Party, party, party is what most people think when they think of staying in a hostel on a trip. When the idea was first bought up as a way to save money while travelling it was a hard no for me. There was no way I thought staying in hostels with kids was a great idea.
- What is a hostel?
- Staying in family friendly hostels with kids
- Why are hostels for families a great option?
- Reasons why staying in hostels with kids is great
- 1. Kid friendly hostels allow them to talk to other people
- 2. They can trade stories with people much older than themselves
- 3. They can find their travel groove
- 4. Older people and other families stay in hostels
- 5. They discover all the reasons why people start travelling
- 6. Hostels offer incredibly helpful facilities
- 7. Location, Location, Location
- 8. There are kid friendly activities at friendly family hostels
- 9. Learning to give and receive
- 10. Insider knowledge from other travellers
- 11. You make a mess you clean it!
- 12. Some independence staying in family friendly hostels
- 13. Recognition of situations
- How can staying in a hostel with family help me?
- How do I pick a family friendly hostel?
- What do I need to take to a hostel?
- Awesome extra things a hostel can offer
- Booking a family friendly hostel tips
- General hostel tips for families
- Pros for staying in a hostel with family
- Cons of staying in a hostel with family
- Do we recommend staying in a hostel with kids?
Well, I was wrong. It turns out I was very wrong. Hostels have come such a long way since the party days and are now one of the top accommodation options for families travelling on a budget. I am sure there are plenty of hostels out there still aimed at that market, but if you pick your hostel well, you are in for a brilliant stay that accommodate families.
What is a hostel?
A hostel used to be low-cost shared accommodation where travellers who are on a budget or looking to connect with fellow travellers would stay. Normally you will find dorm room accommodation in a hostel with either single-sex or unisex rooms with storage lockers. The dorm room at a youth hostel is not suited to a family vacation.
Travellers would opt for this style of accommodation, especially if they are solo travelling or travelling on a budget. Many hostels have common rooms for meeting new people, fully equipped hostel kitchen to use, laundry and social nights. The dorm room at a youth hostel is not suited to a family vacation.
What does a hostel look like? – find family friendly hostels
A hostel for kids is no such thing but a hostel for families is great. What does a hostile look like? In a nutshell, a hostel these days can be very much like any hotel. A hostel room comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and facilities to choose from, much like a hotel room.
There will be private rooms there will be dorm rooms with bunk beds, some hostel rooms will have private showers, and others will not.
Can a family stay in a hostel?
While many people still think you can’t stay in a hostel with family, you absolutely can! There are so many families friendly hostels around the world that are more than happy to have you stay with them and experience their site. You will find other parents and many families staying in hostels to save money on travel expenses.
Staying in family friendly hostels with kids
As I have said above, young people would be known to stay in hostels for the party side of the accommodation. Now you will find that while you can still party, there are also many hostels that are marketed at families with private rooms.
With changing markets, more budget travellers of different ages, long-term travel trends and the rise in family travel, hostels have changed to include a family-friendly hostel room with private bathrooms, activities and common areas. In reality, many family rooms in hostels are like hotel rooms these days.
Why are hostels for families a great option?
Not only will you have an area to stretch out in like the common room, you can prepare some of your food favourite foods from home in the hostel kitchen, get some washing done and most of all connect with other travelling families. These are all things you can’t do staying in a hotel rooms.
We have found that there are so many positives from staying in a hostel with kids that we do try to stay in hostels now when we can. Here are some of the reasons why we have chosen to stay in a hostel with family on many occasions now.
Reasons why staying in hostels with kids is great
Let’s start with the basics and work our way from there. Some people who have travelled a lot will know some of the topics we will cover in this family hostel post and some will be first timers who need that extra guidance on staying in a hostel with kids.
1. Kid friendly hostels allow them to talk to other people
After travelling with your family for a while you can become extremely boring to one another. You already know everything about them and now they are just becoming really annoying.
When we stayed in a hostel with our kids, we watched as our daughters talked to other guests about what they had been doing and where they had been. Whoever they were talking to were sharing their own tales.
