Hostels have a somewhat unfair reputation for being the domain of rowdy college kids and drunken backpackers. However, this is far from the truth. Staying in hostels, as a family, can transform your vacation and add dimensions to it that you never thought existed otherwise. It teaches children so much and offers them opportunities that you could never find cramped inside a private room at a hotel!
Obviously, staying in hostels with kids requires a bit are forward planning to make sure you chose the right one and explain the situation to the little ones, but once these elements are sorted, staying in a hostel can become the experience of a lifetime for both the adults and children!
Cheaper Than Hotels
It goes without saying that saving pennies wherever you can is always beneficial for any family, especially for those who enjoy travel. Staying in hostels is, by far, the easiest way to cut down costs and ensure you get the most from you money. Booking out a whole dorm, meaning you get a private suite for your family, is almost always less pricey that booking family rooms in a hotel.
Farrah from travelmamas.com recently went hostelling in Germany with her children and was astounded by the savings she made. The hostel provided the family with a suite comprised of two separate rooms, with tables, chairs, storage and a private bathroom, as well as two smaller travel beds for the younger kids that were provided on request. She comments that “the cost for a private room (with four beds, shower, toilet and breakfast) was cheaper than staying in a comparable hotel.”
Meet New Friends
Staying in hostels is, by nature, a community activity. Whether you’re sharing a dorm with strangers or just bumping into fellow travelers at breakfast every morning, there are always sure to be a wide range of potential friends for kids and grown ups alike.
Even if there are no other families staying when you are, there are sure to be older and wiser kids who will be happy to chat to your children and maybe even give them tips on traveling! For any child, speaking to such a wide and eclectic range of people is sure to be inspirational and enhance their perspectives and understanding of life like nothing else really can.
Michelle Duffy from wandermom.com waited until she felt her kids were old enough before exposing them to the hostel environment, but once she did, the result was definitely positive! “At nine and 14, the shared-room, shared-kitchen environment of a hostel was a novel and fun experience for my boys,” she notes.
Learn about Different Cultures
Alongside meeting new friends, the other unique experience that hostels provide for your children is being exposed to different cultures from all around the world. At any one time, any hostel that you pick is sure to be filled with various nationalities. By encouraging your kids to chat to fellow guests, they can discover a whole world of different cultures and ways of life firsthand.
Similarly, hostel staff are usually more than happy to entertain kids and teach them about the city and country where they are located. Exposing them to different cultures in this way is sure to broaden their mind, increase there confident and even inspire their own wanderlust!
Alyson from kidstravelfamily.com definitely found this to be the case, mentioning that during their stay in a hostel in Kuala Lumpar, “The staff were lovely, they made a real fuss of the kids.”
One of the great benefits of staying in a hostel over a hotel or guesthouse is that it encourages guests to be independent. There’s no room service, no maids and no restaurant. If you want an evening meal there, you have to cook. If you want a clean room, then you have to clean.
Allowing kids to experience this way of living is a great way to ensure they’re continuing to develop their independence and are wiling to lend a helping hand when necessary. Similarly, spending time with other adults and making your own connections and friends within the hostel is a great way to boost confidence and independence.
Sarah Gilbert, writing an article for dailyfinance.com, was surprised and overjoyed to be able to point this out: “When I went for a run early in the morning, I didn’t worry about my son: He’d made a couple of responsible adult friends (one from Cuba, another from Australia) who would watch out for him if he woke up while I was gone.”
Home Away from Home
One of the most difficult elements of life on the road with kids is not being able to control your environment. This means elements such as diet, atmosphere and entertainment activities have to be, a large amount of the time, left to chance.
Fortunately, staying in a hostel puts some of the power back into you hands. Most hostels are equipped with a kitchen and, therefore, offer you the chance to eat home-cooked meals that can be customized to your kids needs.
Chaya from Vagabondjourney.com recently stayed in a hostel in Guatemala with their seven month old baby and has this to say on the benefits of hostel kitchens: “Eating in is a good way to save money and stay healthy. Cooking your own food is generally more sanitary than eating out.” And “If you have picky eaters, this can be an easy way to give them food they are more accustomed to as well.”
Similarly, hostels usually have common areas where it’s easy to set your kids up to entertain themselves for the afternoon. Whether you get out your favorite toys or set your computer up and stick on some Netflix, you can keep the children occupied and enjoy some adult time for yourselves. However,be sure to use a Virtual Private Network if you are going to use Netflix, as much of their content is blocked overseas.
Do you have any other reasons why hostels are great for kids? Or have any experiences that you can share to help other travelers? Be sure to comment below and keep the discussion going!