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Youth Hostels May Prove Affordable Travel Option

Hostels Allow Low-Budget Vacations for College Students

(U-WIRE) MADISON, Wis. -College students are well-known for planning creative vacations — and trying to do so on a shoestring budget. For those who want to save money and have an opportunity to meet other travelers, youth hostels are an option.

While the concept of staying in a hostel is relatively new in the United States, hostels have been common in Europe and other countries for years and continue to grow in popularity. Kellie Jones, a front-desk manager at the Seashell Motel and Youth Hostel in Key West, Fla., said while there is technically no age restriction for staying at a hostel, most of the clientele are college-age and choose to stay at a hostel because they do not need the amenities that most hotels offer, since they do not spend much time in the rooms.

"About 75 percent of our guests are in their 20s," Jones said. "They stay here because it’s a lot cheaper than a hotel, and it’s easier to meet people when you have to share a room with them."

As opposed to staying in a regular hotel, youth hostels offer something out of the ordinary. Many hostels are historical sites that have been renovated, and others are points of interest. One hostel is located in a California lighthouse, another in a 19th century ship in Sweden and a few are actual working farms.

Instead of offering private rooms, hostels offer a dormitory-style bed, and guests share a room with other travelers. Most hostels charge between $10 and $25 a night for a bed. Usually there are separate rooms for men and women, but most places offer co-ed dorms as well. Clean sheets and pillowcases are provided, and commonly offer blankets on request, since most hostellers are backpacking and carry sleeping bags.

Lockers are provided for storage of important items, if a guest should want to lock anything up.

"Although it’s not a good idea to leave important items lying around, the people that stay at hostels usually know the protocol and are honest," Jones said. "We don’t have a big problem with stealing."

Some Youth Hostels Offer Work Option

Some youth hostels offer access to kitchens, while others may offer low-priced meals.

In most hostels, access to the building is available 24 hours a day, while some have curfews. Many places will offer special activities for guests, and most have recreation rooms that include a television and other forms of entertainment. In some places, such as the Venice Beach Hostel in Santa Monica, Calif., guests can opt to work, cleaning rooms or attending the front desk for a shift instead of paying for the night.

Twenty-three-year-old Briony Reeves of Sydney, Australia, said she thought working instead of paying was a good idea.

"It helps to stretch a dollar just a little further, so we have that much more money to spend on other things," Reeves said.

Typically, hostel staffs are very knowledgeable about the area and can offer information and directions to nearby points of interest, as well as restaurants, bars, bus schedules and just about anything else a person is looking for.

University of Wisconsin-Madison senior Joe Fontecchio stayed in a youth hostel during a past spring break.

"I stayed in the hostel through the advice of friends," Fontecchio said. "It was more economical [than a hotel] for the location we were in. It worked perfectly."

Copyright ©2003 The Badger Herald via U-Wire

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