As the travel season continues to ramp up post-pandemic, many will be trying to find ways to save money and seek unique experiences as they travel. One consideration is using hostels instead of a hotel. These hostels are not just for youth anymore-yes, that is their design and focus-but hostels are ready to host budget-savvy travelers of any age seeking a unique experience.
Hostels are affordable options for travelers simply looking for a place to lay their heads at night. Typically, they are built around common spaces such as Internet rooms, kitchens, and other gathering spaces. They also usually have laundry facilities that guests can use as well.
Add in bonus perks like complimentary breakfast, Wi-Fi, and a chance to meet fellow travelers from all over the world, and the hostel experience is one to be considered for the budget-minded traveler. Hostels are still more prominently used in Europe and around the world, but they are growing in popularity and number in the US as well.
While hostels got their reputation as being solely for youth or the young traveler, backpacking through Europe, this is no longer the case. According to guest data Hostelling International USA (HI USA )-the nation’s largest hostel brand with properties all over the US-at least 50% of their hostel guests are over age 30. This data was collected through surveys, membership profiles, and group contacts.
Michelle Hirscheld, Head of Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Management at HI USA, said, “It’s not unusual to see retirees sitting at the breakfast table across from 18-year-olds on a gap year or a family traveling with small children.”
She explained that even though the mission of HI USA references the young specifically, this doesn’t mean that older travelers shouldn’t feel welcome.
“HI USA’s mission is bringing people from diverse backgrounds together in one place, and age is just one of those many factors of diversity that you’re likely to find in our hostels,” she says.
Lola Bindel, 61, is a nomad who has been traveling around the country since Spring 2021. Although she normally lives in her van at campgrounds and RV parks, she recently took a trip to Mexico with her son and sister, where they utilized a luxury hostel outside Tulum.
The Mayan Monkey features a bar, a pool, free yoga on weekday mornings, complimentary breakfast with good Wi-Fi, and is centrally located to the ruins and other sites of Tulum. Bindel describes it as a resort-style hostel.
“I found the hostel Mayan Monkey from Google searches and booked it on Booking.com. There are three Mayan Monkey hostels on the Yucatan peninsula, and I would like to try them all,” she says. “I would definitely recommend it because for $19 a night, you get so much!” She and her adult son rented bikes at the hostels to ride to the nearby ruins and the beautiful beaches nearby.
Chava Dean, a hospitality and gig worker, uses hostels while on leisure travel or in between gigs all over the US and the world. She stayed in her first hostel in Israel at age 39 and in other locations, including Ghana, Germany, and North Carolina.
“I like staying in hostels as a way to save money-as paying over $100 per night would eat too much into my tight budget,” she says. “They can be a great way to meet people, find out about cool local activities, that are budget-friendly as well, and some include breakfast and have coffee available. Many have private rooms which are a bit more but can be great for some privacy if you have the funds and/or are traveling with someone.”
She found that some of them in Tel Aviv had specific age ranges-up to 30 years old-and notes the reviews will typically indicate if they are party hostels or lower key, for whatever atmosphere one is seeking.
Some properties are part hostel and part hotel, such as one in Frankfurt, Germany. She enjoyed the perk of having a restaurant and bar on-site catering to the guests.
Dean recalls another stay in Asheville, NC, in which the hostel featured individual rooms within an older house in a great location, with an option for guests to pay less to stay in a tent in the backyard.
“Though I was the oldest one there, I felt at ease as I think many of the guests are in a similar mindset-a unique place to stay for a lower cost, where you might meet some cool people to hang out with.”
Things to Keep in Mind
Hostels typically have shared showers and bathrooms, which are not en suite for either private or dorm rooms.
Check the hostel policies on age. Some have minimum requirements (no children) while others have maximum ages.
In dorm settings, guests may be required to strip the bed sheets and turn them in at check out.
Check reviews and feedback. Several hostel-specific sites, such as Hostel World, may provide the most information and feedback.
Don’t expect the perks or amenities of a hotel. However, laundry, free Wi-Fi, and access to a community kitchen can make up for that.
As the new travel world is navigated, hostels should be considered an alternative to a hotel for those on a budget.
They won’t have the creature comforts of hotels or, in most cases, private bathrooms, but the experience of meeting fellow travelers from all over the world and their cultures can provide a stronger overall experience. No matter the age, hostels welcome travelers to explore the world around them.