Travel is, fairly obviously, a luxury in and of itself. There are, however, little luxuries you encounter while travelling that make a huge difference, particularly if you are travelling longer term, or on a budget.
Often you may not have even noticed them, but rather the absence of them on some occasion. Whether it’s something in a hostel, or something you’ve brought with you, or even just some minor detail, here are a few of the travel ‘luxuries’ that we most enjoy while on the road.
1. Freshly laundered clothes
You’ve been on the road for months, all your clothes feel old and battered and you are decidedly over them, but one trip to the hostel’s laundry service, or a trip to the launderette and things are different. You spot them on the shelf behind the little lady, tightly wrapped or possibly in a plastic bag, you don’t even care that the useful bin bag you had them in has disappeared. The still slightly warm, very mildly scented and freshly pressed package is better than any Christmas present. Your clothes are given a new lease of life and you are, once again, ready to go.
2. Hostels that give you towels
Few things bring more joy than walking into a hostel room, be it private, shared or 38 bed dorm and finding a neatly folded towel waiting for you on your bed. You can almost hear your battered travel towel sigh with relief in your bag. Finally it can dry properly, and maybe even be washed!
3. Good Wi-Fi
Ok, it’s a bit ridiculous, but good wi-fi, we can all agree and regardless of what anyone may say, is one of the great joys of modern travel. Sure, there are times when you don’t care, or you want to disconnect, but just once in a while to have wi-fi that doesn’t take six months to download that latest album on Spotify, or allows you to call home and reassure them that no, you haven’t been dismembered by a drug fuelled maniac while camping, is very welcome.
4. Reliable hot water
This hardly needs elaborating on, but there are few things worse than checking in to you hostel and finding that either the hot water ‘isn’t working’ or is so unreliable that your shower will switch from scalding hot to glacial every five seconds. It might be good for the circulation, but it isn’t good for the morale, or the hygiene.
5. Included breakfasts
Not only are these a great money saver, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to have to leave the hostel to find breakfast first thing in the morning and risk everything being closed, except for the slightly dodgy looking panaderia in the back of the local kiosk, where you can get what look like two five day old croissants. A good, included hostel breakfast, complete with a selection of choices (if you’re really lucky) brings happiness to everyone. I still think of the one in Sucre at Beehive Hostel, which was a mixture of fresh fruit, oats and yoghurt and even some honey – no bread and jam or slightly soggy scrambled eggs in sight!
6. Offline maps/apps
These are less a luxury and more of a lifesaver, but still, finding out about them makes all the difference. The biggest one we’ve found is the fantastic offline maps of maps.me. If you aren’t already using them for all your travels, stop reading this, go to your relevant app store and download it and the maps for your relevant area now. Quite how they’ve managed to build offline directions into theirs, when Google Maps Offline Areas haven’t, I don’t know.
Our other big recommendation, if you’re planning to camp, or hitch-hike at all, is iOverlander, which includes fantastic, detailed, open source reviews and information on campsites, wild camping spots and even just things like supermarkets and a variety of other shops to cater for most things you’ll need while travelling.
7. Well thought out power socket placement
I can probably count the number of hostels we’ve been in that have a well placed power socket and shelf for the upper bunk on the fingers of one hand. It’s nuts.
In this day and age when everyone is travelling with at the very least a smartphone, to say nothing of cameras, laptops, tablets and every other possible electronic device, to not have somewhere next to every bed that you don’t have to leave on your bed overnight or worry about falling out of the wall (screw you stupid American plug sockets) and your alarm not going off in the morning for that 5am bus, seems bizarre. I do understand the practical logistics of wiring are challenging, but if some can do it, why not all?
8. Sharp knives in the hostel kitchen
If you’re cooking in a hostel kitchen and you find that there’s only one knife and it’s as blunt as a rusty spoon, it’s not much good. Thankfully some places have thought of this and at the very least have provided a whetstone so you can sharpen the knife. If you find yourself in a situation where you couldn’t chop an onion to go with your pasta and tomato sauce if you wanted to, here’s a useful tip I recently learnt – use the spine of another knife as if it were a whetstone. It works surprisingly well!