During our trip to Scandinavia, my family and I were lucky enough to stay in a couple different types of lodgings and get different experiences in all the cities. As we were planning the trip, we tried to find places close by the things we wanted to see or in an area we wanted to experience. We also tried to keep in mind that food would be expensive and having an available kitchen may alleviate that expense. We looked at a couple different places, and found we chose based on different things.
In Oslo, we actually stayed in someone’s condo through AirBnB. Here’s condo on the Oslo fjord was in a busy area, just by the Opera House. Arctic Cabins in Vestvatn gave us a different experience where we were out in nature and removed from city lights to see the Aurora Borealis. When it came to larger cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm, we decided to go with more social places to stay. We found two very different styles of hostels and found they both have their pros and cons.
Why stay in a hostel instead of a hotel or a rentable condo or apartment? Hostels are generally much cheaper than staying in a hotel room, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in a bunk room with 10 other people. Most hostels have private rooms with their own bathrooms, so it is almost like you have a hotel room. A lot of hostels will have other perks of living in a budget, like having a kitchen, free breakfasts, or even a laundromat. Lastly, they have a lot of community areas for meeting more people. While generally, we met young backpackers, who were traveling and partying around town, we did see families and older single travelers had the same benefits in mind.
In Copenhagen, we stayed in a centrally located hostel, the Generator Hostel. (We paid about $95/night here) As a chain hostel group, they are known for their swanky designs and has a vibrant air to it on its own. Since we were excited to get inspired by all the Danish design, we thought this would be the perfect place to end the day at. We had a private room with 2 bunk beds (4 beds) for the 3 of us. We also had our own private bathroom for the room, so no need to share with others. We had the convenience of cool neighborhoods, food stands, coffee shops, and general stores all close by. They also had perks like a laundromat, bike rentals, discounted tickets for attractions, breakfast options, and more. The large lounge area had a theater and hammocks with a bar at night.
This Hostel was really nice, we enjoyed staying so close to things and how much private space we had. There were a couple cons to note. The laundromat was busy, with all the people staying there they needed more machines. We waited a long time for someone to take their things out of the washer then again when using the drier. We stayed on the 5th floor, and sometimes the elevator was out, which wouldn’t be that bad but on our last day someone had thrown the fire alarm , so the stairwell was packed in the early morning, with everyone making their way down. The internet wifi was ok, but after that fire alarm, with everyone up and awake, we did not get much for signal. As much as we wanted a social space to meet new people, having breakfast there was busy and we saw a lot of people, but we were all on our way out and not sticking around. Nights were the better time, but because of the bar, we didn’t see as many families at the time.
Bunk beds lost its charm after the first hour or so. My daughter, Evie still had a blast and claimed BOTH the top bunks, where she would stash her candy and toys. The bottom bunk was not ideal for doing anything. The mattress wasn’t comfortable to sleep and if I was up doing work on my laptop, it made for uncomfortable positioning. The bathrooms were nice but had a light connected to a motion sensor, so once you went into the shower, the light soon turned off unless I could call for my husband or daughter to come in and move around. In the end it was a fine to end the day, get some sleep, and move on. We area was great and I’m glad we were so centrally located.
In Stockholm, we found another unique hostel. The Rygerfjord was approximately $85/night. With the strong naval history and being situated on the water, it’s easy to find something boat-related there. We were excited to find a boat hostel, both with private rooms and shared rooms. The unique quality of being on the water didn’t mean it didn’t have normal hostel-perks. It still had breakfasts served in a common social area, a bar area, a kitchen area for bringing your own food back home. We had a great location, facing the city and next to the island of Gamla Stan (the old town area of Stockholm). Public transportation was a short walk away, and we had shops and food close by as if we had regular housing on the mainland.
It was super cool to stay on a boat, with all its porthole-window charm, and our 4-year old thought we had the coolest home for our stay there. Like all things there were pros and cons to this. One thing we didn’t really know how it was going to affect us was the motion in the boat while we slept. We are basically docked, so there wasn’t much movement, but my husband does get motion sick so we just didn’t know. We came prepared with some meds and was lucky enough not to have any reaction.
Other than that, the biggest issue was the bathroom. I can’t really say I know what happens in the plumbing necessary to have a boat hostel, but the noise after each flush, shower, or use of the sink was incredible. I’m talking loud enough that we would almost be screaming when talking next to each other. It happened every time we used the water and lasted a couple seconds to maybe a minute at tops. We complained about it a couple times and was informed that it may have been the last family in that room and a possible diaper flushed down the toilet. Even with maintenance visiting a couple days in a row, the noise continued. We ended up using the shared bathroom in the hallways some nights when we just didn’t want to wake Evie with the noise. It was really inconvenient, but I was glad we had that option. The other thing we didn’t think about was the wind from an open boat dock. As the days got colder, the walk to and from the hostel got more miserable. The boat makes it pretty open to cold wind gusts. It was fine, just probably something that would have been different if we picked a hostel building on the streets.
Being smaller than the Generator hostel, and having smaller shared spaces, we didn’t really meet too many people. Some nights were spent sketching or doing some computer stuff on the main boat, where most people just kept to themselves. There really wasn’t anything like people hanging out at the bar or mingling as the space wasn’t really set up for that. We did find that the shared kitchen spaces on the individual boats were a little more open to meeting people and less crowded than the main boat.
Either way, both places were what we expected in hostel vacationing. I do think that us as a family of 3 can do this and not have issues when traveling because in the end, where you lay down at the end of the day just isn’t that important to me or us. Yes, you would like it to be clean and safe, but after that we are flexible. I would rather spend less on hotel stays, especially in places where I know we may need to budget a little more for experiences. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles of a hotel, so in the end it helps to know what your priorities are.