backpackersbhp3Imagine a backpacker and you might envision an unanchored youth with well-worn jeans and limitless endurance. But backpacking is about much more than gap-year students and gritty hostels. Backpacking is about adventure and independence — and it’s one of the cheapest ways to take a trip, which is why older travelers, travelers on a budget, and even those who prefer private bathrooms and upscale cuisine shouldn’t snub the ways of the wily backpacker.

Adopt the mindset of a backpacker and improve your travel savvy. In an uncertain economic environment, the lessons backpackers can teach us about traveling on the cheap are positively priceless. From packing an ultra-light bag (you can rub your six-pound pack in the noses of nickel-and-diming airlines) to finding affordable food and accommodations, backpackers truly know how to travel.

As a well-ripened adult, you may fear that your presence in a hostel would be like that of a wrinkly prune in a basket of fresh apples. But hostels are not just for the young. Older travelers are increasingly booking stays at hostels as international hotel rates rise, and they’re finding private rooms and bathrooms, clean beds, and no-reservations-needed accommodations in hostels around the world.

backpackersvertBy definition, a hostel offers rugged dormitory-style digs. But as hostels have gained popularity over the years, trendy hostel operators have stretched the definition of hostel to include private suites, fancy food, fashionable decor, swimming pools and even maid service. Some examples include the Oasis Backpackers’ Mansion in Lisbon, which offers laundry service, free Internet and gourmet dinners, and Oops! Hostel in Paris, which has stylish modern interiors designed by a renowned graphic decorator.

The trick to snagging a swanky hostel is to know before you go. Check out,, or another reputable hotel review site to get a feel for your prospective hostel. While some hostels resemble trendy boutique hotels with plenty of privacy, others are like the traditional youth hostels of yore, with 10 bodies to a dorm and crowded communal bathrooms.