Traveling with kids not only adds an extra layer of stress, it also comes with added expenses. Paying for an extra plane ticket, train ticket, or bus ticket, plus meals for an extra person, admission to attractions and souvenirs; it can all add up quickly.
If you are a family with multiple children, finding a hotel room or apartment large enough to sleep your entire family can also be a challenge, or at the very least, yet another costly expense.
But hostels can offer families an inexpensive solution for their lodging needs.
This guide to staying in hostels with kids offers tips, guidance, and advice for finding family-friendly hostels and staying in hostels as a family.
Staying in hostels with kids can be particularly beneficial in expensive destinations. When we traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark with our daughter, I had a minor anxiety attack when I saw the price for hotel rooms near the city center.
We were traveling on a moderate budget, as many families do, but being in one of the most expensive regions of the world was quickly going to eat away at our budget. So we opted to stay in a hostel instead of a hotel to save money.
That was our first experience at a hostel since becoming parents. While some parents may worry that staying in hostels with kids isn’t an option, we are living, walking, traveling proof that it is totally doable!
In fact, we have met numerous other families staying in hostels, as well.
What is a hostel?
Hostels are a budget-friendly lodging option that require sharing at least some common space with other travelers. At most hostels you can rent a bed (often a bunk or a pod) in a shared room, similar to a dorm room.
If you book a bed at a hostel, you’ll be assigned to a room along with other travelers, and you will share a bathroom with them during your stay.
Most hostels have other common areas including kitchens, lounge areas, and laundry rooms.
They are intended to be social atmospheres and can be great for meeting other people, particularly if you are traveling alone.
Types of Hostel Accommodations
When most people think of hostels, they think of rooms with multiple beds that sleep numerous people. But many hostels offer other kinds of accommodations, as well.
If you’re planning to stay in hostels with kids, it’s important to know exactly what you’re booking.
This is the most common and cheapest type of accommodation in a hostel. In a shared room, you are booking a bed in a room with other travelers. Some shared rooms sleep about 8 people, whereas others may have multiple sets of bunk beds and accommodate a dozen or more travelers in one room.
Shared rooms in hostels also have a shared bathroom. While some hostels might have one shared bathroom per room, others have one bathroom, with multiple toilet and shower stalls per floor.
Female Only Dorm / Male Only Dorm
With the rise of solo female travel, there has also been an increase in the number of hostels that have specific dorm rooms that cater to female travelers only. Additionally, those same hostels offer male-only dorm rooms.
If traveling as a family with a spouse and/or kids of different genders and booking a shared room at a hostel, you’ll want to make sure the dorm rooms aren’t separated by gender.
Coed dorms, or mixed dorms, are for people of all genders. They are shared dorms, typically also with bunk beds, but it will be a mixed group of people, male, female, and nonbinary.
Much like a hotel room, some hostels offer private rooms that can sleep anywhere from 1 or 2 people to 8 people. Some private rooms also have private bathrooms while others still have a shared bathroom.
Private rooms in hostels are much easier and more convenient for families staying in hostels.
Capsules / Pods
Capsule hotels or Capsule hostels are particularly common in Asia, but you can find them in Europe, as well.
This type of lodging is a private bed, or quite literally a capsule or pod, with a door or curtain to your bed.
While they are roomier than you might expect, if you are claustrophobic at all, you might want to reconsider this type of hostel lodging.
Other hostel areas to know about
Although hostels are traditionally less expensive than hotels, that doesn’t mean they don’t offer just as great of an experience. Many hostels offer cool amenities like rental bikes or cafes near the lobby or entrance.
If the sight of a stranger brushing their teeth next to you while you wash your face in the morning weirds you out, then you’ll want to look for a hostel with a private room and a private bathroom.
Most hostels have shared bathrooms. While some of them may be gender specific others are not. The toilets and showers are in stalls with locks, but the sinks are generally laid out like a public restroom.
One of the best things about staying in hostels for families is the ability to cook your own food. Most hostels have a full kitchen with dishes and cooking utensils.
Be sure to clean up after yourself, wash your dishes, and bring your own groceries.
Another benefit of hostels is that they usually have laundry areas, so you can wash your clothes during your trip.
This is especially great for those who like to travel carry-on only or are taking a gap year and traveling as a family long term.
The lounge areas vary from hostel to hostel. Some have game rooms, others have theater rooms, and others offer a cozy living area with couches, chairs, and tables where people congregate and get to know each other.
Our experiences staying in hostels with kids and what you should know before you book
Staying in hostels with kids can be a positive experience for the whole family. Not only is it easier on the budget, but the social aspect of a hostel can enhance your trip.
Because hostels are a popular lodging choice among young backpackers, your children will see and possibly interact with young adults traveling independently.
This can be a valuable learning experience for your kids, and one that could leave a lasting impression on them.
As a parent, I want to raise my daughter to be strong and independent. So naturally, seeing strong, independent young women traveling the world fearlessly on their own is setting a positive example for her.
Tips for staying in hostels with kids
Although staying in hostels with kids is doable, there are a few things to consider when booking your stay.
Opt for a private room
As previously mentioned, many hostels offer the option of a private room. You may share a bathroom and other common areas with other travelers but your sleeping space is private.
Many private rooms also have a private bathroom and shower, so the experience is similar to a hotel, yet typically is less expensive.
In my opinion, this is the best and safest way to stay in a hostel with kids, particularly if you are traveling with young children.
