by Marti Mayne with travel expert Eileen Ogintz

Where should we go?

With so many options for first-time B&B goers, the decision can send enlightened travelers either into a quandary or an adventure. From resorts and hotels to campgrounds and hostels, travelers have a myriad of accommodations options. Value is the buzz word in travel today, and when it comes to finding plenty of value, a B&B or country inn makes a lot of sense for some, but not all travelers.

When to B&B?

“If you thought B&Bs weren’t for you, think again,” says syndicated travel columnist Eileen Ogintz.

Of course you’ll find everything you need to celebrate romance at inns and B&Bs from king and queen beds with luxurious linens to deep double whirlpool tubs, double showers and ensuite fireplaces.

But they can also be a terrific place to visit with kids. Some inn owners welcome children with special dress up corners, children’s books and more. And they are a lot more homey than staying in a big hotel.

You’ll get a lot of bang for your vacation dollar too since  homemade multi-course breakfasts, afternoon refreshments and evening innkeepers’ receptions at many inns are part of the deal. The extras  can add up to more than $100 in value over the course of your stay. Add in fee-free wi-fi, parking, bottled water, DVDs and movies, and much more, and savings add up. “You won’t find those annoying resort fees,” said Ogintz.

If you’re a traveler who loves to meet others and seeks an insiders’ knowledge of the region, inns and B&Bs work well as the choice accommodations. “I’ve  found B&B owners a terrific resource when college touring,” added Ogintz, the mom of three. “They would give us a local’s perspective on the community and the school.”

The intimate nature of an inn or B&B lends itself to meeting other guests easily over breakfast or afternoon refreshments. Innkeepers have often gotten into the business because they love to share their knowledge of the region and have gone so far as to arrange discounts and preferred times for their guests.

Next time you are traveling solo on business, try an inn instead of an anonymous hotel. “You won’t be as lonely,”  Ogintz suggests. And many inns and B&Bs offer corporate rates to business travelers. Even if you have to leave early, the innkeeper can arrange a to-go breakfast.  There’s also the comfort in knowing you’d be missed if you didn’t return at night.

When NOT to B&B?

While there are plenty of inns and B&Bs that cater to families, not all do. “Make sure the inn isn’t one catering to couples on a romantic getaway,” suggests Ogintz.  “You don’t want to worry that little voices are bothering other guests or that little hands can damage antiques.”

Seek out farmstays and inns and B&Bs offering family cottages and cabins, suggests Ogintz, who  is a nationally known family travel expert and  creator of the website TakingtheKids.

“But don’t expect innkeepers to entertain  or babysit the kids,” Ogintz warned. If that’s what you want, opt for a resort or a cruise line with  organized children’s programming.

You likely wouldn’t be happy at an inn if you plan to stay up late partying unless, of course, you are taking over the whole place for your wedding or family reunion.

Can’t decide?

Ask the innkeeper!   Call or email and tell the innkeeper about your travel companions (friends, lover, kids, pets…) and see if  their inn is a good fit. “If not, they can suggest elsewhere,” Ogintz said. Research the amenities. If you’re a business traveler for example, be sure to choose a B&B with a strong cell signal for your cell carrier, and ask about desks and free wi-fi to insure the setting works for you. If you are traveling with young children, make sure there are rooms or cottages that can accommodate three or four. Will the innkeeper provide a kid-friendly breakfast? Do they have cribs?

“Remember that each inn and B&B is different,” Ogintz said. “Some travelers love that while others prefer the familiarity of a hotel chain they know.”

Most important,  go elsewhere if you don’t enjoy trading stories and travel tips with people you’ve just met over breakfast or afternoon drinks. “To appreciate what an intimate inn can offer, you need to be the kind of traveler who enjoys meeting new people along the way,” says Ogintz. “That can be the most memorable part of your trip!”

Eileen Ogintz is a leading family travel expert often asked to share travel tips in the national media. Her family travel guides to the Western United States  have just been reissued for  the NOOK and Kindle and you can purchase excerpts for as little as  99 cents.

Marti Mayne is a B&B aficionado, visiting hundreds of inns and B&Bs either by armchair or in person each year. As a coordinator for the Better Way To Stay campaign, Marti is committed to helping travelers discover today’s inns and B&B experience. For more information, visit www.BetterwaytoStay.com.

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