Some baby boomers are revisiting their youth by experiencing hostels as they now travel as seniors. A stay in a hostel is most attractive to the budget conscious, adventurous traveler. There are thousands of well-maintained hostels all over the United States and most other countries worldwide from which to choose. However, for seniors also needing to consider accommodations that cater to travelers with disabilities, the decision to include hostels as part of your next vacation may or may not be a wise choice.
Hostels are a mainstay of the youth travel movement but more and more seniors are enjoying the many benefits of them as well. Hostels are often located in some of the best real estate around offering great access to major attractions, local transportation, cafes and restaurants. Hostels have been found in everything from converted lighthouses to medieval castles. I believe the opportunity to live in close quarters with people from many cultural backgrounds and age-groups for a short time is an excellent reason to give this a go. You will be surrounded by like- minded people who are looking to enjoy all that travel has to offer on a budget.
I strongly encourage those of you considering hostels to join HI-USA, a division of Hosteling International, and try a night or two at a hostel within the United States before venturing to foreign lands. Membership has many benefits including free nights, worldwide discounts, programs and activities, advance reservations, travel insurance and more. HI also maintains standards by which all member hostels must follow giving you reassurance when booking into different properties. Alternatively, some of the negatives associated with hostels include lack of privacy, noise (most hostels have quiet hours) and limited bathrooms so bladder issues faced by many seniors could be a problem.
Travelers with mobility limitations should begin their planning by going to the website and looking for hostels that display the universal wheelchair symbol showing accessibility. Fortunately, there are many of these and the numbers continue to grow. As we all have different access needs and different definitions of what accessible means to us, it is very important that seeing the wheelchair symbol is just the start of your research. At this point I would locate an email address or phone number for the hostel and ask the questions which are pertinent to your situation. Be sure to find out about the bathrooms including the availability of a roll-in shower, grab bars, shower seat, etc. Is there room to transfer from your wheelchair or scooter to your bed and are electrical outlets available to charge medical equipment overnight? The list can go on and on but only you know what’s important to make your stay comfortable.
Are you ready to book your room at an accessible hostel? Why not try Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel located right on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California. Surrounded by wheelchair accessible pathways, it has four bungalows one of which is accessible with rates starting at $25.00/per person per night. Unbelievable price for an ocean view! The Dolphin Bungalow has three rooms, one with a single bed and two with bunk-beds. The bathroom is very spacious with ample turnaround room for a wheelchair and the shower has a large transfer bench and hand-held shower. Be sure to bring your own toiletries! Pigeon Point also offers a community kitchen as do most hostels and it is stocked with dishes, utensils and pots & pans.
The rules that govern persons with special needs and seniors who want to experience a hostel are the same rules that pertain to all aspects of travel. They include but are not limited to planning ahead, having travel insurance, carrying a copy of your passport, medications and health history, having phone numbers and addresses available for where you are going, bringing along tools for minor repairs to prosthetics and medical equipment and being ready for new adventures and a great time!