From the cool inviting swimming pool at A Touch Of English in Kelowna...
...to the relaxing ocean side deck at Bostrom's in Ucluelet, why would you consider staying anywhere else?
I recently had a guest come to stay who had never stayed at a B&B before. Though his wife was insistent, he was so concerned that he made a reservation at a hotel just in case he was not happy with what he saw. He was thrilled we what he experienced and is now ready to try more B&Bs. Why would my guest was cautious of B&Bs? The reputation of B&Bs with old furniture, doilies, a shared bathroom, and owners that are ever present, makes for a horror story that are no where near the experiences I have had. Still these images continue to create fear in the hearts of men.
B&Bs were permitted in BC in 1986 in time for EXPO 86. Since then they have become so much more than renting someone's spare room. Folk who own B&Bs cater to the needs of travellers. Yes, you can find B&Bs that are just a plain bedroom in a house, but there are also tastefully decorated heritages houses without doilies, modern facilities with swimming pools, lake front houses with docks, and modern homes with the latest technology. And though you may still be able to find a B&B in BC with a shared washroom, 95% of the B&B rooms in North America have their own washroom and many have separate entrances as well. Though it is common to have a shared sitting area where guests can sit and meet others, it is also common to have a private deck, a sofa in the room to curl up and read a book in, or other areas where guests can share private time with their partner.
Picture above is the luxurious common area of the West End Guest House in Vancouver complete with my two favourite hosts who are let visit only upon request.
Part of the pleasure of B&Bs is that they are all different. I have stayed in B&Bs where the hosts offer a sherry hour every evening at 5 where guest can meet each other and share travelling experiences. Many Kelowna B&Bs offer wines from local wineries along with cheeses to encourage folk to make themselves at home. I was surprised at the Long Lake Water Front B&B in Nanaimo when the host offered rides around the lake on his jet ski after breakfast!
I’m sure there are still B&Bs out there that would not be for you. Do some research to make sure you’re a match. Check out what other travellers have to say about the place you are considering by checking out guest reviews on Trip Advisor and other social media.
Though all reviews are made by fellow travellers, the owners have an opportunity to respond to reviews. Check out the responses by the owner and whether they even bothered to take the time to respond to their reviewers. The way in which owners respond can be very revealing about their personality and the hospitality available there.
Pictured above is Abbeymoore Manor in Victoria who has earned Victoria's #1 position on Trip Advisor year after year. When you read their reviews you can get a feel why folk enjoy this B&B so much.
However, you don’t need to pick the #1 B&B in the area. Trip Advisor’s ratings are based on the number of reviews as well as the review rating. Therefore, a B&B with 10 rooms has much more chance of having more reviews that a B&B with only 2 or 3 rooms. If the customers give them equally good reviews, the larger place should have a higher ranking due to the number of reviewers. Additionally some owners do not encourage reviews on social media. The owner of one B&B in Nanaimo is so nice that she wouldn’t think of asking anything of her guests. Because she doesn’t make the request, she doesn’t get many reviews and so is only #6 of 29 B&Bs even though all her reviews from guests have been excellent. So check the reviews and see what others have to say about the place you are considering. If you have any questions, email the reviewer by clicking the "ask a question" at the bottom of the Trip Advisor review or email the owner of the B&B for clarification.
Because most B&Bs are only three rooms, the owners seldom take away enough money to make this the only reason for opening up for business. There is often a lot of money that is reinvested back into the house, not only to enhance the experience for travellers, but also to have a home that has all the comforts they themselves want.
B&B hosts open their homes for more than financial reasons. B&B hosts are people who really like to meet others. Additionally, through the eyes of visitors they are continually rewarded by seeing their community with fresh insight on a daily basis. It forever reinforces their decision to make this there home and to share it with others.
When you stay at a bed and breakfast, you are assured of getting the flavor of the community from folk who have lived in the area for a while. They know when the chef has been changed at a local restaurant and what types of reviews the new management has. They gather information from locals as well as past guests on places to eat and things to do. Locals can tell you about some of the out of the ways places that most traveller’s would pass by and give you a little history, and a few stories, that you would have otherwise missed.
Most B&B cater to peace and quiet. If children are permitted it is because they have rooms where the sound of children excited about a sleep over will not carry through to the other rooms. Additionally, because there are only a few rooms and the owners most often live on the premises, it is highly unlikely you will loose sleep with a group of youth on spring break, business men on a conventions, or a motor cycle gang partying late into the evening.
Picture right is the hot tub and deck area at Majestic B&B, our neighbours down the street
Because B&Bs cannot rely on the reputation of a large chain, and because Trip Advisor acts like the eyes of "big brother", the owners of B&B have a greater incentive to keep the place very clean. I am told that most hotels and motels wash their duvets on a “need basis”. This means that they are washed only if there is a large stain that cannot be removed with a damp rag. Here at Bostrom’s B&B we wash our duvet covers after every guest. It makes the covers last a much shorter time and causes much more work but we are happy to do this knowing that the duvet is a fresh as the sheets.
Though not all B&B share our need to wash duvet covers after each guest, I can guarantee they are cleaned much more often than is the case with hotels.
The bedding in B&Bs is often high thread count, plush duvets, and a selection of pillows. Most of the B&B hosts I know still iron their sheets and pillow cases while a few advertise that the sheet have been sun dried. When you have only 3 rather than fifty rooms, each room is uniquely decorated and cared for. The Hotels and Motels simply cannot compete with this type of fresh, clean, luxury.
Breakfasts vary depending on the B&B but most high end B&Bs go all out in tastes and visual impact with their breakfasts. Look at the website of the B&Bs in the area you will be visiting. Most B&Bs put out descriptions along with pictures of their breakfasts while many provide recipes. Some of the fine breakfasts I have had while travelling could not be duplicated in the finest of restaurants. Each B&B has it’s own flare. At some you with have fresh scones served with a homemade jam that comes from the fruit that is fresh from the garden. Home baking, and gourmet breakfasts are what I have come to look forward to in a B&B. In addition to fabulous breakfasts, many B&Bs are happy to work around specialty diets, allergies, or food sensitivities.
Left, Sue set's the stage for a delicious breakfast at A View To Remember in Kelowna.
Most B&Bs offer coffee, tea, and baked goods any time of the day and, unlike hotels that charge up to five dollars for a bottle of water, there is normally no extra charge for these little extras.
Though many B&Bs have one sitting for breakfast, most are able to provide a breakfast on your schedule. Many bed and breakfasts deliver breakfast to your room while others have communal tables where you have a chance to meet other travellers.The advantage of communal breakfasts is that you can learn so much from fellow travellers who have discovered interesting things to do in the area or who have just had a fabulous meal at the restaurant down the street. Additionally, having met travellers over breakfast, you now know the folk that will be sharing the common areas with you. Check out the website of the B&B you are considering or email the hosts to make sure that their breakfasts suit your needs.
Cost for B&Bs do vary and can be similar prices as the various hotels. The most notable difference is that a B&B offers guests so much that hotels charge for, including a wholesome breakfast. The unique atmosphere of B&Bs, the quiet luxurious rooms, the gourmet breakfasts, and most of all the feeling of being a valued guest rather than a robot at the end of a visa, will keep me searching out B&Bs as a better way to stay.