most importantly to gauge how well you’ll be treated. Be sure to use your AMAC discount on applicable hotels in the network to generate greater savings.   The location, atmosphere, price, accommodations and service can greatly vary.  Decide where you want to be, what atmosphere you desire, what you’re willing to pay, and which accommodations and services are most important.  The answer will likely be clear.

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