Have you stayed in a hostel or backpackers while travelling with children?
My preference for accommodation is always a clean, friendly mid-range hotel with a good common area (extra points if this has a cheap restaurant as well) where we can have some time away from the hotel room to play cards or do a quiet activity. However, if you are travelling on a budget then hotels in some major cities can be very expensive, have tiny rooms and no common areas. Enter the Hostel….
Things to consider for choosing a hotel vs hostel
I am going to use Singapore as an example in this post to provide context, and because I really love the hostel we use for any Singapore trips.
Check that the hostel allows children to stay and check any age restrictions. The refusal of allowing children to stay is generally due to the absence of private rooms for families to book. I have never pushed this with a hostel but if you want me to supply a pitchfork and light your torch in protest let me know. I just figure if they don’t allow children they have valid reasons and I am not interested in finding out why or pushing the issue.
What is your budget? This will be influenced by the location, but I try and stay under AUD$120 per night if possible when in cities such as Singapore, and around AUD$50 for other SE Asia locations. As an example, the hostel we use in Singapore (5 Footway Inn Project Boat Quay) is around AUS$110-$130 for a triple room with basic serve-yourself breakfast. You can find hotels for this price in Singapore but they will be small and might not be in the greatest location. You can of course find much cheaper hostels as well. Pick your budget and compare your options to find what works for you.
When searching for accommodation be mindful that many hotels/hostels in SE Asian countries will allow children to stay for free if using existing bedding even if you have specified the number of adults/children. If you are happy to bed share then this is awesome and saves money! But I don’t find sharing a bed with 2 adults and a sweaty 7 year old octopus that enjoyable. It can be really time consuming to scroll through the information of each listing to see the bedding configuration and whether extra beds can be added, and can give a false sense of cost if you have only just started your research. This is further frustrated by the fact that some search engines allow you to select “family rooms” but then just give you basic rooms that you can book 2 of. Try searching as though everyone is an adult and specify only 1 room.
Hostels are not always in the centre of the cities near the main tourist areas which could be a disadvantage. Or, you may love that the hostel is in a quieter area and surrounded by cheaper food outlets with a more local atmosphere. Check the location of the hostel and see if you will have easy access to public transport if the walking distance is not suitable for you. Think about where you want to stay and what works for you. One of the reasons I love Boat Quay area is that you simply step outside and you are ready to go!
The main reason I use a hostel in Singapore is the preference for a small room with a shared bathroom but a large common area, over a small hotel room with small bathroom and no common area. The common areas not only provide space, but can be really social and have a fresh atmosphere.
Most hostels have private rooms, or the option to book out a whole shared room. Make sure you understand what you are booking if you don’t want to accidentally book a shared room with strangers. I always book private rooms for, well, privacy, but am happy to share a bathroom.
Read reviews of hotels and hostels online to get an idea for their level of safety. Review if the neighbourhood sounds suspicious, any reviews of petty theft from rooms etc. Check out sites like Hostel World and TripAdvisor or other family travel bloggers for guidance. Also read reviews for whether the hostel sounds like a party location or is in an area with lots of nightlife = bad sleep and cranky kids!
One of my essentials is for breakfast to be included, or have the ability to prepare our own breakfast with a bit of space ( I cannot be trusted to eat a bowl of cereal on a bed if there is no table! Ditto for the child!). Keep in mind that breakfast at a hostel will be basic (toast, cereal, fruit) and you will need to prepare it yourself.
Hopefully this helps if you are trying to travel on a budget, but don’t want to end up in a super-cheap party central hostel!