I really should title this post “What it feels like to be the Old Fart in the room” because in some of the hostels where we stayed in South America, that’s what I felt I was: the Old Fart. It was such a shock to feel that way.
In the past couple of years as we’ve been preparing for our family world trip, we’ve been trying out bits and pieces of our planned travel style from traveling with backpacks using public transit to, most recently, staying in hostels. We’ve done this to introduce our children to this style of travel (or remind them of it) and to verify to ourselves that it’s possible to travel like this as a family. This past April we did a mini (four-day) road trip in Ireland staying in hostels. From that experience here are four things to remember when planning to hostel with kids.
1. Hosteling With Kids – Yes You Can!
Sure, hosteling may be something you think of as something for young, single, twenty-somethings, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t enjoy this experience with children. The first step is to be sure that staying in a hostel is right for you and your children. I know I wouldn’t have attempted this when my kids were younger because they wouldn’t have settled at night-time and hence I wouldn’t have been comfortable or slept a wink. At nine and 14, the shared-room, shared-kitchen environment of a hostel was a novel and fun experience for my boys (I don’t think they realize yet that they’ve got a year of this ahead of them!).
2. Research Family Friendly Hostels
All hostels are not created equal and you need to do your research in advance. Read property reviews – and read in between the lines, if every review talks about the party scene that property may not be a good choice for your family. Many hostels have more room options than the standard single-sex dorm room configuration. Two, three and four-bed rooms are great for families – preferrably with an ensuite bathroom. Look for properties with laundry facilities, reduced lock-out hours and plenty of common space.
3. Hostel Prices Are Right For Families
It’s tough to beat hostel prices even if you’re paying a premium for a “family suite”. Keep in mind that prices are typically per-person, per-night rather than per-room which can mean that the total cost for a family of four may be similar to the room rate at a local three-star hotel. That said, the hostel’s kitchen facilities will help keep your budget in check.
4. Children And The Hostel Community
My kids do chores at home. We may fight over when and how they do them, but there’s a definite requirement that everyone in the household pitches in for regular tasks such as post-dinner clean-up and laundry. If we were staying in a rented house or apartment (as we have many times) I would expect my boys to help out. When we stayed in hostels it wasn’t a big deal for all of us to help keep the shared community and kitchen spaces clean – and the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic aspect of staying in a hostel added an educational dimension to the whole experience.
I’ve used HostelBookers.com and HostelWorld.com to research hostel properties. The booking engines on both of these website allow you to specify your room preferences which is a handy way to know if options other than dorm rooms are available. If you have a favorite resource for finding or booking hostel accommodations, do let me know by leaving a comment below.