The Five Yups and Four Nopes to hosteling over age 50

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If you are traveling on a budget, hostels really are the best deal going for accommodations. Hostels are almost universally less expensive than traditional hotels and B&Bs and are a great way to meet fellow travelers to network and share tips. Many have already gone to that sight you are planning to see the next day and can offer inside information on what to expect. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world and really isn’t one of the main reasons many of us travel in the first place?
pexels-photo-721169.jpegThe problem is as we get older we feel we might have ‘outgrown’ the hostel. What would we have in common with a bunch of rowdy twentysomethings? And who wants to sleep in a dorm room at 50? Maybe it really is something we outgrow. But if I’m being honest I still miss those times. Back in the ’80s when I first traveled abroad, hostels were my mainstay. I slept in hostels from London to Jerusalem and universally enjoyed the experience. I never traveled abroad again until my thirties and by then I felt too old for the callow hostels and opted for the more staid B&Bs. While I did enjoy the solace of my own room I missed the camaraderie and homeyness of the hostel.

But can you really go home again?  Surprisingly and for me gloriously the answer is yes. Hostels are evolving with the graying population. Many offer private rooms with en suite bathrooms that can offer the perfect balance solitude and sociability. More and more seniors and soon to be seniors are re-discovering the joys of hosteling. In fact, many hostels a discount off their already low rate for those over fifty. So yes you can hostel, but should you? For that, I offer the 5 Yups and 4 Nopes of hosteling after age 50.

Yup Number 1 You’ll save beaucoup bucks

Hostels are always your best bet in savings (aside from maybe couch surfing and Air B&B) and your savings extends beyond having a bed for the night. Most hostels have kitchens where you can cook your own food or even better have communal meals with your other hostel-mates. The grapevine at the hostels can save you money by recommending a lesser priced restaurant or souvenir shop. You and your new found friends can even opt to go as a group to that city’s attractions get a group discount.

Yup Number 2 You can have the best of both worlds

By staying in a private room you can have a place to go to be alone, but still, have the option of interacting with others. Most hostels have big comfy TV rooms, so look at it as being at home. You have your living room and when you had enough socializing you can retreat to your own room and read Facebook or for that matter, a real book. (I think they still have those)

Yup Number 3  Esprit de Corps

Alright, so that’s just a fancy word for the energy that comes with being in a (mostly) younger crowd. I may be getting older but I’m still not at the “You kids get off my lawn” stage. I truly enjoy the younger people’s company. It’s important that we interact with. I’d like to think we both get something positive from it. Their passion is pretty contagious. But as with most things, there can be a tipping point and if that happens you have Yup number 2 to fall back on.

Yup number 4 The Network

As mentioned in the amount of networking that goes on in the hostels is immense. You are meeting people who have been where you are going and can tell you the good and the not so good on the upcoming stop on your itinerary. Where you can eat cheaply or what neighborhoods to avoid. Perhaps some out of the way gem the guidebooks overlooked. Many hostels double as a tourist bureau and can offer guides to show you the local angle. And since many of the proprietors of the hostels are nationals of the country you’re visiting they can offer invaluable help with translation with the locals.

Yup Number 5 The International Panoply

Hosteling is a great way to meet people from all over the world.  Europeans of all ages have been staying there for decades. Many Aussies and Kiwis (Australians and New Zealanders) do as well. I think many Americans have been a little late to the party but are fast catching up. You get a nice international mix. You might even make a friend and have someone to visit on your next trip.

And finally, The 4 Nopes

I have several, but for brevity’s sake, I am rolling them all into one big paragraph.  One, the noise. Even with your own room, you may still hear the revelers coming home after the pub closes. Hostels can be raucous sometimes that’s not such a good thing.  Two, walking distances. Some hostels are a ways away from the nearest local transport. Walking a few blocks with your bags is a lot easier to do when your 25. Three, Theft. Not so much of a problem with your own locked room but definitely a possibility in the lesser priced dorm rooms. Keeping a money belt on your person usually remedies the issue.  And maybe the biggest drawback:  Four, Occasional ageism.  While the vast majority of the younger travelers will get along with you, or at least tolerate your presence, you may hear an occasional comment. And some of us who are older maybe just don’t want to be around people who we are so vastly separated from age wise. It is definitely not for everyone. Some people like the quiet and comfort of a hotel. Both viewpoints are equally valid.

