Youth hostels are giving older travelers a bigger bang for their bucks
The rise of mature backpackers means that hostels are no longer the preserve of 20-something backpackers. Hostel owners are now realizing that they can upgrade their facilities to cater to a wider audience.—Seth Sherwood
Regardless of whether or not you live on a fixed income, unless you're Donald Trump, nobody should want to spend more money than they have to for something they can get cheaper elsewhere. With the price of a night's lodging on the rise at even moderately priced hotels, older travelers are seeking an alternative, and some have found it in youth hostels.
Now don't let the word "youth" turn you away. The "youth" part has been dropped from the name because hostels aren't just for youth anymore. Hostels have been attracting increasing numbers of older adult travelers who are discovering what the youth have known all along— hostelling is a great way to see the world and not spend a fortune doing it (Sorry, Mr. Trump). Although still a primary destination for a younger generation, hostels are attracting an older clientele with their ideal locations, low cost and convenience.
I'll let you in on a little secret. I am a converted hosteler. Those who know me may be shocked that I would even consider sleeping in a hostel environment (pun intended). To be honest, when I first decided to try hostelling, I was somewhat apprehensive about what to expect. But I didn't go in cold, and neither should you. I did my homework, looked at websites, and read hostel reviews prior to booking. During a trip to Chicago, I actually checked out of my hotel early just so I could spend one night in a hostel to try it out. My first night at the Hi-Chicago hostel, the staff served up a complimentary meal of Chicago-style hot dogs. From that point on, I was hooked on hostels.
Whatever misgivings, reluctance or fears you may have about hostels, I urge you to keep an open mind. Hostels have grown up, and more importantly, spruced up, as travel writer, Alex Schechter, points out:
Forget the typical hostel clichés of cramped rooms, messy bathrooms, and lackluster design. As hotels show across-the-board improvements in their amenities, public spaces, and digital capabilities, so too are hostels catching up to the times with contemporary designs, upgraded facilities, centralized locations, and dedicated concierge staff.
Forget about the glam and glamour because you won't find it in most hostels. What you will find are clean, comfortable, safe accommodations in some great places for far less than what most hotels charge. Hostels offer a dormitory style sleeping arrangement, which means you could be sharing a room with other people (Sound a little creepy? I thought so too, at first). Room sharing configurations can have as few as four or as many as 12 beds to a room, depending on the size of the hostel. But if room-sharing bothers you, many hostels also have private rooms, which will cost you a little more. If you are traveling with family members, you can all share the same room or suite. Unlike a hotel, you won't get room service in a hostel. Instead, most hostels have fully equipped kitchens for you to store and prepare your own meals. Some hostels include a continental breakfast in the room charge, or may have an on-site cafe where you can purchase meals. These comments are from a veteran hosteler:
I was quite anxious before I had stayed in a hostel for the first time. I was concerned about the safety of my belongings and how easy it would be to meet people in each one I stayed. But the more I traveled, the more I realized hostels really are for everybody. They’re for people from all social backgrounds, from all parts of the world, all walks of life and all ages. If you’re concerned that your age puts hostels out of your reach, I’ve two words for you – don’t be.—Colm Hanratty
If you like making new friends, hostels are a great way to meet travelers from other countries. On a recent visit to New York, I stayed at the Hi-New York City hostel where I met Marie from Martinique and Virina from Germany, who I gifted with a copy of the New Testament. Both women are staying in hostels as they travel throughout the U.S. I also met Ben from Ghana. I didn't see my roommates very much, but I do know they were from Brazil, Australia and Sweden. For their part, hostels try to foster a sense of community among the guests through organized activities like city tours, pub crawls, comedy nights, movies and pizza parties. Participation is voluntary.
There are many hostels located in cities throughout the U.S. and around the world. Think of someplace in the world you'd like to go. You might be surprised to learn that there is at least one hostel there, maybe more. An easy way to find out is to do an online search at Hostelling International and Hostelworld, two of the largest hostel booking and membership sites. Between these two websites, you'll find thousands of hostel listings in places like—New Orleans, Miami Beach, San Diego, London, Paris, Portugal, China, Africa, The Netherlands—just to give you an idea of what's out there.
Well, I've just about said all that I can on the subject. It's now up to you to decide if hostelling is for you. As for me, I'm off to book my next hostel adventure in Miami Beach. Until next time, Hostel la vista, baby.
When you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go.—John 21:18 TLB