B&Bs;: Pluses, Minuses

Morgan, of La Jolla, is a nationally known magazine and newspaper writer

To B&B; or not to B&B;? That is a question.

Bed-and-breakfast lodging is ideal for some travelers. It can provide the happiest moments of a trip. For others, it's the worst way to go, too haphazard and unpredictable.

Successful B&B; travelers seem to share certain personality traits: They are cheerful, unselfish, helpful, kind, understanding, undemanding, self-reliant, healthy, curious by nature and just plain nice. Age is not a factor; attitude is.

B&B; travelers tend to reach out to strangers in airports and on planes. They make friends along hiking trails or while waiting for a bus. They share their picnic lunch with children. They communicate in languages they do not know. They are kind to animals.

My sister-in-law, a caring, hardy sort, is a prime example of a great bed-and-breakfast traveler. After hearing her plans for a three-week BritRail, B&B; trip through the British Isles, a neighbor in Georgia said: "You and your husband will love that. I wouldn't at all. I really don't like people that well."

Blunt, but true. In addition to liking people, you should weigh your physical condition (there are stairs, not elevators), and the schedule you like to keep (if it's a spare room in a farmhouse, the family may lock up early). The hours for showers may be regulated; there may be rules against playing a radio at night.

About $10 a Night

If budget is a major concern, the good news is that the average B&B; rate in the United Kingdom has been hovering at about $10 a night, per person, and that's with a hearty breakfast. Ardent B&B; fans save time and money by taking just two meals a day; a big breakfast (with carry-away rolls) and an early supper.

B&B; travelers usually move by foot, by car, by train or by bus. Gutsy of spirit, they rarely deign to make advance reservations--unless a reliable source has tipped them off to an exceptional B&B; that may be booked ahead in peak season. Most simply arrive in a village, seek out lodging early on, then set out to explore the sights. They are a breed that loves freedom.

This does not mean that travelers who choose to stay in hotels, inns or luxury resorts do not have all of the above good qualities. It's just that they may prefer the anonymity of a larger establishment. They may need the use of a Telex. They may want to entertain in suites or in elegant dining rooms. They may want to hide out for a week and savor traditional hotel service at its finest.

I do not recommend B&B; travel for those who need a private phone, push-button valets, or color TV. It does not often fit with business travel.

I do not recommend B&Bs; for those who don't enjoy being part of a family situation. Some of the Irish welcomes, for starters, are long and loving. You may be introduced to children and kittens and the produce in the garden. You may be invited to go along to pub or to market or to put flowers on a grandson's grave.

A Time for Privacy

I do not recommend B&Bs; if you are not feeling well. That is a night to have a private bathroom.

B&B; accommodations vary greatly; it is smart to ask to see a room before signing in. This gives you a chance to test the temperament of the owner. Some rooms have beautiful furnishings and pleasing views; others are clean, simple and in a convenient heart-of-city location.

The bed-and-breakfast places that are booming in the United States are often small inns, really. Many have private baths and other amenities. The prices will almost always be higher than their British ancestors, but the cozy mood holds true.

I suspect that most B&B; travelers are unfettered romantics who had pen pals in other lands during high school. I know they trade B&B; names and addresses as if they were baseball cards or celebrity autographs.

My sister-in-law says that if I'm in York I should try Grange Lodge, 52 Bootham Crescent, Bootham, York. Mrs. I. M. McKimmie, prop. Phone: (0904) 21137.

My sister-in-law never lies.

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