First Time at a Bed and Breakfast?
“Not a problem. You’re gonna love it!” -Dave
“I was skeptical at first but I loved my stay at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn. It was my first B&B experience and I plan on always staying in a B&B when I travel. I really liked coming to breakfast in my robe and Dave & Bernadine made us feel right at home!” -Chicago Police Officer 2004
It can be a little intimidating staying in “someone’s home,” but once you try it, you’ll see it’s so much better than any other lodging option. First-time B&B guests have several concerns, and we’ll try to clear up some of the misconceptions and give you tools to use when selecting a B&B that will assure you a successful visit.
Most Frequently Asked Questions
The most frequent concerns we hear are “I will feel like I’m intruding on the family that lives there” and “I won’t have any privacy.” The size of the B&B or inn has a lot to do with the answers to those questions. For example, here at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn, we have 6,700 square feet of living space. We have our private quarters on the third floor and in the lower level. At no time do the guests walk through our private living areas. We have a large parlor where we serve breakfast and it has a seating area where guests can meet if they’d like. That is where we serve our cookies, popcorn, evening cordials and more. We are fortunate that this room is located at the back of the inn, so a guest can choose to mingle or not. We once had a couple check in for a 4-day stay. Except for at check in we never saw them again. They didn’t want to come to the parlor for breakfast and enjoyed total privacy during their stay. If you see that the B&B is like an average ranch size home, then you may end up going through the innkeepers’ living room to get to your bedroom. They expect this and are usually comfortable with it. Feel free to ask your innkeeper what the situation is in their B&B!
How To Choose A B&B
Click on “How to Choose A B&B” for a handy guide you can use when selecting a B&B. This has helped many of our guests to think about comfort issues they may not have thought of asking. Print it out and use it whenever you are searching for a B&B. This helps cover some of the most basic questions and begin to make you feel more comfortable about your choice.
- Do they have private bathrooms?
- Is there a TV in my room?
- Is there off-street parking?
- Are there locks on the bedroom doors?
- Who do they cater to: Businessmen, girlfriends, romance, etc.? That will tell you much about how they decorate, serve, etc.
Two Best Tips when choosing a B&B
- Be sure to look at the B&B’s website. They should have one, and it should show pictures of the house, the grounds and rooms, prices and hopefully a picture of your hosts. This is very handy to check out the décor. Make sure it is decorated in a style you’re comfortable in.
- Next, call the innkeeper. If they are friendly and welcoming on the phone they will usually be that way in person. Do they seem interested in taking your reservation, or are you bothering them?
B&B Guest Etiquette & Interesting B&B Facts
I haven’t seen one B&B or inn that has a full-time receptionist checking people in and answering calls 24 hours a day 7 days a week. B&Bs typically are small family-run businesses with an average of 5 rooms to rent. Whoever owns the business usually answers the phones, checks you in and makes you breakfast. If you are calling a B&B, it would be helpful to do it after the busy breakfast rush (usually 10:30am) and before 9pm at night. If you call in the middle of the night, you will most likely be waking the owner up.
More and more B&Bs are providing online reservation requests for you night owls. On average, a B&B owner will check their reservation requests and emails one to four times a day. I don’t know any yet who can afford to hire someone to sit at the computer waiting for an email to respond to! Sometimes we go through busy seasons that keep us from responding as quickly as we’d like. Email is not perfect and sometimes we never receive an email someone says they have sent, and sometimes people don’t receive our emails. So if it’s a property you’re really interested in and you don’t get a response via email, try one more time!
You should be given a key to come and go as you please. This would be another good question to ask before making your reservation.
Cancellation policies are tough. Having only a few rooms to rent, if a guest cancels at the last minute it is very unlikely an innkeeper will be able to refill that room meaning they lose the income. That is why most inns have strict cancellation policies and enforce them. Be sure you know their policies before making the reservation. Think of how upset you’d be if they didn’t keep their end of the contract and the guaranteed room wasn’t available for you when you arrived.