So should you or shouldn’t you hostel? I will let you be the jury. But for me, hostels are a big reason why I travel, to meet people, to learn a different culture and to find a way to do it inexpensively enough to make it last as long as possible.



49 Replies to “The Five Yups and Four Nopes to hosteling over age 50”

  1. I LOVE this post! That’s so sad that people make comments about age. I’ve met some incredible older backpackers. I worked in a hostel last year and although it wasn’t your typical backpackers hostel, it was still a youth hostel and many of our guests were middle aged and wouldn’t consider staying in any other type of accommodation! The hostel life really is something. 🙂 When I was backpacking in Australia, I met a 73-year-old lady in our hostel, and we even had people in their 50s staying in our dorm and they were all incredible people to chat to. Plus you are absolutely right about learning where to go from the people you meet, which is something you just don’t get in hotels as much.

    1. Thank you for your comment Clazz. Yes, I think there’s a wealth of information to be gained staying in hostels. Not just the local flavor but the wonderful people of all ages you there. It’s just my opinion, I can’t back it but I think the age stigma is more of an american thing. When I run in to older hostel travelers they’re usually European or Australian. Perhaps it’s the whole youth culture thing. We tend to put a lot of restrictions on what is and isn’t acceptable based on age. Thanks for following me. the show of support is so appreciated. I’ve only been at this for about two weeks so i’m still learning so any help or advice is always welcomed. 🙂 Darryl

    1. For many hostels are an inexpensive alternative to hotels. I especially like the option of a private room attached. It really does offer the best of both. If you do decide to try one let me know how it works out for you. Thanks for your comment. Darryl

  2. If anything, I’d love to meet MORE older and more experienced travelers. It’s the B&B and restaurant owners, the market sellers and, well, older communities that are always so much more interesting to talk to! And to come across someone with that level of knowledge and wisdom who is a fellow traveller, well I don’t think there could be anything better! Great post Grandpa!

    1. Thanks. I agree. I’ve pretty much outgrown the party atmosphere of some cruises. I’d like time to relax and get to know my fellow shipmates. travelers always have the best stories! Thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Thanks for this post. I stayed at a couple of hostels in Europe in my 20s and didn’t have a great experience. Also, I’m married. Do they offer rooms to couples? Airbnb, I’ve heard, is great. We’ve used it once and saved a lot of money.

    1. Hi Amoralegria, Yes, many hostels now offer private rooms with double beds for coupled travelers. Usually airbnb is a little more but you get more solitude. It might be worth i try for a night to see if you like it, but hostels aren’t for everyone. i usually do 50/50 half hostels half airbnb or mid range hotel. All have their pluses and minuses.

  4. I never got to travel much. Dad’s 94, lives with me fairly mobile around house but traveling out. i did go to the shopping mall though. Several years ago. Does that count ? For me, well, Sicily and Jerusalem. Someday.

    1. I’ve traveled more in my mind than anywhere else. I believe that is
      where every great adventure starts. If we can dream it, we can find a way to achieve it. keep holding on to your dreams. best wishes I hope you get to go someday

  5. Thanks Daryl for liking so many of my posts on my blog. I’m 65 years young, have stayed in hotels and hostels and I love hostels so much better. I’ve stayed in them in Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and here in the United States . My favorite ones are Apple Hostel in Philadelphia , Hostel International in Boston, and Old City Hostel in Philadelphia . I’ve never really ran into a problem with younger people because they can never tell what my real age is, plus I like to think that I’m very young at heart. I’m going to be staying at one of the hostels in Vegas for three nights like I did last year, God willing . We Americans haven’t gotten into the hostel thingy the way the rest of the world has and that’s sad.

    1. I agree, we Americans are behind the curve on hostels. I have never stayed in a hostel stateside. I am from the Midwest and we don’t have a lot here i think. But I should look in to it. Let me know how the one in Vegas works, I figure it could beat staying at one of the more expensive hotels.

      1. It depends on where you are stateside. If you’re in Indianapolis , there’s a hostel. Chicago has a few of them . Cleveland , Columbus, Detroit, Minneapolis all have them. You just have to live more than 90 miles away otherwise you can’t stay. I can’t stay in any of the hostels in new York city, but Syracuse , Buffalo or Rochester , yes. For some of the hostels stateside, your state ID will work. Others you need a passport and proof of international travel. There’s a couple of hostels in Vegas . The one I stayed at and have stayed at a couple of times is the Las Vegas Hostel on Fremont Street . Some people like it others don’t . For all these hostels, just like with hotels, read the reviews. Go on the website for hostels in the United States .

