On a recent reporting trip to the Toronto International Film Festival for WalletPop and other outlets, I booked four nights at a hostel and feared the worst: hard-partying tourists, sketchy conditions and zero privacy. What else could a cranky 49-year-old family man expect from a place that traditionally has "youth" in front of it?
I was blessedly wrong. My stay in a private room with shared hallway bathroom was quiet and tension-free. The room was clean, the WiFi strong, and I was able to recharge in a comfy queen bed. Best of all, I saved big bucks. Instead of shelling out a minimum of $240 a night for even a modest hotel near the festival center, I paid a total of $252 for four nights at the All Days House #3. That's $63 a night. What made it more satisfying was that I searched for lodging just days before the festival.
Turns out I'm not the only relative geezer to enter into what has been thought to be the realm of the young and monetarily-deprived. Seven percent of the 3.5 million bookings at hostelworld.com have been 41 years of age and older, spokeswoman Aisling White told WalletPop. A full 20% consist of guests in the 31 to 40 range.
"More and more people are realizing that hostels are a fantastic alternative to budget hotels or motels and cater to people of all ages, not just 20-something backpackers!" she emailed.
As a mature person intent on getting my writing done without distraction, I read the user reviews to make sure I wasn't walking into a 24/7 Bacchanal. Grad students might be more amenable to shared rooms for as low as $24 a bed, but I needed to be alone. I'm not alone on that count, too. "In general, older travelers would be looking for that bit more privacy so private rooms are usually the first thing people will look for, in addition to hostels that provide breakfast inclusive in the rate," White said. (My hostel allowed for guests to bring in their own food and prepare it. I ate free breakfast and lunch at the press center and fended for myself at dinner)
White said the upward-spiking demographic has enticed hostels to add more private single, double and triple rooms. But for those who simply need a bed, she assured that it would not be uncool "in general" for longer-in-the-tooth visitors to book a bed in one of the shared dorm-style rooms.
White had one other key tip to economize: Choose hostels in central locations to save on transport.
Sites such as hostelworld also have a section to investigate nearby entertainment bargains. But my hostel already had me at a clean cheap room and quiet night's snooze. Next time, it won't be a last-minute choice.
Old man in a youth hostel: I saved big, slept well, and enjoyed the wifi