WHAT A DIFFERENCE A STAY MAKES
Whether it's a long-planned road trip or a quick weekend flight to another state, domestic travel can cost plenty, particularly during the popular summer vacation season. One easy way to save cash while traveling is to stay in a hostel rather than a hotel or vacation rental. But hostels aren't for everyone. While some do offer private rooms, shared accommodations, which may include bunk beds and communal bathrooms, are more typical. Most feature large gathering areas and kitchens, perfect for getting to know fellow travelers. Unlike cookie-cutter hotel chains, hostels provide a unique and affordable way to explore the 50 states. Here are 10 of the best, all located in popular destinations, where the cost of a hotel room could otherwise be prohibitive for many budget-minded travelers.Related: 10 Cheap Summer Vacation Ideas
FIREHOUSE, AUSTIN, TEXAS
Home to the annual South by Southwest festivals, Austin is a progressive city that appeals to hipsters, foodies, and nature lovers alike. To spend time in Austin on a budget without compromising on quality accommodations, book a stay at the Firehouse hostel, nestled in the heart of downtown. The hostel has rave reviews on TripAdvisor, where many guests note how friendly and accommodating the staff is. Unlike dreary, Spartan hostels of old, the Firehouse offers bright and cheery rooms, a bar, free Wi-Fi, and even live music. One of the most unique features of this hostel is the entrance to the lounge: to access the bar area, guests must pass through a secret bookcase. Rates start at about $30 a night (per person) for a shared room with seven other guests.
URBAN HOLIDAY LOFTS, CHICAGO
Chicago is a popular tourist destination (particularly in the warmer summer months) for so many great reasons, including its numerous museums, expansive parks, and vibrant lakefront. Like many big American cities, however, it's also expensive, so one of the best ways to shave dollars off the cost of a trip is to book a stay with the Urban Holiday Lofts hostel in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Located about 15 minutes north of downtown, Urban Holiday Lofts puts guests in walking distance of some of the trendiest, restaurants, bars, and shops that Chicago has to offer. Starting at only $26 a person per night in a shared room, it's no wonder guest reviews on Hostelworld give Urban Holiday Lofts an 8.9 "fabulous" rating.
HOSTEL FISH, DENVER
Whether it's hiking, biking, or skiing, outdoor activities make Denver's location near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains an ideal destination for many travelers. The city itself is filled with cultural and tourist attractions, including the renowned Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and 16th Street Mall. For a cost-effective stay, Hostel Fish is an eclectic, homey hostel with rooms that are cozy and chic; many feature exposed brick. With rates starting at about $45 a night for a shared room and a 5-star rating on Yelp, the Fish is a real catch.
USA HOSTELS HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles tops many travel enthusiasts' list of must-see cities -- and Hollywood is a big reason why. USA Hostels Hollywood enjoys a 9 out of 10 rating on Hostelworld. It offers free breakfast and privacy partitions in shared rooms to screen out fellow guests. These shared "economy" accommodations start at about $39 a night. The hostel is located near the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the TCL Chinese Theatre, and Universal Studios Hollywood. A free shuttle provides easy access to Pacific Coast beaches.
MIAMI BEACH INTERNATIONAL HOSTEL
Beaches, bars, and unique modern architecture make Miami an obvious vacation spot for many fun-loving travelers, and the Miami Beach International Hostel sweetens the trip by helping cut the cost of accommodations. Voted best hostel in the United States by Hostelworld in 2013, this facility will exceed the expectations of visitors. The colorfully decorated hostel is situated one block from the beach. Rates start at about $29 a night, and breakfast is included. With its fun, funky decor and inexpensive nightly rates, this hostel is a top choice for many budget-minded travelers.
NEW YORK LOFT HOSTEL
Hotels in New York are some of the priciest in the nation, especially for tourists who want to stay in the heart of Manhattan for sightseeing. Located in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York Loft Hostel provides easy access to Manhattan -- just four stops on the L subway line. The Loft has many rave reviews on TripAdvisor, where guests say the hostel is very clean, the staff is friendly, and the bar is hopping. The hostel boasts a sun deck, a garden, a bar, and a bit of break on room rates, which start at about $40 a night for shared accommodations.Related: 50 Free and Cheap Things to Do in New York City
HI SAN FRANCISCO DOWNTOWN HOSTEL
The City by the Bay has plenty of reasons to book a visit: trolleys and streetcars, art, shops, restaurants, and the Golden Gate Bridge (not to mention the temperate weather). San Francisco's pricey real estate is notorious, but budget travelers can still find affordable accommodations downtown at the HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel. Brightly decorated to reflect the aesthetic of the city, the hostel features spacious common rooms and provides guests with free breakfast and Wi-Fi. With a "superb" rating from Hostelworld and nightly room rates starting at about $50 a person, the HI in downtown San Francisco is a real steal.Related: 20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in San Francisco
GREEN TORTOISE HOSTEL, SEATTLE
Despite a reputation for dreary weather, Seattle is a tourist's delight, offering enough diversions to demand repeat visits. The Green Tortoise Hostel can be found near the iconic Pike Place Market overlooking Elliott Bay. Beyond its convenient central location, the Green Tortoise offers free daily breakfast, free Wi-Fi and computer access, and free luggage storage. Yelp users give the hostel an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars and note how comfortable the beds are. Bike rentals are also available, as are walking tours, city tours, and pub crawls. Rates for shared rooms start at about $33 a night.
BANANA BUNGALOW, WAILUKU, HAWAII
The Banana Bungalow in Wailuku, Hawaii, is one of the least expensive and most fun places to stay on the island of Maui. The hostel boasts free breakfast, a hot tub, and tours of Maui every day, as well as a tropical garden where guests can socialize and relax. Yelp reviewers have given the Banana 4 out of 5 stars, and say it encourages travelers to make friends and talk to new people. Rates at the Banana Bungalow start at $41 a night for a shared room.
DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON HOSTEL, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Taking a tour of the nation's capital typically means standing in seemingly endless lines at all kinds of museums and memorials, which can test not only patience but also stamina. After a day of checking out the sights, guests of the Downtown Washington Hostel can return to a comfortable, affordable room. The hostel is located within walking distance of many popular tourist attractions and has a cozy, no-frills ambiance. TripAdvisor reviewers give the hostel a 4 out of 5 and mention how helpful staff are with guests. Rates start at about $35 a night and include free Wi-Fi and use of desktop computers.Related: 20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Washington, D.C.