Take an Inexpensive Vacation Through American Youth Hostels

Learn what is a hostel, where to find hostels and the advantages of making a hostel stay part of your American vacation.

| May/June 1982


Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel in California.


Vacation time — be it two days, two weeks or two months — is downright precious to most folks, whether they follow nine-to-five routines or are self-employed and working on their own schedules. It's an opportunity to relax and renew oneself, to catch up on and (maybe!) finish half-started projects around the house, or to visit for a spell with family and friends. If one's lucky enough, a vacation can also be a time to travel, to see new places and experience different lifestyles.

Unfortunately, though, a quick mental tabulation of the transportation, lodging and food expenses that an away-from-home adventure can involve will too often prompt would-be travelers to postpone (perhaps for the umpteenth time) their dreamed-of holidays. That's a shame, because staying home isn't the only alternative to taking a costly excursion. The fact is that you and your family can have your own special vacation — in any part of the country — for fewer dollars than you probably ever thought possible.

Would you, for example, like to hike amid 90 acres of virgin forest in Georgia, and sleep (at a cost of less than $5.00 a night) in a geodesic dome? Perhaps you'd rather bicycle on country roads along the New England coast, and arrive at dusk at a restored 1870s lifesaving station on Nantucket Island (where the price of your night's lodging will be below $6.00). On the other hand, visiting Philadelphia's cultural attractions might be more your style (if so, you can call an old historic mansion, in the city's charming Fairmount Park, your temporary home for about $5.00 a night). Or maybe your vacation fantasy would be fulfilled by awakening in an old Victorian rooming house — surrounded by the ghosts of Wild West cowboys — and cooking your own hearty breakfast before tackling the powder at Colorado's Purgatory Ski Area (your overnight stay will run less than $8.00 even in the winter).

Then again, you may have imagined beachcombing along the Pacific coast (and lodging in a lighthouse), bunking down on a Montana ranch, spelunking in Ohio, sailing the Great Lakes or snorkeling in Florida. These opportunities are the stuff from which dream vacations are made. And you can create such a truly memorable, and affordable, trip by letting hosteling help determine your itinerary.

What is a Hostel?

Hostels are simply inexpensive (but adequate) overnight accommodations for travelers of all ages. Of course, many Americans who've been abroad are familiar with the European system of hosteling, but most folks know very little about the U.S. counterpart, called American Youth Hostels, Inc. That's surprising, because there's a network of about 270 of these hikers' inns in our country. Furthermore, although they aren't all as glamorous as the examples I've described, each has its own unique gifts to offer the traveler who shares the self-reliant spirit upon which hosteling is based.

Like hotels and motels, hostels provide weary wayfarers with clean places to relax, wash, eat, and sleep. However, unlike the more expensive accommodations, hostels stress the value of meeting and conversing with folks of different nationalities and backgrounds, whose outlook and experience may vary from your own.

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