B&Bs: How to Pick ‘Em (Part 2)

How do you choose the right B&B? Why choose a B&B at all? Enjoy Part 2 of this Q&A with a couple who knows the answers.Al and Delores have stayed at 81 different B&Bs over the past 25 years -- with various degrees of enjoyment. They've learned how to choose what works best for them.

Dolores and Al Trombley of Sterling Heights, MI are quintessential B&B fans. They’ve stayed at 81 bed and breakfast inns — 58 or them in Michigan — over the past 25 years of their 50 years together. Answers are in their own words except where italicized words are added for clarity. 

Q     How has the internet changed your process of choosing a B&B?
A     We haven’t had a bad experience in many years, thanks to the Internet. If we’re staying in Michigan, we go to the Lake to Lake website first. We’ve had considerable success with the Wisconsin B&B Association site and I think also with Indiana’s. Look for the websites of state associations that review and approve members.

The Heather House in Marine City is one of a handful of Michigan B&Bs the Trombleys have visited twice.
The Heather House in Marine City near Lake Huron is one of a handful of Michigan B&Bs the Trombleys have visited twice. (Click the image for inn details.)

Q     What part do reviews play in selecting a B&B?
A     Al replied: “I don’t go to TripAdvisor first. I will go there if a Google search includes it among the first few links provided, but I usually don’t actively seek TripAdvisor results. I rely on TripAdvisor with a grain of salt because of too many ringers and sour apples. With respect to internet reviews, I tell people, if you have any doubts, toss out the two or three best and the two or three worst.”

Q     What do you tell B&B novices about why you prefer B&Bs?
A     The experience. It’s like  the “Forrest Gump” quote about the box of chocolates.  “You never know what you’re gonna get.” There is no chain B&B. At the vast majority of inns, the owners are on site and serving you. Sometimes people tell us they wouldn’t feel comfortable sleeping in someone else’s house. Our response is that if the innkeepers aren’t the sort of people who can make you feel comfortable, they won’t stay in business very long.

Kingsley House B&B in Fennville is another Michigan B&B that brought the Trombleys back for a second stay.
Kingsley House B&B in Fennville nearby Lake Michigan is another Michigan B&B that brought the Trombleys back for a second stay. (Click the image for inn details.)

Q     Besides your clothing and toiletries, what useful items do you take with you to B&Bs?
A     Al said: “Night light, flashlight, paper towels, and our own alarm clock because I know how it works.” Dolores advised: “Take a lapboard to make sure you have a place to write something.”

Q     What changes have you observed in B&Bs over the years?
A     The price has gone up. Since we are retired now, we are priced out of many places we would like to stay. Where in the past, we would stay more days we now stay fewer. We mix it up to average a lower price per night. If a place appeals to us, we’ll find a way.

Al, who has a business degree and spent his career in banking and the last 15 years of it in bank marketing, added: “I understand pricing. If you price too high, you’re losing business; price too low, and you’re giving it away.

“When we first started going to B&Bs, we didn’t look at it as an alternative to a hotel in terms of price. The rates were immaterial, within reason. We were going for the B&B experience.”

Q     Do you ever stay at the same place twice?
A     We’ve stayed twice at 16 B&Bs and three times at three B&Bs. The Trombleys stayed four times at Wooden Heart Inn in Sister Bay, WI, which became their favorite. Then the owners retired and closed the inn. Dolores said: I feel left out that I can’t go anymore. I didn’t realize I was going to take it that way.

Q     Future B&B plans?
    We love doing this. Hope we can continue for many more years.

— The Trombleys were interviewed by innkeeper Sandy White of Adventure Inn, located on Lake Huron halfway between Port Huron and Lexington, MI. She’d love to get a look at Al’s spreadsheet rating all the places they’ve stayed, including at Adventure Inn.


Don’t miss next week’s blog:
“B&B Mascots — Making a House a Home”Blog subscribe