Wednesday, April 16, 2014

So what's the difference between a Bed & Breakfast, an Inn, a Guest House, or a Hotel?

Where to Stay? Hotel, B & B, Inn, Guest House?

Since we decided several months ago to open our place, The Inn at Defiance, many of our friends and acquaintances have asked us, "what's the difference between a Bed & Breakfast, an Inn, a Guest House, or a Hotel?"  That's a great question; and many people have not stayed at "all of the above."  Hopefully this may help clarify some questions people have about these various types of lodging facilities that are available.

Let's start with the easiest one to identify, the one most of us have experience with --  a hotel.

Hotels run the gamut from large, multi-national corporations to smaller family-run hotel franchises.  With hotels you may find multiple story structures to sprawling one-story buildings.  They usually offer standard rooms with double, queen, or king-sized beds, decorated in a uniform fashion, a central lobby for check-in, rooms with either interior or exterior entry doors, and often may have other services on premises such as restaurants, laundry facilities, health room, pool, business centers, meeting rooms, etc.  Most rooms have a bed, writing desk, chair or sofa, television, and private restroom with a shower.  They usually offer amenities such as shampoos, soaps, conditioners, hair dryer, coffee makers, iron & ironing board, and often free WiFi. The larger of these businesses have multiple staff members such as front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, restaurant staff, concierge service staff, bellmen, valets, and others.  The smaller franchises  often are run by family members serving in many of the same capacities as the larger hotels but on a much smaller scale. Because hotel properties typically have many rooms and paid staff, travelers can usually find great last-minute bargains.  Hotels can be found in large and small cities, and smaller chains can be found in the surrounding rural areas.  Many travelers like knowing that a hotel brand in one city will be exactly like that same hotel brand in another city.  In addition, travelers often like to review rating systems of hotels when choosing their lodging (Michelin Guide, AAA Guide, etc.).

A Guest House can vary depending upon the country you are traveling in.  In the U.S., a Guest House is usually a small house that the guests can often rent in its entirety.  Guest Houses can have one or more bedrooms, may have a small kitchen or kitchenette, private or shared baths, and gathering spaces.  Some guest houses come with a stocked refrigerator so the guests can take care of their own breakfast and they can also purchase their own groceries to cook food when necessary.  Some Guest Houses offer a meal at a main house or may offer a certificate that can be redeemed at a local restaurant for a meal.  Typically Guest Houses are privately owned and can be found in large and small cities as well as rural settings. 

When traveling in the U.K. and Ireland, we stayed at a Guest House that was more what we consider in the U.S. a larger B & B.  It had six bedrooms upstairs, some shared and some private bathrooms, a central gathering area downstairs, and a large dining area with several tables.  Breakfast was served at a set time, you were given a key to your bedroom, and you did not have access to kitchen facilities.  It's best to inquire about the specifics of the property since you can see it can vary.  Rates can vary as well, and peak seasons can demand higher rates. Guest Houses may or may not be inspected and approved by a governing authority or association.  Staying at a Guest House is generally a pleasurable experience.

I'm often surprised by the number of people who have not stayed in a Bed & Breakfast at least once in their lives.  It's definitely a unique experience and one that everyone should try at least once!  Bed & Breakfast lodging is just that -- you get a bed and you get breakfast.  Simple, right?  There are so many different types of these unique lodging facilities though, that it's hard to define it in simple terms.  Typically a Bed and Breakfast is a privately-owned home where the owners are also the Innkeepers.  The property can be as small as a few rooms in a main house to multiple rooms in unattached buildings.  They can be historic or modern.  They can have themed rooms, rooms with antiques, or rooms with a shabby chic d├ęcor.  In years past many of the older, historic homes had shared bathrooms.  But those days are disappearing, and luxurious private baths are taking the place of the shared corner bathroom. 

When you check into a Bed & Breakfast you are greeted by the Innkeeper, who is usually the owner and lives in the home in a specified area not open to guests.  This is a small business, so one or two people generally wear many hats.  They will show you the layout of the home, show you to your room, and then the rest is on you.  You can relax in your own room, utilize the common space in the home, stick to yourself, mingle with other guests, or go out on the town.  You are either given a key to your room or a key code to your door.  Most B & B's have rooms with televisions, satellite or cable, and many have WiFi.  Some will invite you to share a beverage after checking in, some will taunt you with delicious homemade baked goods, and some will provide microwave popcorn, fruit, or other snacks.  Many have hot tubs either in the rooms, on the grounds, or in a common area.  Some B & B's are found situated near cities, parks, bike trails, historic sites, wine regions, etc.  Breakfast is generally served in one of two ways:  either a continental breakfast, or a full breakfast.  With a continental breakfast, the guests can usually choose their own items for breakfast which are generally available in a buffet style.  With a full breakfast, the Innkeepers may have a set breakfast time and a set menu.  When staying at this type of lodging facility, it is best to let the Innkeepers know of any special dietary needs well in advance of your stay, as they don't always have the ability to run out to get surprise items at the last minute (since they are usually the front desk person, concierge, the housekeeping person, the cook, and wait staff all in one).  You may eat at one large table with other guests, or the setup may allow for you to eat alone or with a smaller group.  It depends upon the type of establishment you're staying in.

Bed & Breakfast Lodging facilities vary greatly and may or may not be inspected and approved by a governing authority or association.  Rates may vary depending upon the season and or special events.  Staying at a Bed & Breakfast is generally a unique and pleasurable experience.

The terms "Bed & Breakfasts" and "Inns" can often be interchangeable terms.  The definition in one state for a Bed & Breakfast (a lodging facility with less than five rooms let's say) may be the definition for an Inn in another!  Often an Inn is simply a Bed & Breakfast in which the owners may or may not also be the Innkeepers, or perhaps the owners may or may not live on the property.  Inns typically have all of the same amenities and features as a Bed & Breakfast, and they quite possibly could offer varied or different services.  The procedure checking into an Inn is the same as when you arrive at a Bed & Breakfast, as are breakfast routines (see above).

Inns vary greatly and may or may not be inspected and approved by a governing authority or association.  Rates may vary depending upon the season and or special events.  Staying at an Inn is generally a unique and pleasurable experience.

So, what's the difference between staying at these different types of lodging facilities?  PLENTY!  You owe it to yourself to try each of these lodging experiences and find the one that fits you best.

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