The Autombile Association of Great Britain (The AA) has been sending its inspectors out to check out bed and breakfast accommodations (B&Bs) and hotels for years. Their annual guide are best sellers and now you can add free Apps to the selection.
Wherever you are in the UK, you are likely to find a selection of variously priced B&Bs and hotels in these two books and their associated free apps. Their inspectors visit thousands of establishments every year and the AA star ratings are used by Visit Britain and other tourism organizations as the last word.
Symbols highlight the best breakfasts and evening meals, the most family friendly, credit cards accepted, prices, availability of parking and directions, dog friendly. To squeeze in so much detail and still make the book practical for travelers, descriptions are brief and can be rather dry. Readers who are expecting to find the best and most charming little B&Bs may be surprised to also find some rather pedestrian guest houses and cheap hotels.
Do be careful as well about how you interpret the rating system of 1 to 5 stars. Used by both the AA and the British tourist authorities, it reports on such things as cleanliness, facilities and floor space but may not always be an indicator of charm or luxury. And if the B&B or hotel accommodations you're considering boasts of its "Diamond" rating or has a sign beside its front door with diamond symbols, that's a clue that the place has not been rated in quite a while.
The AA guides are encyclopedias of UK accommodations. What they lack in selectivity, they more than make up for in thorough coverage of the country, packed into hundreds of full color illustrated pages. Here's what to expect from the guides for 2017.
The AA Hotel Guide 2017
The 2017 AA Hotel Guide is its 50th anniversary edition and they've produced a special golden anniversary edition with a feature highlighting hotels that have been in the guide from the very first edition.
Here's what else you'll find:
- 2,600 professionally inspected and rated hotels.
- Hotels range from five star luxury to quality rated budget accommodations.
- In addition to one to five stars, silver stars are special awards and red stars indicate "Inspector's Choice" hotels.
- Up to date prices, facilities details and contacts
- The AA Hotel of the Year and Highly Recommended hotels.
- AA map pages that correspond to the highly recommended AA Road Atlas and Motoring Guide series of books and Apps.
The AA B&B Guide 2017
This is the 45th edition of what has become the UK's bible of B&Bs, but the AA has actually been seeking out and rating places to eat and stay around the country for more than 100 years. There inspectors have seen it all. Here's what they'll show you in the latest edition.
- 2,300 professionally inspected B&Bs, guest houses, restaurants with rooms, farmhouses and inns.
- Accommodations are rated with one to five stars as well as gold and silver stars for Highly Commended and Inspector Recommended establishments.
- Prices, facilities details, websites and other contacts are updated annually.
- The AA B&B awards for the most outstanding.
- AA map pages and listings with map coordinates making them easier to find.
What About the Apps?
Both books are also available as free apps for smart phones. You might be wondering why you should bother to buy the books - which cost about $30 each in the US - and each weigh about two and a half pounds - when you can have the same information in your pocket.
Good question. The answer depends on whether you are the kind of traveler who likes to explore an area and likes to know where you are. If you've ever used a map App - or even printed out Google Map directions - you know they are good on the fine details but pretty poor for the big picture. Are you north, south, east or west of your ultimate destination? Are there parks nearby, beaches, lakes, mountains, the coast?
Apps, like SatNavs, are not very satisfying for born explorers. That said, if you are in a particular area, and turn on the location feature of your smart phone, the AA Apps will find you and come up with loads of suggestions nearby.
And let's face it, those books are pretty heavy to schlep around in a backpack.
My advice is to get both the books and the free Apps. Use the books to dream and plan before you leave home. Keep the books in your luggage or the glove compartment of your car. They make great bedtime reading to plan for your next day on the road.
Then, when you are on the move - on foot or bicycle - use the Apps to refresh your memory about where you're heading or to find spur of the moment accommodations. Explore your destination, mentally, with the guide books and physically with the Apps. That make sense?