My Pros and Cons of Hostels

Toronto skyline

Enjoying one of the many events at the 2013 TBEX conference in Toronto, my first and only experience staying in a hostel.

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.

HI Toronto

My four-bed dorm room at the Hostel International Hostel in Toronto.

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.

Toronto hostel

The in-room sink is OK, and there was also an in-room toilet/shower room.

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. …

Taos romance

or a nice hotel room, such as the Omni Severin in Indianapolis.

Omni Severin

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.

Giverny, France

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?

9 thoughts on “My Pros and Cons of Hostels

  1. I’ve stayed in hostels on my own and with my husband, and I’d do it again. My husband was a little nervous for hist first hostel stay but now he’s all for it. One of the nicest ones we’ve stayed in is in San Jose, Costa Rica. We had a private room, private bathroom (with hot water!), a balcony, cable TV… and it was about half the price of a hotel room. Like you said, I don’t know if we’d give it a go with the kids, simply because of the cost factor. I know a lot of hostels do offer private family rooms but if it turns out to be the same price as a hotel or even a self-catering apartment (my preferred accommodation when traveling with the kids), we’d just skip the hostel.

    Whoa, that was long-winded 🙂
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted…#JAchat topic: Street photography. Focus: Istanbul.My Profile

  2. When I went on a tour of Europe I stayed in hostels. They vary from one country to the other! I found a nice place to sleep in, great breakfast, friendly staff and most importantly I met some amazing persons along the way!

    If you are traveling solo & really looking to save some $$ then you have to take it in consideration.

    Nowadays I go for a nice room 😉
    Karla recently posted…Weekly Photo Challenge: UnexpectedMy Profile

  3. Francesca, I’ve just never had the opportunity to seriously consider one when traveling with my wife. We both enjoy B&Bs and apartments, and now traveling as a family, I just don’t see doing it. But you give a convincing argument.

  4. Karla, solo travel is key. My wife and I don’t stay in luxury inns, and when we do travel without our son we tend to want a nicer place to stay. And we use Priceline a lot, so we tend to get a nice hotel room for $50 a night, which shouldn’t be too much more than a private room at a hostel. But traveling in Europe, I think, makes it more appealing.

  5. I’ve never stayed in a hostel but I can see how they would be really cost effective and a neat experience, especially for people travelling alone. I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about hostels but I guess that’s what makes it part of the experience but I couldn’t imagine staying in a hostel with kids. Have you stayed in other hostels in Canada? How do they compare to ones in Europe?

  6. Shereen, this one hostel is my one experience. I need to stay in more to be a better judge. I will just say in general I don’t want to stay in dorms; I had roommates in college and am too far removed from that life. And traveling with our son, if the price of a hotel or apartment is comparable to a hostel that still makes more sense for us.

  7. Pingback: 2013: Travel Year in Review

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