How to choose a B&B?

Old Aug 1st, 2008, 09:14 PM
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How to choose a B&B?

We'll be in Ireland in the fall... beginning our trip in Shannon and ending it in Dublin 7 nights later.

Our vouchers are good for "town and country" B&Bs... but am wondering how savvy travels choose where to stay?

junkgalore is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2008, 09:18 PM
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I stay in all Bed and breakfasts when traveling in Europe and have never had a bad experience. One was 5 flights up with 10 landings......challenging...but we made it! What I do, is read the travel websites and put the names out....but also check on trip advisor to see what the comments have been regarding the accomodations. THen I write the owner and ask a few questions. If they write back giving me information and I exchange a few emails to see how they respond, then I stay there. If they write back and are short in their answers, like "yes, we do., etc. then I don't stay there. I have found that when they are willing to answer questions and provide information, they seem to be very interested in their customers and usually their accomodations show that as well.
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Old Aug 1st, 2008, 09:52 PM
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Well -- you have your vouchers already so what's done is done. But in all honesty, savvy travelers don't normally use them. Vouchers don't guarantee you a room - only that IF a room is available, and IF the B&B participates in the voucher scheme - then your room is paid for. Lots of properties don't participate in the plan.

Anyway - what sort of places do you like? Farmhouse B&Bs, modern houses, remote/rustic, fancy/posh, or homey/comfy. Choose your B&Bs mostly by WHERE they are, and then by the amenities you want/need.

I definitely would not base my decision on whether e-mails are short or long. They have a business to run and don't always have time to chit chat by e-mail. Do they answer at all - that is much more important to me.
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Old Aug 1st, 2008, 11:42 PM
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I find the idea of multiple emails to test them out a trifle excessive too.

I just look at their website, mainly at the photos, that'll do me. You can usually get a pretty realistic idea from there. Does it look grim/overdosed on chintz/whatever you personally care about.

Budget is my starting point. I have an upper price in mind so that cuts them down a lot for me anyway. As you are using vouchers, your first interest is 'do they take these vouchers'? I'm not sure that the majority of B&Bs do. Do you get a directory or something with the vouchers, otherwise it's going to be a bit of a pain to keep contacting places on the off-chance.

Did you want to book in advance or wing it?

If you don't mind me asking, how much are the vouchers per night?
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 12:45 AM
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You should get a book or directory that accompanies your vouchers indicating what places will accept them. We did that 3 years ago, we had 2 weeks all over Ireland and never felt limited by choice (we booked in advance before leaving on the trip). I wouldn't feel limited about having vouchers... we had a great expereience - not a single bad one! Our choice came down to the picture for the most part, and of course, availability.
You'll be grand! Have fun!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 02:52 AM
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I would go for location coupled with price first - that is if the place is on the coast, a view would be nice, or I would try to avoid a busy road.

That said, you should have an idea of what the cost should be - we had a horrible experience just out of Dublin some years ago - anywhere near a city will be more than in the countryside.

Parking is important as we would generally have a car staying in B & Bīs. Private facilities is important but not critical as is somewhere to sit other than the bed if possible - some have this in the room, some have a guests lounge.

Flexible payment methods are also important - we avoid having to send bank cheques in foreign currencies etc as it is tedious and expensive.

One of the nicest (but certainly not a fancy place) B & Bs we stayed in in Scotland several years ago - the owner didnīt bother with deposits - just requested that if we had to cancel to let him know. Said never once had he been let down.

Responsiveness from the owner is important but I donīt need detailed lengthy replies. Tourism awards and fancy websites impress me not at all.

Regardless I would always follow up a week or so before just to make sure all was in place and we were expected.

I have never used the vouchers and suspect you may be paying a premium for some sort of convenience.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 06:41 AM
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We stay in b&bs and stayed in many in NIreland and Ireland. Read the reviews on tripadvisor and perhaps Ireland Tourist Board. You will get an idea of how other people liked the b&b.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 07:44 AM
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We have used vouchers several times in our past trips to Ireland and never had a problem with them. We never had to worry about handling cash/credit cards for the lodging. We have gone through CIE and Celtic Tours for the vouchers.
First, we chose a location that we know we would like to stay in or around for a few days to explore that area.. We looked in the Town and Country B&B book at the places that accept vouchers, clearly maked with a "V" ( I think it was found after the desciption of the B&B). I agree with Eliza3 in that you should first choose the type of location (outskirts of the city, in the city itself, country/farmhouse location, etc.) We always e-mailed ahead to make resevations and told them we were using vouchers. If they didn't respond to e-mails, we often made a phone call also. We have had very good luck at most of the places we have stayed. Although varied by decor, location, room size, etc., I would still stay in the B&Bs to get the flavor of the family life.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 09:05 AM
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In addition to what has been said I choose our B&Bs on the following criteria:

