Updated: Feb 3, 2019
If you're travelling on a budget like me you will probably end up staying in your fair share of hostels, which can be a little challenging to navigate at times. So here's a few tips to make your hostel days a little easier and get the most out of your stay.
1. Free breakfasts!
As they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and at many hostels it comes free. As budget travellers free stuff is our bread and butter, literally. It may not be fancy, or your favourite bacon and eggs, but it will fill you up and if it's buffet style, to save a little extra cash, eat a large breakfast and a filling afternoon snack and the treat yourself to something tasty for dinner.
2. Hanging toiletry bags
This is an oldie but a goodie, there may not be space on the sink but there will nearly always be hooks. Voila easy access to your favourite skincare is simpler than ever. On the same note, how many times have you gone to shower and you try to hang all your clothes on one hook? Next time bring one of those reusable bags, sounds a bit extra but you'll thank me when your clean clothes don't accidentally drop on the wet shower floor. Any one will do, cloth, mesh, whatever you like, hang one handle up on the hook and pop your clothes inside.
3. The "easy access" bag
This same reusable bag can be used as your late night or early morning easy access bag. In it you can put things like your pyjamas and toothbrush if you know you're getting in late at night, or your deodorant and clothes for the day if you've got an early morning flight. Being able to pack all your stuff and just pull this bag out from the top makes it super easy to find stuff in the dark without making much noise or causing you much stress. For example you arrive late at a hostel and everyone in your dorm is pretty much asleep, you sneak in put your bag down, grab out your easy access bag without a light because you know its right there at the top. Slip to the bathroom, change, brush teeth and slip into bed without anyone being the wiser. Also great if you've got a day excursion and only have 20 mins between when you get back and the hostel pub crawl. Chuck in your outfit for the night and some make up to save yourself some valuable time!
4. Ear plugs and an eye mask
This is a classic traveller hack, but if you're serious about getting some shut eye then get yourself a pair. You'll thank me later when everyone else got woken up at 6am by a dog barking or construction next door.
5. Cooking - travel herbs and spices
Cooking meals in your hostel can save you a ton of money, but sometimes the food doesn't turn out the best because they didn't have the seasoning you like or it was just too expensive to justify buying it yourself. Do yourself a favour and pack a little to-go spice kit. I spoke about this in my Must Have Minimalist Travel Gear post, but the best thing to use is one of those cylindrical pill containers that screw into each other. Gather a few of your essential herbs and spices, like Italian seasoning, cajun or whatever floats your boat. To keep it minimal pick ones that can be used in multiple dishes. But don't forget a couple of stapes like chilli flakes or all purpose seasoning. Also heaps of fast food restaurants have the little salt and pepper packets which are perfect for on the road.
6. BYO Towel
Having your own towel is a must if you're staying in hostels as most charge for the use of theirs which can really add up over time. I always recommend Turkish cotton towels because they're great for bath or beach, pack up super small and look cool too. And on the off chance they don't charge or only charge deposit for towels then save your towel a wash and use theirs.
7. Combination lock
It's pretty much essential to have your own lock for lockers at a hostel, and I would recommend a combination lock over a key locking one just as its one less thing to lose. You don't necessarily need to lock your entire bag away but definitely your valuables for peace of mind.
8. BYO Pillowcase
Now this is definitely a luxury but if you're staying in hostels all the time throughout a long term trip something like your own pillow case can make all the difference. It's a little slice of home comfort that will keep you sane and if its silk, keep your hair tame too.
9. Bedside pocket
Speaking of home comforts, a bedside pocket is a luxury but handy addition to your hostel going experience, it'll be a lifesaver if you're landed with a top bunk. You can buy ones online from many sites like amazon, but you could also make one yourself if you're feeling crafty. You'll find dozens of tutorials online showing you just how to do it at home. When you're staying in dorms, much like in the bathrooms there isn't usually a lot of table top space for your stuff. Set up your bedside pocket when you arrive and pop all your bedside essentials in there like your phone charger, a book or anything else you might need in the middle of the night.
10. Meet people and do activities
Lots of hostels have activities like free walking tours and pub crawls which are fantastic for meeting other travellers. This is especially great if you've just arrived in a destination, get out there and do something the first day then you might find yourself with a little group for that destination.
11. Booking and cancellation
Most hostels can be booked in advanced and its pretty much essential to do this if you're travelling during high season or particularly busy times. It's always good to note whether hostels have free cancellation and up until what date just in case plans change which they often do. Also sometimes it can pay to check the prices on both hostelworld and booking.com because sometimes one might be cheaper than the other, even if its fifty cents, if you're staying 4 nights that's $2 you can save, which in some countries can be the price of a meal. Also if you've booked far in advanced, its always good to reconfirm your booking 48 hours in advanced, just to double check.
12. Your stuff
In courtesy to other people in the dorm its best to keep your stuff nice and tidy and out of their space or common spaces. Even if that means shoving everything into your locker, even if its messy at least its not in other peoples way. Hopefully if they see you doing this they'll do it too and the whole dorm environment will just be a lot better.
That's all for this post, I hope you found it interesting and helpful and hopefully your next or first hostel experience will be much better!