This is a guideline for staying at hostels with kids.
WHAT IS A HOSTEL?
Hostels are a form of travel accommodation that allows you to rent a bed instead of a room. Some have rooms with just one bed and some even come with an en suite bathroom. However, the large majority are equipped with several bunk beds and a community [read: shared] bathroom. Think of the traditional dormitory and you’ll have pictured most hostels.
Hostels also usually have kitchen that either provides inexpensive community meals for purchase or allows you to make meals of your own [or both]. In line with their mission of community, they also usually have hostel social events for everyone to attend. Did I use the word community enough? If not: community, community, community. Hostels are meant to be a place of kinship and commonality; both of which are synonyms for — you guessed it — community.
THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT HOSTELS WITH KIDS
Family friendly hostels are a wonderful option for traveling families. However, there are a few important things to note.
Unisex Rooms & Bathrooms
Probably the most important thing to note for considering hostels with kids is that they are not always segregated by gender. The vast majority have co-ed bunk bed rooms. That means you might end up sharing a room [or even a bunk] with someone of the opposite sex.
Same goes for the bathrooms. They are usually also unisex and shared. Not to worry – the shower stalls usually have a divider to provide some privacy. The toilets are also usually stalls. However, a half-naked man [harmlessly] brushing his teeth at the sink is not uncommon. Family friendly hostels are usually more cognizant of this but it definitely doesn’t hurt to be aware.
Noise is also a concern when staying in a hostel with kids. Even family friendly hostels are filled with people from all over the world with different agendas from different time zones. There is a great chance people will be coming and going at all hours. There is also a good chance that you will have both a night owl and an early bird in your shared room. Or several of each. If you are traveling with young children or they are light sleepers [or even if you are], this can be a concern.
Security & Storage
Because of people coming and going, the security of your room at a hostel cannot always be guaranteed. Your door might not always be locked, someone might [drunkenly?] crawl into the wrong bunk, and it probably isn’t a good idea to leave your valuables out and about.
And unfortunately secured storage is often limited at the hostel. Some offer storage lockers at an additional charge but it is highly recommended that you pack light. It is also a good idea to bring your own combination lock to lock your belongings.
You won’t have to build your own furniture but you will probably have to do everything else yourself. Most hostels will provide your linen but you will have to dress up your own bed. Some only provide one set and charge for additional sheets if you need to change them during your stay. When staying at a hostel with kids – especially ones prone to accidents – this is something to consider. Additionally, there is no housekeeping so no one will clean after you and the kiddos. You will clear out your own trash, turn in your own dirty towels, and wash your own dirty pots and pans.
THE PERKS OF HOSTELS WITH KIDS
Now that all the basics are out of the way, let’s be real: the primary customers for hostels are usually older [college aged] students and backpackers. When you think of the word hostel, “hostels with kids” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
But that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that there aren’t family friendly hostels in the world. In fact, there are plenty! Some love kids and provide kid play areas or rooms designated just for families.
Also, there are many perks to staying in a hostel with kids:
- They are usually significantly cheaper than a hotel. When you’re balling on a budget, the cost of your lodging can make a huge impact to your overall budget. Some hostels offer beds for as little as $20/night. Be aware though, that this is a charge per bed, not per room. Add the total for your entire family and do a price comparison.
- Kids love the bunk beds! If you’re concerned about sharing a room and your family is on the small side, you can always book all the beds in a room. For example, you can book all 6 beds in a 6 bed room for your family of four. Just make sure all the beds are actually available. Alternatively, you can also target hostels with dedicated family rooms.
- Maybe it is the community environment but everyone is super social at hostels. It is incredibly easy to meet other people and even other families. You’ll meet all walks of life in a hostel and it can really help make your trip feel like a global experience.
- Having access to a full kitchen is worth its weight in gold. You can prepare snacks, meals, and bottles in the kitchen. Most have a fridge for storage as well. Just please note that it is shared so be aware of all the things that can come from that.
- When staying at a certain hostels with kids, you are supporting a not for profit. So you get to have lodging and support a philanthropic mission as well. That’s a win!
- They are usually significantly cheaper than a hotel. Yes, I know I already said that. BUT it bears repeating so throwing it out there again.
TIPS FOR HOSTELS WITH KIDS
You might have gotten the feeling by now that there are pros and cons to staying in a hostel with kids. But if you decide to try it out, first off yay! Second, we have a few tips for you:
- Stick to hostels with a hostel association like Hostelling International or the Youth Hostel Association. They have certain standards hostels are required to meet which will get you as close the ideal hostel experience as possible. You might even consider becoming a member of the association.
- Pay attention to the area the hostel is in. Most of the time, you want to stay in city center but if city center is also a party spot, it might not be the best idea when you’re staying in a hostel with kids.
- Speaking of party spots, it is probably a good idea to avoid the common areas during party hours. Folks will be gathering in the lobbies to leave for a party or social event and the last thing you want is for your kids to hear [and see] their idea of a good time. Plus, it’s also considerate towards them not to have your kids underfoot.
- READ. THE. REVIEWS! You’ll find some gems in the details and those will help you decide if it is a good option for staying in a hostel with kids.
- Book early! The good ones go fast. And if you’re trying to get an entire room, you’ll have a better chance of snagging them all of you book waaaaay in advance. So try to book as early as possible.
- Come prepared! Highly recommend you bring flip flops for the shower, a combination lock for your items, towels for your shower [they are usually at cost at the hostel], cash for miscellaneous items, and ear plugs if you’re noise sensitive.
FINDING A FAMILY FRIENDLY HOSTEL
So now that we’re feeling all geared up and ready to stay in a hostel with kids, how do we find a family friendly hostel? Luckily, the HI website has a comprehensive search feature on their page. You can filter by country, city, activities, facilities, and *tada* family environment!
Check each hostel individually to see their availability for your desired dates. Then narrow down your choices based on the rooms available, the price offered, the location, and the reviews.
Alternatively, you can browse the YHA’s directory by country and go to that country’s website to see their offerings.
If you’re in need of some inspiration, check out this list of family friendly hostels from around the world.
Have you considered staying in a hostel with kids? What’s your favorite family friendly hostel? Leave a comment below!