When I lived in Virginia, one of my mom’s best friends owned a super cute Bed & Breakfast. I always loved hanging out there because of all the interesting people we got to meet…and because she made the best cookies on earth! But staying at a B&B is definitely NOT the same as staying at a chain hotel. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of doing so, there are definitely some things you ought to know before you check in.

The author of this post, Marina Melanson left the corporate world five years ago to open a small bed-and-breakfast in coastal New England. She regularly blogs about her experiences as an innkeeper.

When you’re looking for romance or accommodations more personal and comfortable than a standard chain hotel, a bed-and-breakfast might be the ticket. While many facets of staying in a B&B are the same as any hotel, the homelike atmosphere of some properties causes travelers to lose their manners or relax them more than they would in a more formal property. There are some important rules of decorum — some that might not be obvious when you make your reservation.

Unwritten Rule #1: Respect the Innkeeper’s Schedule

When you stay in a bed-and-breakfast, the breakfast is often one of the highlights of the stay. Who doesn’t love a home-cooked, hearty start to the day? When you’re staying at the inn, though, the innkeeper likely has specific hours when she’ll serve breakfast. Your room may include breakfast, but that doesn’t mean at noon when you roll out of bed. Ask when the meal is served and try to arrive at the table in that timeframe, not five minutes before the kitchen closes.

Respecting the innkeeper’s schedule also means paying attention to the property’s policies regarding quiet hours and locked doors. Remember, the inn is someone’s home. Turn down the television and keep your conversations quiet in the evening. If you’ll be out late, ask the innkeeper for the proper procedure to enter the building. Some will wait up until all of their guests have returned, while most will offer a key or code so guests can come and go as they please. Again, be quiet so as not to awaken other guests when you come in late.

If you call to reserve a room, remember the inn’s schedule. For example, if you want to book a bed and breakfast in Madrid, book online or call during business hours to avoid waking the owner. Don’t call first thing in the morning when the owner is probably tending to guests.

photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

Unwritten Rule #2: Respect the Innkeeper’s Belongings

You’re staying in a large hotel and need to clean off your makeup. You grab one of the washcloths, wipe off the bright red lipstick and dark eye shadow, and toss the cloth in the laundry pile — and housekeeping doesn’t bat an eye.

In a bed-and-breakfast, the innkeeper supplies the items herself and likely has a limited supply. Stained linens may have to be thrown away or recycled, so use caution. Use disposable makeup wipes and take care with any medications that could stain or damage linens. Take care with other items as well: Use coasters to protect what is probably antique furniture and let the innkeeper know immediately about any spills. Don’t “accidentally” take a robe or some towels home with you. A large hotel can absorb the cost or may not even notice. A bed-and-breakfast will charge you.

Unwritten Rule #3: Be Personable

Innkeepers are a wealth of information about their hometowns — and love to share information and get to know their guests. If you want to be anonymous, and go to and from your room without being noticed, consider staying in a large hotel. At the bed-and-breakfast, you’ll have the chance to chat with the innkeeper and other guests.  If you’re rude or unfriendly, you won’t be welcomed back.

Unwritten Rule #4: Make Special Requests Before You Arrive

You’re allergic to nuts or you need to bring a white-noise machine or other device to help you sleep? Let the innkeeper know before you arrive so she can have everything ready when you arrive. You don’t want to be moving furniture around, searching for an outlet in the middle of the night.

That being said, keep your requests reasonable. Most inns have a standard breakfast menu, for example, with some room for customization. Keep your requests in the “over easy” or “sunny side up” range. If you have a severe food allergy, let the cook know. Otherwise, meals are usually the chef’s choice and therefore not open to a litany of requirements and restrictions.

Unwritten Rule #5: Leave a Tip

Some guests wonder whether it’s necessary to leave a tip at a bed-and-breakfast. The answer is yes. Many times, the innkeeper does all of the cooking and cleaning herself. Tips are a nice way to recognize that hard work. If nothing else, a generous tip recognizes the extra care and details you find at the inn.

All of these rules don’t mean staying in a bed-and-breakfast is a stuffy or unpleasant experience. In fact, most inns are the exact opposite and are quite comfortable. They’re just different from your average hotel — and your behavior should be different as well.