You can only travel for so long and continue to feel enthusiastic about staying in hostels.
I’ve previously written about being “so over” the party hostels, but sadly, it appears that I’ve fallen even further down the old lady rabbit hole (which you obviously can’t crawl out of with arthritis and a walker.)
I still stay in hostels. I still find things to love about hostels.
But I’m getting pickier about which hostels make the cut for acceptable living conditions on the road.
(Wheel chair access and sturdy mattresses being obvious requirements these days.)
I think this stance was cemented just the other day in Munich when I dropped first my underwear and then my jeans into a puddle of water after showering in a stall that provided no place to change and no hooks to hang your clothes. There were about six giggling middle-schoolers applying their make-up at the communal sinks and I just hadn’t felt right gettin’ all naked in front of them, so I changed in the shower and paid for my modesty with a soggy outfit for the next few hours.
There are some really simple things that can make hostels fantastic, and just as comfortable and enticing as a hotel…
They’re already the best places to meet fellow travelers and they’re cheap. If only more of them would go the extra inches to make them slightly less miserable to live in – then I might stay in hostels for the rest of my traveling life.
If you’re like me and you find yourself slipping down the old lady rabbit hole of higher standards and grouchy complaints, or if you own your own hostel and you’re wondering how to woo all those AirBnB converts back to your establishments, then you might find these suggestions useful in looking for a hostel or improving your own.
(These are really, absurdly simple — yes. But you’d be SHOCKED at how often they’re missing.)
So here is what to look for in a hostel, if you’re kinda sick of staying in hostels…
1. Hooks and Changing Space.
Read above. They’re really cheap, and they make shower space a helluva lot more useful. They’re also great in dorm rooms to hang a nice shirt that you’re hoping the humidity will suck the wrinkles out of.
You can make coffee all day for very little money. If I can get coffee at my hostel, I’ll probably hang out there a lot more often and in doing so, purchase their food and alcohol more often if they sell it. Coffee makes me happy, thus making everyone around me a little bit happier, thus every hostel should serve coffee, all day every day.
Everyone needs to charge stuff when they’re traveling. One outlet in a room for six people doesn’t cut it. Actually, one outlet in a room for one person doesn’t really cut it. (Don’t make me choose between my hair dryer and my phone!) Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta, Colombia had the ingenuity to combine their storage space and their vast array of outlets by installing them inside the lockers, allowing you to charge your electronics while keeping them safe. AMAZING. Every hostel should do that.
4. Storage space.
This is a must. Storage space can really come in handy when your bunk mates look like they’ve been traveling by train – as in, not purchasing tickets and jumping on and off the back of freight cars. I probably carry a lot more valuables than I should, but hey, it comes with the job. And I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that my iPad and my camera are safely stowed in a locker when I’m sleeping or otherwise not protecting them myself.
On another note, don’t be like me. Storage space can come in handy at HOME as well, so ditch half your stuff before you head out and keep it safe and sound in storage (or at your parents if they’re nice like that.) Then you can buy more stuff on the road to fill your storage space with, the next time you travel! Win win here, people. Win. Win.
5. Ladders for top bunks.
You’d think that would be a given. Its not. All that joking about being an old lady aside, I’m still pretty darn agile. But trying to quietly mount a top bunk with no ladder without waking the person beneath me in a nightmare about roller coasters running off their tracks is pretty much impossible. Ladders are a must.
6. Comfortable common areas.
No one wants to hang out in the bedrooms that inevitably reek of stale sweat and dirty underwear. A few tables and chairs or even a cheap collection of bean bags for people to chill and talk without crouching on their beds and bumping their heads – it really brings a place together.
7. Outdoor Space
Not always possible, given the property, location and climate, but man its great to feel some sunshine on your face when you wake up in the morning… especially with a cup of coffee in your hand. I would almost be willing to sacrifice a ladder to my bunk bed for a nice patio. Almost.
We don’t like to admit it, but backpackers get lonely — even homesick sometimes, especially us frequently solo backpackers. When I start to feel that way, I’m much less likely to burrow into my hostel’s icky sheets and cry into my people while I listen to Michael Buble’s “Home” if there is a friendly, furry face to cuddle up to. I love hostel dogs, and cats, and I think most other people do as well.
Don’t laugh, I know you’ve done it too…
And on a FINAL note… Do not trust online reviews to tell you this information. People will rave or bitch about hostels based on silly arbitrary experiences that have little to do with whether or not you will be comfortable there. If you have the flexibility, don’t book until you arrive and walk into the rooms and common areas before you hand over your money. It might seem like a hassle to do more walking around with all that crap strapped to your back, but its much better than repacking and doing it later when you realize your hostel sucks.
What little things do you look for when finding a hostel on the road? Add ‘em to the list, in the comments section below!