Decades ago, when baby boomers were in their 20s and backpacking around Europe, many discovered the joys of staying in youth hostels. The main joy is that they were cheap — really cheap — but they were also good places to meet like-minded travelers, pick up some budget travel tips from them, and maybe even make some new friends in a foreign city.
There were drawbacks: some hostels wouldn’t allow access to your room for several hours during the day; the rooms most often sported dormitory-like accommodations, complete with bunk beds for up to a dozen people, making privacy nonexistent; the bathrooms and showers were invariably down the hall (though so were those in inexpensive European hotels and pensions back in the day); cleanliness was often in short supply; and there was always the possibility of getting your possessions ripped off by unscrupulous roommates, since security was at a minimum.
As baby boomers have aged, their tolerance for hostels has understandably waned, though it’s not unusual to find older travelers using them these days.
Especially now, since in the past few years there’s been a mini-explosion of “luxury” hostels throughout Europe.
I came across a 185-page e-book detailing many of these hostels at the website budgettraveller.org. It’s called, appropriately enough, Luxury Hostels of Europe, and it’s available as a free download if you sign up for their newsletter.
You’ll find detailed descriptions of these hostels — which come complete, in some cases, with chic “boutique” design elements; private rooms, many en suite; indoor pools and saunas; restaurants, bars and nightclubs; and fashionable addresses in cities throughout the continent.
Copenhagen, Berlin, Dublin, Prague, Florence, Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Reykjavik, Lisbon, Madrid, Budapest, Edinburgh, Paris — the list goes on.
As you might expect, prices at these luxury hostels aren’t as rock-bottom as they once were — what is? — but they tend to be less expensive than hotels, sometimes much less expensive. And, in the “best” ones — meaning those that honor the hostel tradition — they still serve as good meeting places for value-conscious travelers.
Of course, you’ll pay less if you share a room, but these hostels are mostly reasonably priced even for private rooms.
This, it seems to me, is a good example of an old — and perhaps somewhat worn-out — travel institution reinventing itself to meet new needs.
And one of those needs — a big one — is catering to travelers of baby boomer age who want to recapture some of the old magic of staying in hostels and meeting other like-minded travelers, but without having to stay in overcrowded dormitory rooms and use bathrooms with questionable levels of sanitation.
I applaud the trend, and, having just downloaded the free e-guide to these luxury hostels myself, I intend to use it on my next trip to Europe.
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