Hostelling for the Not-So-Young

Maybe your friend is in Australia right now? Perhaps your daughter is backpacking Europe this summer before she starts college? Or, maybe your parents are driving the western states coastline? Chances are, hostels may be one their accommodation choices and it doesn’t matter what their age is …

Hostelling for the Not-So-Young (part one)

Reception area at a Paris Hostel - photo by Michael Dwyer

Reception area at a Paris Hostel – photo by Michael Dwyer

Running around the world with a backpack, jumping on trains and buses, and sleeping in hostels may seem like an adventure for college students on summer vacation. However, the traveler seeking culture, value and flexibility can be any age with any budget.

I learned to be a savvy traveler at the age of 20 on my first backpacking trip through Europe. By stretching my travel dollars, I feel my experiences were more satisfying. The skills I acquired taught me to respect different cultures and to engage the people I met.

Now, in my 40s, I still enjoy traveling on a budget using hostels. Travelers of all ages use them; and for the most part, they are clean, safe and inexpensive.

What are Hostels like today? 

Smart lockers make security easy at most Hostels - photo by Michael Dwyer

Smart lockers make security easy at most Hostels – photo by Michael Dwyer

The basics remain the same: Dorm rooms for men and women, shared bathrooms, kitchen area, and a common area to meet other travelers. At check-in, you’ll be given a key, room number and bed number. Many of the hostels now use a key card like hotels to enter the building after hours and to access your room – it works well.

Most of the hostels today have pay laundry, lockers, and Internet access. A simple, included breakfast was the standard 20 years ago; however, many hostels now offer additional dining options throughout the day. Don’t worry budget travelers, the common use kitchen is still available for you and is a wonderful way to make friends.

More and more, you’ll find private rooms, co-ed rooms and family rooms available so couples, children and groups can be together. Along with food, alcohol is also a common thing now being served in hostels around Europe and other parts of the world, but not in the United States (yet).

Visitors check-in at the  Hostel in The Loop Area of Chicago - photo by Michael Dwyer

Visitors check-in at the Hostel in The Loop Area of Chicago – photo by Michael Dwyer

What You’ll Need 

First of all, pack light and use a backpack. When I started traveling in the 1980’s, mountain climbing and camping packs were used to travel light and to be hands-free. Over time, the travel pack has evolved into an easy to use, comfortable option placing all your gear in one bag on your back. The kind with hideaway shoulders straps is airport-friendly and is what I use.

A sleep sack is very handy for use in hostels and is often required. Basically, it’s a bed sheet folded in half and sewed up like a sleeping bag; however, do not take a sleeping bag. I also take a pillowcase. Money belts are very popular for hostel travelers, as well as one medium bath towel to use in the shared shower areas.

Part Two covers booking your hostel, the benefits of using hostels and getting ready before you travel.

For more on European budget travel, read this Article.

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About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at


  1. Keiith 'Apparently i can program a computer ' Heeney says

    The answer to your question is no, you are never too old to use hostels. I like you did the inter-rail in 94 on a budget of 25 irish pounds a day. The people we met, the stories we heard brilliant. I have been using hostels since I was a kid (I prefer travelling within Ireland and Europe) for week-ends away, etc. The hostels from my time had no Wi-Fi, drinking etc. I don’t know if this is good at bad, but the basic premise cheap accommodations is brilliant. If I ever have children, I will introduce them to Hostels (an oige- the irish youth hostel association) Travelling within your own country or abroad should be available to everyone. You meet fasincating people and learn about cultures.

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