B&B Amateur Hour

Nice view but nobody is home

So far this year we’ve slept in sixty-three different beds. That’s a lot of sleeping around. Naturally, not all of those places were winners even though most were perfectly adequate for our needs and some were even stellar. We don’t really ask for that much. Give us a clean room at a decent price in a good location and we’re pretty much set.

Lately, though, we’ve hit a string of pretty annoying bed-and-breakfasts that have made us wonder whether they’re really the right kind of accommodation for our current style of travel. It wasn’t always that way. We used to prioritize quaint, family run B&B’s over soullessly homogenized hotels. Now we’re not so sure.

We’re noticing the problems before we even show up. Stern statements in our booking confirmation advise “Your accommodation will be available from 17.00 hrs on the day of arrival. Please vacate by 10.00 hrs on the day of departure.”

The hospitality just makes me feel warm all over.

Now we understand that small B&B owners need time to prepare rooms and that they don’t necessarily have cleaning staff to help. But seven hours? They don’t really need all those hours to clean rooms. They just want a third of the day where they don’t have to be bothered by guests.

And you know what? I totally get it. I wouldn’t want to have people in my house around the clock and around the calendar either. But that’s why I don’t run a freaking hotel out of my home. If I did, I’d recognize that having people in my house is part of the job description. Instead of being treated as paying customers we’ve been made to feel like unwanted relatives who show up unannounced and overstay their welcome.

Some of our problems stem from a simple difference in expectations. You see, we expect to have unfettered access to the room for which we’re paying. They, meanwhile, seem to expect we’ll leave the premises for long hours every day.

Everybody and the power guy waiting for our B&B owner to make an appearance

Everybody and the power guy waiting for our B&B owner to make an appearance

We narrowly avoided booking at one place that required guests to be out of the hotel from 10 to 4 each day. We still somehow managed to get kicked out of a different place for almost an entire day.

The B&B owners didn’t seem to think anything of it, either. They just simply told us one morning that they had errands to run and that we had to vacate for the day. No mention of a refund for the hours our room was unavailable to us. They “assumed” it wouldn’t be a problem because most guests are out all day anyway.

Except we don’t travel like typical tourists on vacation. We don’t spend every waking hour of our lives sightseeing and dining out. We stay places longer and travel slower. When we go out it’s usually just for a few hours. When we’re done, we expect to have a room to return to. Oftentimes we need to spend entire days in that room to get our work done. That was supposed to be one of those days.

It didn’t help matters that our eviction came right on the back of another B&B where the owner left us, and other guests, stranded in her driveway for ninety minutes waiting to check-in. Now it wasn’t like we all arrived at some unexpected hour. This particular B&B had a mere two-hour window to check in. And she was an hour and a half late for her own check-in time. In “her defense” she tells us that she has to “wait for guests all the time.”

It all strikes us as exceedingly amateurish. Maybe there’s something to be said for the clean efficiency and impersonal professionalism of large hotels.

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14 Comments on “B&B Amateur Hour”

  1. Cathy Hansen Lopez August 22, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Absolutely agree with you, having the very same experience at a guesthouse in Poole, UK. And this place cost us more than a hotel where the service was much better and more personal. Have had good and great experiences with AirBNB.


    • Brian August 22, 2014 at 9:27 am #

      I almost mentioned Airbnb in the piece, if for no other reason than to distinguish our really very positive Airbnb experiences from these recent letdowns at the hands of supposed “pros.”


  2. Chris Herridge August 22, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    You must be talking about B&B’s in the UK! And they are essentially amateurs, making a bit of extra money during the season. Realistically you are getting exactly what you pay for…a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning. No less, no more. However, some B&B’s do offer a communal guest sitting room that’s available during the day. Maybe you would be better off looking for pubs that have a few rooms to let or go for the budget motel chains.


    • Brian August 22, 2014 at 9:31 am #


      We’ve stayed above some pubs and cafes, too. In some of the more remote locations it seems like guest houses are almost the only game in town. I think that’s why we’ve been staying in so many lately, and possibly why we’ve had the run of luck that we’ve had.


  3. mytimetotravel August 22, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    You would probably be better off in an apartment. In my experience many UK B&Bs, especially very small ones, are just that – places for bed and breakfast. Hostels used to work on the same principle, don’t know whether they still do. If you can’t tell from the description you might want to check with the owner before booking.


    • Brian August 22, 2014 at 11:03 am #

      We generally prefer apartments when we can find them. We can’t always find them in the places we want to stay, though.

