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Advice for first-time inngoers

We're often told: "I've never stayed at a B&B before. How do I know I will like it?"

Here are the five most common fears of travelers who haven't tried a B&B:

  1. Shared bathrooms
  2. Talking to strangers at breakfast
  3. No TV/telephone/ remote control
  4. The frou-frou factor.
  5. No privacy.

Here's how to deal with these concerns:

Bathrooms: According to an industry study,* 96 percent of inn guest rooms have private baths, making it hard to share a bath even if you want to! In the unlikely event that the room you want does share a bath, the innkeeper will make this clear in advance. On the other hand, bear in mind that indoor plumbing was a luxury in the late 1800s, when many inns were built. Innkeepers have been incredibly ingenious about adding private bathrooms. Quite often, closets are retrofitted for a toilet and small shower, with the sink attractively installed in the guest room itself. If you're horizontally or vertically gifted, be sure to let the innkeeper know that you need a reasonably sized bathroom. Once in a while, a private bath is not en suite (in the guest room), but is a few steps down the hall. Most innkeepers will provide you with robes for such accommodations.

Breakfast: Despite their initial reservations, most people end up loving communal breakfasts for their convivial atmosphere, plus all the great travel tips that guests share. Nonetheless, if you will only be happy with an in-room breakfast, or one served a private table, just ask before making reservations.

TV/telephone access: If you want a truly relaxing getaway, we highly recommend going "unplugged." It's amazing how the absence of a TV can contribute to romance and intimacy. Many inns now have remote-controlled gas fireplaces for significant others who have to click something. On the other hand, if you're traveling on business, in-room telephone/internet/TV access is essential. Ask the innkeeper to be sure your room will have the facilities you'll need.

Frou-frou factor: Take a careful look at the inn's website and brochure photos. If you see lots of lace doilies and cutesy collectibles, expect to see more of them when you get to the inn. If there are only one or two guest room photos on the website, find an inn that has decent photography on their site.

Privacy: Although exceptions do prove the rule, in general, you will have more privacy in larger inns, with five or more guest rooms. These properties are more likely to be run professionally, and won't give you the feeling of staying in a private home. If you're still not sure after trolling through several websites, just call the innkeepers to discuss your concerns.

*Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAIII), Industry Study, 2000

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