I’ll be honest, I’ve only stayed in one hostel. And other than my contact lenses getting thrown out mistakenly by the cleaning crew (long story), I have no complaints about the stay. The room was clean, my roommates were pleasant and everyone in the facility was friendly. But I think we all get a feel for when something makes sense for us as travelers, and staying in hostels just isn’t my cup of tea. Here are my pros and cons of hostels.
There is probably a different reason to stay in a hostel for every traveler from budget-friendly to meeting new people. My one stay in a hostel earlier this year gave me both, although it was only for one reason.
Somewhat at the last minute I decided to attend the TBEX travel bloggers conference in Toronto. And since the trip was unexpected, I didn’t want it to have a huge impact on my family’s travel budget for the year. So I decided to give a hostel a try. And I was able to stay in a hostel for four nights for less than what I would normally pay for one night in a decent hotel.
So for budget reasons, I consider my stay at the Hosteling International Toronto Hostel to be a success. And for the sake of meeting new people, it was also a success. I didn’t get the chance to get to know my three roommates all that well, but I did meet a few travelers that I’ve been fortunate to develop friendships with since: the college student Kay of The Kay Days, who never went anywhere without her ukulele, and the married couple from Atlanta, Josh and Liz of Peanuts or Pretzels.
Hostel Pros: Traveling on a tight budget and meeting new people
Liz and Josh tackle the subject of staying in hostels well in their post “5 Misconceptions About Staying in Hostels.” I wouldn’t know them if not for meeting on the elevator in the Toronto hostel. We ended up having drinks together and I really enjoyed getting to know these guys. I think that’s one of the great selling points to staying in hostels. If you’re open to meeting new people, staying in a hostel is definitely a great way to do it.
I do like the idea of meeting people on my travels. It usually happens at a pub, or over breakfast at a bed-and-breakfast inn. My wife and I, actually, have stayed in several B&Bs and last year introduced our then 5-year-old son to them when we used B&Bs for overnights in France, Scotland and England. It proved that a B&B stay isn’t just for romantic getaways.
And that takes me back to hostels. The reputation is of big dorm rooms filled to the brim with bunk beds with snoring, smelly backpackers in the bunk above. That might be true; again, I’ve only stayed in one hostel. But even sharing a room with just one stranger just isn’t my cup of tea.
Hostel Cons: Lack of privacy and more difficult for family travel
I’m sure a big reason is that my wife and I began dating when I was a freshman in college. We’ve pretty much always traveled together. We’ve stayed in some budget accommodations before, but never a hostel. I’m not too sure she’d ever go for it. And now that we travel more and more with our son, it just hasn’t been the type of lodging we’ve felt like considering.
Yes, I know some hostels accommodate children. We just don’t want others to have to deal with sleeping in the same room with our son. We’re nervous enough about staying in a quiet B&B with him. Some hostel facilities offer private rooms. I know we could probably rent a room that pretty much only has bedding for our family. But to me, the whole point in renting a bed at a hostel is to save money. And if paying for three beds ends up being close in price to a budget hotel, I’m not sure the savings would be worth booking a private room at a hostel for my family of three.
When traveling as a family or solo, I like the idea of an apartment, especially this cozy room in the apartment from our recent stay in Taos, N.M. …
or a nice hotel room, such as the Omni Severin in Indianapolis.
If it’s my wife and I, a bed-and-breakfast inn is our first choice. Kind of like this inn in Giverny, France, even if it was the overnight home for our family trip there.
I might stay in a hostel again, especially when traveling solo and wanting to save a few bucks. But I just don’t see it happening as a family, and certainly not on a romantic getaway. What do you say: Do you stay in hostels?