A bed and breakfast (often abbreviated to B&B, B and B, BnB or BB) is an accommodation type that really just modernizes the age-old, world-wide practice of travellers staying at a private residence or boarding house, often with a full breakfast included.
The host family's local knowledge is often a tremendous asset in ensuring a rewarding stay. Typically there are just a few rooms and personal contact is much greater than in a hotel or motel setting. Sometimes the B&B is a converted old stately residence with the owner's family acting as staff. Bed and breakfast travelling has a loyal following as many find that they get a "home away from home" experience, often with better value than with hotel or motel stays.
In developed countries today, providing deluxe bed and breakfasts has been raised to a sort of art-form. At the top end, B&Bs obviously compete mainly on two main things: bedding and breakfast. Accordingly, at the finest such establishments one is apt to find the most luxurious bedding, maybe a handmade quilt or an antique bed. Breakfast may include seasonal delights of the region or the host's speciality dish. The setting might be an historic old building with antique furnishings, manicured grounds and a swimming pool.
On the other hand, almost anyone can set up a spare room and provide a breakfast. Especially where lodging is not regulated, anything is possible. Indeed, some travellers might find an inexpensive basic, clean room and bed to be the best value for them. Many of the same advantages could apply—such as convenient location and good hosts sharing knowledge of the locale.
A wide range of amenities may be provided. B&Bs may offer workshops on cooking, crafts, or wellness. Packages for theatre, golf, dinner, tours or adventure tours are sometimes offered.
Showers and WC's may be shared with other guests or "en-suite"—directly accessed from the room and private.
Choosing a bed and breakfast
Some considerations when choosing are:
- What are you getting? While many B&Bs are luxurious, they range all the way to sub-bargain. Find out what you can expect. What bed sizes are available? Are the pillows foam or down? Is the bathroom shared? What is the breakfast selection like and is it included in the price?
- Location, location, location. Research the area first. Is the location convenient to the attractions of the area? If you will be using public transportation, is it nearby? Is the neighbourhood safe and aesthetically pleasing?
- Pets. Do the hosts have pets? Dogs and cats are not uncommon. Are guest pets welcome?
- Children. If you are bringing any, make sure they are welcome. If you don't want any around, make sure they are not.
- Non-smoking (or smoking) rooms? Is it a smoke free environment?
- Ask if your special dietary needs can be accommodated.
- Are advance reservations required? What is the cancellation policy?
- What are the check-in/check-out times? Typically B&Bs have a stricter policy than a hotel. There won't be a 24-hour desk clerk to check you in at 02:00 if you are running badly late; breakfast is also usually only available at set times or by agreement.
- Is there a minimum stay?
Usually, a Bed & Breakfast is owned and managed by an individual. If you cannot speak to someone you know who has visited there, visit first, or a call to the owner would be a good idea. Ask about the property, and the kind of visitor they normally attract. Some offer "specialities", like horse back riding, gourmet dining, and weddings. Some cater to older people, sexual minorities, childfree adults, bicyclists, or other niche markets. A few employ novelty architecture or adapt themselves to unusual locations such as decommissioned lighthouses, museum ships, working farms or private islands reachable only by cruising on small craft. Don't be shy, ask your questions; they will appreciate your call and likely send you information on their facility and the area.
Offerings for Bed & Breakfasts vary from castles to inexpensive rooms close to fishing or hunting camps. All of the furnishings and at times, sport equipment provided (as a courtesy or for an extra charge), are the property of the lodging owner. In these times of digital photography, it is not uncommon for the owner to photographically inventory the room prior to your occupancy. Make sure anything you remove from the room or property is in plain sight before leaving. This will prevent the items being billed to your credit card. You do not want to pay $350 for that cute 18th century ashtray.