      We’ve stayed in several hostels but never one that kicked us out in the middle of the day. There are ones that do they seem pretty up front about that. So we’ve been able to avoid them pretty easily.


  4. Chris Herridge August 22, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    Once the kids are back in school, you might want to check out any nearby caravan sites in places where you will be staying a few days. Off-season weekly rates should be reasonable and you’d have your own space.


  5. highland hind August 22, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Name and shame so we all know which ones to avoid!


  6. highland hind August 23, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    Are they in Scotland?


  7. Diane August 23, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    My husband and I run a small company taking small groups on chauffeured tours of England, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand and Croatia. We book lodgings for our clients and ourselves EXCLUSIVELY in Beds and Breakfasts. With only a few exceptions (and those when we pre-evaluated the accommodations on our own) have we experienced anything other than professional, comfortable and accommodating. Indeed most days of our tours are out exploring spent away from the B and B, but there have been several times when one of our guests will need to stay back to rest, read, walk in the area, or do online work in their room. Our hosts have consistently been amenable to this, even offering a cup of tea or coffee, often lunch and sympathy when necessary! Another idea for you would be to rent a self catering cottage/apartments. We have taken our own week long breaks between tours at self catering places in Ireland, Scotland and Croatia. If you need recommendations, I’d be happy to list them here in another message. Just let me know


  8. lucinda032 August 23, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    Wow. My parents own a B&B (in Australia), and I think some of your comments are rather unfair. It isn’t reasonable to expect the hosts to be tied to the premises 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They are usually husband and wife teams with no staff (as you noted).

    In Australia it is usual in even big hotel chains to have a 10am checkout and you can’t book in til either 2 or 3pm, so I don’t think the B&Bs asking for similar is so unreasonable. You would be surprised how long it takes to clean a room – I’ve helped my Mum, and it is surprising. Cleaning 1 room isn’t so bad, but if you to do 2, or 3, or more it can take hours. You can’t always start on the dot of 10am. But that isn’t the entire job. Obvious example is shopping for your breakfast in the morning. Not to mention their own errands, appointments, banking, shopping and social life (they don’t get weekends). Also, people don’t always leave actually at 10, even if that is the requirement.

    It isn’t that they just want a “third of their day without being bothered by guests”, they just have things to do that can’t be done tied to their home, just like the rest of us. I would prefer to see my dentist at 8pm at night as that suits me, but it isn’t industry practice and it isn’t really reasonable. They have a life too. Seeing as their job often starts at 6am (it takes time to prepare breakfast) and goes through to night time, they have to have some time away.

    You say they shouldn’t run a hotel out of their house? They don’t. They run a B&B. They are a different service. It’s great that you want to support small business, but if the service isn’t for you then maybe you should look at hotels. You are not paying for “unfettered access” to your room in most B&Bs.

    You may be great, considerate guests. But lots and lots aren’t, and B&B hosts can’t tell that until you are there. If they didn’t put some of these rules in place, they wouldn’t make any money and wouldn’t have any time to leave the building. Seriously. Mum and Dad, over 5 years, have had some awful guests – not paying, asking for an early check in and then not turning up til 8pm (this has happened many times), turning up after midnight (or not at all) even when Mum has called them every hour since 5, not realising they were so far out of town (clearly stated on their website and booking sites), turning up with extra guests and expecting not to pay, the list goes on.

    Sorry if this sounds a bit aggressive, I don’t mean it to be. Mum and Dad have had some terrible experiences recently so I’m probably a bit sensitive. All of this being said, I do agree it is entirely unfair if the B&B doesn’t advertise their hours or conditions, or if they are late for their own timeframes. That is bad service, and it’s a shame because they give all B&Bs a bad name.

    Again, sorry for the novel-length rant. I hope your next experience is better.


    • Brian August 23, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      No need to be sorry. You’re comment is neither overly long nor overly aggressive. We welcome dissent here, as long it’s relatively respectful.

      Running a B&B is a hard business. On this we completely agree. Where we disagree is on everything else. And we disagree because we’ve stayed in dozens of B&Bs that manage to do things right. Having access to the room, for example, is as simple as handing us a front door key. Nearly all the B&Bs we’ve stayed at have done that (including the one I’m in right now), while only a few have refused. So it’s not like we’re asking for too much. It’s that some of these places are clearly delivering too little.


  9. Jason August 25, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Maybe you guys should give this option a try http://www.lochnessglamping.co.uk/


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