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6 Ways to Avoid Staying in a Bad Hostel

What makes a good hostel? How do you avoid the bad ones? After staying in hundreds of hostels since I first started traveling the world, I’ve become quite adept at figuring out very quickly if the hostel owners know what they are doing or just randomly woke up one day and said “Let’s open a hostel. It sounds like fun.”

While hostels are all about the people, management can do a few things to make their hostel a lot less crappy and a lot more awesome. Certain features make a hostel memorable (common rooms, group activities, and kitchens) while others can make them suck (push button showers, general filth, and unknowledgeable staff).

All of my favorite hostels share common traits that make them some of the best in the world, which leads me into this week’s video.

In it, I talk about the six main things that I look for when I’m picking a hostel to stay in, features that every good hostel should have.
(Want more travel videos? I now update my YouTube channel each week with a new video.Subscribe here and get free videos!)

Additionally, here are some smaller things to look out for:

  • Breakfast – Look for a place with a decent breakfast (i.e., more than bread and cheese) or at least one that begins and ends when people are actually awake (breakfasts that start around 8:30 usually go late). Breakfast is also a great way to load up on snacks for the day, cutting down your food budget.
  • Check-out time – Never stay at a hostel with a check-out time before 10 A.M.; the best ones have won’t make you check out until 11 A.M. or later. Sleep is valuable on the road because you’ll rarely get enough of it. Hostels with late check-out times understand this.
  • Lockers – It’s surprising, but I’ve actually been in hostels that don’t provide lockers or will charge you for them. In this day and age, lockers should be standard, and you should never pay for security. This is a deal breaker for me (especially since I travel with electronics).
  • Kitchen – Try to look for hostels with kitchens since you can then prepare your own food, lower your food budget, and share a meal with your new friends. Nothing binds people closer together than a shared meal (and a few glasses of wine).

What makes hostels great are the people. A top-rated hostel can be home to an unpleasant experience if the people are bad, while you can fondly remember the dirtiest, grossest, and most disgusting hostel in the world if you enjoy good company while you’re staying there.

But removing people from the equation, I look for hostels that have many of these qualities I’ve mentioned. Great, memorable hostels know what you want as a traveler and will enhance your travel experience.

What do you look for in a good hostel?

paristourist

And Then, It Was Time to Lead My First Tour…

Today is the day. Today I’m flying to Paris — but this time, it’s not to lounge by the Seine while drinking wine (O.K., there will be some of that), this time it’s to lead my first tour for ten readers and make them even more passionate for travel.

Back in May, I announced that I was leading a tour through Europe and the response was overwhelming. Now, after months of planning, I’m leaving to meet the ten participants on Sunday before we enjoy a two-week journey through Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, andStockholm.

I can’t believe how quickly this has come. It seems like yesterday I was telling a friend “I’m going to organize a tour to Europe. Maybe a few people will come.”

Well, now D-Day is here and it’s time to go.

I’m used to playing tour guide for my friends, but now I am doing it for ten people I’ve never met. So many thoughts are racing through my head, the biggest one being “I hope I don’t fuck this up.”

But all joking aside, I am really excited about this. A few of the people joining me have never been to Europe before and I can’t wait to show them my Europe. I’ll be taking them to my favorite attractions (both on and off the beaten path), restaurants, bars, and everything in-between.

I’ll also be highlighting some of my favorite travel companies (including Rail Europe and Context Travel) and hostels (St. Christopher’s, Generator, and City Backpackers) so that’s also exciting, as I love spreading the word of good travel companies.

This is going to be incredibly fun.

I’ve spent the last few weeks reading up in even more detail about each destination, planning my walking tours, making reservations for restaurants, and much more.

Even after all of the trips I’ve taken and helped with, I never realized so much work could go into planning a group tour. There’s a lot of t’s to cross and i’s to dot.

So, as I board my flight to Paris, I’m double and triple checking I have all the itinerary copies, rail passes, train reservations, and booking numbers. I’m — in part — a nervous wreck.

But I know this is going to be a good time because the people who read this site are amazing, and for two weeks I get to talk about what I love: travel.

I’ll be updating as we go and will most likely have a long post after the fact on what I learned being a tour guide. You can follow along with all our antics on Instagram, Facebook, andTwitter.

So let the good times, wine, and food flow!

See you in Europe!

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Home: The Death of a Nomad

When I decided to move to New York City, I had this vision of what would happen: I would move to NYC, settle down into my own amazing apartment, decorate it with lots of cool stuff, join a gym, take cooking classes, and, in between all that, take numerous trips to JFK airport and jet set around the world. I’d come back, stay for a few weeks, and do it all over again.

I’d be able to balance my twin desires – settling down and my love of travel.

I was naive.

Since moving here in January, I never managed to spend more than a couple weeks in New York City before having to leave again. When I moved into my own apartment in July, I left the next day. I came back for a week before leaving again for two months.

I never got to settle down.

I never took those cooking classes.

I never joined that gym.

My apartment is still bare with curtainless windows, books longing for a bookcase, and walls longing for art and paintings.

The famed — and much desired — end to my travels never really materialized as I’ve spent much of the last year on the road.

“I thought you were slowing down,” people would say to me.

“I’m trying. I’m trying,” I’d reply.

No matter how hard I tried, slowing down never seemed to happen.

There were many false starts.

But last month while in Europe, I began to feel really homesick. I was tired of traveling and just wanted to be home in my comfy bed.

I realized I was tired of delaying my roots.

Roots, after all, can only take hold if they are in the ground. I’ve been trying to develop habits and routines without giving my roots time to grow. I keep uprooting them, and then trying to replant them in hopes they would grow.

But it doesn’t work that way.

You need to till the earth, plant the seed, and let the roots take hold.

You can’t uproot them.

It’s time I give my roots a chance.

I’m tired of saying “Ok, I’ll do it next time.” Each time I’m about to hit my stride in New York City, it’s time to get on a plane again.

Except this time.

I’m not traveling until the end of December when I go to the Philippines.

There’s a lot to do in NYC and it’s finally time to do it.

I’ve purposely filled my schedule with things that will keep me in the city. This week I joined a gym, got a trainer, and paid for a desk at a co-working space.

I’m having friends visit.

I’m here.

I’m home.

It’s time to grow some roots.

Nothing will stop me now.

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How to Cater a San Francisco Event

[Image Credit: Bistro Boudin]

There are dozens of reasons people across the world flock to spend some well-deserved vacation time in the city of San Francisco. The breath-taking views, riding the Cable Cars, or shopping at the numerous boutiques at Union Square all rank high on the list for why people love to come to the ‘City by the Bay’.  With so many sights and activities to experience, most folks tend to forget you can get some of the best food in the nation in San Francisco. From the world-class Italian fare in the North Beach district to the hole-in-the-wall haunts dotted along the Richmond District’s Clement Street, San Francisco is a foodie’s dream destination. Continue reading How to Cater a San Francisco Event