It was great to see our travelling teens interact with other guests and people older than themselves but on a level, they probably did not expect from girls their age.
2. They can trade stories with people much older than themselves
Willow can strike up a conversation with most people but Marley struggles. It surprised me that they both were happy to talk to other people about where they had been and where they were going. This also allowed us to join in the conversation too, which led to us talking about something other than Minecraft and YouTube!
3. They can find their travel groove
Staying in a hostel with kids also helped them think about places they would like to go when they are older. There were so many stories of places they had not heard of. They both had a great time learning about those places and they were even able to give some tips to other travellers! This social interaction is only possible when hosteling with kids in a friendly environment.
4. Older people and other families stay in hostels
I was surprised at the number of families that were staying in hostels with kids and the age of their kids, some older families, some younger.
There was a family with a small child that the girls fell in love with, and they chatted and pulled faces at her. This gave them the break from all the adult conversations they had been having with other travellers and us.
It also made us have a conversation about when we started travelling as a family and the reason why we decided to travel with the girls. It is great to hear why they think we travel and how they feel about it. Staying at a friendly family hostel was not just something we were doing!
5. They discover all the reasons why people start travelling
Not only were there families but there were older people staying there as well. Both the girls were very impressed that some had just started travelling later in life. They happily sat down and talked about what their life had been like before they started to travel and why they had started at such a later age.
Some had started after the death of a family member or they had decided to travel with their family as they had not been able to when they were younger It showed them how lucky they were to start at such a young age and your whole life can be filled with adventure not just in your younger years.
6. Hostels offer incredibly helpful facilities
After travelling for a little while, kids may crave some ‘normal’ from home. You can get all the jobs done at a hostel with kids, like washing and cooking. Hostels offer you the chance of sitting down at the dinner table with a meal you have put together can be a perfect way to go through what you have done during that day.
We find the kitchen table to be one of the places we speak freely to each other and staying in hotels can lack that at times or if you are eating out a lot. Staying in a hostel with kids can really let you have some of that normal family time especially if you are travelling long term with kids.
7. Location, Location, Location
Some of the best hostels for families are in the best places in the city center. Little legs can get tired, and there’s nothing worse than a tired, cranky kid. Being in city central locations, most hostels will also be in backpacker areas, so there is always a cheaper place to eat and save money.
This can be great for travelling families as most kids love simple meals if you don’t feel like cooking at the hostel for the night.
8. There are kid friendly activities at friendly family hostels
One of the best things about the hostels is the games that they had or the games rooms. The girls played bocce, giant Jenga and at one stage even let loose on the dance floor!
It was great to see them up and doing something rather than having their heads stuck in the iPads all the time when we were having some downtime downstairs. Yes, staying in hostels with kids was working out. Hosteling with kids, who would have thought?
9. Learning to give and receive
We also found that many places now have a bookshelf with books you can trade when you are staying at the hostel. While some of them were a little old for the girls there were some that I could swap out for too. Hopefully, as more travelling families stay in hostels with children the bookshelves will get more reading material for younger people.
10. Insider knowledge from other travellers
While you are chatting with fellow travellers you can pick up some of the best things to see in the city where you are staying. Many are happy to share great places to go for food or cheaper times to enter one of the top attractions.
You can always pick up some amazing local knowledge when you are staying in hostels with kids.
11. You make a mess you clean it!
Staying in a hotel is a great way to really relax on your holiday with kids but staying in a hostel with kids teaches them respect for other travellers. When staying in a hostel with kids they need to respect other travellers and you as well.
There is no daily cleaning service so while you are on holiday you also need to be on top of your own rooms and areas. It’s easy for us to fall down the rabbit hole of having a daily room clean at a hotel but at a hostel, with kids, you are all responsible for your room.
12. Some independence staying in family friendly hostels
As we were staying in a hostel with older kids this gave them the chance to have some monitored independence. For some people staying in a hostel with kids, it is not always safe to allow teens or older children to sit in a lobby and chat with fellow travellers.
