I work for HI USA because I love what our hostels offer: a chance to meet interesting people from around the globe, to learn a bit more about the city I am visiting in a fun, off-beat way, and to get the best value.
I’ll admit, sometimes all I want to do is turn on the TV and put my feet up, and for those times I will book myself into a hotel. But I’ve been bored and lonely in 5-star hotels, while having the best day ever in a hostel for $25 a night. So how do I choose where to stay?
Here are 5 ways I know when I absolutely must stay in a hostel:
1. I want to be right in the middle of things. Hostels are all about the vibe created by an always-changing community of travelers in a unique, shared space, and I want that social experience especially when I am traveling solo. I look for hostels that offer programs and activities to help guests mix with each other and discover their surroundings together in an easy way. (Count HI USA as a leader!)
2. We want to be with other people. Some couples (and families) do great in hostels, while others need more space. Sleeping arrangements include dorm rooms for couples, although separate private rooms are available at hostels in increasing numbers. (Can’t find them on booking engines? Look on hostel reservation pages; room options are not always listed up-front). The best couples/family rooms in the US? My choice is the HI Montara Lighthouse hostel, with rooms overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
3. I’m looking for value. For the solo traveler, I find hostels continue to be a much better value than Priceline or Airbnb listings for the location you get. With hotel rooms capable of gobbling up so much of a travel budget, my preference is to spend mine on food, sight-seeing, and entertainment when I am awake, rather than on a room where I am asleep most of the time. And with my HI membership card, I can save about 10% on most HI hostel stays.
4. I can book into a terrific hostel. Like anything else, the best hostels can fill up first. I check on-line reviews (I usually look for an 80%+ rating) and personally choose those with the HI logo when I can. HIhostels.com and HI-USA.org booking sites carry the most extensive listings of HI hostels and all meet quality standards.
5. I have “inside information”. My best source for places to stay is other travelers whom I meet along the way. Of course being HI USA CEO also has its advantages: I regularly receive listings of the world’s top HI hostels based on guest ratings. So, if I was traveling now, I’d definitely try to book into these hostels, currently ranked 2015 top three overseas: Reykjavik (Iceland) Downtown (#1 rated in world); Reykjavik Loft (#3); Kyoto (Japan)-Utano (#5). Within the US, the three top places to stay are: HI-Sacramento (#2 in world); HI-San Diego Point Loma (#4) and HI-Chicago (#6).
With the summer revving up, travel planning is on many minds. What do you think? When must you absolutely stay in a hostel? I’d be interested in hearing from you!