Hostel Blog

Minneapolis International Hostel
16 Aug

Should You Book Your Hostels in Advance?

Should You Book Your Hostels in Advance?

Advance Hostel Booking

Hostel Booking: One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from people about to embark on their first travel adventure is whether they should book their accommodation in advance. Deciding not to make plans and turning up in an unfamiliar city without anything booked can be a daunting prospect, and yet, it’s one I recommend every new traveler trying at least once.

There are pros and cons to not booking all of your accommodation in advance, which I’ll run through in the article below, but suffice to say, I recommend trying both ways and seeing how it works for you.

No Matter What, Book Your First Week

If it’s going to be your first time traveling, I really recommend booking your first weeks’ worth of accommodation in advance. Even if you’re an experienced traveler, you probably know it’s wise to do so to give you peace of mind while you fit back into your travel shoes.

Here’s why: on the first day of your trip, you’ll be arriving in a foreign place with an unfamiliar language, feeling disoriented and tired.

You might be suffering from jet lag. You could be dealing with culture shock. You’ll have a thousand emotions coursing through your veins as you navigate your way around a new place.

At this point, the last thing you’ll want to do is drag yourself from hostel to hostel in search of the perfect place to rest your backpack.

Before your departure date, and read the reviews to gauge whether that hostel will be suitable for you. I always book the hostel that has the highest average rating (as long as it isn’t over-the-top expensive or a loud party hostel), as long as it has WiFi. Yes, I’m one of those travelers.

As you can see, booking your first hostel in advance is the way to go. You won’t have to worry about what to do when you arrive, you’ll be guaranteed a nice hostel thanks to reading the reviews, and you’ll have one less decision to make at an overwhelming time.

Once you arrive at the hostel, you’re now free to start thinking about your onward travel plans. It’s time to decide how you want to continue going forward. Should you travel without plans and enjoy the freedom that brings, or play it safe and book everything far in advance?

The Advantages of Booking Your Hostel in Advance

The most obvious advantage is gaining peace of mind. With all of your hostels booked in advance, there’s no need for you to worry about accommodation for the rest of your trip. You’ll have one less logistical factor to take into account while you travel. You know exactly where you’ll be and when you’re be there.

Additionally, f you book far enough in advance, you’ll be able to book the highest rated hostels in the area. Popular hostels are often booked out quickly, so if you’re always waiting until the last moment to book your accommodation, you’ll likely miss out on the best options. The last thing you want is for the best hostel in the city to be fully-booked when you’re in town.

Side note: it can be incredibly frustrating to pay a taxi to take you to the hostel you want to stay at, only to find that it’s booked and you need to scramble to find somewhere else for tonight.

The Disadvantages of Booking Your Hostel in Advance

By booking your hostel in advance, you’ll lose the freedom that makes the travel experience so rewarding. With your entire trip now planned out, you’ll have very little opportunity to change your mind and do something completely different. When you’re on the road, plans always change — and you’ll really want to be able to take advantage of this.

Maybe you’ll make friends with people who are heading somewhere you’d never considered before and you want to tag along with them; maybe you’ll fall so much in love with a place that you don’t want to leave when you’re stay is up; maybe you’ll hate somewhere you expected to love and end up stuck there because your onward travel plans are already fixed.

You might think that it would be cheaper to book hostels in advance, but I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. I’ve often turned up at a hostel and if they’ve had availability we’ve been able to bargain with them to give me a lower price than they advertise online. You’ll definitely be able to negotiate a cheaper price if you’re planning on staying a week or longer.

Finally, not every single hostel in the world is listed online or in Lonely Planet. There are some fantastic hostels that don’t list themselves online that are cheaper, quieter and much more enjoyable than the alternatives. We’ve stayed in some wonderful places that I wouldn’t have discovered if I’d only been choosing places that I could book in advance.

Other Factors to Consider

Namely, the time of year and the destination. Fancy staying in London in the middle of summer? Good luck finding a reasonably priced hostel without booking in advance!

Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are all at their busiest and most expensive at the height of summer. While you’ll be able to turn up in any of these places and find a hostel that still has availability, chances are it won’t be a particularly great one and you’ll be paying a lot for it. Even worse: the only option could be a hotel that’s five times the price of a hostel.

In cheaper places around the world — Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, East Asia, North Africa, Central America, we don’t recommend booking accommodation in advance, no matter what time of the year it is. These places are all used to having backpackers traveling through and have hundreds of accommodation options in even the smallest of towns. We’ve traveled through all of these places in high season, not booked hostels in advance, and have never once struggled to find a cheap, decent place. In fact, we often find ourselves struggling to narrow down where to stay!

Maybe you’ll make friends with people who are heading somewhere you’d never considered before and you want to tag along with them; maybe you’ll fall so much in love with a place that you don’t want to leave when you’re stay is up; maybe you’ll hate somewhere you expected to love and end up stuck there because your onward travel plans are already fixed.

You might think that it would be cheaper to book hostels in advance, but I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. I’ve often turned up at a hostel and if they’ve had availability we’ve been able to bargain with them to give me a lower price than they advertise online. You’ll definitely be able to negotiate a cheaper price if you’re planning on staying a week or longer.

Finally, not every single hostel in the world is listed online or in Lonely Planet. There are some fantastic hostels that don’t list themselves online that are cheaper, quieter and much more enjoyable than the alternatives. We’ve stayed in some wonderful places that I wouldn’t have discovered if I’d only been choosing places that I could book in advance.

Other Factors to Consider

Namely, the time of year and the destination. Fancy staying in London in the middle of summer? Good luck finding a reasonably priced hostel without booking in advance!

Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are all at their busiest and most expensive at the height of summer. While you’ll be able to turn up in any of these places and find a hostel that still has availability, chances are it won’t be a particularly great one and you’ll be paying a lot for it. Even worse: the only option could be a hotel that’s five times the price of a hostel.

In cheaper places around the world — Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, East Asia, North Africa, Central America, we don’t recommend booking accommodation in advance, no matter what time of the year it is. These places are all used to having backpackers traveling through and have hundreds of accommodation options in even the smallest of towns. We’ve traveled through all of these places in high season, not booked hostels in advance, and have never once struggled to find a cheap, decent place. In fact, we often find ourselves struggling to narrow down where to stay!