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Travelzoo Experience: A Guide to Bed & Breakfast Hunting

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

Twitterverse, I have a confession to make: I’m not a fan of acronyms. BYOB? No thanks. DIY? Not my style. ASAP? Now that’s just rude. 

So it should come as no surprise that the acronym B&B would make me a bit uneasy.

I mean, even the name “Bed & Breakfast” is off-putting. Talk about basic. It’s like calling a restaurant “Food & Plates.” Not exactly the red carpet treatment (RCT).

Yet when you live in the Midwest, bed & breakfasts are the equivalent of Waffle House in the South or In-N-Out Burger in California. They’re everywhere.

So, when my wife, toddler and I packed up our car for a weekend in Saugatuck, Mich., at a bed & breakfast, courtesy of Travelzoo, I privately hoped that I wouldn’t be screaming like an acronym SOB later that day.

Thankfully, we had a great experience in Saugatuck and our toddler has asked us if he can go back. But along the way, we picked up a few B&B hunting tips:

  • Location is everything: While a resort can offer multiple restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, fitness centers, 24-hour room service, golf, spa and beyond, bed & breakfasts tend to be limited to smaller properties with fewer amenities. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as B&Bs usually have pricetags that are easier to swallow.  With that in mind, you should opt for a B&B with an ideal location, walking distance to town, adjacent to the main attraction, etc. For us, we were thrilled that our B&B, The Maplewood was next to a giant playground, a block from the water and a block from the town’s main drag. No need to move the car when everything on your weekend checklist is right outside your door.
  • Few rooms are identical: Unlike typical hotels, most bed & breakfasts have a slew of rooms carved out with their own styles, formats and sizes. Sure, one room might look like Abraham Lincoln’s bedroom, but down the hall, there’s a contemporary suite with a new Jacuzzi tub.

Why? Well, unless Donald Trump is running a boutique B&B on the side, most owners are operating on a modest renovation budget, touching up and remodeling when they can. With that in mind, plan accordingly, do your research and request the room you want.  

As for us, we were happy with our room because we had requested a suite with plenty of space for our toddler to sleep. Plus, he had a clean view of a giant sculpture by the playground he nicknamed “King Worm.” And in our world, a view of “King Worm” is like an oceanfront suite in Maui.

  • Don’t feel tied to the breakfast: The early-morning offerings at a B&B can range from farm-fresh eggs to a few boxes of Frosted Flakes next to a tower of bowls. But there’s no reason that you need to miss out on the foodie hot spot in town just because your Tony the Tiger breakfast came with the room. Personally, I’d give the breakfast a go the first morning and shop elsewhere the next day.

In the King Worm suite, we sampled the B&B’s breakfast the first morning and the next day, we wanted to try some local fare (and as sadistic parents, we wanted to unleash our toddler’s wicked ‘foot fight’ arm on the rest of the diners -- spoiler alert: our little man pitched a pancake no-hitter).

  • Plan packed days: In my eyes, a bed & breakfast is a lot like the local movie theater. Sure, it’s got charm and the free popcorn refills are a nice touch, but you’re not going in there to do much beyond its stated purpose. You wouldn’t chill in your movie seats two hours after the credits rolled, would you?

Same goes for the B&B experience. Don’t spend too much time on-site. Go out and explore the area and get the local experience -- milk a cow, take a boat ride, sample homemade fudge, pick apples -- the whole nine yards.

If there’s one thing I learned on this recent trip north to Michigan, it’s this: with a little research and some prep on the side, anyone can put aside the BS and inject more LOL and TLC into a B&B weekend.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Chicago
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
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Josh Gershenson