Staying in a hostel with older kids gives you the opportunity for them to experience some monitored independence and allows them to socialise without you always being the centre of the discussion or looking over their shoulders. this may give them the confidence to speak to someone who they find interesting with you being able to step in when needed.
13. Recognition of situations
One thing parents all worry about is setting their ids off into the world and if they have the street smarts to be able to recognise situations that they need to get out of. Although this is also linked to the independence we mentioned above it is still one thing that you can help them identify to keep themselves safe.
Being able to express how they feel with all the different people around and having you guide them in how to deal with the situations is a great way for them to learn safety in an environment they may find themselves in later on in life. While this doesn’t happen all the time it will show them what their comfort levels are too.
How can staying in a hostel with family help me?
Hostels these days serve as a one-stop shop for all things tourists. Besides providing a room and place to stay most will have their own tour booking service. You may be able to hire bikes and scooters from them. They will certainly have maps and all the information you need about local public transport, where to eat and what to see.
While there are plenty of activities that are aimed at the younger clientele you can always ask for different activities and most of the time there will be a staff member more than happy to help you find something that the whole family will enjoy.
How do I pick a family friendly hostel?
There are a few things that you do need to consider when you are planning on staying in a hostel with your kids.
Check what facilities that hostel has
Some people are not really worried about what sort of facilities the hostel has as long as they have beds and a safe place to store your luggage. Things we look for in a hostel for families are:
- Private rooms
- Private bathrooms
- Fully equipped hostel kitchens,
- Laundry with drying facilities
- Location to a train station or any other public transport
- Manned front desk
Although we normally book a hostel room with a private bathroom we have stayed in hostels with a communal bathroom as well.
Know what sort of hostel accommodation you need
We are now travelling with teenagers so there are a few things that I look for that differ from a few years ago.
Staying in hostels with small children
- When the kids were younger, we looked for hostels with laundry and drying facilities
- You need to check that children of a certain age can stay in the hostel
- You may have to supply your own cot for a baby or toddler
- Are your kids old enough to stay in Bunk beds?
- Look for a hostel that doesn’t have too many stairs or an elevator because there is nothing worse than climbing stairs with a tired child after a long day
- Even though you may have a toddler who is toilet training, try to get an entire room away from the bathrooms. They can be noisy areas at times
Staying in a hostel with older kids
- I prefer a hostel with a private bathroom for our travelling teens
- Games rooms or a communal area are a brilliant way for them to meet new people
- Communal areas are also a great way to have some space from each other at the end of the day for young backpackers.
- Kitchens… are a great way to cook new foods, discover what others are cooking and try out local food
What do I need to take to a hostel?
It will depend on the hostel where you are staying. Some will have different family friendly options than others but for us, we always take
- Bathroom items like shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush
- Microfibre towel
- Thongs, flip flops if you are using a communal bathroom
- Lockable safe just to be extra sure if you need to secure added small items
If we are travelling by car this increases what we take to a hostel rather than if we were travelling by plane and have restricted luggage allowance If we are travelling by car we have a small container that we have all of our essentials in. This includes
- Washing detergent
- Long life milk
- Snacks from home
Awesome extra things a hostel can offer
There are some things that a hostel can offer that hotels just can’t. At times this is because of the location or the layout of the hotel. Some awesome things a hostel can offer.
- Discounted tickets. People staying at hostels are normally up for a budget stay so hostels can sometimes offer discounted tickets to attractions and even the theatre. Just ask at the desk
- Free tours. They may be just a walking tour around the city you are in but it can be a great experience for the entire family.
- Friends. Sometimes you will find like-minded travellers in a hostel that are more than happy for you to sit with them or have a chat.
What doesn’t a hostel offer
There are a few family friendly options that you just won’t get at a hostel, and that is why the price is smaller than a hotel. Some things you should not expect to receive at a hostel are:
- Daily cleaning services – you make the mess you clean it up!
- Changing your sheets. Normally if you want new ones you pay for them unless you are staying for a longer period of time in family rooms
- Free towels and a change every day. At some hostels, you have to pay to hire a towel. If you need a new one it may be at another cost
Booking a family friendly hostel tips
There are some things that we always do when picking a hostel to stay in with family.
