By Elaine Whelan
When was the last time you stayed in a hostel? I can only imagine the memories of your early 20’s swimming around in your head right now. Perhaps it was for a school trip, your backpacking adventure around Europe or even a boozy trip in somewhere like Prague. You’ve done a lot of growing up since then and surprisingly, so have hostels.
When most people imagine hostels they envision seedy bunkbeds in a dorm with strangers, 20 something year old backpackers partying into the early hours and dirt cheap prices that mirror the dirt cheap building. Not exactly a place suitable for children. Hostel’s past has given it a bad reputation in the present.
Now I have always been one for a bargain and because of this I am an avid lover of hostels. I have stayed in a number around the world but refuse to sacrifice quality for price. When children are involved, quality is essential. As someone who watched her mother bring her own bedsheets to even four star establishments, I could never stay in a dive.
Well this is no longer the case. Hostels worldwide have recognised the demand for affordable family accommodation and have adapted to suit these needs. Nowadays, ‘poshtels’ and boutique hostels are on the rise and in all honesty could put many hotels to shame.
Most families fail to explore the private and family rooms that hostels have on offer due to reputation alone. Well, this is a costly mistake as in modern hostels you can get hotel standard rooms for hostel standard prices. As well as that, most are decorated with modern art, crazy colours and interesting features which will have your kids fascinated by all the quirky aspects. Hostels also offer kitchen facilities to their guests, which can help banish the costly bills of eating out three times a day. It can also be a miracle for parents of picky eaters so that you can cater to their needs yourself. For large families too I think that hostels are one of the best options with their bigger rooms. Most hotel rooms cater to two to four people, not exactly ideal if you have more children in tow.
Here are some three family friendly hostel chains that will completely change your mind.
A&O are the world’s largest hostel chain with 23 locations around Europe in total. A&O are also one of the most family friendly chains available too. According to their website they take pride in being child friendly. In fact, children under the age of six can stay and eat for free. Family rooms are available that can accommodate four to six people, and in some locations family rooms can accommodate up to eight. In the Prague location, family rooms come with separate parent and children rooms that are connected by a door. In one room, the kids can enjoy the excitement of colourful bunk beds while in the other, parents can enjoy the privacy of a nice grown up space while still being able to access the children’s room without a separate key. Some of the locations provide a babysitting service while all of them provide a Kids’ Corner with toys, children’s books, and much more, laundry facilities, guest kitchens, as well as up to two cots and high chairs for free. On top of that there is table football, card games and pools available, with some hostels having slides and playhouses for your kids to explore. A&O prices are also something that the parents will love as a family room for four to six people and an all you can eat breakfast buffet is only €59 a night. Enjoy a family weekend in one of the 23 locations such as Venice, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam or Budapest for less in A&O Hostels. https://www.aohostels.com/en/
Another large hostel chain, Meininger has hostels in 17 different countries across Europe. Within seconds of being on their website you can find the family section clearly displayed. Meininger offers a “little guest, little prices” discount for families. Children up to the age of five can stay in their parents’ room and get breakfast free of charge. Children between six and twelve get a 50% discount on the room and on the buffet breakfast. 30% discount on the room price for all children up to the age of 12 and breakfast for the children is also included in the price. This discount on top of their already affordable prices will make family exploring a real possibility rather than a pipe dream. Similar to A&O hostels, Meininger caters to all family sizes both big and small with family rooms that contain three to eight beds, as well as offering cot facilities. Most of their locations also sport a guest kitchen and laundry facilities for all the snacks and washing every child needs in copious amounts. Meininger also offer play zones for children where they can play board games, pool or challenge their parents to a game of table football. In some of the sites you can even bring your pet along for an extra charge to really make your trip a family affair. Meininger hostels are always in excellent locations. In some cities there are more than one Meiningers, such as in Berlin where there are five or three in Vienna. Mostly the hostels tend to be close to city centres, however there are also a few that are close to airports that families can stay in if they have an overnight layover. https://www.meininger-hotels.com/
You will forget everything you’ve ever known about hostels the second you step into a Generator. Although Generators are on the higher side of hostel pricing, it is clear as to why. There are 13 Generators in Europe, with two of those being in Berlin and one in Dublin. Hostels are rampant in Europe however they are difficult to find in the states. In recent years however, the Generator Company have opened up two locations in America, one in Miami and one in Washington D.C. Prices for accommodation in America can be very high so staying in a Generator stateside can be a more affordable option for families. You honestly won’t even notice the difference between a hotel and a swanky Generator hostel as their buildings are design led boutiques. Your kids will be in awe of the design and quirky elements that you wouldn’t find in a normal hotel. Whereas Generators aren’t as focused on providing things like child friendly play areas their private rooms are still perfectly suited to families. I have stayed in the Dublin location on many occasions and have loved it each and every time. It is situated in Smithfield, beside the LUAS stop. Being roughly only five minutes on the Luas from Heuston Station and ten from the city centre, it is perfect for families wanting to stay in Dublin for concerts or matches but not be too close to inner-city traffic and bars. The rest of their locations are just as ideally situated so you and your family are guaranteed a great stay. https://staygenerator.com/
Hostels have truly transformed over the years. However, some hostels still cater to the backpacking partier lifestyle that we associate with them. The key to finding the right hostel is the same to finding the right hotel, research. Before you book a hostel, make sure that it caters to family needs with cots, family rooms and child friendly spaces. Some hostels have the word ‘party’ or ‘backpacker’ in their title so make sure to steer your family clear of these ones. Do your research to find the perfect hostel and your trip will turn out amazing. So next time you are planning a getaway with your kids don’t be afraid to add that extra letter to turn your hotel search into a hostel search. At the end of the day that extra letter can save you a lot of extra money!