Hosteling is a great alternative to traditional hotels that goes beyond merely a place to sleep for the night. For most Americans, the term evokes the idea of backpacking across Europe when we were simply looking for the absolute cheapest accommodations. Today though, modern hostels like those run by Hosteling International USA are a social way to experience a new destination at a value oriented price. For folks looking to get more out of their room than simply a clean bed and a hot shower, this can be a great opportunity. To learn more about what hosteling is like today and what guys could expect if they chose a hostel for their next guys trip, we spoke with Danny Case, Danny Case, Vice President of Hostel Operations, Hostelling International USA.
Hostelling International USA includes more than 50 properties throughout the US in cities like San Diego and New York but also other places that you might not expect such as HI Point Montara Lighthouse which is now a series of four, ocean view vacation rentals, and HI East Glacier Park Hostel that is opening in the summer of 2022.
Many folks probably think of cheap, not very well-maintained places when the word "hostel" is mentioned. Hosteling International, though, has some fantastic places that are still "value" positioned, but offer more than just a "cheap room." Can you talk more about how hosteling has evolved over the past few decades?
The people. Every time I’ve hosteled while travelling, I’ve always met fun and interesting people. With shared spaces you are actively introduced to other travelers from all over the world. You can be visiting a city and have people from 3 different countries sharing a room- or 10 different nationalities staying at the hostel that night. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world, or from different cities and states. The people you meet make your trip unforgettable, and many hostelers make life-long friends.
What makes hosteling special?
While remaining financially accessible is a key goal for us to make travel more affordable, value, safety and cleanliness are priorities for both our staff and guests. We prioritize guest feedback. Safety, cleanliness, and value are the top 3 focuses for guests when reviewing or looking for a stay. This feedback has helped drive our priorities and the market’s evolution. Guests have asked for conveniences such as charging stations, bed lights, semi-private bunks, en suite baths. We have listened and these are key components in our shared dorms. They have also asked for more options in accommodation style. We have guests who want the hostel experience, the ability to meet people from around the world, but with a little more privacy. We’ve responded with private rooms, and rooms with ensuite bathrooms in all our urban hostels. Remaining competitive with a growing market has also been a key driver, with boutique hotels and hostels, we are constantly evolving to meet expectations and continually improve.
When I first got a membership to American Youth Hostels, the name clearly implied it was for young people. Today the name is Hosteling International. What inspired the change in name?
Well, the name change was to better align with the International Associations worldwide (Hosteling International) that we’ve always been affiliated with from a branding perspective. But that said- we endorse and want travelers of all ages. We have always focused our mission and programming on a younger generation for impact, but it’s the diversity in our hostels that makes them more exciting and that comes with all ages. We have professionals and artists staying with us who are in their 40’s to retired outdoor enthusiasts hiking the CA Coast. While some elect to book private rooms over dorms, all enjoy the energy at the hostel as its more social than a hotel.
What are some of your tips for guys that are considering staying in a Hosteling International property instead of a hotel?
Set aside a day or night of your trip to stay spontaneous. You are likely to see a cool event happening or meet some new people at the hostel and it’s good to be open to the adventure.
Our hostels are good for travelling solo and are safe, but are also great for a group of friends traveling together.
You can cook your own food in our kitchens, which is a good way to save money on some of your meals. So, plan in advance if you want- or stop by a store after you check-in. We have pots and pans and everything you need. People also tend to meet new people while cooking or eating in our kitchens and common spaces.
Traditionally people think of staying at a hostel and think of a big room with a bunch of beds, but I noticed an increasing number now offer private room options, too. Do most Hosteling International properties offer private rooms today?
Yes, all of our hostels have private rooms. It’s a fairly in-demand room type. We have different kinds of private rooms at several of our hostels, too. I book some DJ’s into our big city hotels and they book private rooms, but really like the vibe in the overall hostel, and like meeting people in the common spaces.
Can a hostel stay be family friendly or is it mostly just young singles and couples?
We have a lot of families that stay with us. In both our urban and coastal hostels, we have family rooms where families have a larger room with a bigger bed for parents and bunks for kids or teens. These rooms are also good for groups of friends travelling together.
What are your favorite locations to visit?
I love visiting all our city hostels as we have locations in the best cities and in really cool, unique buildings. But if I’m being totally honest, we have some of the coolest destination locations on the coast in California, and on the Cape on the East Coast – and those are my favorite. You can sleep underneath a lighthouse hearing waves crash or walk to a sandy beach steps away from the hostel and surf. Or go hiking in the middle of a national park. We are lucky to have both urban and coastal access hostels
Do you have any final words of advice for a guy who might be on the fence about choosing a hostel instead of a hotel for his next vacation?
Try it out! We have private rooms that are usually cheaper than local hotels. Start there and get a feel for the hostel. Then on your next trip try a dorm or go with friends. Also, attend a walking tour or social event like an in-hostel reception or pub crawl. You will be sure to meet some interesting people and have more fun than you would in a hotel. It’s all about the people. One of our favorite slogans is: “Stay with friends you haven’t met.”