How can I get hands-on experience at a bed and breakfast?

Editor’s Update:  If you are looking for looking for a long-term experience working at a bed and breakfast, check out Professional Association of Innkeepers International’s Help Wanted page.

I get contacted by people who want to have a hands-on experience in order to understand the reality of what it’s like running a bed and breakfast.

While the idea makes sense, it’s not as easy as it seems.  It’s a lot like trying to get experience for a job you want, but no one will hire you without the experience!  There are also those people who figure that they can be an “inn-sitter” – someone who will come in and will “babysit” your B&B/inn and guests while you are away and not only get experience, but payment too.

To understand why you might have difficulty in either situation, here are some questions you ask yourself:

1.    If you were searching for a job, would you apply for a one that wasn’t advertised?  Your best chance for success is if you focus on places that are advertising either a paid position or a course offering hands-on training working in a B&B/Inn.

2.    Have you taken any aspiring B&B/innkeeper courses about owning and running a B&B?  With this background, at least the owner knows you have some understanding of what’s required and the demands of the position – and are serious about the opportunity.  Second best would be getting a general idea about some of the topics from books.

3.     Where will you stay if the property isn’t located by your current residence?  Since B&Bs generally have busy and slow times, they will need help during their busy time.  Because most make the majority of their annual income during this peak time, they will not be willing to give up a room for you to stay in – even if you aren’t getting paid.

4.    What hours are you available to work?  Most bed and breakfast owners put in a lot of hours – even if they hire other people to help them. On a daily basis, my day starts at 6:00 a.m. and doesn’t end until 9:00 p.m. Thank heavens I only have to do that for 5 months of the year!

5.    You need to be able to offer concrete skills that could be used by an owner – have you worked in the food service industry preparing food?  Or waitressing? Do you have previous experience working in a hotel or motel where you have done housekeeping?  Or even cleaning for a holiday rental? What about customer service skills – have you worked in a store and dealt with customers and cash?

6.    Owning a bed and breakfast or inn is like owning any other business – there are rules and regulations the owners have to follow.  You might need to be bonded in order to deal with cash, or added to their workplace insurance policy in case you should get hurt.  Local regulations might require you to have a food handling certificate or specific health and safety training, such as First Aid and CPR.

If you are seeking training because you are serious about purchasing that specific bed and breakfast, you can always make an offer and include a clause that the former owner stays on to provide hands-on training, and perhaps even some long term mentoring.  (I would suggest that you get your lawyer to help with the wording, so everyone is in agreement with the expectations.)

For most of us, running our bed and breakfast or inn is the way we make our living. You won’t find many willing to allow you to take over as a sitter, unless you have had experience running your own.  I have just touched on the most basic of tasks required to run a B&B business – and there is a lot more to it, including having an in-depth knowledge of the local area so you can answer many of the questions callers typically ask before they are ready to book.

To get a better understanding of the kind of knowledge you need to run a bed and breakfast, follow me on facebook for daily tips, tricks and information!


  1. Inga

    Possibly it would be easy for people to list on AirBnB for a couple of months and then see straight away how it works. We have hosted HelpXers for several years now (predominantly travellers 18-26 who work for us 4 hours per day in exchange for food and accommodation). It has been good to see the ups (great conversations, warmth, some excellent workers) as well as the downsides (theft, needy people, lazy people). I wonder how different it would be to host for money ! We are building a tree-house which will have a small kitchenette and there is a nearby toilet/shower/pool change room that they could use for ablutions. I think the thing that would be most challenging would be that you never know quite what time the guests would arrive, and that could be difficult to work around family… Also, it would be a lot of work if they were only staying one night. We are in a major tourism area however, and I think it would be likely people would want to stay 3-4 nights.

  2. Susan Poole Post author

    Hi Inga:
    AirBnB is one potential way to “test” if you would like to own a bed and breakfast, but you are very correct that expectations change dramatically when payment is involved – on both sides of the equation. If you are running a B&B as a business, then it is important to follow local regulations and by-laws and are properly insured to ensure that you are covered from a liability aspect.

    Some serious research would assist you in determining exactly how long people would stay.

    Good luck

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