      2. If there is one on KC, you won’t be able to stay in it. Hostels don’t take locals , only out of town guests, that’s why I can’t stay at one of the hostels in New York City .

    1. Lol, There are times when I travel where I had a long trip and am a bit cranky so I definitely have the get off my lawn kind of days. I usually go for a b and b and hostel mix. For what it’s worth I see a lot of overtime 30s in hostels especially in Europe. Thanks for commenting.

      1. We used hostels in New Zealand on our recent trip for our first time ever. No problems. Each was well run and we encountered no rowdiness. At each we had a private double with bath. Prices were indeed reasonable. The only issue we ever had was parking in Auckland. (I’m no fan of AirBnB, having had an annoying transaction with a landlord.) I’m a big hostelling fan now.

        BTW: We were four traveling together in our mid/late-60s. Never encountered any “ageism”, although we noticed some of the clientele looking at us oddly. While the preponderance of hostel customers seemed to be female twenty-somethings, there were plenty of us old timers. too.

  6. Thanks for liking my newest post. Getting very tired of this lousy weather. I should be hearing the sound of garden hoes not shovels for the first day of spring.

    1. BTW, You’re a New Yorker, right? When you get a chance i wrote a piece a while back about things you can do in NYC for free. If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think? I’ve been to New York a few times but about half the things were from research and not personal experience. I’d love to know what you thought about it.

      1. Yep born and raised here. The Brooklyn Bridge is good. Also Federal Hall Memorial across from Wall Street, the Charging Bull is free, as is the Museum of the American Indian all in the same area. The African American Burial Ground is also free. I always tell tourists coming into New York to see our outer boroughs, which are Brooklyn, The Bronx , Staten Island and Queens. When people say they’re going to New York City , they’ve just talking about Manhattan , forgetting about the other boroughs. If you come to New York , you have to ride the subway at least once. If you go to uptown Manhattan, Grant’s Tomb is also free. It’s the burial place of President Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia. I’m going to be doing a post on it once the weather clears up here in NYC .

  7. Great article! When our kids were young we stayed in hostels while traveling in Scotland 25 years ago. Now in our 60s, retired with a love of distance trekking in Europe, we have found ourselves back in hostels. While private rooms are preferable, we have found an undeniable camaraderie when bunking in the dorms…regardless of age.

  8. My husband and I (both middle-aged) recently stayed in a hostel where we were getting up for the day and eating breakfast with a bunch of kids just coming in for the night. I like it!

  9. As a 50+ something, who has done a fair bit of travelling in her time, hostels sound such an amazing place to meet people, but I have to admit, the thought of a hostel terrifies me. I love my own space, and peace and quiet. Love the fact that you felt you needed to explain Aussies and Kiwis lol. Keep on globetrotting x

  10. I wish there were “elder hostels” as there once were. Could offer private rooms or small dorms. Would be a great way to meet people, especially while traveling solo, without the all night partying and “ageism.” It’s actually very curious that there are none!

  11. Fantastic piece here, Grandpa.

    I am 58 and still hostelling very happily. I spent a good proportion of my three and a half month trip round Europe last year in hostels and loved them with some great experiences on the way. I am sorry to hear that you have experienced ageism to whatever degree. Perhaps I am lucky or just didn’t catch the comments (my old ears aren’t what they used to be) but I have always got along very well with the “youngsters”.

    Your comment about hostelling keeping you young is right on the money and some of my fondest memories of that trip are of evenings spent in hostels with people from all over the world who were literally young enough to be my crandchildren. I think the fact that I am a musician of no fixed ability helps as there is usually a guitar kicking about somewhere. Music is indeed the international language.

    I agree about the noise and a pair of earplugs is very useful in that respect. I notice that an increasing number of hostels are selling them now.

    Don’t worry about the odd comment from idiots. Keep on hostelling and maybe I’ll meet you on the road somewhere.

    1. Thanks, Fergy. Would love to run into you sometime on the road. I am a fairly good singer but can’t play much, but maybe we can put on a show for the ‘youngsters’. I like to alternate B&Bs with hostels just to mix it up a bit, but can’t imagine not staying in a few on each trip

      1. I like that. It reminds me of a neighbor who walked from one end of Britain to the other (Land’s End to John O’Groats). She camped out two or so nights running, then stayed in a B&B so she could get a shower. And, irrelevantly, she used to stop in churches to charge up her phone. She called it the power of the lord.

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