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Eight Tips For Choosing the Best Bed and Breakfast

bed & breakfast
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Staying in a bed and breakfast can be a wonderfully relaxing experience where you're entertained by affable hosts and served delicious homemade scones. Or, you can find yourself sleeping on a hard bed surrounded by antique teddy bears, followed by gummy oatmeal for breakfast (true story).

Here are the 8 questions you should ask before choosing the best bed and breakfast for your trip.

1. Does the bed and breakfast offer enough privacy?

A bed and breakfast vacation is a more sociable experience than staying in a hotel. Guests often fall into conversation in the parlor or around the breakfast table — which is part of the appeal. But if you're in the mood for an intimate, secluded stay, look for a B&B with detached cottages, separate entrances or private patios. If you don’t love the idea of eating breakfast with a group of strangers, it’s OK to ask the host if private dining is possible, or request a breakfast to go.

2. Do you want an old-fashioned or modern bed-and-breakfast experience?

The classic bed and breakfast is a Victorian mansion furnished with velvet settees and antique clocks. The old-fashioned feeling can be charming, but don't expect Wi-Fi in your room. If four-poster beds are too fussy for you, look for a more modern B&B with a crisper feel. Or, choose one that combines the best of both worlds: classic furniture and modern amenities.

3. What do reviews reveal about the owners?

The best bed and breakfasts reflect the personality of the people who own them. When you’re reading reviews, look for clues about the hosts. Are they warm and welcoming? (If you’re an introverted traveler, you might prefer a host who’s friendly but not chatty.)

Do they offer personalized suggestions for things to do? Do they try to accommodate special diets and needs?

4. What’s the B&B’s cancellation policy?

Big hotel chains generally have lenient cancellation rules: cancel within 48 hours of your planned check-in, and you can get your money back.1 Bed and breakfasts, however, aren’t so relaxed. They frequently require a deposit paid in advance and only offer a refund for cancellations made 10-14 days in advance. Properties with 10 rooms or less often have a no-refund policy, period.2

You can’t blame the innkeepers for being strict. Because they’re small, and strive to stay fully booked in busy seasons, most establishments can’t afford last-minute cancellations. This is why you need travel insurance for your bed and breakfast stay! Trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for pre-paid travel expenses if you must cancel for a covered reason. OneTrip Basic is an affordable and popular plan for domestic and international trips.

5. What’s the late check-in policy?

Unlike hotels, bed and breakfasts don’t have 24-hour reception. Many properties state clearly that they don’t offer after-hours check-in, which means guests arriving late won't be able to check in until the next morning.

If your travel plans mean that a late check-in is likely, notify your host as soon as possible. They may be able to leave you a key or make other arrangements. Should an unexpected delay result in you missing check-in entirely, don’t panic! If you have travel insurance with travel delay benefit, you can get reimbursed for eligible, additional accommodation/travel expenses and lost prepaid expenses due to a covered departure delay. So you can potentially get repaid for your lost B&B night as well as the hotel room you book to replace it (up to the maximum limit stated in your plan). 

6. Are you traveling with children or pets?

Young children aren’t always welcomed at bed and breakfasts, either because the innkeepers want to preserve a quiet atmosphere or because the house is filled with valuable and fragile things. But it’s possible to find a B&B that genuinely loves the smallest guests! In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, several Amish-run bed and breakfasts invite children to feed the animals, collect eggs and help with other farm chores.

More and more B&Bs are welcoming pets, as well. The Paw House Inn in Vermont is all about creating a great vacation for dogs — in fact, they charge humans a $10 fee only if you don’t bring a dog. Amenities include special dog beds, complimentary dog daycare, and a fenced play area. Rules of petiquette apply, however: dogs must be sociable and well-behaved, and they can’t be left alone in rooms.

7. What's your ideal breakfast?

Enjoying a sumptuous breakfast is half the fun of staying at a B&B, but every owner's approach is different. Some may serve up light fare, such as muffins and yogurt. Others will go for the gusto with bacon, eggs and butter-laden grits. Do a little research before you book to make sure the breakfast is what you expect. And if you have dietary restrictions, be sure to ask about accommodations ahead of time. Many innkeepers are happy to personalize the menu.

The Americus Garden Inn in Georgia, a classic Victorian B&B that’s a many-time Traveler’s Choice award winner, is a shining example of breakfast done right. You can eat when you want, anytime between 8 and 9:30 a.m., and choose to sit alone or with other guests. The 3-course breakfast is customized to your preferences, but typically includes freshly baked goods, a fruit course and one of the 50 (yes, 50) flavors of pancakes that innkeeper Susan makes from scratch.

8. Are you interested in an unusual bed-and-breakfast experience?

Not every bed and breakfast is in a historic home. If you're feeling the call of the sea, you can stay in the Saugerties Lighthouse bed and breakfast in New York, which dates to 1869. (Reservations are hard to come by, however; there are only two rooms, and returning guests get priority.) The InnChanter is a bed-and-breakfast on a historic boat moored on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The staterooms are small, but the surroundings are magical. Take out a complimentary kayak or hike to the nearby hot springs. The Red Caboose Getaway B&B in Washington consists of six cute cabooses parked around a duck pond. Breakfast is served, naturally, in the Art Deco "Silver Eagle" dining car.

Once you find your perfect bed and breakfast, don’t hesitate to book it — or to get travel insurance. The best time to purchase travel protection is immediately after you make your first trip deposit. That way, you maximize your coverage window and ensure that you can be eligible for all possible benefits. Get a customized quote now.

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