The Truth About Hostels and How They Can Change Your Travels Forever

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There is a huge misunderstanding out there. Thanks in large part to a gory 2005 Quentin Tarantino horror film, conveniently titled, "Hostel". Going to see that movie (reluctantly, I might add) was one of the first times I ever heard the word hostel. In between scenes of torture, I whispered to my friend, "I guess we'll never be staying in one of those places!" Then I was reintroduced when I got around to watching the movie, Eurotrip. Again, not the best first impression.

Then everything changed when I actually stayed in one! Hostels are an integral part of budget traveling and allow you to travel for longer periods of time, to places that otherwise would be out of your budget. And the best part is that within the hostel community, you can make connections with travelers from ALL OVER THE WORLD!

For those of you new to hostels, here's the idea: Hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex and can range from 3 to 20+ bed occupancy. Private rooms may also be available.

For those of us who know and use the hostel network around the world, we find it surprising the kind of reputation hostels have among those who've never utilized them! I literally cannot understand why people are so turned off by hostels!!! We're writing today to crush these misconceptions, because staying in them can completely change the way you travel. 

Ready to learn the truth about hostels?

A hostel we stayed at in hanoi, vietnam

A hostel we stayed at in hanoi, vietnam

1. THE PRICE IS ALWAYS RIGHT

Using hostels as your main form of accommodation can allow you to travel for longer periods of time and spend your budget doing amazing activities as opposed to paying for a room you'll only be sleeping and showering in. If you're anything like us, we don't need many amenities to be happy. Hostels at their most basic provide a clean bed and a shower for a sliver of the cost of a traditional hotel. It's not at all a stretch to say that you can find a hostel bed pretty much anywhere in the world for under $40-50 a night. 

2. DORMS AREN'T THE ONLY OPTION

Most hostels offer private rooms. The most common arrangements will include one full bed or two single beds. Sometimes the private rooms still require the guest to use a shared bathroom, but it does give you more privacy at night!

As a couple, we usually book private rooms (private double) at hostels because they tend to cost the same as two single beds in a dorm. If you're traveling solo, that kicks the price up to go private room on your own. But if you can split it as a couple or if you're traveling with a friend, you can get some privacy and pay the same as what you'd pay for a dorm bed!

And if you do choose to stay in a dorm, chances are the people you're rooming with won't stay strangers for long. There is always great conversation to be had, and it's not hard to create fast friends to share new experiences with. 

3. THE LOBBY/LOUNGE IS AN INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL EVENT CENTER

You will never find a more bustling, unique space while traveling than a hostel lobby/lounge. The best hostels equip this area for travelers to relax, play games, connect to wi-fi, or share a beer with friends from all over the world. It's one of the best places to chat with fellow travelers and learn more about where they're from and where they're headed. 

As compared to a hotel, where guests rarely communicate to one another, hostels promote a sense of community and it's almost impossible not to end up meeting at least a few fellow travelers. In our experiences, even the hostel staff also tend to be more open and helpful. 

Many hostels will hold special events like free breakfasts, karaoke, happy hours, and dance parties to further connect their guests. We've been gifted with stand up comedy, international sporting events, and some of the most fun trivia nights we've ever been a part of! A hostel in a small village in Northern Vietnam even woke up at 6 a.m. to make us spicy chicken wings, serve us beer, and let us connect our laptop to stream Superbowl XLIX!

4. A SHARED BATHROOM DOES NOT MEAN IT'S DIRTY

Most humans use public bathrooms every single day. It's just something that is a part of life. Shared bathrooms, in my experience, are not much different from private bathrooms. Someone else used them at some point. Hostels are just like hotels and clean daily. If it's a concern of yours, ask your hostel what time the cleaning crew comes through, and schedule your shower around that! And always bring a pair of basic flip flops to throw on in the shower!

5. YOU WILL LEARN MORE ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE STAYING

Hostels are the best place to find the coolest things to do in the city you're staying in. Major hotels tend to partner with specific tour companies, restaurants and experiences; limiting your suggested itineraries to over-priced tours that may not even be the kind of adventure you're looking for. Some hostels will offer their own tours, but they will also help to recommend the tours with the best experience and value. They can also clue you in to the best local haunts and best kept secrets of their hometown!!!

