What matters to you when booking a hotel, inn or bed and breakfast online? We’ve travelled around the world and have stayed in a variety of lodgings, but nothing quite beats the bed and breakfast experience. Not only do hosts share their homes, but you engage in an interesting perspective of their lives, which also provides you with a better understanding of the people, the land and the culture. After all, travel is more about the people you meet than the places you travel.
The Personal Touch
B&B hosts are always willing to share lesser-known, often money-saving secrets of the town as well as stories you’ll never read in guidebooks. They’ll ensure you travel like a local and not a tourist. Think of them as your personal hotel concierge, without the heavy tips.
Since you’ll be spending time with your hosts, make sure you strike a rapport with them before you finalize your booking. While listings share many of the details you might need to make your decision, touching base with your hosts adds a personal touch.
Location, location, location
While budget usually plays a huge role when making the right choice, you may not want to spend a lot of time commuting. So location is key.
In cities, it is not always easy to find something within walking distance of the city centre, but it should offer easy access to a metro or underground station.
Luckily, the village of Niagara-on-the-Lake covers an area of two square miles. So, as long as you choose a hotel, inn or B&B within the town limits (Anderson Lane to the south and Front Street to the north and Nassau Street to the west and the Niagara Parkway to the east), you’ll be within an easy five- to 30-minute stroll or a quick drive away from theatres, restaurants, boutiques, spas, historical venues, waterfront attractions and activities, cycling paths, a golf course and even a couple of wineries. In fact, because of our town’s unique charms, beauty and peaceful location, many visitors planning a visit to Niagara Falls (just a 25-minute drive away) prefer to stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake and take in the Falls on a day trip. And, with most of the wineries being in Niagara-on-the-Lake, wine-lovers prefer to stay where the action is.
In our case, Globetrotters Bed & Breakfast is about a 20-minute walk to the spas, shops, restaurants and theatres on Queen Street; about a five-minute walk to the Old Winery Restaurant; a 10-minute walk to Jackson-Triggs Winery, the Saturday morning market and the Wednesday evening SupperMarket; a 10-minute walk to the 100 Fountain Spa and the Cannery Restaurant or Vintages Wine Bar and Lounge at the Pillar and Post Hotel; a 20-minute walk to Peller Estates Winery; and a 10-minute drive to the ever popular Ravine Winery in St. David’s and the Trius at Hillebrand Winery in Virgil. And golf and a delightful outdoor patio overlooking Lake Ontario at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Course, the oldest golf course in continuous play in North America, is a quick three-minute drive away.
Most B&B, hotel and inn listings give you a detailed picture of the location, information on the sights and attractions that are nearby and directions on how to get there.
When you book a hotel, there are always additional charges: parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast, tips, etc. However, at a bed and breakfast, your on-site parking, Wi-Fi access and homemade breakfasts are complimentary. And whether you want to tip for additional favours provided by your hosts is completely up to you, however it’s not expected.
And, if you book directly with your bed and breakfast hosts, you may be offered a lower rate than you might be charged through an online booking system, some of which charge hefty commissions. For instance, here at Globetrotters B&B, we gladly share some of those savings with our guests by offering a nightly discount to those who book directly with us or through our website at globetrottersbb.ca (just click on Availability).
Licensed vs Unlicensed
Why should you care if the B&B or cottage rental is licensed or not? For your safety! Licensed properties here in Niagara-on-the-Lake MUST operate according to the high standards and safety regulations mandated by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Bed & Breakfast Association.
If the property you booked doesn’t display the outdoor Bed & Breakfast sign issued by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, it is not licensed. Within the property, a licensed B&B or cottage must visibly display their operator’s license, which will clearly indicate the current year. If you don’t see a license issued by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake anywhere, it is probably not a licensed property. This should raise concerns. If the property is not licensed, it has not been properly inspected to ensure it meets electrical and fire safety regulations. If it is not licensed, chances are the property is also not adequately insured.
To be a member of the Bed & Breakfast Association’s standards, a licensed B&B or cottage must be licensed and must comply to the high standards established by the association. Also, all licensed properties must provide on-site parking. In other words, overnight street parking is not permitted. If you wish, you can review these standards at any time as licensed owners are required to keep an updated copy of both the Town’s and the Association’s requirements on hand at all times.
So, before you book, ask your hosts if they are a member of the Niagara-on-the-Lake B&B Association. (A full listing of member properties is found at BookYourStay.ca.) If not, you can also check with the Town of Niagara-o-the-Lake at 905-468-3266 to see if they are licensed before you book.
TripAdvisor and booking.com post reviews on various properties. It’s always wise to check those reviews but only take whatever is relevant to you.
Every property comes with its own ratings and tons of feedback, which, at times, can be highly confusing. While a room may be reported to be very small by some reviewers, it may also come with a private ensuite bathroom, which might be more important to you. Or, it might be on the main floor, which is an advantage if you can’t handle stairs or have difficulty walking.
And, here’s another reason why you should contact your potential hosts before confirming your reservation. Be wary of those properties that show hundreds of reviews as some of these may be fraudulent reviews posted by the owners and their friends and relatives to build up their presence on the Internet. Real guests rarely post one- to 10-word reviews. If they are going to take the time to review a property, they usually have something they want to share with others that cannot be summed up in 10 words or less.
Posted by Donna Vieira, owner of Globetrotters Bed and Breakfast in Niagara-on-the-Lake