Let me start by saying that I design websites for bed and breakfast providers. I have been inside many establishments, photographed them from all angles, sampled the food, experienced the difficulty of finding them if they are off the beat track and spend time with their owners.
Sometimes I've felt like The Hotel Inspector. Sometimes I've buttoned my lip and said nothing, sometimes I've politely voiced my concerns. If I've spotted something amiss it's a pretty definite bet that guests will too and will be only too keen to say so on Trip Advisor or social media.
There's a clue in that last sentence if you are researching Bed and Breakfast providers. Look them up on Trip Advisor. What experiences have previous guests had?
Were the owners friendly and helpful, or did they act like they did not want guests in their house?
The rooms and facilities were clean and tidy? Was the location peaceful or were you looking onto a main road and a building site? Was the breakfast freshly cooked and generous?
Trip Advisor will tell you all this and more.
Take a look at how owners respond to negative comments. Remember, disgruntled guests and those who have to complain about the smallest thing are the ones most likely to post. Did their complaints seem valid and how did the owner respond?
I always tell my website clients that bed and breakfast customers shop with their eyes. Photos, photos, photos. Guests want to see what the place they are coming to looks like. What the rooms look like, what the shower rooms look like, what the view from their window will be, what the food looks like.
If those photos are not on a provider's website, or are they grave and out of focus, ask yourself why that might be? If the website has not been updated in years, might that tell you something.
In general, you get what you pay for. A B & B that costs £ 45 a night for 2 people probably will not be as smart or as spacious as one that charges £ 145 a night. Lower pricing does not have to mean that rooms are dirty and facilities do not work.
Look to see if the room (s) you are booking have their own en suite facilities or have shared facilities. There seems to be an increasing trend in the UK for a roll top bath to be placed in the bedroom. If you are young and in love, you may be very happy to bathe together or to have your partner watching. But would you be so keen if you are two friends using the room as a twin room? Or parent and child sharing a room?
If you have pets – check that dogs are welcome. If in doubt, phone the owners and ask.
If you have young children, check that the B & B is child friendly. You do not want to find that the establishment does not accept children and have your holiday ruined. Respect those that do not accept children – they may have had a bad experience, they may have elderly owners, they may specifically run a child free establishment.
Look to see if breakfast is included in the price. Some establishments will offer a “room only” rate. This may be what you want if you are staying just one night and have an early start. Or maybe you are one of those people that simply does not eat breakfast.
Make sure you know what size the bed is. For some couples this is not an issue, but if one or both of you is tall, or a little on the wide side, you may prefer a larger size double bed – king or super king size.
Check what facilities are offered in the bathroom. Some will have a bath with over bath shower. If you have mobility issues you may prefer a separate, walk-in shower. Make sure you read the owner's description and if in doubt, phone or email to check.
If you are a wheelchair user, or have another disability, again read the description carefully and if in doubt, contact the owner to ensure the establishment meets your needs.
Most B & Bs are happy to cater to special dietary requirements. Not telling the owner your special requirements until you sit down to breakfast leads to embarrassment. Most owners will want to meet your needs and will feel upset and embarrassed if they can not – advance notice ensures that the food your require will be available when you want it.
Check the location of the B & B. You may want peace and quiet in an isolated, rural location. Or you may want to stay somewhere that is more easily accessible to the local sights and does not involve a 10 mile drive up and down the valley to reach it each day. An online mapping service will usually give you a pretty accurate location and there may even be Street View so you can see the place where you are planning to stay.