Why a two-night minimum? Many B&Bs have a two-night minimum on the weekends. This is because if a lot of people were to come in on a Friday, then they would not get there until late and do not want to pay for a room if they don’t check in until say 10pm. They’d rather get an early start Saturday morning and hopefully check in early. The problem is if a B&B rents only a Saturday night, then they will more than likely not be able to rent the Friday night. B&Bs generally don’t make a lot of money and live for the weekends. Taking a one night only would cut the income for that room in half, and most B&B’s can’t stay in business that way.
Be sure to let your innkeepers know if you plan on bringing a pet. Some B&Bs will allow you to bring your pet but most won’t. There are many reasons for this. The biggest reason is because a lot of times we get a guest who is allergic to animal hair, and there is simply no easy way of getting rid of every little hair Fido leaves in a room.
Be sure to ask if breakfast is included. Believe it or not some B&Bs don’t serve breakfast, or some don’t serve breakfast midweek, so be sure to ask. There are a few basic types of breakfasts that a B&B will serve. In most B&Bs, you have no food choice. You get what they serve. Ask beforehand what they are planning to serve. Let them know ahead of time if you have any food allergies.
Family Style – everyone sits down together at a specific time (usually 8:30am) and gets served plates of food to pass around which could vary from one entrée to three, fruit, juice, coffee, etc. Sometimes your plate will be prepared and delivered to you. You generally don’t have a choice of what you will have.
Continental – You show up during a specific span of time and enjoy fruit, pastries, coffee, juice, muffins and breads. It depends on the B&B, but a continental breakfast is usually limited to these types of items.
Buffet – You show up during a specific span of time and enjoy a variety of casseroles, fruits, breads, pastries, cereal for example. Better be there early because the food can run out or get dried out pretty fast.
Made to Order – Here at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn and an embarrassingly few other B&Bs, you arrive during a certain period of time whenever you’d like, and we take your order after serving you hot coffee and orange juice. We offer two entrees every day (one egg recipe like omelets and one syrup recipe like pancakes) and you can have one or the other or both. You get to keep ordering until you are full and your food is hot off the griddle. Pastries and fruit are also available, and we rotate our menu daily.
Breakfast in bed Some B&Bs offer this service, and some charge a small fee for the preparation, setting up of a place to serve you in the room, delivery, clean up, etc. Breakfast in bed can be fun, but the real treat of staying at a B&B is the pampering and service that can go into the event. A good innkeeper will make comfortable introductions and get the conversation rolling! I encourage you to give communal dining a try. It’s what we specialize in!
Will the innkeeper be there for breakfast? Overwhelmingly our guests want to meet the innkeepers and are disappointed with their visits to other inns where they did not get to meet them. If this is important to you, then this would be another great question to ask your host before making the reservation.
Does the innkeeper live on site? The majority of the innkeepers we know live on site. A small percentage hires someone in to stay at the house or to come to make breakfast for you. Many towns require that the B&Bs be owner occupied. We always love it when the innkeeper is around when we stay at a B&B. No one else cares about the place as much as the innkeeper, and you usually get better service when they are there. But then again, we’ve stayed at places with no one living there and that can be fun as well!
Staying at a B&B can be very relaxing and great fun. We have many return guests that have made Bernadine’s Stillman Inn their “Home away from Home” and we just love seeing familiar faces. If you ask the right questions and take time in selecting a B&B that fits your style, then we are certain you will never stop choosing a B&B wherever you travel!
It’s been a pleasure helping you sort through the facts, and we hope we can meet you one day!
Have you ever made reservations to stay somewhere but when you got there, things were not everything you expected? Here at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn, we want you to enjoy your stay as well as get everything you expected. Please use our How to Choose a Bed and Breakfast form to compare Bernadine’s Stillman Inn to other bed and breakfasts you may be considering while visiting Galena.