Tips for Staying at a Bed and Breakfast

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Travel Tips: Always Knock Before Entering!

Tips for Staying at a Bed and Breakfast

By Cheryl Smyth

Tips for Staying at a Bed and Breakfast

Tips for Staying at a Bed and Breakfast

This summer, while on vacation in Newfoundland, I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast for the first time. After making a couple of blunders—arriving too early and walking right into the house — which the owner politely refrained from commenting on, I decided to look into the subject of B&B etiquette for future travels. Most of what I found is common sense; however, for those of us not used to lodging in a stranger’s home, it helps to be prepared, especially when your brain becomes road weary and sleep deprived like mine had.

Always knock first:

Only thinking about the relief I felt from showing up at a suitable time — our ferry had been behind schedule—I walked right into the living room expecting an office. Why would there be an office? It’s somebody’s home.

B&B’s aren’t necessarily like other accommodations, where you usually enter an official reception area. I immediately realized what I had done and walked out again.

Totally disoriented, I walked back in again, as I couldn’t think of what else to do. By this time, our host arrived. I apologized and we moved on to business. I remembered to knock when we returned to the B&B on our journey home.

Respect check-in/check-out times, along with meal times:

My muddled brain had misread the note on the door, interpreting the check-in time to be before 6:00. It actually stated after 6:00.

Heed the B&B’s policies on children and pets:

Some B&B owners want to offer tranquility to their visitors; or simply savor it themselves. Luckily, the place I stayed at welcomed dogs, since mine was travelling with me. I was charged extra, but that is common. Most of the B&B’s I contacted don’t allow pets.

By the way, if your welcomed animal or child makes a mess, let your host know, so they can clean it right away. It does nothing for future acceptance if you hide accidents. Tessi had rubbed against my leg causing some of my coffee to slosh onto the doormat. I admitted the accident to our host. I guess that’s why we pay the additional amount, though I was annoyed at myself for giving him a reason to charge it.

Take your shoes off at the door:

I usually have no problem with this courtesy, as I hate wearing shoes, yet on the other hand, we were in and out a few times transferring our luggage. I can’t remember if I removed my shoes. I’m sure I did—I think?

Below are some other points I learned. Though I didn’t have issues with them, they are worth mentioning:

  • Enjoy pleasant chats with your hosts, but don’t dominate their time. Keep in mind they have other responsibilities
  • Ask about policies regarding the fridge and freezer – Some B&B’s allow you to refreeze your freezer packs or store some food
  • Call if you’re running late; or if you need to cancel, let the B&B owners know as soon as possible
  • Some of your hosts’ personal belongings, such as towels, are offered for your use – Don’t filch anything that doesn’t belong to you
  • A small business will likely notice missing items, which can’t always be inexpensively replaced – You may later find a charge for them on your credit card
  • You may need to find out where to park your vehicle – A house full of guests could result in a tightly filled driveway
  • Sometimes B&B’s are difficult to locate so to avoid the possibility of getting lost and turning up late, ask your hosts for specific directions to their place before your arrival.
  • Take one of their business cards with you on an outing, so you can find your way back again
  • Owners of each accommodation will have their own preferences, so always check with the one you are interested in for any specifics. Remember, you’ll be lodging in someone’s home and to act respectfully.

We stayed at the Oceanview Bed and Breakfast in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, Canada on our first and last nights on the island. We were brought to this beautiful town by ferry from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

Port aux Basques with its treeless rocky hills, offers assorted outdoor excursions, such as Grand Bay West Beach with its boardwalk skirting white sand and slivers of outcropping; as well as assorted attractions, such as nightly entertainment at Scott’s Cove Park just off the Harbour Boardwalk.

