If visions of blue water and sailboats are dancing in your head but you're bothered by recession blues and a checkbook showing major wear and tear, one option to the economy deal at a seaside motel is to book yourself into a B&B for your summer vacation. Yes, yes, we know -- some bed and breakfasts have prices that compare with the Ritz and rooms that look like suites at Winterthur. But, believe it or not, there are nice, moderately priced B&Bs at some of the state's premier summer destinations.
Plus, at B&Bs you get breakfast free, and not just one muffin and Grandma's homemade strawberry preserves. More and more B&Bs are serving full breakfasts that can often take you from morning till an early dinner, resulting in a nice savings on food.
B&Bs have rules. After all, if you opened up your house to a bunch of strangers, you would probably like to have some control. Some hosts accept credit cards and personal checks, some only cash. Some B&Bs have air conditioning. Some don't. Generally, pets are not allowed, smoking is pretty much a no-no, and breakfast has a set time -- don't sleep in and then stroll downstairs for eggs Benedict at noon.
Always call ahead for information and to make reservations. Don't just show up on the doorstep. There are reservation services in the state that deal only with B&Bs. One is the Traveller in Maryland, where the staff has personally inspected every B&B it recommends and can give you the scoop on many homes scattered from Western Maryland to the coast.
One nice thing about B&Bs is that the owner-host knows the ins and outs of his or her town. This is a big plus if you are traveling on a budget. The owner-host can fill you in on local attractions that are free or only charge a modest fee. And, when you decide you really can't function all day on just breakfast, he can point you in the direction of some moderately priced restaurants, a wholesome soup and sandwich bar, the best early-bird specials at some of the more pricey establishments, or the greatest happy hour in the city.
If you've never stayed in a B&B, you might not be prepared for the congenial atmosphere and sociability of the host and other guests. People will talk to you. The ambience is "home away from home." But hosts are adept at scouting out guests who want to be alone and will turn attention away from you if that is what you desire. Expect some communal activities, though. You might have to make a phone call from a hall telephone and, if you want to watch the news, you will probably find a television in the living room or den, not in your room. Breakfast is most often at a large family-type dining table -- could be Chippendale mahogany or country oak -- with other guests.
Because B&B owners are trying to make a living like the rest of us, they sometimes raise their prices in the summer if they are located in a vacation spot, but not always. Occasionally they will discount for stays longer than a night or two or in the middle of the week, which is always the best time to check into a B&B. First, room availability is better, even in midsummer, and second, if the house is not full, you can possibly pay for a room with a shared bath -- horrors to many Americans but always the cheapest way to go in a B&B -- and not have to share it with anybody.
The mecca for B&Bs in the state has to be Annapolis. There are probably about 30 in the area. They range from brick town homes to waterfront contemporaries. Some are very pricey and filled with lovely antiques and artwork, but many have rooms available in the $50 to $85 per night category. Here's a sampling of Annapolis B&Bs:
The William Page Inn was built in 1908. At one time the headquarters for a men's social club of some renown, this turn-of-the-century house was bought a few years ago by Greg Page who restored the building and furnished it with Maryland antiques dating from 1890 to 1925. The least expensive room is $75, but breakfast is a banquet with all types of homemade breads, an egg and sausage casserole, apple crisp, a fruit tray and a cheese tray, cold cereals, freshly squeezed orange juice, milk, special coffees and teas. In the afternoon, an array of homemade munchies, like lemon squares of cookies, is set out for guests.
John and Mary Prehn turned their large, Georgian revival-style brick home -- the bricks date back to the 1730s -- into a B&B about 10 years ago and named it Magnolia House. They offer guests three rooms, all with private baths, one with a working fireplace. The third-floor suite sleeps up to six people and is good for families. If the weather is warm, a full breakfast -- including either waffles, eggs Benedict or omelets -- is served on the garden patio, which is dominated by a lovely magnolia tree. The traditional dining room is used in cold or rainy weather. Prices are $65 or $75 for double occupancy and the Naval Academy is right nearby.