If you are traveling with older kids or teenagers, staying in a shared room is an option, but with a young child I always opt for a private room.
Do your research on the hostel
Let’s face it, not all hostels are what I would consider family-friendly hostels.
Many have a party vibe and will be filled with drunken 20-somethings returning to their hostel bed at 4 a.m. Drunk people can be loud, unpredictable, and disrespectful. That is NOT the example you want to set for your kids.
So, do your research first before booking a family stay at a youth hostel.
Read reviews from other travelers on Tripadvisor, Booking.com, or whatever booking platform you prefer and filter your results to specifically read reviews from families.
If there aren’t any previous reviews from family travelers, this may be a sign that the hostel isn’t kid-friendly.
Another red flag is if reviewers mention how close or convenient the hostel is to bars and nightlife. Staying in hostels with kids? Yes. Staying in hostels in a bar district with kids? That’s a big no.
SEARCH FOR THE BEST FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOSTELS AND HOTELS HERE.
Practice common hostel etiquette
Kids can be noisy. They like to run, exercise their vocal cords, and play. But as annoying as the loud, drunken 20-somethings can be at 4 a.m., a crying baby or a rambunctious 6-year-old jumping off the top bunk at 7 a.m. is equally annoying to other travelers.
Keep the noise level to a minimum and respect the fact that other travelers may not really like kids, regardless of how adorable your little one probably is. The same rule applies to common areas like lounges and kitchens.
Kids are hard to control, especially strong-willed toddlers, but that doesn’t mean you should allow them to run amok in the dorm room, lounge, or living area at a hostel.
If your little one needs to burn off some energy, find a nearby playground or park and let them run free and play for a while before heading back to the hostel.
Don’t expect others to change their behavior because your child is with you
There are a lot of places in this world that cater to families. Hostels aren’t necessarily one of them.
Although staying in hostels with kids is easy to do, and there are plenty of family-friendly hostels, don’t expect others to cater to your particular travel style.
Other travelers may not think to watch their language, sensor conversations for little ears, or smoke further away from outdoor areas where children are sitting or hanging out with their parents.
Your little ones may hear or see things in the common areas that you didn’t particularly want to expose them to yet.
Respect other people’s space
This is common hostel etiquette, but when it comes to staying in a hostel with kids, you and your children need to respect other people’s space and belongings.
Kids don’t always understand the concept of personal space, so parents need to be extra vigilant.
Whether staying in a shared room, or out in the lounge areas, kids shouldn’t be allowed to touch other traveler’s bags or belongings.
It also means making sure your kids pick up their belongings and don’t leave a mess in common areas.
Mark your food
Similar to staying in an Airbnb vs a hotel, one of the advantages to staying in a hostel with kids is access to a kitchen, or at least a microwave and refrigerator to make easy meals.
This definitely helps you save some money and can also come in handy if your kids are picky eaters.
Being able to prepare and store food that your kids will eat means you aren’t constantly on the hunt for a McDonald’s or a similar restaurant with “kid food”.
However, if you plan to keep anything in the refrigerator during your hostel stay, make sure you label or write your name on the container. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting your food tossed or eaten by someone else.
Bring Flip Flops
When staying anywhere with a shared bathroom, you will want to bring a pair of flip flops or slides with you.
Whether you use them just to walk to the shower or keep them on during the shower, you will want an easy pair of shoes to slip on while you are in the shared facilities.
FAQs about staying in a hostel with kids
Naturally, if you are researching staying in hostels with children, you likely have a few other questions, as well.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about family hostels and staying at hostels with a child.
Can families stay in hostels?
Yes! In most hostels, families are welcome. However, you’ll want to do your research before booking. Some hostels do not allow children and even have an age limit, prohibiting older adults, as well.
While that is not a common scenario, it’s important to research before you book a hostel stay with kids.
Do hostels have age limits?
Some hostels do have age limits. In fact, many hostels brand themselves as “youth hostels”, specifically for young budget backpackers. However, you will find many hostels around the world that are great for family travelers, also.
Are hostels safe for families?
Hostels are typically safe for families, but if safety is a concern, definitely consider a private room at a hostel instead of a mixed dorm.
Where do you book family-friendly hostels?
So far, we have booked all the hostels where we have stayed on Booking.com. But you can also find family hostels on TripAdvisor, or HostelWorld.
Conclusion: Should you stay in hostels with kids?
Staying in hostels with kids isn’t for everyone. In fact, even without kids hostel life isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But staying in hostels with your kids is a great way to expose them to other travel styles.
It ultimately expands their horizons just like world travel itself does. Whether you prefer high-end luxury hotels, hostels, or something mid-range, where you stay is a personal choice.
If the price is right and it affords you the opportunity to visit a place you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, don’t shy away from staying in a hostel, even if you have your kids in tow.
Because in the end, what matters most are the places you visit, not the places you stay.
The time you spend together as a family and the experiences you have on your trip will ultimately be what you and your kids remember.
Like it? Pin this guide to staying in hostels with kids!
Have a question or comment about staying in hostels with kids? We’d love to hear from you (and help out if we can). Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Did you know…
When you make a purchase or book hotels, tours, or other travel services, through our links, we receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We only EVER recommend service providers, websites, or products we personally use when booking our own travels. Your support enables us to keep producing helpful travel content. Thank you!
This guide to staying in hostels with kids was first published in June 2019 and was updated in May 2023 for accuracy and current information.