It is your anniversary.... Your birthday.... You want to propose to your girlfriend.... You need to leave the office behind for a long weekend.... Let's go to a Comfort Inn!
That's silly. But as I said yesterday, 97% of the traveling public has never stayed in an inn or a b&b. Does that mean 97% are content that a Microtel is the place for that "special moment?"
It has more to do with common misconceptions and insecurities than reality. Many people are afraid they are going to end up sleeping in someone's guest bedroom and eating breakfast in their kitchen with the homeowners in their pajamas. Before the age of the Internet...that actually happened to us!
In this age of transparency, this can no longer happen.
The folks who are actually insecure now are the hotels and motels. They KNOW that you want a more intimate experience.
That is why they call themselves Hampton "Inn," Holiday "Inn," and Comfort "Inn." That is why they ALL include breakfast as an amenity now....each year inching closer and closer to full, hot, home-style options.
To make themselves sound less like chains, many call themselves "boutique" hotels. More often you are finding the kind of special services formerly offered only at b&bs: afternoon tea and snacks, fireplaces and Jacuzzis, evening wine and hors d'oeuvres, personalized concierge services, choices of comforters and pillows, fluffy towels, multiple bath amenities....
And many, if not most inns, have addressed your misgivings by modernizing: people will not tolerate shared baths, they want free wireless internet, wide-screen tvs with cable, access to refrigerators, tasteful decorating....
So how do you pick the perfect inn or b&b?
- Look at their website: Every serious property knows the value of a good website. Good photography. Adequate descriptions of each room and its amenities. Clear policies. Acceptable breakfast options. Here is your chance to avoid the places that have floral wallpaper, plaid bedspreads, and lace doilies. Or, embrace it, if that is your style. If they are professionally presented on-line, then they are likely professional in person. Websites are expensive, and this shows a commitment to their business...but.
- Eliminate the "likely:" There are other signs that the owners are running a business...not just making extra money by renting out empty bedrooms. Do they belong to a Chamber of Commerce, local Visitors' Bureau, PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers), state associations.... Do they take on-line reservations? Accept credit cards? You can glean all of this from their website. And if a certain inn pops up in multiple Internet searches, then you are finding further proof of a professional operation. Inn size? Not important. There are great 4-room inns and horrible 20-room inns.
- Read their Reviews: This is the most important! Go to TripAdvisor.com and read! TripAdvisor prints EVERY review, good and bad. They do not edit and they only eliminate reviews that are proven to be fraudulent or planted. And do not let an occasional negative review throw you off.... No property is going to please all of the people all of the time, and a really good indicator of how hard an owner is trying to satisfy his/her guests is the "Management Response." But be wary of reviews on some "directories." There are lot of websites that list inns and b&bs. The properties pay for those listings. Some have reviews...but in order to keep the inns renewing their listings, they allow the inns to "hide" reviews they do not like. TripAdvisor is an open listing and properties cannot hide.... It has singlehandedly exposed many dark properties to the light...a good resource for the consumer and a problem that will not go away for properties with issues.
- Call them: How a property responds to your needs and questions on the phone speaks VOLUMES about how you will be treated upon arrrival. If you get a machine and it takes 24 hours for your call to be returned, you can probably assume you will get the same attention when you are seeking ice or an extra pillow. If your questions about room amenties or location are met with impatience on the phone, then you will likely get more of the same when seeking restaurant recommendations in their front hall. Nice people on the phone are usually nice people in person....but for an extra layer of security...see what guests say on TripAdvisor. The truth always comes out.
One final tip: Be wary of "endorsed" or "inspected" inn associations. All of these are membership marketing groups. The property pays a fee and becomes part of a website, directory or book. They are supported by their income...so make no assumptions that an inclusion guarantees your satisfaction. The good news is that most of these associations require a minimum set of amenities to start, an initial inspection and some do surprise inspections. I would say, without exception, any inn willing to do this clears our requirement of being "professional." But we see a LOT of inns who appear on these lists at the bottom of TripAdvisor. Ultimately, believe what you read from a wide sample of guests....
..and enjoy your romantic getaway!