The entrance to one of our favorite hostels in the world: Deejai Backpackers in Chinag Mai, Thailand

The entrance to one of our favorite hostels in the world: Deejai Backpackers in Chinag Mai, Thailand

6. YOUR STUFF IS NOT JUST LYING AROUND

Before I stayed in hostels, I never understood how anyone could feel comfortable sharing a room: "what about all of your stuff!?" Common misconception. Every guest has a locker! It's well known in backpacking that you bring a high quality lock so you can keep your stuff locked up when you're out exploring. If you forget one, most hostels will sell them or can point you to a store where you can purchase one!

7. GENDER-SPECIFIC DORMS CAN EASE YOU INTO THE EXPERIENCE

If the idea of mixed-sex dorm rooms still makes you a bit uncomfortable, many hostels offer gender specific dorms as well. This format is especially appealing to female travelers; adding that extra layer of security and comfort. That being said, many people forget how some guys can feel about the situation as well. My husband has admitted a few times about feeling uncomfortable with females in the room, wondering if they're cautious of his presence. If it's a point of discomfort, try these out before jumping into a fully mixed dorm!

8. MOST TRAVELERS HAVE MANNERS

Despite any stories you've heard, we can assure you that most travelers just want a bed to sleep in and a bathroom to freshen up in. Of course some hostels cater to different crowds, but as a general assessment, most travelers will do everything in their power to be respectful in shared rooms. When lights are out, using a flashlight or headlamp is customary. If you're coming in late or leaving early to catch a bus or otherwise, it's a general rule to keep voices down and have as much prepared as possible the night before. That being said, as a person who enjoys sleep, I know it's my responsibility to use ear plugs and a sleep mask (they are truly amazing at blocking out pretty much everything). 

Before we wrap this up, we'll say that although we are huge hostel advocates, just like hotels, not all hostels are created equal. We cannot stress enough that you should RELY ON CUSTOMER REVIEWS to make booking decisions. They are EVERYTHING! They are the best way to find out what it's really like to stay there.

We highly recommend Hostelworld (and it's app) for booking hostels. There are no booking fees and the rating system keeps us assured we're choosing hostels that we'll be happy with!!!

Travelers, any points we missed? What do you love most about hostels? :) 

 

3 Ways to Use Your Tax Return to Travel This Year

For those of you lucky enough to be receiving a tax return this year, we implore you to try something new with that money you're getting back! There are a number of ways that your tax return can get you on the road, or at least can get you in the position that you can start saving for that trip you keep dreaming of!

Sometimes the financial road blocks to travel seem overwhelming. But making the right decisions, especially financially, can be the key to getting what you want (and that goes for life in general as well). Here are three ways to utilize your tax return to kick start your travel savings:

  1. Pay Off Debt: Releasing yourself from debt can be one of the quickest ways to freedom. Without having payments to credit cards, cars, loans, etc. you will be able to schedule a trip without having to worry about paying for things at home while you're away. Not to mention, the amount of money you will save in the long run on high interest accounts. All of that wasted money will be better spent on a coconut drink on the beach.
  2. Start a Savings Account: There is no better feeling than seeing a savings account with some cash in it. And knowing that growing that cash is your ticket (literally and figuratively) to a great time is even more motivating. Sometimes a little boost can be the catalyst to kick start your savings mentality. Before you do your taxes, open a savings account with a credit union or somewhere you don't have easy access to. Have your return deposited directly into the account and voila! Instant motivation!
  3. Purchase Travel Outright: Sometimes when the situation arises to pay for something in cash, you've got to jump on it! Although there are many travel credit cards that give you fantastic rewards, sometimes paying cash can help you avoid all of the fees and interest that so easily creep up on you! Buying your plane tickets or laying down a deposit with your tax return can be the first step to you seeing the world! 

If you're looking to get away soon, check out our April Costa Rican Adventure trip! We are making our FINAL BOARDING CALL as we will be closing the booking on Sunday, March 12th! We have a few more spots! Put down your $200 deposit and you could be ziplining, trekking rainforests & volcanoes, and enjoying beach life in just over a month:

The Best Ways to Earn Extra Cash For Travel

One of the most common responses we get when we talk to people about traveling is that they are not financially able to make it work. Being able to afford to travel comes down to shifting priorities, putting in some effort, and having a little bit of patience. We have talked in our blogs before about how to save money, but sometimes you can't stretch your paycheck to put anything into that savings account.

