LURED by the image of a peaceful, romantic weekend at an inn in the country? Before you go, there are some things you should know:
Inns and bed and breakfast places are no longer cheap alternatives to staying in a motel or hotel, whether in town or country. Most inns now charge about $100 a night for a room. Some inns that include meals, that are located near special attractions or that are in elegant, restored historic buildings may charge even more than that. They are not cheap.
Bed and breakfast places are a particular hazard. Some are just a spare bedroom in the owner's house. Other B&Bs, as they are known, are like country inns, but you may have to make your own bed and share a bath. Ask.
Don't expect a country inn to repair a strained relationship. Unrelenting proximity and lack of privacy could do the opposite.
Don't expect an inn to be the place for a madly passionate weekend. To put it delicately, some otherwise romantic inns have thin walls, beds that squeak (not to mention mattresses that are lumpy) and a general lack of privacy.
You may have to alter some of your personal habits, if they include loud noise, boom boxes, Late Nights with Letterman, smoking and in-place jogging at midnight. If you habitually do anything smelly or noisy, perhaps you should consider alternative accommodations. If you smoke, ask if it's permitted before you book.
Some inns cater to particular groups. Hunters, for example. If the sight of dead animals bothers you, find another inn.
Speaking of animals, many inns have them. If you're allergic, ask before you go.
Face it, you don't really want a totally quiet weekend. You want a weekend away near something to do: antiques, historic homes, wonders of nature and more. Do some research at your local library or ask the innkeeper what there is to do.
While you have the innkeeper on the phone, ask where you can eat, not only for dinner, but for breakfast. This is a serious problem at some inns. They don't serve meals, and the nearest restaurant may be a Dairy Queen. If you want more style, find another inn. If they do serve meals, ask what is served and whether it is part of the price.
If you absolutely need a television, you may have to find a Holiday Inn. At best, the inns will have a parlor with a television set.
If privacy is a big issue with you, ask whether you have your own bath or must share one. And, if you share a bath, ask where it is, i.e. across the hall, on the next floor, or in the barn? (At one nearby inn, the "private bath" turned out to be a commode behind a screen in the bedroom.)
Some inns allow children, but not many. Some will allow children only if the other guests don't object. Don't surprise the innkeeper with little Johnny and his croup.
If the inn is a working farmhouse, ask when the work begins. Roosters and tractors can turn your search for a restful weekend into an absolute hell at 5:30 on summer mornings. Sleepyheads should look elsewhere.
If it's an urban inn, ask if they have parking. Parking in a commercial lot can add a stiff tariff to your inn fee.
Remember, inns are often someone's home. Act like you are a guest.
A stay at a bed and breakfast or an inn can be a wonderful change from chain motels. Choose wisely and have a wonderful time.