I am currently embarking on my first hostel booking experience. I am traveling to Vermont to see my sister the first week of September and from there driving up to Montreal, Quebec for a long weekend. Since both of us are nearly broke and most certainly on budgets, we are going to stay in a youth hostel in Montreal. While hosteling remains more popular in Europe and other countries, Americans are starting, with more and more frequency, to turn to youth hostels to make traveling world-wide budget-friendly. I am really excited at the prospect of walking into a completely foreign building with beds, sleeping amongst “strangers” (who are really fellow kin and travelers), and befriending them.
Here’s a list of what to consider when choosing a hostel to book.
1. Location– I think this may be the biggest factor. I was going to list budget first, but really, I don’t mind forking over a few more dollars a night if it means saving money on a commute into the part of the city I want to see. Everything I’ve looked into so far is right where travelers in for a long weekend would want to be: near all the restaurants, shops, boutiques, theaters and museums. If I’m going, I want to be right up in the action, at least for this trip, anyway. Lots of hostel websites, one of the best being, predictably, http://www.hostel.com, will include how far away they are from central hubs of activity you might be interested in.
2. Price- You hardly feel like haggling over things like price when you’ve just made a long journey to a foreign city. Try to call the place you booked at to confirm any details, like price, before you book. Some of the lodging charts could be confusing and may also have a few hidden costs, like if you prefer to have a private room rather than bunking in a co-ed dorm (up-charge of up of at least $10/night). I’m looking for things around $20/night. Montreal is not exactly the cheapest city to hostel in. Just keep your eyes out for the deals!
3. Amenities- Do you prefer a private bathroom? Having grown up one of six kids, I’m fine with sharing a bathroom. I’ve done it my whole life. I’ll come equipped with flip-flops to ward off the funkies in the shower, but that’s about all. How ’bout the sleeping situation? Would you rather bunk with all girls, or would you rather sleep co-ed? How about a private room? Is free wi-fi something that’s important to you (it should be if you plan on doing any social media while on your trip). How about a free breakfast everyday? Community kitchen? There is a lot to consider. I may go the easiest, cheapest route of co-ed dorm, community kitchen, shared bathroom, hope for free wi-fi, and be okay with cooking meals.
4. Reviews- If you are a savvy internet user, which most of us are in this day in age, you read Yelp reviews on restaurants you might want to visit, or look at the critics’ reviews before going to the movie. Same should apply for hostels. While you can’t take everyone’s reviews verbatim- “Everything was terrible, from the decor to the food, to the service!”, there is a lot of fair and honest people who review on such websites (as far we know). You absolutely can’t rely on everything the reviews say, but sometimes you do get some good heads’ ups like the continental breakfast was very skimpy and there were no locks on the bathrooms or the front door. THOSE are not details hostels would advertise. Plus, reviews are a good forum to connect to to a person for correspondence. You can contact them directly about their experience in the review section alone! And, last but not least, reviewers love to link to other cool stuff; either a restaurant you just HAVE to check out, another, possibly more accommodating hostel, a link to an activities calendar for a particular neighborhood, the list goes on and on.
There’s a lot to consider when considering a hostel, but know this- all of it is fun and makes you CHOOSE your vacation. Hotels have fixed or standard accommodations but are a bit pricier. Instead of thinking of it as traveling on the cheap, consider it a must-have experience- living with other young kids looking to have fun and explore. I definitely can’t wait to hostel through Montreal. Where was your favorite place to stay in a hostel?