Can you remember the first dorm room you ever stayed in? Mine was somewhere in Cape Town nearly seven years ago. Being students, we went for the cheapest hostel we could find, and from my fuzzy memories I think we got what we paid for.
It didn't help that there were no sheets on the bed, which we failed to notice while dropping our stuff off before hitting the bars, and then found reception to be closed when we returned in the wee hours of the morning. It was a very cold night.
I've definitely noticed hostels upping their game over the past seven years. This was only confirmed from the many conversations I've had with those of you in the industry for 10, 15, 20+ years. It's clear hostels have come a long way. So, here are a few tips & tricks I found along the way for both dorms and private rooms. Enjoy!
A few hostels, including Old Countryhouse in Christchurch shown below, had light switches by the bed AND the door, so you don't have to get out of bed to turn off the light. Very, very convenient, unless you get joy out of the dodging-furniture-in-the-dark-dance (which I generally fail at, resulting in at least one bruise).
If adding an extra switch is not possible or is too much trouble, consider having at least a bed side lamp that can be turned on before the main switch is turned off.
Some hostels had dimmer switches in their rooms (private and dorms) to help the dreaded bright light on at 2am waking everyone up.
Mirrors in rooms- dorms or privates- can make the space look bigger. Plus, girls love them, as well as boys trying to impress those girls. (I swear, I've seen boys spend twice as long on their hair as most girls.) If you can't get a full length mirror in a room, try to have one somewhere in the hostel (like the girls bathroom). A small investment to keep us lookin good.
As lockers are starting to become standard in many hostels- especially backpack sized ones, so are power points inside these lockers. Travelers are coming with more devices than ever, and these give peace of mind to both guests and staff. (I know I'd much prefer guests to not leave their laptop laying around charging). The newest upgrade in power points is to install those with USB ports as well, such as below at Cactus Jack in Rotorua:
If newly installing power points into existing lockers, take travel adaptors into consideration. Sometimes power points are so close to the base of a wall or top of a locker that they don't allow the extra space for a bulky adaptor. If you have choice in where exactly these are being installed, give a few extra centimeters to allow for adaptors.
Unfortunately I can't remember which hostel it was, but one I visited that was fitting their lockers with new power points did so with 'soft wiring'. This allows the ability to simply unplug them from the wall in order to move lockers around if room re-configuration is necessary.
How many of you have to become Stretch Armstrong to reach items fallen behind beds like cell phones or glasses? Brett at Adventure Queenstown solved this by cutting a small hand-sized hole in each under bed cabinet/locker. It acts like a short cut to reach items that have fallen behind the bed.
Many hostels in New Zealand offer hot water bottles to their guests, as there is often no central heating and it can get quite cold in winter. Chez La Mer in Akaroa went a step further, hanging one from each dorm bed, which I thought was a nice touch:
A few hostels offered single beds in dorms, rather than bunks. The obvious downside is half the revenue for the space, but it is a really nice luxury for guests if you can afford it.
Single bed dorm room at Blackcurrent Backpackers in Taupo
Single bed dorm at Jack in the Green in Hanmer Springs
**An update from the road in the US: I'm driving cross country back to San Francisco, and stopped last night in Flagstaff, Arizona. I stayed at a very lovely hostel called Grand Canyon International Hostel, and was pleasantly surprised to find a sink in my private room. This is such an underrated luxury, that I had to snap a pic to share it. I know many people don't have the room for this, or won't be able to add this after the fact, but if you are just starting up or doing major renovation, consider doing this. Your guests wil love it!
As with all of the tips & tricks blog posts, these are just a few of my observations of the many things that could be done with rooms. What are your other ideas? Sign in and comment below.
**I know many of you comment on these blogs on the site's FB page, which is great, but it would be even better to have the comments directly on here for everyone to read. Thanks for your input and helping to further our knowledge!**
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