- location (mentioned) - always in the country or in a tiny village preferably with a river and/or sheep near by (close to walks, too)
- price, of course - you can stay in lovely 4 star B&Bs for 25-30 pppn easily
- charm - must have tons of character like clawfoot tub, listed medieval house, etc.
- lovely gardens or grounds
- we like either private bath or en suite
- clean and loved
- well-presented website
- fabulous breakfasts offering only locally-grown produce and meats, also with lots of variation
- small - our goal is to stay in places with 3 or less rooms

We've stayed in tons and tons of B&Bs (we always do - NEVER hotels) and have only had a couple of funny experiences.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 07:47 PM
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Thanks for the input... and here are some answers/comments in response.

JanisJ--

you wrote: "Well -- you have your vouchers already so what's done is done. But in all honesty, savvy travelers don't normally use them."

I'm not sure I understand the thought behind this commment. Perhaps I am reading your intonation incorrectly but my original question was simply -- how to chooose a B&B within my parameters (Towne & Country BB in Ireland, already booked).

The vouchers came with a booklet of just the B&Bs that are within the Towne & Country (T&C) program. Our timing seems to be at the tail end of summer tourist season so I am not too concerned about lack of availability especially since we'll have a car and we're flexible. As to whether these B&Bs just say they participate and turn us away b/c we have vouchers -- remains to be seen since we have not contacted any.

For the person who asked about price -- we chose a "package" (gasp! the horror!) booked through Aer Lingus because overall, it provided a good value compared to us putting it together ourselves. One price included flight, automatic car with gps, several ensuite B&B vouchers and a couple of nights in hotels. If I were to guesstimate, we are paying anywhere from $80-$100 US per voucher... good value in our book.

Thanks for the advice about choosing smaller towns... we will keep that in mind.

If anyone is interested, I can come back and post what kind of response I get from the B&B owners that are a part of this "Towne & Country" voucher program.

We plan to prebook before leaving for our trip.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 08:19 PM
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I know of at least one B&B in Ireland that accepts vouchers but requires a supplemental payment. Plan accordingly.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2008, 09:29 PM
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There have been many (MANY threads on here about these vouchers. They are not terrible - that is why I said "what's done is done". You were not cheated.

However, they are not real money savers either, and they do limit you to the minority of properties that accept them. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of other B&Bs all over the country that prefer to not accept them because of the red tape and payment delays. That is all I meant - they are a marketing tool but not necessarily a bargain.

Since you can't just pick any B&B, I'd choose based on <<what sort of places do you like? Farmhouse B&Bs, modern houses, remote/rustic, fancy/posh, or homey/comfy. But mainly choose your B&Bs by WHERE they are>>
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Old Aug 3rd, 2008, 10:46 AM
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Ahh, I see... thanks for clarifying.

We have finally come up with an itinerary so we'll be choosing B&Bs in the following areas:

*Near Dingle Peninsula -- Tralee perhaps? Anywhere that will make it convenient to drive the Dingle Peninsula the next morning... any thoughts?

*Near Ring Of Kerry -- Killarney or Killorglin, depending which way we decide to drive ROK. I am reading conflicting reports of driving clockwise or counter clockwise (anti-clockwise is the cute phrase we're seeing online). Travel forums say buses go clockwise so independent drivers should go CC. But wiki states the opposite...

*Waterford-ish? We will be leaving Cork/Blarney Castle on our way to Wicklow. We want to break up this drive so we need a good "middle point" for an overnighter. Any suggestions?

Thanks!
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Old Aug 3rd, 2008, 11:11 AM
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Let us know how this works out with the Aer Lingus deal. I get those offers and have wondered if they are good or not. Have been to NIreland and Ireland and stayed at some b&bs that I would say are just like home. Enjoyed it very much. Happy traveling.

If you are planning to stop at Blarney Castle be aware that if you have any problems with stairs I wouldn't recommend it. 3 or 4 flights of circular stones stairs with a rope for a bannister. The stairs are narrow but then maybe it was just my big feet.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2008, 01:16 PM
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IF you are driving a car, you'd want to check and see if there is parking nearby.
IF you have issues with steps (knee problems etc) you'd want to check to see if they have an elevator(very rare), or ground floor rooms (often near the kitchen at the back).
We've stayed in some lovely B&B 's in the past, but nowdays are migrating to small hotels...with more privacy, ensuite bath, elevators, and usually a full breakfast included....most often for the same price as a B&B.
I've heard good and bad about vouchets,,,but am sure it will work out fine.
In Dingle we stayed at a wonderful B&B/guesthouse called "Greenmount House" I belive. Very comfortable, good views, and the large, famous, and the most complete breakfast in all of Ireland (some say)
The Dingle Slea Head Drive is spectacular and many say nicer than the Ring of Kerry (which is often very crowded with busses and slow traffic)...and quite long also.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2008, 02:07 PM
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I am wondering when was the last time travel2live2 visited Ireland?

