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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 needed.
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
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.
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. Although you won’t find many hostels in the United States, they are quite popular in other regions of the world like Europe, Asia, and South America.
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
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. 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 on Trip Advisor from other travelers 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. If your little one needs to burn off some energy, find a nearby playground or park and let them run free and play.
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
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”. But 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.
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.
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This guide to staying in hostels with kids was first published in June 2019 and was updated in January 2022 for accuracy and current information.