Many families would love to take a trip to Europe with their kids but fear that the trip will be astronomically expensive.
But a wonderful thing about travel in Europe is that budget-style travel is entirely respectable. Budget lodgings come in several types, and one of the time-honored ways to find cheap sleep is to stay at what was formerly called "youth hostels". Hostels today have grown up and while certain hostels do still cater to the youth crowd, many welcome a diverse clientele including families.
Often, hostels are housed in buildings with history and character. For example, the Villa Saint Exupery Gardens in Nice, France (pictured above) is a converted monastery, located in a safe and quiet residential area. Families can book private rooms with en-suite bathrooms, and the hostel offers a free babysitting service.
In addition to the obvious benefit of low price, family-friendly hostels offer a number of nice features.
- Character buildings: As noted above, often hostels are located in character buildings, such as former monasteries.
- Friendly ambiance: It's expected at hostels that guests will be friendly to new acquaintances. For many fans, the conviviality is the main reason to stay in a hostel. The casual friendly atmosphere can be great for families with young kids.
- Typically, communal breakfasts are offered, and optional dinners are offered too at some hostels. Dinners can be a nice way to socialize with other guests.
- Kitchen conveniences: Hostels typically have a shared kitchen where guests can keep milk and food items in the fridge. Hostels often have laundry facilities, too.
- A hostel may have board games, a playground, or kids play area inside, as shown above.
Points to Keep in Mind
- Many hostels have "family rooms" and some of these may even have a private ensuite bathroom. However, more often, families should expect to find dorm-style bunk beds. Also, pricing will be by the bed, and not by the room (which is typical in general of European hotels, unless you are staying at an American-style hotel that has pricing by the room.)
- Don't be afraid of the idea of shared bathrooms. The bathrooms will very likely be spotless, and you can check recent visitor comments online to be reassured that the place you're considering meets your standards about cleanliness.
- Check to make sure that bed linens are supplied. (In the old days at hostels, this was not assured.)
- Hostels typically have locations that can be easily reached by travelers.