During most of my recent travels, I’ve been staying in a lot of hostels. Of course staying in a hostel is a great way to save money if you’re a budget traveller, but there are also numerous other advantages to staying in a hostel rather than a hotel.
I’m 100% sure that I’m not revealling any unspoken secret when I say that staying in a hostel is a fantastic way for travellers – especially solo travellers – to meet and befriend one another. There’s nothing quite like sharing close quarters with 3 to 19 other people. Situations like that result in social interaction – whether you intend for it to happen or not. Hostels also tend to offer communal dinners, walking tours, and pub crawls which provide travellers with even more opportunities to meet and mingle.
During my hostel stays, I’ve met people from every continent, and even though it’s safe to say that a lifelong friendship can’t be built in a day (my lifelong friendships need to be as epic as Rome), I’ve definitely formed friendships that have extended beyond a day (or the duration of my hostel stay). I’ve chatted up storms with like-minded travellers and have had some of the best travel experiences as a result of their suggestions. I’ve even made official plans to meet up and travel again with my hostel friends.
However, staying in a hostel can also require a lot of consideration and patience. I’m sure you didn’t miss the sentence above stating that in a hostel, it’s possible to sleep in the same room as 19 other people (this is the case in Lucerne’s Youth Hostel). There’s also a high probablity that the travellers you share a room with will have a different itinerary than your own (…yup, someone’s 5 am alarm clock maybe wasn’t meant for you but it will easily wake you up too).
Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 items to pack for your next hostel stay that are guaranteed to make your hostel visit (a.k.a. communal bedroom and bathroom experience) a comfortable one!
Without further ado, here are the top 10 things you should included in your Hostel Survival Kit:
1. Ear Plugs/Headphones and Phone (or Music Player of Choice)
Ear plugs or headphones are essential when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep in a hostel dorm. As mentioned above, it’s likely that the people you are sharing your dorm will be operating on a different schedule than yours. Ear plugs and headphones (occasionally accompanied by a relaxing playlist) can help you block out the noise of any party-goers returning at 2 am, or fellow travellers getting up and packing up at 3 am in order to catch a 6 am flight. The list of situations that can suddenly turn a quite sleep environment into a noisy one are endless. If you’re a light sleeper like me, someone’s snoring can be enough to wake you right up.
Using headphones connected to a phone rather than ear plugs can be a better choice if you need to set an alarm for the following morning.
2. Eye Mask
Light-eliminating eye masks can be used to complement the use of ear plugs. Not only can late-arrivers or early risers be noisy, but they may need to suddenly turn on the lights. As a hostel guest, it’s important to accept that situations like this will happen and that in moments like this, you will have ot keep your cool (of course, I always hope that anyone turning on the lights and making noise during late night and early morning hours does so with as much consideration as possible). That being said, if bright lights irritate you or distrub your sleep, make sure to have an eye mask on hand.
When travelling, you are more than likely to have more than one valuable item on you. Phones, cameras, passports, credit cards, money, perscription glasses and more all fall into the “valuable” category. I’m also sure that there will be times when you don’t want to carry all of these things with you – whether you’re planning a visit to the communal shower stalls or going out for the evening. Fortuantely, most hostels have lockers where you can store your things. The catch: you usually need to provide your own lock. If you bring your own lock, you won’t have to pay an extra fee to borrow one from the hostel (if that’s an option) or lose time searching for one in local shops.
4. Flip flops/Thongs
Walking barefoot across bathroom floors that have been soaked for more than a couple of hours with the water of possibly 10+ shower users isn’t my thing. It’s probably not anybody’s thing. Flip flops (or thongs if that’s what you prefer to call them) help prevent direct contact with this somewhat questionable H2O (and yes, I’ll shower in the flip flops too). They’re also quite handy for just walking around the hostel without having to go through the hastle of finding socks or tying up laces everytime you want to get out of bed.
5. Travel Towel
Hostels rarely give you a free towel to use during your stay. If you decide to bring your own towel, opt for a travel (microfiber) towel. They are often extremely thin, pack well, absorb a lot of water, and dry quickly. If you’re travelling for a longer period of time, you won’t have worry about paying fees to loan towels at every hostel you stay at.
6. Plastic Make-up/Cosmetic Bag
When taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or putting on makeup, you’re probably going to want to take some sort of cosmetic bag with you to the bathroom. (I’m 110% impressed if you don’t, and I want to learn your mysterious ways!) On many occasions, I haven’t found any shelf space in hostel bathrooms, and putting my toiletries down on a wet floor was my only option. (Even if shelf space happened to be available, often, it was also drenched.) Plastic cosmetic bags, which I always see an abundance of in H&M, are a blessing in these situations. I can put my things in the bags and put the bags down on the floor without worrying about them getting wet.
Bonus Use: If you happen to get your hands on a clear, plastic cosmetic bag, you can place your carry-on liquids and put them through security while they’re in there. You don’t have to transfer your items into a separate plastic pouch. This has worked for me in most European airports.
7. Wet Wipes
Feeling like your plastic makeup bags have spent too much time on the floor before heading back into your suitcase? Does your suitcase still have quite a few clean articles of clothing? Does the thought of putting these two items together make you feel a little icky? Well, Wet Wipes will seriously help you out here. Just use one or two to wipe down the bags that have spent some time in questionable places before placing them in your luggage. In general, Wet Wipes come in handy for cleaning and disinfecting hundreds of things.
8. Portable Charger
Nowadays, many hostels are installing power outlets by every bed. However, you’re still not guaranteed to find this set up in every hostel. A room for 6 people may only have 2 power outlets for travellers to share. If you want to keep your phone charged for whatever reason while you sleep (music, alarm, etc.), a portable charger may come in handy.
9. Reusable Water Bottle
This may be a bit obvious, but it’s always important to stay hydrated. Hostels won’t always let you take glasses from their kitchens into the dorms, and even if they do, water-filled glasses may have just a bit of trouble balancing on mattresses.
Please note that in some hostels, water is the only drink you are allowed to have with you inside the actual dorm.
You never know when the munchies will strike, and a hostel is not a hotel. You can’t ask for room service in a hostel, because it doesn’t exist. I always like to be prepared and have dried fruit or biscuits on hand, especially if it’s late at night and going out for a bite is not an option.
All 10 of these items helped make my recent stay in Lisbon’s Destination Hostel a relaxing one.
Are hostels your first choice when booking accommodations? Do you always make sure to have something on-hand that’s not featured on this list? Feel free to share your ideas and suggestions below!
For more awesome packing tips, check out Girl with the Passport’s Ultimate Budget Vacation Packing List.