WJ Contributor Cheryl Smyth

WJ Contributor Cheryl Smyth

Cheryl Smyth has been a photographer for 20 years and has recently added writing to her repertoire. The desire of having her dog, Tessi, with her on her travels has inspired her to discover all that pet travel has to offer. Some of her travel stories and photography can be found on her website

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8 Responses to Tips for Staying at a Bed and Breakfast

  1. Just a small point but as regards shoes – I am a B&B owner and I much prefer people to wear their shoes within the property – one of my biggest bugg bears is people who come down to breakfast in bare feet – which I don’t think is appropriate when there are other guests and leads to potential accidents of people stepping on things. Therefore my point would be – simply check what the individual property’s policy is and abide by it.

    Kimberley Wilson 01/09/2013 at 12:17 am
  2. Questions in advance are always a good idea. One advantage of B&Bs over hotels is that the person you reach on the phone is likely the owner and will give you accurate information! Also many, probably most B&Bs are happy to accommodate special dietary requests with advance notice.

    Although our B&B is tiny, we do have front desk, we expect guests to walk in the front door without knocking, and while you may remove your shoes if desired, there is no expectation to do so.

    Making you feel welcome and relaxed is our goal. A B&B is truly the better way to stay!

    Kathleen Morgain 01/09/2013 at 8:36 am
  3. Good points! And appropriate for certain B&B’s which is why it is good to ask if you’re uncertain.

    Most B&B’s that are run as businesses, such as mine, make sure you know in advance what to expect. Shoes off? That’s a Canadian thing. In the US it is not expected.

    Knock or ring the bell? Absolutely. Otherwise you’ll just stand there wondering what to do next. Unlike a hotel, the ‘front desk’ person is probably in the kitchen making cookies!

    Parking? We only ask that guests actually park IN a parking space and not across three of them (our parking area is paved and lined).

    Let us know if something is damaged or stained? Yes, please do. The sooner we can see to it, the easier to clean or repair.

    Using our fridge? Please don’t. We have provided guests with a fridge & microwave along with plates, glassware, utensils and the like. Get ice when you need it, make a cuppa and relax!

    Because I also live here, I’m here if you need me. Directions, things to do, great restaurants? We know where the good stuff is!

    Most of the information a guest needs prior to making a reservation is on the B&B’s website. If it isn’t, call or email!

    Hope you keep trying B&B’s. There are a lot of great ones out there.

    Monica K 01/09/2013 at 2:53 pm
  4. Monica had a great point about reading the website. Because B&Bs can vary, we take care to make sure our websites have all the information you should need. Read the website fully and read your confirmation emails – you’ll find most of your answers right there. Start your stay as an informed guest and everyone will be happier for it.

    B&Bs truly are the better way to stay!

    Dena 01/11/2013 at 5:49 am
  5. What a great idea- B&B etiquette. The MOST bizarre B&B guest story I ever heard came from Niagara B&B owner. The guest was an expert fruit carver noted for carving elaborate fruit centrepieces. Apparently he/she used an early Canadiana blanket box in the guest room as a cutting board!!!

    Canada 's Boomergirl 01/17/2013 at 6:06 am
  6. I too run a B&B and I thought this was a pretty good piece. As regards shoes I think this is a very Canadian thing. So dont assume that this is the case – your B&B host will tell you what they expect.

    Lynda Graham 01/26/2013 at 12:18 pm
  7. Thanks for all the replies for my article. It’s interesting to see the many variations out there. After I wrote the article I became friends with a couple who used to own a B&B in Haliburton (Ontario). I mentioned the entering without knocking issue. She told me how people used to walk in all the time. They would surprise her while she was cleaning, among other things. She seemed to just take it as part of the experience. So I guess it would depend on the individual B&B. Same with the shoe thing. (I personally still like the “no shoe” policy since I hate shoes, but I can understand both sides.)

    Cheryl Smyth 02/12/2014 at 8:09 am
    • We really like the “no shoes” policy – keeps everything so much cleaner. There’s nasty stuff out in the world and do we really need to track it back into the place where we are going to sleep? Asia (especially Thailand) is much better at taking off shoes before entering guestrooms and even some public areas in guesthouses/b&b’s.

      Viv 02/19/2014 at 10:08 am

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