What Extras to Pack for Your First Time Staying in a Hostel
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As I’m writing this I’m just recently back from a whirlwind 48h trip to Montreal to see Armin Van Buuren at the Lumen Festival. As is my habit lately when wanting to make travel a bit more affordable, I booked at bed at a hostel. For two nights a bottom bunk at the Auberge Hi Montreal was my home. Can’t go wrong with a clean bed, ensuite, and breakfast for $30/night right?
I haven’t always been a hostelgoer. In fact, I only booked my first tentative hostel bed three years ago while travelling in Spain. The only thing that swayed me to the hostel side was the fact that, at St. Christopher’s Inn, each bed had a privacy curtain and a large underbed lockable storage bin for my 25” suitcase. Though I much prefer boutique hotels, sometimes budget dictates sharing my space and it turns out, I don’t hate it.
There are a few things you’ll want to pack for your first stay in a hostel that you might not normally pack for a hotel. After a few years and seven hostels I’ve got my list pretty well nailed down so I thought I’d share it with you.
The most important thing I pack for a hostel over a hotel is rubber sandals I wear in the shower. I’ve got this thing where the idea of stepping into a shower barefoot after a stranger grosses me out so I always have a pair of flip flops that I pack just for the occasion. If I’m travelling in a warm climate then a pair that can also double as outdoor shoes is great.
Sometimes hostels provide towels. Sometimes they don’t. In that case you’ll want to pack your own. But a regular terry towel not only takes up valuable carry-on space but also takes longer to dry than a travel towel. I don’t love the feel of them but they get the job done, dry fast, and don’t take up much space.
I prefer when hostels have lockable storage bins (like Generator in London or Inhawi in Malta) since I don’t have to be so diligent about keeping my stuff neatly in my suitcase. You’ll need to bring your own lock though. I like this one from Lewis N. Clark with a flexible cable. If there’s no bin you may still want to lock your bag and attach it to something immovable in the room if you’re worried someone will rifle through it or try to make off with it. For those situations a long cable or a bag net are good.
Travel Hair Dryer
Thankfully my hair seems to air dry relatively quickly these days without looking too flat or disheveled but I prefer to be able to properly dry it so I pack a small travel hair dryer (pro tip: always get a dual voltage one) if the hostel doesn’t provide one, which they usually don’t. Nothing worse than sightseeing in -20C weather with wet hair.
Eye Mask & Earplugs
Anyone who’s ever stayed in a hostel dorm room has some experience with people turning on lights while you’re trying to sleep. Or crinkling plastic bags at 4am. It happens. Even when you’ve got well meaning dormmates. I knew I’d be getting in late after Armin Van Buuren and so prepped all my bedtime stuff on my bed and didn’t turn on the lights when I came in. But my plan went awry when I kicked the metal trashcan on my way back from the bathroom. *sigh* So you know that eye mask and earplugs you packed for your flights? You might want to use them in the dorm as well.
The slightly obscure reason why I tend to pack my Fitbit when I’m staying in a hostel is for the silent alarm. How many times have you been woken up by a loud alarm in a dorm? Instead, the Fitbit will buzz on my wrist to wake me up without waking up the whole room. I wish everyone had one of these.
Those are the six things that I pack for a hostel stay that I don’t bring for hotel stays. How about you? Is there anything else that you do differently when you stay at a hostel?