S/he says "you can stay in lovely 4 star B&Bs for 25-30 pppn easily".

1. B&Bs in Ireland are not star rated. Guest houses and hotels are star rated.

2. B&Bs in Ireland cost more than 25-30 euro presently.

What they are describing sounds more like a manor house or guest house not a B&B.

Since junkgalore has vouchers the point is moot.

Others who are reading this and think they can get a B&B for that price will have to update their pricing for 2008.
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Old Aug 4th, 2008, 05:40 AM
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junkgalore, you asked for a stop between Cork and Wicklow. May I suggest Kilkenny? It is a lovely small "city"--more the size of a medium town here. Great castle, interesting cathedral, round tower, and interesting walking.

Re: the discussion about driving the Ring of Kerry. I have done it in both directions. I prefer going counterclockwise, the direction that the busses go. I'd rather go in their direction than meet them on the narrow roads. Also because you are driving on the left, when you are meeting traffic on the narrow roads, you are on the inside, rather than being inches from the edge of eternity or at least a big splash. (just joking) Also as you come to the end, you are facing "Ladies' View" a great vista over the lake rather than trying to look back as you crawl up the hill on a curvy road. Further, there is a pull out for a picture op at Ladies' View and it will be on your side of the road.

Many worry about stopping with hordes from the busses. there is no rule that you have to stop where busses stop. In your own car, you can go and stop wherever you choose. (However, I admit, that I have tried to start early before the bus tours start out.) One neat place that busses can't navigate is the Staigue Fort. The road up there is too narrow for busses but easy for cars, and it is a quiet peaceful stop as well as an incredible prehistoric building. Another place that few of the busses stop is the Skellig visitors' center in Portmagee. There are wonderful photographs as well as an explanation about what they are.

Another stop between Cork and Wicklow might be New Ross. It is a busier place than Kilkenny (and in my opinion less charming) but a viable option. If you stay in New Ross, visit the Famine ship. It is a recreated ship like those which carried those fleeing the famine to the US. As you enter, you are given a ticket with a name on it so that you can find your place in the hold. A docent dressed as a passenger describes conditions and the rules for passengers. After seeing my place on the ship, I said I would never complain about airplane travel again. (I am ashamed that I have, but it took a while before the ship left my mind.)

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Old Aug 4th, 2008, 10:27 AM
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Here is the T&C website:
www.townandcountry.ie/

I've never used vouchers in ten trips to Ireland. I HAVE, when calling around for vacancies, noticed that invariably, the first response to my querry ( before answering ) has been, "And are you using vouchers?"

Leads me to believe that the PREFERENCE is to not....

Some locations simply will not accept them, some may not permit you to 'Pre-Book'.
However, you are traveling during Shoulder Season, during a somewhat "slack" year. I've no doubt that you should find adequate lodging in most places, but they may not necessarily be as 'close-in' as you might prefer.

Come back and let us know how it goes.

Bob
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Old Aug 4th, 2008, 03:11 PM
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A few things. onetwo is mainly correct. Some Irish B&Bs are part of the AA group and are rated with diamonds. Not many though. Agree that it would be very difficult to find something that has a high rating for under E30, much less E35-40. Prices have gone up a lot in the past 4-5 years.

$80-100 per room per night is a pretty good deal. Make sure you do the math and realize that each person is paying for the rental car as opposed to one price for the car. That gets people frequently. Sometimes though, there are some very good off season deals in packages. Luck of the draw.

There is a T&C website devoted to just the B&Bs that take vouchers. It's http://www.tandctrade.com/

Bill
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Old Aug 5th, 2008, 10:15 PM
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Irisheyes,
Thanks for articulating so well the reasons to drive ROK counterclockwise. We will follow your advice.

I have some news to report about the vouchers:
I have emailed B&Bs that have been recommended on this board and TA. I have been upfront about vouchers in each email.
They have all been very nice and let me know they have availability (whether it's because it's shoulder season or as suggested "slack" year...we will not know. Only 1 B&B owner let me know that he has availability in the "rear of house" with the vouchers but we can have a better view room for an additional 10euro. So, this does suggest there's a preference for non-voucher users.

Bill, We have kept the pp amount vs total amount in mind as we calculated whether to book the pkg or do it ourselves. I don't mind posting the price we paid if anyone is interested. I haven't really seen amounts posted online.

We booked the dates based on our personal schedules(lots of fall weddings, concerts and other previously scheduled travel plans). And generally, we prefer to travel after summer as we like to think that it lessens our chances of having a petite seat kicker or healthy lung user behind/front of us.
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