So let's get proactive and take a different approach! Below are a few ways you can earn extra cash for travel! Some of these sites have created major results for us in the past; allowing us to supplement our incomes with money on the side. And because we were busy working, we didn't have time to spend frivolusly. Remember that earning extra money is all about the effort you put in! Set a goal and make it a challenge to watch that savings account fill up. All hail the side hustle!


5. PART TIME WORK:
This one may seem a little obvious, but bear with us. There are major perks to doing part time work like serving tables, babysitting, ride sharing or retail. Flexible scheduling and opportunities to work after regular office hours to start. There are many part time employers who are looking for people to fill busy evenings and weekends, even allowing as little as 8-10 hours a week, so it's easy to fit it in with your normal 9 to 5. The possibilities are almost endless. You can search for positions locally or there are multiple websites to get you started finding remote work.

  • Care.com (highly recommended) - Child, Elder, Pet Care, Housekeeping
  • Tutor.com - Tutoring multiple disciplines
  • Uber or Lyft - Driving for ride sharing services
  • TaskRabbit - Quick home repair and maintence jobs
  • Snagajob.com - Hourly work in mutliple industries
  • Indeed.com - Multiple Industries, thousands of industries
  • Thumbtack - Customer driven requests for work
  • Craigslist - Multiple Industries (local)
  • Zirtual - Virtual Assistant & more

4. FREELANCE/CONTRACT WORK: 
This kind of work means that you will work with a company for the duration of a project or set period of time. Depending on your skill set, there are hundreds of freelance websites with contract jobs ready for the taking. Many freelance opportunities can be completed in off-hours and from anywhere with an internet connection (so you could actually continue to work from the road if you chose). From writing to construction to accounting to design, there are openings in a great deal of industries. Each website is different, but most will require a little bit of work up front to create your profile, provide samples and portfolios, and begin to bid on jobs. Some websites will be more general, while others will focus on one particular category. 

3. SELL GENTLY USED CLOTHING & HOUSEHOLD ITEMS:
There are multiple apps and websites that help you easily ditch items in your house that can make you money (and that you probably want to get rid of anyways)! We love this concept because downsizing and simplifying not only can make you cash, it will help you organize your life and make traveling easier in general. Less stuff means less responsibility and more freedom to do what you please! There are so many apps and websites available now that essentially make everyday a garage sale! You simply snap a photo of the item with your phone, provide a description, and set a price! Remember that good lighting and clear photos make items sell quicker!

2. CREATE SOMETHING NEW:
Whether it's handmade goods, a practical new invention, artwork, or some unique crafts, there are plenty of marketplaces to sell for cash. Depending on your long term goals, you can make your jump into retail as simple or complex as you'd like; you can use marketplace apps or create an e-commerce site for your goods. Make sure you leverage periods of time around holidays when people are looking for gifts to buy!

  • Etsy (highly recommended) - Marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, and supplies
  • Society6 - Sell artwork and designs and apply it to multiple products that the website sells
  • Amazon Handmade - Marketplace for handmade goods
  • Weebly - Create your own online store to sell your goods

1. UTILIZE WE MUST DASH'S REFERRAL PROGRAM:
Not to sing our own praises, but if you want to earn cash for traveling, our referral program is super easy and straightforward. Anyone who uses your name in the referral box at the time of booking will earn you $50 in cash, or in credit you can use toward one of our group trips. Once we receive their deposit with your name on it, we contact you and send you your money via PayPal. The best part is, we're not the only company offering programs like this. You can make extra cash and/or earn free products by simply being a brand ambassador for your favorite products and services! You can read the articles below to take advantage of more of these opportunities:

OTHER WAYS TO MAKE CASH:
When you're trying to make side hustles work, the key is creativity. Here are a few more options that you can earn you extra money:

ALSO, SUBSCRIBE TO SITES LIKE THE PENNYHOARDER & JOIN RELEVANT FACEBOOK GROUPS
Sites like The PennyHoarder are fantastic resources for tips and tricks for saving and spending wisely. We also find that joining Facebook groups (like Side Hustle Nation) based around savings and financial goals can help provide a daily reminder in your news feed of what others are doing to achieve goals similar to yours! 


What kinds of things do you do to make extra cash for travel??? 
Let us know in the comments below!!!