Some of our top tips are:
- Read the reviews. Go back a few pages and get the feel of the place
- Check the website, look at the pictures
- Check for the hostel’s social media channels and see what they are doing on them. They can give you some great insights as to what is around the hostel and what they doing in it
- Ask in travel forums. Someone may have stayed there before and can give you some insight
- If you are in doubt you can go for a chain of hostels like the YHA brand which are in many countries. Many of these have strict procedures they must adhere to.
General hostel tips for families
There are a few things that we have noticed that we always try to do when we stay in hostels with kids. These are a guide to staying in a family friendly hostel and you may find none of them a problem at all.
*People are pretty good with small children around but things can get rowdy still
*Only book a hostel that suits your needs otherwise it may end up being a bad choice for you
*Sometimes you have to pay for wifi (in private areas) and towels
*Not everyone is going to be nice, polite or tidy just to accommodate families and young children.
*Take minimal items to the bathroom to limit what falls on the floor or gets left behind
*Take a small green bag preferably plastic with you to the bathroom when you shower to keep it all in order and save it from getting wet
*If you can leave behind things you might not need for the rest of the journey. Other travellers love it and it is a great way to pay it forward to other travellers
*Ask at the desk if they have deals on theatre tickets, public transport or anything else you might like. This can save you some money and time by getting them at the desk.
Pros for staying in a hostel with family
There are so many pros to staying in a hostel with kids that you will find that you may actually prefer to stay in them once you have tried it
- Some hostels are cheaper than hotels
- Locations are normally really central or easy distance to public transport
- You can connect with other travellers
- Travellers are always up for a chat about hidden gems, deals and places you can’t miss
- There is room to spread out for the entire family
- You can cook and do laundry in a hostel that has the facilities
Cons of staying in a hostel with family
Don’t get me wrong, we do love staying in a hostel with family but there have been some times when some of the other guests have made our time a little less than great.
- Not everyone is nice, polite, friendly or feels the need to respect others
- Sometimes there are only bunks for young children to sleep in
- Not everyone knows how to clean dishes really well. It’s always a good idea to check them before using them
- If you travel with young children there may not be a bath
Do we recommend staying in a hostel with kids?
For me, a room with a private bathroom is a better option. Having two girls in the family we are always off to the toilet, so I prefer a room with a bathroom so I don’t have to go with the girls all the time. We travel as a family of four so a room to ourselves is not usually a problem.
For us, staying in hostels with kids was really positive. We found that everyone was respectful when there were kids around. Swearing was kept to a minimum and there were plenty of apologies if they didn’t realise young children were around.
Maybe we were lucky with the groups staying there but for us and a sceptic like myself, we would not hesitate in staying in hostels with kids again…just with my own bathroom! Kid-friendly hostels do exist and are easy to find.
Larger families may not fit in a single room in youth hostels, you may have to considered staying in a dorm style shared room that may not have a private bathroom. If you don’t want to share a dorm room with others, you will need to book all the beds in the room. This will be an additional charge and cost you even more money.
We hope this article from us here at Wyld Family Travel inspires you to stay in a family-friendly hostel on your next trip. You can book the best hotel for traveling families at the Hostelworld website, first thing make sure you read reviews, see what other parents say before you book hostels.
You do not want to end up with shared bathrooms and no personal space. A hostel with a family room is a lot easier when travelling with kids.
For more amazing ideas on hostels, we’ve stayed at click through to our Hostels accommodation guide page for more brilliant inspiration.
More staying in hostels travel inspiration for your next family holiday
Content Creator/SEO Editor
Co-founder and SEO editor here at Wyld Family Travel. Bec has travelled to over 45 countries across 3 continents and is a journey with kids advocate. When Bec is not planning travel, she is creating content for our family travel blog or doing local community services work. You can find all of Bec’s detailed travel guides here on Wyld Family Travel and on other popular websites such as Lonely Planet.