By Cliff Calderwood
Inns are a delightful alternative to hotels and resorts. They can be just the right ticket for your vacation, providing you understand how they work and function.
Are they for everybody?
No, they’re not. But here’s the answers to some basic questions to determine if it’s the type of accommodation that’ll work for you…
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INNS AND BED AND BREAKFASTS?
Let’s start by clearing up any confusion on the differences between inns and bed and breakfasts. And it’s not so much in the name as how they advertise themselves.
Firstly, there’s no difference in accommodation. The charm of a bed and breakfast can be every bit as good as the personality of an inn. The difference is the prepared meals. A bed and breakfast is just that… expect a bed and a breakfast, but you’re on your own for dinner. But at inns, they’re set-up to provide dinner as well, although it’s usually an option, and not included in the quoted price. The listing will be very clear if dinner is offered. But assume its just bed and breakfast if nothing is mentioned.
In many areas of the world inns and bed and breakfasts are also called guesthouses.
ARE THEY RIGHT FOR MY KIDS?
When an inn says kids are welcome, then you’d better believe they really mean they’re kid friendly. Now there’s nothing wrong with that (I have three myself), but don’t expect too much peace and quiet and solitude.
You’ll find a number of listings that put age restriction on children. For example they’ll say something like: 12 or older, or above 6-years old. They’re not being mean. It’s just these places are also catering to a single or couple looking for a chance to unwind and free of noise and high activity. If you’ve got high-action kids then bed and breakfasts may not be ideal for your family.
WHAT SERVICE CAN I EXPECT?
Staying in inns is very different than staying at a hotel. You shouldn’t expect a country inn to be like a Sheraton, with hordes of staff at your beck and call, and soundproof walls. Also, having a party and playing loud music after 11:00pm won’t win you any brownie points with your host or the other guests.
Remember… the innkeeper or host is there to provide you, and other guests, with a unique experience in unique surroundings, but to do that they’ll need your understanding.
WHAT’S THE USUAL CHECK-IN TIME?
Your host will go out of their way to greet you when you check-in. Usually when you reserve you’ll be told when their normal check-in period is. But most can accommodate you arrivals outside those hours.
But you need to let them know if you’ll be late so they can arrange for you to get into the house (yes, the doors are locked after a certain hour), and to your room. It’s one thing to show up at midnight at your hotel – they’re staffed round the clock – but it’s entirely another matter to roll-in after 11:00pm at an inn, and expect your host to get out of bed and greet you smiling.
CAN YOU NEGOTIATE PRICE?
You bet you can!
Just like hotels the room rate for inns is negotiable. The main difference is unlike a hotel, the person on the other end of a phone is usually the owner of the bed and breakfast, and they can make the decision on the spot. All you have to do is ask in a nice way.
Just remember the innkeeper may only have a few rooms to begin with anyway, and if your haggling over the last room then don’t be offended if it’s no dice on a price reduction. But on the other hand one room of a four-room inn without a paying guest reduces a host’s profit by 25%. So it’s always worth asking for a reduction!
HOW MUCH CAN YOU REALLY SAVE?
Off-peak travel will save you a bundle.
Most inns can book their weekend’s months in advance. But filling the rooms during the week, particularly off-season, is much more difficult. You’ll get the best deals for bed and breakfasts traveling mid-week and out of season. Now contrast this with hotels that have the opposite problem, because they cater to the mid-week business traveler, but can’t get people in rooms at the weekends.
I love staying in inns. They’ve a lot going for them. Inns are usually very affordable, offer tons more variety than a bland hotel room, and are a great way to meet fellow travelers or vacationers. You’ll find web sites devoted to inn and bed and breakfast listings now – so crank up Yahoo or Google and get searching… and saving!