The Mature Woman Hosteler
by Marcie Miller
Mount Eccles Court Hostel in Dublin offers good value and a quiet location on a lovely Georgian row. Photo by Marcie Miller
Sure, I’d like to stay in a private villa and have my every whim attended to by a handsome houseboy, but my budget doesn’t allow for that. And if I have to chose between traveling on the cheap or staying home, I’m going to pick on the cheap every time. One way I’ve found to do this is hostels—they’re not just for kids anymore.
For my most recent trip to Ireland I choose a combination of hostels and housesitting, enabling me to stay in Ireland for three months for less than I would pay for housing back home in the Pacific Northwest. Many people moan that they can’t afford to travel, but they don’t stop to actually run the numbers. It’s more doable than you think.
Hostels can be booked online before heading off on your trip, and I find this takes a lot of stress out of arrivals. There’s nothing worse than dragging your rolling luggage (or backpack) up and down cobblestone streets looking for a place to lay your head for the night. Particularly in the cities of Europe in the summer, bed space is at a premium.
Besides booking ahead, there are few things you can do to make your hostelling experience more comfortable and enjoyable.
1. Choose an all-female room, with as few beds as possible. Many hostels offer mixed dorms, but I advise against this. Let’s face it, boys are noisy and smelly. And hostel dorms don’t have separate dressing rooms, so privacy is tricky. Smaller rooms will also be quieter. Four to six beds are pretty standard.
2. Choose an ensuite room if possible. It will cost you a bit more, but it’s worth it to not have to traipse down the hall to use the toilet or shower.
3. Check in early and grab a lower bunk. That’s right—bunk. Bunk beds are the norm in hostels, but climbing up to the upper berth may not suit less nimble travelers. That said, the lower bunks can be quite low, so if you’re at all claustrophobic, go for the upper bunk. Another advantage of the lower bunk is that you can curtain it off for further privacy. Just tuck a towel or sarong into the edge of the upper bunk, or use an elastic laundry line as a curtain rod. It makes a very cosy private space.
4. Make friends with your roommates. There is a camaraderie among hostelers that you don’t get in more upscale accommodations, regardless of age. Your roomies may be college girls, workers in temporary housing, or fellow mature travelers. Get to know them and before you know it you’ll be heading to the pubs together, sharing shampoo or even making plans to travel together.
5. Bring earplugs and a sleep mask. Some people can sleep through anything, but if you’re a light sleeper, consider noise- and light-blocking aids. There is likely to be people coming in to the room after what you consider bedtime, so you need to be prepared for that. Most hostels provide sheets, with towels and even hairdryers available by request.
6. Once in a while, upgrade to a private room. Yes, most hostels offer private rooms. They are more expensive, but you still get the benefit of the group kitchen facilities and other hostel amenities. You might even consider sharing a twin private room with one of your new hostel friends. Private rooms are also a great opportunity to do your handwashing and hang it up without fear of younger women snickering at your “granny panties.”
Marcie Miller provides travel tips and tales on her website, Passport and Pen (www.passportandpen.com)
For more information on hostels have a look at these pages:
How to find cheap hostel beds when you travel
Why I love budget hostel accommodation