For depression-era vacationers, a bed and breakfast is just the thing

Written by admin on October 10, 2008 – 1:30 pm -

After this week’s stock market plunge, some people think they’ll never be able to retire — much less afford another vacation. Maybe not.

Yes, hair is turning gray and there are more than a few individuals who refuse to look at their investment portfolios. Houses that were formally worth a lot of money are going begging. Welcome to the new world of tight credit.

Travel addicts are bemoaning the fact that their wings will be clipped because of incredibly high air fares and fewer flights.

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat. When the going gets tough, the tough start having second thoughts. Some people with long-scheduled travel plans are contemplating whether or not they should cancel their trips. Others are seeking alternative ways to save money.

In the past, many travelers would never consider a bed-and-breakfast (B&B). For some, it’s akin to invading someone else’s personal space. Other people will always opt for B&Bs since there may not be a lot of alternatives in some of America’s most charming towns.

There are exceptions, such as exploring New England during leaf season. Many who make the pilgrimage find B&Bs romantic, an excellent way to meet other people in addition to profiting from their hosts’ knowledge of the area. The majority return from their mini-adventures feeling vacationed, have had a look into someone else’s life style and are invariably financially ahead unless their alternative is staying in a Motel 6, which are rarely long on charm.

Europeans have traditionally opened their doors to guests driving through the countryside. But city residents tend not to for numerous reasons. First, it’s a question of space; second, apartment dwellers cherish their privacy and would prefer not to be greeted by people in tourist mode wanting croissants (and how about some eggs and bacon, please?) and that day’s marching orders.

When it comes to Parisians, if they are going to rent rooms to strangers, more than likely it will be to students who tend to be less picky. Plus, the French government offers tax subsidies to apartment owners who provide housing to those of university age.

Some people refuse to accept “get-up-and go” defeat. The Internet has opened up new avenues of finding affordable digs. It’s up to the renters and the rentees to do more than a modicum of research and due diligence.

In my search, I unearthed a B&B, Chez Bertrand, that’s located near Paris’s most famous flea market, the Porte de Clingancourt. This must be one of the funkiest places to stay in all of Paris and it wouldn’t be my choice for more reasons than one. I’ve never slept in a Citroën nor has it been my dream. But this B&B satisfies one of my main criteria. It has WiFi even though the décor may not be exactly up my alley.

People can find rooms to rent by the day, week or month. For example, access The Bonjour Paris Classified section, and you’ll find rooms advertised for rent for different periods of time and in different places.

If you don’t see precisely what you want, post an ad and people wanting and needing to generate some extra income will invariably inundate you.

If you decide to book accommodations online, call the owner at least once before you go. Ask for references.

Some topics to discuss:

While some B&B’s are sophisticated and somewhat costly, others are very simple and can be a real bargain. Know what to expect in the way of room accommodations.

Most B&Bs have fairly strict check-in times. Find out what the policy is, so that you are not (as is often the case) barging into someone’s home after hours.

Find out whether or not you’ll be required to share a bathroom and if there’s a communal kitchen or, at the very least, a fridge.

Unfortunately for families who enjoy traveling together, don’t assume an establishment welcomes children. Even if they do, find out whether or nor there’s a minimum age.

Does the bed & breakfast allow pets? If so, are there size and breed limitations?

Ask if credit cards are accepted and inquire about cancellation policies.

If you smoke, inquire about the B&B’s policy. You will find that a majority of them do not permit smoking of any kind. Some allow it outside or in designated public areas. But many will not allow smoking anywhere on the grounds.

You may have a wonderful time not only getting to know a neighborhood but a family as well. Like everything else in traveling, you need to be lucky. But with smart planning, you can improve your luck — and the odds of having a good time.

In times of financial uncertainty, try to look on the bright side.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |