We have had a wonderfully busy year, and met lots of amazing guests, but I have become increasingly surprised by the number of people who book online and are surprised to discover we are a small B&B… not an hotel (despite describing ourselves as a B&B). I know many other owners have encountered the same problem.
While searching online booking sites is an excellent way to discover places to stay, they do not differentiate between B&Bs and hotels or guest houses… all of which are very different beasts!
If you are not familiar with what each means you can end up being disappointed – which is what every B&B host wishes to avoid, so I thought I would write a little explanation and explain the pros and cons!
What is a B&B?
A Bed and Breakfast is just that… it should be a comfortable bed for the night and a delicious breakfast the next morning! They are normally considerably cheaper than local hotels. Traditionally they were designated as places with no more than 6 guests.
Frequently B&Bs are homes where a few rooms are let, they are most often small, and family run, with the owners living in the same building or on site. This is quite normal, and presents guests with a great source of local information and easy point of contact and a personalised service that isn’t possible in hotels. They are by their very nature unique, and can be quirky as they represent their owner’s tastes and interests! They are about the furthest thing imaginable from a chain hotel where every room is identical!
It is important to consider what a B&B is not too – they won’t normally have a 24hr concierge, a bar or laundry service which an hotel would have.
Your host is likely to be the one who meets and greets, cleans, cooks, does the accounts, laundry, food shop, gardening etc… and probably holds down another job! Running a B&B is not for the lazy or faint hearted!!
If this is your first stay in a B&B, there are a few simple tips that will ensure a smooth, relaxing stay –
Will I have to share a table with other guests at breakfast?
It is likely that you will share the same room, or table for breakfast with other guests – this is a great opportunity to share experiences, places to visit… many times I carry in breakfast and hear all sorts of amazing and disparate topics being discussed!
Although breakfast is not a formal occasion, it is not usual for guests to come down to breakfast in their pyjamas.
What should I do if I have an allergy?
If you have an allergy, food intolerance or are vegetarian or vegan, do let your host know when you book – they will be able to tell you if they can provide the environment or food you need: for instance we are not a nut free home, but do make every effort to provide lots of menu choices and options for specific diets.
What if my flight is delayed?
If you have a long journey before arriving, it is always a good idea to tell hosts when you book – most hosts are happy to accommodate late arrivals – but will worry if guests don’t arrive during the expected check in times. It is worth remembering that Booking.com advises it’s hosts to mark guests as ‘no show’ if they don’t arrive before midnight! So it is always better to discuss this when you book. Do take your hosts telephone number with you during the journey so that you can update them if any problems arise.
Can I check in late… or early?
Check your chosen locations terms and conditions – one conversation with a host will tell you so much about them, and tells us a huge amount about you – getting expectations right ensures a happy stay and means we can tailor your stay to suit your needs. Each B&B will have it’s ‘normal’ check in and check out times, pet or child policies, cancellation policies and approaches to being ecological.
What happens if I spill or break something?
If you spill something in your room, or break something – do let your host know straight away! It is unlikely they will be anything less than charming about it…. but it is always easier to clean things when spills are fresh!!
Can I spend the whole day in bed?
Because B&Bs are really bases for a stay, rather than a destination in their own right, it is expected that guests will go out after breakfast, and return after tea time – these precious hours in the middle of the day are when your host will complete all of the tasks required to make guests comfortable, often hosts have other jobs or family commitments. If you are looking for a place to stay during the day, as well as your bed and breakfast – it is a really good idea to discuss this when you book. We have had a lovely guest who booked to stay and write her PhD proposal, which was fine because we knew this and scheduled our commitments to suit – but it can be tricky if this is sprung on hosts at the 11th hour!
Can I eat in my Bedroom?
B&B guests shouldn’t eat take away meals in their rooms – often there will be lovely antique furniture and textiles, which are designed to be used for sleeping, rather than eating! Most hosts will be happy for you to use the dining room to eat, or recommend local places to eat. B&Bs do not usually allow kitchen access for guests (Air B&Bs are an exception to this). That said, you will often be given home made biscuits with your tea and coffee tray – here at Hill House we also serve tea in the sitting room in front of a roaring wood burning stove…. or might offer a complimentary G&T if you arrive later in the day!
Will there be pets at the B&B?
In Britain our love for animals is well known, so it is likely that the home you are planning to stay in has a pet!!
If you have an allergy you should flag this up when you book – a host would always rather recommend an alternative place to stay, than have a guest suffer. That said, most hosts will ensure that their bedrooms are pet free to avoid problems – indeed this is why we don’t accept guest’s pets, and ask that guests don’t tempt our pets into their rooms (it has happened!!).
Most hosts will be happy for dogs to stay in their owner’s car and be walked in the garden (as long as any little ‘deposits’ are cleared up responsibly).
Can I stay at rural B&Bs without a car?
Travelling by public transport can be tricky in rural areas – rural bus services are frequently very limited, and taxis are not always easy to find. If you are used to city living don’t be surprised if your Uber app doesn’t work in the countryside or that there aren’t taxis frequently driving past! If you are planning to travel without a car do discuss this with your hosts – they will have the best local knowledge on this subject and will be able to explain what is possible: for instance we would explain bus timetables, suggest using a guide (Mad Max service our area and in winter will pick up guests from the village) or we can drop you off at the local town where there is car hire. The solutions are often there – but planning ahead is good!
Will there be complete peace and quiet?
This will depend in greater part on your destination, but you should keep in mind that B&Bs will often have other guests and hosts in the same building; and as such normal noises of a family home should be expected. If you desire complete silence then a holiday let may be a better option. At Hill House, you are likely to hear all sorts of noises including owls hooting and sheep baaing outside as well as the occasional sound of tractors from the farm next door! Some people will find rural quietude earlily silent… others may object to a clock ticking! Its a very personal thing, and worth discussing with your host if it important to you.
Can I smoke at a B&B?
The answer to this is all cases is NO! This is not a decision by hosts, but is a legal requirement in the UK.
Do B&Bs provide supper?
Some B&Bs provide supper – usually if booked in advance, and often hosts will suggest guests bring their own wine, as B&Bs are rarely licenced to sell alcohol.
What if our stay is a special occasion?
Your hosts will be delighted that you have chosen them as the location to celebrate your special moment, we (as will most hosts) will happily organise flowers or chocolates to be ready in your room, or can suggest special treats for your stay; such as a trip to the Race track, riding or shooting.
I was asked to show my passport – is this right?
B&B hosts are obliged by law to see, and note down the passport number of any visitors from overseas. They are not required to keep your passport, or take copies of it.
If there is a problem…
Hosts aim to make lovely memories for guests and take great pleasure in meeting new people, we want everyone to have a wonderful stay, but even when we try our hardest things can go awry… all hosts would prefer to try to solve an issue at the time rather than hear about it later.
If you are cold, hosts will be happy to turn up the heating, or provide extra blankets, if you want more towels, water etc – do just ask!
I would sum up my advice by suggesting that all guests book direct with their potential hosts… not only does this mean you can discuss what is important to you or your stay, and have your expectations matched; but often you will be able to book a significantly better room rate too!