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Staying in Hostels with a Baby

My husband and I flew to Guatemala with our baby, Petra, when she was seven months old. We had previously traveled with her in the US and  Dominican Republic, but this would be the first time we traveled quickly with her, staying in each town only 2-5 days and mainly staying in hostels. I was [...]

My husband and I flew to Guatemala with our baby, Petra, when she was seven months old. We had previously traveled with her in the US and  Dominican Republic, but this would be the first time we traveled quickly with her, staying in each town only 2-5 days and mainly staying in hostels.

I was a bit nervous about how this would work out. I had stayed in plenty of hostels before when traveling as a single woman and knew many of them to be party centrals. Good places to drink beers, talk to other travelers and play cards.

How would traveling with my baby work in this environment?

Now that I was traveling with my baby I wanted someplace that was going to be quiet enough for her to sleep. I wanted some space for her to play. I was used to having my own bathroom, and cringed trying to think about what I was going to do with Petra when I had to go or bathing her in a public bathroom with pee on the floor and a line of hippies waiting for their turn. And how would the other travelers react to having a baby in their party house?

This was the first hostel we stayed at as a family.

The first place we stayed was the Casa Shalom in Antigua. I have to say this experience chased away the hostel jitters. We had a private room next to the bathroom, and Wade stepped up in the baby care. We had access to a kitchen, and so were able to make Petra her baby food mush. Best of all, people were really welcoming and happy to have us their. The manager had her two daughters there and another traveling family from Sweden with two kids was staying in the hostel, too. The kids were all older than Petra but were happy to read to her and play with her, and Petra was fascinated with them. Even the young travelers staying in the hostel seemed genuinely happy to see Petra, some holding her or telling us that it made them happy to see us traveling as a family, as they often wondered if this was possible.

Staying in hostels with a baby can be a challenge. I have listed my pros and cons below:

Pros of Staying in a Hostel with a Family

Traveling children share their toys in a hostel common room.

Hostels are cheap. Okay, so we didn’t really have too much of a choice. Quite simply, we don’t have the money to stay in nice hotels, and in many places the only accomodation cheap enough for us is hostels. There is a big difference between paying $30 a day for a room and $10.

Hostels are more likely to have a kitchen. Not all hostels have a kitchen, but when they do, they are great. Eating in is a good way to save money and stay healthy. Cooking your own food is generally more sanitary than eating out. If you wash the fruit yourself, you know it’s clean and safe to give to your kids. If you have picky eaters this can be an easy way to give them food they are more accustomed to, as well. Even older travelers enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich sometimes.

Travelers come to hostels expecting to meet people. Travelers who stay in hostels are used to meeting people. There is less privacy and more communal space. This makes it easier to make friends. We met lots of people while we stayed in hostels as a family. Some even offered to babysit!

Hostels have communal rooms. Hostels are more likely to have communal rooms where there is space to hang out and explore. Even when you stay in a nice hotel, your room might not be much larger than a double bed. This doesn’t leave you a lot of play room.

Cons of Staying in a Hostel as a Family

Hostels have a party atmosphere. Many hostels are used to people who party hard. We were lucky, Petra can sleep through anything, so noise didn’t really bother us. However, we did have to leave a hostel in Mexico because there was just too much marijuana. It made communal areas and the kitchen unbearable for us. If you are going to stay in a hostel, be prepared to speak up if you don’t want people blowing pot smoke in your baby’s face. Also be prepared for them not listening to you, and have a plan if you have to leave.

Hostels have a shared bathroom. A private bathroom is really nice. It can be tough to figure out what to do with your baby when you need to go down the hall to use the bathroom. If your child is potty trained, you might feel a little uncomfortable about him using a public toilet shared with some partying twenty year olds. Lots of kids like long baths and this generally isn’t possible if there are a lot of people waiting to use the communal shower.

You won’t have as much privacy. Sharing a bathroom, living room and kitchen means that you will be living your family life out in public more.

We stayed in a hostel because it was the cheapest option. While I enjoyed staying in hostels sometimes, I also would not want to do it for months and months on end. We balance our time in hostels with longer term studio apartments when perpetually traveling as a family.

Have you had positive or negative experiences staying in hostels as a family? Or have you met traveling families in hostels? Share your stories below!

Filed under: Accommodation, Central America, Health, Travel With Family

About the Author:

After traveling on her own for three or four years, Chaya met up with Wade Shepard, the editor of VagabondJourney.com. They were married in 2009, and continue to travel the world together with their young daughter. From time to time Chaya blogs about family travel and life on the road. has written 102 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Chaya Shepard is currently in: Xiamen, China

4 comments… add one

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  • M June 2, 2012, 12:50 pm

    After having a horrendous experience in a hostel overrun by one family with three children under the age of 2, I can tell you this:

    Babies do not belong in hostels. Ever.

    Hostels are for sleeping. Babies do not sleep on the same schedule as adults do. And while YOU believe your children are so special and different that they would never be any trouble to others, please be advised that your kids are much noisier and messier than you think they are. One child makes enough noise and mess to equal three adults, at least – and yet, they get discounts wherever they go.

    It is not fair to deprive other people of sleep because you were too cheap to pay for a hotel room. If you’re really low on money, stay in a campground.

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    • Wade Shepard June 2, 2012, 8:06 pm

      Hostels are noisy places. Punto. You have drunk backpackers coming in at all hours of the night, people waking up at the crack of dawn to catch an early morning bus or plane, guests arriving in your dorm at all hours of the night, couples trying to copulate in the dorms, and people partying in the common rooms. If you’re looking for a quiet night’s sleep then a hostel is probably not the place for you.

      Also, the wreckage, filth, and mess that a gang of drunks leave behind in a hostel often pales that of pretty much any child.

      Rather than attacking children here, why not go after anybody who makes noise and a mess in a hostel. If all of these pernicious influences were removed I highly doubt there would be anybody left.

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  • twelvecountries February 15, 2013, 4:00 am

    Way to be one-sided and belligerent.

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  • Madeline Delaney August 24, 2013, 1:35 am

    Thank you Chaya for a great article! I am travelling to Mexico next month with my cousin, and my 7-month year old. I was concerned about staying in a hostel with a baby, but the points you bring up are great, especially the kitchen aspect, as my cousin and i are on a tight budget, and it will be great to make baby food for my little girl. The nasty comment is ridiculous, when people are travelling, they generally sleep like ROCKS, being that the excitement during the day wears you out! I plan to bring a white noise machine too, to drown out any late night partiers (I was once one of those…) but now its my turn to travel as a mother! after all, everyone deserves to travel….and travelling on a BUDGET is key!!!! viva hostels!!! and viva bambinos!!!!
    thanks again for sharing Chaya, you have given me a lot of optimism!

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