While there are hundreds of area bed and breakfast websites, their quality varies widely. Many fine B&B's have no web presence beyond a simple directory listing, while others offer a selection of flattering colour photographs, an availability calendar with easy on-line reservations, a toll-free telephone service and ample easy-to-navigate information. Unlike a large chain hotel, a locally-owned B&B is difficult to assess based solely on a standardised list of amenities from a website. Each is as individual as its owners, many of whom are passionate about what they do and can make or break the B&B experience. Where available, comments from other travellers will usually make the picture clearer. A little “reading between the lines” will tell you a great deal and help you make the right quality choices for your vacation or break to ensure that your expectations are fully met.
In some areas breakfast is not always served. In other establishments, a bare-bones "continental breakfast" may be little more than coffee and pastries. Be sure to understand when booking.
- In France B&Bs are called chambres d'hôtes. These are legally required to serve breakfast. Gîte, on the other hand, does not imply that breakfast is included in the tariff; it often refers to rental cottages or self-catering holiday homes.
- In Québec B&Bs are variously called gîte du passant, gîte et déjeuner and café et couette; terminology differs from that used in France.
- In Spain B&Bs are called casas rurales.
- In The Netherlands, the more old-fashioned pension may be used for a B&B.
- In the United States of America historically (1930s–1960s), "tourist home" referred to early B&B-like establishments. Initially a short-stay rooming or boarding house in a private home, these represented an inexpensive alternative to hotels during the Great Depression and served African-American travellers through an era of racial segregation and widespread discrimination.
There is no single national association, but most provinces have some form of provincial-level association with varying criteria for inclusion:
- Alberta Bed and Breakfast Association: 
- British Columbia Bed & Breakfast Innkeepers Guild: 
- Saskatchewan Bed and Breakfast Association: 
- Bed and Breakfast of Manitoba: 
- Federation of Ontario Bed & Breakfast Accommodation: 
- New Brunswick Bed and Breakfasts and Inns Association: 
- Bed & Breakfast and Country Inns Association of Prince Edward Island: 
- Nova Scotia Bed and Breakfast Association: 
- Bed and Breakfast Association of Newfoundland and Labrador: (no website)
- Bed and Breakfast Association of the Yukon: 
Québec is divided into 17 administrative regions, with many associations at the regional level. In regions across Canada, there are also more than a hundred local B&B associations: 
The most common rating system is Canada Select (canadaselect.com), although others exist provincially or regionally. Various directories of B&B's or accommodations are available, including bbcanada.com's website, publications from local or regional tourism bureaus and a few printed books.
- Gîtes de France, 59 rue Saint-Lazare, 75 439 PARIS Cedex 09, Tel: +33 1-49 70 75 75, fax : +33 1-42 81 28 53.
- Fleurs de Soleil, BP 76332 22106 DINAN Cedex, Tel.: +33 951 677 980, contact : email@example.com
- Bed & Breakfast Association New Zealand, 7 Paraone Street, Ngongotaha, Rotorua 3013, New Zealand, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several regions in Spain have their own associations, and there are many commercial websites offering booking services and information about casas rurales. Some casas rurales also offer self-catering accommodation.
- Asturias Asociación Regional de Casas de Aldea, c/Nueve de Mayo, nº 14, 1º Dcha. Oficina F, 33002 Oviedo, Tel: +34 985 227 067. Email: email@example.com
- Basque Country  Nekazalturismoa (Agrotourism), Edificio Kursaal, Avda. Zurriola 1, 20002 Donostia-San Sebastian, Tel: +34 902 130 031. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Galicia  Federación Galega de Turismo Rural, Rúa do Gozo, 18. San Marcos. 15820 Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Tel: +34 981 569 306. Email: email@example.com
- Bed and Breakfast Association, c/o The Pheasants B&B, 24 Greenhill, Sherborne, Dorset, DT9 4EW, United Kingdom, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), 207 White Horse Pike, Haddon Heights, NJ 08035, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: .
- Select Registry, 501 East Michigan Av, PO Box 150, Marshall, MI 49068, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Michigan Lake to Lake Bed and Breakfast Association, toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.