I love a good hostel. There’s something about them that make me really nostalgic for my first Europe trip. While I’ve switched to staying at Airbnbs as much as possible and while I also love to use my hotel points whenever I can, I’m happy to stay at a good hostel from time to time. I especially like to use them when I’m on a longer trip and want to save some money during part of the trip.
If you’re not familiar with what a hostel is it’s a type of lodging where you can pay per bed instead of per room. Some hostels also offer entire rooms the same way a hotel does but without the maid service and extra features. Sometimes bathrooms are attached to the rooms and sometimes they’re shared bathrooms off the hallway. There’s almost always a large kitchen available for use by guests as well as other common areas. Hostels are popular with budget travelers and can be a great option for solo travelers.
The only downside to staying in hostels is that they require packing a few extra items that you wouldn’t have to think about in a hotel room. Here are the things that I like to bring when staying at a hostel.
+ Lock – you can usually rent one but it’s worth having your own for the trip. I recommend these little guys. Here’s the deal, these locks aren’t the biggest baddest locks out there. But honestly, if someone wants to cut your lock off and they have something strong enough to get through this lock then they probably have a bolt cutter or something that is going to cut through any lock. Save the weight and bring a small lock that nicely doubles as a luggage lock and you’re good to go.
+ Mini flashlight – nothing is worse than coming back to the room at night when someone is sleeping and not being able to find your stuff without turning a light on. This little flashlight is so small that I forget it’s in my pocket (let alone notice it when it’s in my purse) but provides a great amount of light. I travel with it regardless of where I’m staying because it’s also great from a safety standpoint! Another alternative is to use your phone but if your phone is dead from a long day of use you’re out of luck.
+ Shower shoes – waterproof sandals are essential. I wear them in the showers but they’re also great for wearing around the hostel. Bonus points if they’re somewhat stylish ones that you would actually want to wear outside when you’re traveling during the warmer months.
+ Washcloth – washcloths aren’t provided and I’ve never seen them available to rent so if you want a washcloth be sure to bring one. See my note about travel towels below.
Recommended but not necessarily essential:
+ Ear plugs – I don’t always use these but I’ve never regretted having them in my bag just in case. I also don’t like sleeping with an eye mask but if you do then it never hurts to have one of those handy either.
+ Toiletry bag – if you don’t normally keep your toiletries (especially shower supplies) in a bag be sure to do so when staying at a hostel. You’ll be carrying your stuff into and out of the bathroom every time you need to use your toiletries so a bag is essential. One with a hook is a fantastic choice as shelf space is often limited or non-existent and your only other option might be the (wet) floor.
+ Hand soap – seems like an odd thing to bring but unfortunately I’ve stayed at some hostels that don’t provide hand soap in the bathrooms that are en-suites. If you have a sink in the actual room it definitely won’t have hand soap (usually you can find some soap in one of the hall bathrooms but I find it nice to have if the en-suite has a toilet in it). I have a 2 oz GoToob with hand soap in my toiletry bag just in case.
By the way, before my first trip to Europe I bought a travel towel thinking it would save me all kinds of money over renting one at all the hostels. Turns out some of the hostels had free towels (you can always double check on the website before booking) and I found the travel towel to be annoying. Since I like to shower in the mornings it was always wet when I needed to pack it up. It came in a mesh bag so I tried getting it back into that mesh bag and attaching it to the outside of my suitcase but then it never dried out completely. All in all, I don’t waste suitcase space on a towel anymore (except for a washcloth). I just rent them if necessary and don’t have to worry about a wet towel in the mornings.
For all you hostel travelers out there – anything else I’m missing? Leave a comment below and let me know!