Mastering Hostel Life: 10 life-changing tactics

Hostel life welcomes everyone, the spring breaker, the one staycationing, the very obvious-foreigner and everyone in between. It’s a window into the world: the older man groaning as he butters his toast, the Asian tourists giggling over cat videos, the backpackers who have probably already trekked the world – twice and the sitting-on-the-suitcase-to-close-it tourist. I personally find the over-packers amusing, considering I’ve done two months in backpack and they feel the need to bring so much, but hey maybe you do need 6 pairs of shoes (just kidding, you only need 3 – I currently only have 2!).

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There’s hosteling and then there’s hosteling done right:

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1. Know your pack: Why can professional snipers assemble their rifles at lighting speed? Efficiency. If you asked me right now where my extra locks are I would tell you large front zipper, right pocket on the top. Bandaids? Middle zipper of my toiletry bag in middle compartment. You should pack so well you know where to find everything, even in the dark. This is the most efficient thing you can do on your trip. I’ve woken up at 9:30 a.m., taken a shower washed and dried my hair, got ready for the day and packed all before 10; efficiency is key.

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2. The Wash-Dry: Just put on a fresh shirt? That means you should wash one for tomorrow. Nike’s DryFit line will become your best friend. Same goes with other articles of clothing and it’s best to try out the routine before you hit the road. Dish detergent can generally be used on your clothes, and it goes twice as far. Be sure to pack dryer sheets for extra freshness.

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3. Become a chef… Chef Microwave: The hostel only has a microwave? No problem, you are Chef MicroQueen/Chef MicroKing. Own it. My personal favourite is what I call P-Cubed: Pesto Pita Pizza. You can also do a lot with eggs in the microwave!

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4. Ziplocks: Always have a few with you! You will find many uses for them…I’ve kept books in ziplock bags to keep them waterproof, I’ve lent one to a friend so their hair didn’t get wet. They are excellent storage friends. (+don’t limit yourself to just ziplocks, trash liners can also be ponchos when needed!)

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5. Bring meds galore: Look up the equivalents of the countries you are staying in, that way when you’re feeling the worst you don’t have to Google your way to a pharmacy or trudge out in the rain for some meds. You can go out once you start to feel better.

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6. Locks: Be sure to bring a few different types of locks. You can use them on lockers provided and on your bag! Best to give your locker codes to your parents or best friend at home in case you forget. Another security measure: take pictures of yourself with each item you have (+don’t forget travelers insurance).

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7. Wi-Fi: Your hostel should have FREE wifi, if not, abort mission! Be sure to read in the reviews how the wifi signal is, perhaps it’s only in the reception and weaker in the rooms. Take the time to download key offline maps and offline phrase apps. Just screenshot as you go. I recently deleted over 30 screenshots.

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8. Bring the right jacket(s): It’s 1 a.m. at Megabus station in Roma and while others a jumping to keep warm I am a toasty bug in my Abercrombie and Fitch knee-length parka. (Shoutout to the Coastland Mall in Naples where I got the jacket for only $89, originally $250). I’ve used it as a pillow, sleeping throw, seat cushion, etc. – it’s my cocoon.

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9. Eat the whole apple: Meaning nothing goes to waste! Check out the free shelf in the kitchen, and eat those perishables.

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10. Do your research: There could be lockout hours, or a curfew (yikes!). I’ve found the best prices when I book directly, though I’ve found luck through HostelWorld. Be sure to check: Are linens included? What about city tax? Do they clean daily? Is the kitchen open all night? Does the shower water run consistently or you do have to turn a knob every 30 seconds? It’s the little things. Make them count!

I hope these tips help you and please share your own. See you out on the road!

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