Chicago Getaway Hostel

Chicago Getaway Hostel

Forget the down ‘n’ out smelly backpacker days and Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel’ horror portrayal. This style of budget accommodation has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years and will appeal to just about any type of traveller from families to couples, bargain hunters to design conscious trendsetters. Follow these 6 tips to reach hostel heaven and travel with ease on a tight budget…

1. Location v Price

You can find hostels pretty much anywhere. In major cities you can opt to stay in the centre of the action with the tourist attractions on your doorstep and a hostel will be a cheaper alternative to a hotel. For further reductions, pick a neighbourhood on the outskirts of town. The nightly rate might be cheaper and you will also be more likely to experience local life with bars and restaurants a little off the beaten track and away from the main tourist hub. Always weigh up these savings against the cost of getting to and from the centre of town. Try the Hostelling International, a New York hostel close to Central Park and a great urban retreat for summer complete with BBQs held in the courtyard.

2. Socialising

For solo travellers, or those looking for long-term accommodation, you feel isolated in a hotel or private apartment. Hostels are sociable places and you can typically meet fellow guests congregating in the lounge areas at the end of the day. If the hostel offers an onsite bar, it’s easy to get chatting to people over a drink and a games room is a great place to challenge new friends to a game of pool, ping pong or foosball.

3. Facilities

If you are expecting less for your money, think again! On the most basic level, check that the hostel provides linen and towels free of charge. But the hostel industry standard is to increasingly offer Wi-Fi, internet kiosks and a free breakfast. A new breed of boutique hostels have upped the game even further and in a new effort to outdo each other, guests can now enjoy added luxuries such as pretty roof terraces, hair straighteners, Playstations and Wiis, onsite cinemas, bike rental, bathrobes and en suite dorm rooms. USA Hostels San Francisco boasts a 50-seat cinema, a free city tour and offers guests a free breakfast.

4. Safety

Sleeping in shared accommodation means your security will be a priority. Make sure the hostel provides you with a private locker. It might be necessary to buy a padlock from reception, otherwise, bring one with you. Ask if the hostel operates a 24hr reception, CCTV and secure key-card room entry. If you plan to be out late, ask staff for advice on getting to and from the hostel. At the Chicago Getaway Hostel, families can opt to stay in private en suite rooms and ladies can choose a female-only dorm at this Chicago hostel.

5. Freebies, discounts and money-savers

Hostels are geared up for budget travellers and, price of your bed or room aside, go the extra mile to offer you value for money. Paying for three meals out a day will be expensive so find out if the hostel provides a free breakfast. Self-catering facilities mean you can prepare a picnic, make a packed lunch or rustle up a quick dinner if you have kids in tow or need an early night after a busy day of sightseeing. Cooking back at the hostel is a great excuse to visit colourful local farmers’ markets where you can stock up on fresh ingredients. Some hostels even host pasta or pizza nights where you can enjoy a meal on the house!

Staff are likely to be locals or keen travellers themselves. Be sure to quiz them on things to do, places to eat or exciting events taking place during your stay. They can tailor advice to family-friendly suggestions, your taste in music or if you have a panache for a particular cuisine that evening…

6. Reviews and Ratings

The best way to find out if a particular hostel is for you is to read feedback from previous guests. Reviews can indicate what type of atmosphere to expect and whether the hostel will suit your trip. For example you might catch previous guests raving about the ‘friendly staff’, the ‘party atmosphere’ or the ‘great range of activities on offer’. And of course, you know you are on to a winner if you find ‘this is the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in’!