Do you remember the youth hostels of your backpacking days? The accommodation was basic. And the rules? Bring your own bedsheets, wear flip-flops in the shower – and have fun!

Now that you’re all grown up and can actually afford a decent hotel, you may not have considered booking into a youth hostel with your family…but you should! When chosen carefully, the experience of staying at an auberge de jeunesse or a local backpackers can not only save you money, but enhance the quality of your family vacation.

Aside from the obvious (bunk beds!!), here are 5 reasons to stay in a youth hostel on your next family vacation:

5 Reasons to Stay in a Youth Hostel on Your Next Family Vacation

Bunk beds at Auberge de Gros Cap/Credit: Helen Earley

1. Youth Hostels Have Grown Up Too

Travel Blogger Kash Bhattacharya owns the website Budget and says that a trend toward luxury hosteling means a better choice for families who want to travel on a budget. “There’s been a huge shift in the hostelling scene in the last few years”, he says. “Hostels are growing up and attracting people of all ages”. If you want to see some stunning examples, check out his list of the best family friendly hostels in Europe, including the opulent Plas Curig in Snowdonia, and the funky Cocomama – a boutique Amsterdam hostel housed in a former brothel.

Plas Curig Hostel

Plas Curig Hostel in Wales, deemed the “best hostel in Britain” by Budget Traveller/Credit: Budget Traveller

2. You’ll Save Money

On our recent family road trip to Quebec’s Madgalen Islands, we stayed in possibly the most beautiful hostel I have ever seen: The Auberge de Gros Cap (pictured below). Set on the edge of a red stone cliff, with fresh sea air blowing steadily through the tall dormitory windows, this spotlessly clean, bright yellow former marine research station offers free internet, continental breakfast, and a large playground for the kids. The price of a spacious 4-bed family room? Only $86 per night.

Auberge de Gros Cap

Auberge de Gros Cap Magdalen Islands/Credit: Helen Earley

3. Your Kids Will Meet New Friends

At the same hostel, my 8 year-old daughter Lucy and her new friend Arthur played Scrabble on a board that they found on the games shelf in the lounge. The catch? He spoke only French, and she only English. With the help of two sets of proud parents, these two adventurous kids managed to have a bilingual game – each placing words in their own language!

5 Reasons to Stay in a Youth Hostel on Your Next Family Vacation/ Scrabble Game at Park Du Gros Cap. Photo by Helen Earley

Scrabble at Auberge de Gros Cap, Magdalen Islands/Credit: Helen Earley

Travel Writer Ann Briton Campbell recounts an equally enriching experience in Australia:

“We thought we’d hit the hosteling jackpot when we checked in to the Grampians Eco Youth Hostel in Halls Gap, Australia. Our kids, then 7 and 9-years-old, talked with travellers from all over the world. That wild kangaroos lived just outside the hostel was a bonus.”

4. You’ll Pick Up Travel Tips

Forget the guide book app! At a youth hostel, you can truly “network” with fellow travellers to find out which attractions are worthwhile. At a hostel, it’s OK to turn off the phone and the iPads, and head down to the lounge for a low-tech travellers’ chat.

5. You’ll Eat Well

As well as providing a modest breakfast (think toast and jam or Nutella and coffee), most hostels have a kitchen for guests. This means you and your family can truly experience local cuisine.  Shop local, go fishing, try farmer’s markets, taste local beer. You can do it all, now that you’ve got a fridge and a stove at your disposal. (Don’t forget to follow the kitchen rules, and clean up as you go along.)

A typical youth hostel breakfast in the Magdalen Islands, Quebec. Grenache Caramel and Toast. Photo by Helen Earley

A typical youth hostel breakfast, Auberge de Gros Cap/Credit: Helen Earley

Has your family ever stayed in a youth hostel? If so, please tell us about your experience in the comments. And, if you’re planning a family vacation, make sure you check out the following links to superb family-friendly youth hostels in Canada and around the world!

Plas Curig, Snowdonia, Wales, UK

Cocomama, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

YHA Windermere, Lake District, England

Safestay Hostels in London, York and Edinburgh, UK

Family Holidays with YHA Australia

Fireweed Hostel, Yoho National Park, BC

HI Canmore, Alberta

Auberge de Gros Cap, Magdalen Islands, Quebec


Helen and her family were hosted in beautiful the Magdalen Islands courtesy of Quebec Maritime.