Hostels with kids? Honestly, at first the thought terrified me. I had never stayed in a hostel before. In my head, they were cheap, dirty old buildings full of loud, drunk 20 something backpackers. Definitely not a place you want your kids……. or that would want them for that matter!
It wasn’t until I started looking for accommodation in London that the idea of staying in a hostel really surfaced. We were going to be arriving in the middle of summer and I was only booking about 7 weeks in advance. Sure enough, most places big enough for our family were booked out and those that were available were ridiculously expensive. I started to panic a little. As I searched and read and researched all manner of travel sites and blogs, desperate to find a way to stay in London on the (semi) cheap, one thing kept coming up – hostels. And it wasn’t just singles and couples recommending them. Families were. Big families with young kids like ours! I started to get excited.
It turned out there were loads of hostels in and around London. They had great rates, especially considering the time of year, and better still, almost all of them had family rooms! Availability was a little limited, but it didn’t take long at all to find one for the dates we needed. We booked it immediately. I can’t tell you how relieved I was!
And so began our love affair with hostels……..
As soon as we arrived at the YHA Thameside, on the outskirts of the city, we knew we had made the right choice. The place was warm and welcoming, so much so that after arriving hours before check-in, wet from walking through the rain, we were given complimentary hot chocolates and invited to wait in the lounge while they finished preparing our room!
Our room was basic, but clean and comfortable. It comprised 3 sets of bunks and our own toilet and shower room. There was plenty of room for our porta-cot and luggage and we even had a lovely view of the neighbourhood from our window. As well as a lounge/recreation room, the hostel had a communal kitchen and laundry, both of which we made use of, and a restaurant which served a buffet breakfast and some basic dinners at very reasonable prices.
We stayed for 2 nights and were extremely satisfied. So much so that we stayed at this hostel 2 other times during our 10 weeks travelling the UK and Europe. Each time we had a different room, with a slightly different layout, but each was just as comfortable and liveable as the other.
After this experience we were excited and eager to continue ‘hostelling’. While we didn’t stay in any hostels in Europe, purely because we found such great, affordable accommodation through AirBnB, we did stay in several others across England, including YHA Holmbury in Dorking, south of London; YHA Ambleside in the Lake District; and Euro Hostel in Liverpool (formerly Hoax Hostel). Each time we had either our own family room, or two next to each other. For some we had ensuites and others we shared a bathroom, which was no bother at all. They were always clean and well kept. Rates were between £50 and £80 per night for the whole family. ($100-$160 AUD approx.)
Every hostelling experience we have had has been a positive one. We have never felt out of place or unwelcome having children with us. We have never felt unsafe or uneasy either. We have never come across any ‘drunken’ behaviour, or even been bothered by partying or noise. In fact, through staying in hostels, we have met many friendly and interesting people who have enriched our experience. That said, I have no doubt that some hostels are ‘nicer’ than others and I am sure some would be less appropriate for families than others. As with everything, a bit of research and common sense will help you decide which will be more suited to you and your family.
Ultimately, staying in hostels with kids allowed us to have a base right in the heart of a city and save a bucket load of cash in doing so. I am so, so happy to have discovered this alternative family accommodation option and not only highly recommend it to any travelling families (especially those on a budget and/or with multiple children) but I am also super excited to stay in many more hostels with my family in the future, all over the world!