Hostel dorms are a haven for budget travelers and backpackers but when you’re sharing any living space with 4, 8 or more people it’s easy to get on one another’s nerves. Typically these feelings come about momentarily in the wee hours of the morning or night, kept silent inside each traveler as they move from one hostel to another. With just a moment’s worth of planning and without adding anything extra to your existing routine, you can make sure you’re not the most annoying person in the hostel dorm, or even annoying at all.

hostel dorm bunk beds

The Red Zone

Most of the trouble or frustrations people have with hostel dorms occur right before, after, and during bedtime. This is in fact when most people are likely to be in the hostel and disturbed sleep is usually the number one complaint people have. By taking care of all your basic backpacker needs – packing, showering, Skyping with mom and dad – outside of these times, you’re one big step closer to being a thoughtful and polite hostel-mate.

packed bagsPack The Night Before

Hostel hours vary, but in my experience, between 10pm and 10am are the times when at least one person is asleep in the dorm. If you know your flight the next day is at 6am, pack the night before when nobody is around (before 10pm or whenever your dorm tends to be empty).

Aside from being much less noisy the next morning, you’ll also pack much more efficiently. You’ll find it easier to pack more quickly in ample light as opposed to stuffing everything in your bags by feeling around for stuff – saving yourself time from repacking your backpack that just won’t shut in the hostel lobby.

  • Rushed Packing Can Lead To Forgotten Items – Poor planning on a long time table doesn’t lead to the mental chaos that packing in the dark with 5 minutes left to catch a bus does. Keep doing it an you’ll inevitably you’ll leave behind a pair of socks, a shirt, or something more valuable like your travel laptop.
  • Scrapping The Security System – Some of the best ways to protect your valuables in luggage is to vary the places you keep your money, pack your electronics deep, and disperse both throughout your clothes and other belongings. Packing at the absolute last minute, while trying to stay quiet, only makes you a loud hostel mate with one unzipped pocket away from disaster.
How To Turn An Extra Phone Into A Complete Hotel Room Security System

Try as you may, the sound of your own rummaging is never as loud to you as it is to other people who are probably trying to sleep. For your own selfish reasons as well, packing the night before removes many burdens from yourself giving you the opportunity to sleep for a few minutes more the next morning.

toothbrush silhouetteClothes On Top, Toothbrush Handy

Pack up all of your gear the night before except what you’ll wear the next day. This is sound advice whether you’re leaving the next morning to catch a flight, tour, or are simply an early-riser. For those of you new to what a hostel is, the definition of “early” can vary quite a bit. In your particular dorm that might mean 8am or 11 in the morning. Either way having your clothes, toothbrush, and towel ready on top of your bags (in untied plastic bags if you use them) will have you up and out without waking a soul.

Follow The Light

You iPod, cell phone, or a mini flashlight are wonderful sources of illumination once the dorm lights have gone out. You can see that toothbrush you’ve prepared, make your bed, or grab your blanket to return to the hostel desk without creating a blinding light that wakes everyone up. Personally, I find the Verso clip-on reading light (made for Kindle and Nook), to be a bright, lightweight, versatile nightlight with its bendable neck.

  • Avoid The Room Lights After Hours – This seems basic enough, but when you’re panicked that you can’t find your iPod touch or passport in the dark with (now 3 minutes) to catch your bus most people will flick the switch. That’s the fast way to annoying all of your hostel-mates and stressing yourself out unnecessarily.
  • Plan Door Time – An open door allowing the hallway lights to pour into a pitch-black dark room is a momentary, yet necessary evil. Running in and out 10 times though because you keep forgetting things isn’t. Another great reason to prepare your morning essentials the evening before.
  • Respect The Quiet Hours – Ask if your hostel has any if they aren’t mentioned and follow them as best you can. Also don’t hesitate to complain if others aren’t as diligent as you are.
The Problem With Airbnb

brisbane hostels

In addition to the light, iPods and iPhones make great alarm clocks since their sound doesn’t carry too far and is low pitched. Any mobile phone with a vibrate mode also works well to get you out of bed without rousing everyone else.

cat sound asleepLet The Others Know

You may be a light sleeper, an early riser, or the type of person who can snore their way through a nuclear war. Either way, letting your hostel-mates know can reduce their stress and help them adjust their packing and planning schedule so everyone in the room is more comfortable. That way they (hopefully) won’t forget their ear plugs or keep sloooowly trying to unwrap that plastic wrapper in the middle of the night.

  • Communication Is Powerful – Study after study has shown that people are more sympathetic to those they have a personal connection with or can relate to. By talking to your hostel-mate, even just a little bit you can create a bond that might make everyone a bit more considerate toward each other.

Staying hostels for the most part isn’t like trying to sleep in the middle of a football stadium with hundreds of people shouting while you toss and turn under the spotlights…but you might make others feel like that if you’re not careful. As for you, some ear plugs and a sleeping mask as well as following this guide to sleeping in hostels can make each night more pleasant. By doing things you would anyway (i.e. packing) the night before you can effortlessly be the least annoying person in the dorm.

[photos by: nesta hostel valenica (hostel dorm bunk beds), Kristea (packed bags), Jeremy Brooks (toothbrush silhouette), safaris (Brisbane backpacker hostel), jasonfarmer (cat sound asleep)]