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B&B Etiquette: Some Insider Tips

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A stay at a bed-and-breakfast (B&B) isn't the same as staying at a large, anonymous hotel. The owners of a B&B have graciously opened their home to you as a guest, and you're likely to have a far more personal experience. While most travelers are familiar with the "rules" when they check in at hotels and resorts, they may not know what to expect -- or what is expected of them -- when they stay at a B&B for the first time.

Alexandra (Sandy) Grabbe and her Swedish-born husband, Sven Rudstrom, moved to the U.S. from France nine years ago to care for her aging parents. After her parents passed away, the couple wound up becoming accidental innkeepers. They converted her parent's former home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) into a small, sustainable B&B and named it Chez Sven.

I was delighted to interview Alexandra to find out her insider's perspective on B&B etiquette. Here are Sandy's tips for making the most of your stay.

  1. Follow instructions on reservations. Most B&Bs have web sites that explain whether to call or use a contact form. These sites also list policies. If arrival time cut-off is 8 p.m., don't breeze in after 9. Should you run into traffic, use your cell phone to alert the innkeeper, as you would a friend.
  2. If you must call to reserve rather than use an online form, do not bother a B&B owner during breakfast hours. Any innkeeper will tell you there's nothing worse than having the phone ring while scrambled eggs are on the skillet.
  3. Innkeepers do not work a 9-to-5 job, but this does not mean they want to be bothered by phone at any time of the day or night. Use discretion in choosing when to call.
  4. Knock on the door of a B&B. Do not simply open it and walk in. The recommendation may seem obvious, but many travelers make this mistake and their relationship with an innkeeper will be off to a less-than-perfect start. A B&B is often a private residence.
  5. Respect the fact that a B&B owner is sharing personal space. Ask if it is all right to sit in their living room, for instance, or to use garden furniture.
  6. Compliment the innkeeper if you like what you see, which you probably will, having chosen the B&B based on an online description and photos.
  7. If you are lactose-intolerant or eat gluten-free, be sure to communicate these needs early on in order to facilitate the stocking of appropriate provisions.
  8. Compliment the innkeeper on his/her cooking, especially if it is really good.
  9. Do not treat the B&B owner like a servant. Innkeepers provide a service, true. But the discerning guest, who treats an innkeeper with respect, will be the one to receive the extras: the option of having coffee before breakfast is served, the most luxurious down pillows, the complementary glass of wine, a gift at departure.
  10. Do not expect an innkeeper to be dumb. Many people go into this profession after retirement. It is not unusual for an innkeeper to be able to discuss subjects guests may know nothing about.
  11. Ask questions about the place you are staying. No one knows the locality better than a member of the tourism industry. The innkeeper will be happy to share his/her knowledge and may provide tips not found in guidebooks.
  12. When you recommend a B&B to friends, make sure the innkeeper knows about the recommendation. He/she will be more willing to offer a discount on a future stay.

Innkeeper Alexandra Grabbe is the author of Wellfleet: An Insider's Guide to Cape Cod's Trendiest Town. For the past seven years, she has also blogged about living green on the Outer Cape.

Irene S. Levine is an award-winning travel writer and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. You can follow her travel writing on MoreTimeToTravel or on Twitter @moretime2travel/