How do you choose the right B&B? Enjoy Part 1 of this Q&A with a couple who really knows the answers.
Al and Dolores Trombley of Sterling Heights, MI, have stayed in 81 different B&Bs over 25 years. Although some of the 81 B&Bs have since closed or are for sale, 58 were in right here in Michigan. Answers are in the couple’s own words.
Q How do you decide whether a B&B will merit a stay?
A The first consideration is where we want to go. If we’re staying in Michigan, we consult the Lake to Lake website first, because it’s easy to use, it’s reliable, and information on a large number of B&Bs is all in one place. If we can’t achieve what we want with Lake to Lake, we will branch out.
We will not stay in a place with shared baths. Some innkeepers say, “If you want a private bath, we won’t rent the other room” that shares the bathroom. But it’s not a risk I want to take. It’s just not comfortable for us. We have a strong preference for an ensuite bathroom, but we have stayed in B&Bs with a private bathroom across the hall.
We prefer a B&B that accepts no children. It’s not an absolute, but it’s a plus.
We prefer a room that doesn’t open up to a common area.
TV in the room and an internet connection are totally optional for us, but we know that younger people value WiFi and the availability of lots of outlets to plug in their devices.
We prefer a communal breakfast table, so quiet introverts like us are more likely to interact with other guests. The conversation is always totally unpredictable. We learn from each other. You can’t get that at a hotel. The conversations with the innkeepers and other guests are part of what makes a B&B stay memorable. It’s a disappointment when it’s just us for breakfast: we do that every day.
Q Besides shared bathrooms, what are other major turnoffs that make you decide not to book a B&B?
A We just read about a B&B that has a checkout at 10 a.m. Not acceptable. An 11 a.m. checkout is pretty much the norm.
If the B&B’s website has obviously outdated specials or information, that to me shows a lack of attention to detail. If they’re not paying attention to that, what else are they not paying attention to?
The Innkeeper’s attitude is critical. I usually telephone to make a reservation, even when online booking is available. From our end, the phone call is sort of like an interview. Some conversations are polite but short and sweet. Others evolve into a longer conversation, and I find myself listening to someone who is happy to talk about their inn. This is the kind of place I know we’ll feel comfortable. One time, the lady sounded like she didn’t care if we stayed or not, so we didn’t.
Q What do you say when someone asks you why you don’t just open your own B&B?
A Al’s answer: Not for one day. I would not want to be on your side for one day. we are not morning people. Innkeepers have an 18-hour day. That’s not us. You run your business whether you’re sick or well. You keep on. That is absolutely admirable.
— Al and Dolores were interviewed by innkeeper Sandy White, who isn’t a morning person but nevertheless has operated Adventure Inn B&B on Lake Huron with her husband for 10 years. Adventure Inn was the Trombleys’ 79th B&B, and the photo was taken there with the lake as a backdrop.
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