Inn-Expensive Accomodations: Bed and Breakfasts
Pssst ... come closer, and I'll tell you the secret to saving money on a vacation this summer while guaranteeing that you'll have at least three blog posts from the experience.
Bed and Breakfast.
I know! I never thought of going the bed-and-breakfast route (or B&Bs, as they're often called) either, until ten years ago when I took my first trip with my now-husband. We had been dating for six months and decided to road trip up to the Maritimes in Canada. We set up hotels along the way, but were having such a great time on Prince Edward Island that we decided to stay an extra night on a different part of the island. There were no hotel vacancies in the area, but the visitor's center connected us with a bed and breakfast.
Bed and Breakfast inns can range from personal homes which have a room or two for rent, to larger operations that have separate living quarters for the proprietors and numerous rooms for guests. How bed and breakfast inns differ from hotels is similar to how a small liberal arts school differs from a state college. The smaller size of an inn allows the owner to give guests personal attention, and there is an emphasis on guests socializing with each other at a communal breakfast.
Our first bed and breakfast was an wonderful experience, and we've been chasing similar results for the last ten years with some hits and a lot of misses. But while our hotel misses have simply been exercises in frustration, our bed and breakfast misses have at least yielded good blog fodder.
Take for instance the Moravians, a kindly old couple who tried to convert us before our morning coffee near Kentuck Knob. Or the Yarmouth woman who gave us a twenty minute montage of her life in one breath -- from a Barbary ape who stole her wallet to her husband's cement-pouring business.
Sometimes our misses were also our hits, like Steve's inn in Pennsylvania. One month during fertility treatments, our cycle was canceled because my estrogen levels were too high. Josh wanted to get me out of town for the weekend, so we picked a place off the Internet, a countryside inn by the Delaware River promising us a gorgeous farm and Steve and John's hospitality.
When we got to Steve's inn, I was depressed and withdrawn, frustrated about the canceled cycle and another missed month. I was annoyed that Steve was so chatty, holding us in the living room with his life story when all I wanted to do was curl up on our bed and cry for the entire weekend (see, I am a fun travel partner!). But somewhere in the fourth hour of hearing stories from Steve's love life, my mood changed. Josh had long since ditched us to read a book, and he returned to me earnestly giving Steve advice on his current relationship (a no-goodnik boyfriend who belittled Steve when he swung by the bed and breakfast to drop off something in the middle of our conversation). I may have started out annoyed by Steve's chattiness, but he saved our weekend, gave me a new perspective, and most importantly, energy to start the next cycle.
What? Blog fodder isn't enough of a reason to try out a bed and breakfast? Then what about the money saved? They cost comparatively less than other hotels. For instance, a typical bed and breakfast in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, D.C. (a popular area to stay in the city) runs from $90-$175 a night, whereas most hotels in the same area begin at over $200. And yes, a quick Google search does show many bed and breakfast options in New York City close to where the conference is being held (just in case you were stressing about hotel rates) for as low as $109 per night.
Bed and breakfast inns also provide personal touches, such as custom-made breakfasts, advice about the area and sometimes DVD and book libraries for guest usage. It feels like you are staying at the home of a friend, rather than an impersonal hotel. Conversations with the proprietors have brought us information that has made each trip special -- such as the proprietor who informed us that there was a great vegetarian restaurant she knew about in her son's college town a half-hour away. It was well worth the drive, and not the type of information you're going to pick up from the concierge at a chain hotel.
Some bed and breakfasts even have blogs. Like the Old Hen Blog, whose bed and breakfast is in Washington State. The blog Inn Cuisine even collects and recreates famous bed and breakfast recipes and posts them so you can continue eating well once you get home (the same with Inn the Kitchen).
There is an entire bed and breakfast culture, because frankly ... there is a bed and breakfast type person. It's someone who likes to go off the beaten path, who likes to have a unique vacation rather than a cookie-cutter one. It's someone who is willing to listen to another person's stories while they sip their coffee and know that they just might get a good blog post out of it. It's someone who wants to go away on vacation and not spend a fortune on a place where they sleep.
Oh, and it's someone who doesn't mind if they end up spending an afternoon talking with the proprietor about his love life rather than curling up in a ball in their room.
Tell us about your best bed and breakfast experience.