Hostels are great for the budget conscious traveler, if you don’t mind sharing a room with four to 20 of your closest strangers. This type of accommodation offers more than just the bare essentials if you know what to look for when booking. Even with updated facilities, en suite rooms and brand new amenities like strong Wi-Fi in dorms (not just common areas), security lockers under or next to your bed, USB ports for charging built into the bunk (The Savoy in Galway has this…amazing) and free breakfast, there are a few things you can do to “hack your stay” and rest easy in a hostel.
- Pad locks – I like to travel with 2 combination locks. One, has a cable so that it fits into even very narrow openings and the other, a standard locker lock for the wider ones.
- Eye mask – This helps for the airplane or long train rides if you have difficulty sleeping when it is light out as well as when you are in a dorm room with 15 other people who either flip the light on at 3 am when they come in from drinking or shine flashlights as they try to read the numbers on the bed assignments
- Ear plugs – The little foam ones you roll between your fingers and stick into your ear or the custom made ones for your ear canal…whichever you choose, pack at least 2 pairs (in case you lose one or leave it behind). Even if you pack custom ones, it is a good idea to grab an inexpensive box of the foam ones for back ups.
- Outlet splitter – Always a good idea to bring along a splitter as well as your outlet converter. A splitter will allow you to plug 3 items into one outlet converter and not be “that guy” who commandeers every free outlet in the room.
- Outlet converter – An outlet converter that also has USB ports is a great idea to add to your bag. It allows you to plug in your phone, tablet and other electronics without taking up multiple outlets or every port on your splitter. You also get to be the favorite person in the room when a bunk mate misplaces their power adapter!
- Flip Flops – The best shower shoes. Really. Even clean showers carry athlete’s foot and other various germs. Wear them, love them…get them for $1 at Wal-mart. These are also great for when your feet are swollen from being on an airplane for hours and the last thing you want to do is wear shoes.
- Lightweight blanket – Yeah, most hostels will include linens. However, you might have a roommie who likes to sleep in the arctic circle in the middle of a Polar vortex with the bears, so a fleece blanket that packs down small is a good idea to take along. It is also a great addition for train rides when you want a little nap.
- Power strip – If you have a lot of electronics, and a splitter isn’t going to cut it, or you are traveling with a few friends, bring along a power strip! One outlet becomes 7+ outlets! Make sure that the power strip is also a surge protector and ALWAYS use the proper outlet converter for the country you are in!
- Dehydrated meals – Many hostels offer free coffee and tea in the dining hall or kitchen. While free breakfast might be harder to find, or may only consist of toast, cereal, fruit and juice, you may want to bring along some other stuff to eat. This option saves money as well as avoids allergens with the breakfast selection! Usually these dehydrated meal packs can be easily found at outdoor stores. They run $3 – $13 each depending on how many they feed, if they are organic or follow special dietary restrictions. For a 2.5 week trip for 2 people, packing 3 breakfasts, 4 lunch/dinner selections to share will ease some of the worry and also give you a more rounded diet without breaking the bank. I recommend Backpacker’s Pantry or Mountain House.
- Command Strips – Sew a loop onto the 4 corners of your shower towel and hang the command strips to the rail of your bunk. Hang your towel or other items to dry. If you are on the bottom bunk, this also allows you to create a “privacy curtain” without damaging the bed or bothering your bunk mate by tucking or tying your towel to their bed or mattress.
- Portable clothes line – Hook it to the bed, lay down a towel to catch the water (bring along one trash back to lay under the towel to protect the floor or your bed if you hang it INSIDE the bunk, and voila!
- Clorox/Lysol wipes – Along with hand sanitizer, these are a MUST HAVE. Wipe down your bed, the locker, shower, toilet, door nobs etc. Keep from getting sick while on the road. I wait until I’m the only one in the room (or at least it is just my group) to wipe down the common areas of our room, but it keeps everyone healthy.
- Book light – A book light or 2 are good to bring along, not just for reading on the airplane, train or in bed without disturbing others. These lights have a soft glow which will still suffice for searching for items in your luggage late at night, navigating to your bunk at 3 am without flipping on a light or blinding others with your flashlight on your cell phone. It also allows you to clip them to either side of your bunk and light your bunk without being so bright that you wake others. Certainly helpful when you have an early morning flight or train and you need to get your stuff reorganized and packed.
- USB powered fan – Just like a blanket is a good idea, a fan is too. If you have the space and the weight available to you, packing one that plugs into a USB port is a good idea when traveling in the summer or in the event that a dorm mate prefers to sleep in a sauna.
- Mesh bag – Not only great for washing clothing or separating out your dirty clothes from clean ones, but also great for hanging your shower toiletries while in a small shower stall with only one or two towel hooks!
So there you have it! A few items to help you “Hack a Hostel Stay” and make it feel a little bit like home, while still traveling on a budget!
“Keep your suitcase packed, your heart open and travel often, for the world is wide and adventure awaits!” ~ Emylee