Sometimes though, you want to stay somewhere off the beaten path, or someplace small when you're in a big city. For that, you have to dig a little deeper to find what you're looking for, but the reward can be not only a refreshing change of pace, but sometimes it can even be refreshing for the pocketbook too.
This is multi-part series, so keep checking back, or click on "non-hotel" in our Labels to find related articles.
Part 1: Bed and Breakfasts
According to Wikipedia, a bed and breakfast (or B&B) is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and breakfast, but usually does not offer other meals. Typically, bed and breakfasts are private homes with fewer than 10 bedrooms available for commercial use.
Time Magazine, had a recent article that said there are over 28,000 Bed and Breakfasts (B&B's) in the U.S., serving more than 50 million guests. Most commonly, B&B's are older homes that have been renovated, and because of that they tend to have a good amount of character. Each place is a unique experience, and some people like to go back to the same one over and over because of the service, location, accommodations, or a combination of them all. Although they tend to be located outside of cities, you can find them even in big cities.
The rooms can also have a unique character, and some have themes for each room. For the time you're not spending in your room, you might be relaxing in the living room, out on the veranda, or in the jacuzzi - you may not even feel the need to leave the property while you're there. But if you do, the proprietors know all the great places to eat, and all the fun places to visit. And while you're gone, they'll be getting ready for tomorrows breakfast.
The big name online travel agencies (OTA's) like Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity and Orbitz, do list some B&B's and inns, but if you want a larger list of choices, then you should try dedicated B&B websites.
BedandBreakfast.com (owned by vacation rental giant HomeAway) provides reservation services and gift certificates for over 4,000 B&B's in the U.S., and has listings for over 7,000 in other countries too.
Other websites to check out: Bed and Breakfast Inns ONLINE, BnBstar.com, Pamela Lanier's B&B Inns, and USA Bed and Breakfast.
The website I Love Inns, which is run by American Historic Inns, even has a free iPhone/iPad app to help you find B&B's and inns while on the road.
Speaking of apps, if you're going to Italy, the B&B iPhone app claims to list 10,000 B&B's and inns, with photo's, addresses and more, and in the UK, the British Automobile Association (theaa.com) also has a free iPhone app for the UK.
If you're traveling to Canada, and you use Facebook, then you'll want to try the Canadian Bed and Breakfast Guide on Facebook.
Other sources to help you find that perfect B&B or inn, is to see if the state you're going to has a state association, like the California Bed and Breakfast (CABBI), Washington State Bed & Breakfast Guild, Florida Bed and Breakfast Inns, or the Hawaii Island Bed & Breakfast Association.
One thing is for sure - after all the hard work finding a great B&B, you're going to really enjoy the one you find.