Two years ago, I planned a romantic and restful birthday weekend with my husband in , a picturesque town bursting with 19th-century buildings nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I made a reservation at a popular B&B nearby, anticipating the experience would be as bucolic as the surroundings.
The graceful home's imposing Greek columns and first floor filled with historic artifacts made a great first impression, but my enthusiasm quickly took a nosedive after a few flights of stairs led us to our room — in the attic. The queen bed was uncomfortably small for a couple accustomed to stretching out on a king, which forced one of us to take advantage of the daybed. (Spoiler alert: It wasn't I. Did I mention it was my birthday?)
While I had never been a fan of B&Bs, I had little choice but to stay here as peak fall foliage and Halloween collided to make the destination especially popular that late October. From overpriced attic rooms to forced conversations with strangers over blueberry scones, here are the six reasons why staying at a B&B doesn't fulfill my idyllic vacation daydreams.
And I'm not an early bird on vacation. While I admit that my mouth waters just thinking about the frittatas and walnut pumpkin spice muffins I've devoured during my bed-and-breakfast stays, the narrow window of opportunity to snag pastries pits my stomach against my internal alarm clock. We missed breakfast the first day at the aforementioned B&B because we couldn't wake up before 9:30 a.m. after a late night of tossing on uncomfortable beds in a cold room. (More on this later.) The owner apologetically informed us that breakfast was over once we made it down at 9:45.
I love talking to strangers at 8 a.m. before I've had my coffee — said no one ever. Yet B&B promoters somehow tout early morning pre-breakfast conversation as one of the charms of staying in their homey establishments. You are bound to meet an antiques dealer from Vermont who will regale you with tales of finding 18th-century treasures during her recent trip to Paris! Yeah, that never happened. Maybe the Most Interesting Woman in the World was sitting at my table but she, too, needed her coffee. Which brings me to my next complaint.
While I am an extrovert who usually enjoys talking to strangers, I need to be fully functioning and awake for this to happen. And that means downing a very strong cup of coffee, preferably in my room. While the establishment I stayed at offered endless cups of joe in the common area, it was so pitifully weak it was like drinking hot water. And, like many B&Bs, this one was in the countryside far from a coffee chain. The closest Starbucks was 12 miles away.
Old-fashioned décor is part of the whole B&B package — so much so that some rooms are even called "Grandma's Room." To be fair, I have seen pictures of some beautiful guest rooms that resemble those in stately historic homes, I just haven't stayed in any.
Another outdated feature of my West Virginia room was its 12" box TV. While I wasn't expecting a 26" HDTV, I wondered why the owners bothered to provide one at all? The heating system was also a throwback. I was looking for the advertised "electric fireplace" and spent the first night without heat, thinking there was a misprint on the brochure. By the second night, I figured out that I needed to crank up the temperature on the pellet stove in the corner.
While B&Bs often claim to offer rates cheaper than hotels, I haven't found this to be the case. Providing neither the amenities of a hotel or the roominess of an apartment, they are stuck between a rock and a place as hard as the lumps they call beds. The Harpers Ferry spot cost us more than $200 per night — nearly double what I might pay for an apartment or mid-range hotel in the same area. In comparison, I recently spent 84 Euros or about $96 for a night in a Hilton in the capital of Montenegro, Pogdorica. It offered a gym, swimming pool, sauna, room service, rooftop bar, and restaurant. An during that same trip cost $125 per night, with a living room and kitchen where we made pasta and omelets, saving money on restaurants. Plus, there was no tiny box TV in sight.