Review a posh Jackson Hole hostel during covid

As travel is still recovering from the coronavirus-induced crash of 2020, hostels around the world are struggling. New Zealand alone has lost nearly 200 hostels during the pandemic, according to the country’s Backpacker Youth and Adventure Tourism Association. In November, online booking platform Hostelworld announced that bookings in the first half of this year were down 73% compared to 2020. While the short-term outlook for hostels is extremely challenging, Hostelworld is starting to see the asking customers to return to areas where travel restrictions have eased. , the company’s CEO said in its 2021 interim financial report.

Like many young people on a budget, I turned to hostels when I started traveling alone in my twenties. I’ve tried some beautiful (and horrible) ones in Boston, Bali, Berlin, Porto, Phnom Penh, Singapore, Tokyo, Taipei, and New Delhi. Until recently, the last hostel bunk bed I snuck into was in Tokyo during the summer of 2019.

After trying luxury hotels, mid-range hotels, motels, Airbnbs, and an RV in the meantime, I ended my hostel hiatus to see what they were like during the pandemic. Because I’m fully vaccinated, boosted, and not in a high-risk category for serious covid-19 infection, I was comfortable taking the risk of sleeping with strangers. So, on a recent trip to Jackson, Wyo., I checked into Cache House Bunkhouse, a basement hostel just off the town square. Here is what I found.

Originally a dorm in the 1990s, Cache House opened in its current iteration in January 2020 as an upscale upscale hostel, or “poshtel” if you will. It’s located under its sister property, the Anvil Hotel, where my Lyft driver dropped me off on a cold — but not typically Jackson cold — December afternoon. Cache House guests check in at a barricaded plexiglass front desk in Anvil’s lobby, where you can also grab espresso drinks and read the local newspaper.

Once you’ve gotten your key card, head down to the basement, where you’ll find a lounge area and shared bedrooms with a mix of 50 twin, double and queen bunk beds. The rate for my queen bunk bed was $80 for the night, although prices can go as low as $40. Two guests can share a queen bed rental as long as both people register and pay the same rate. The building is not wheelchair accessible according to legal standards; there is an emergency exit ramp, but it is steep. Cache House cites the age of the building as a problem. However, everything inside the hostel is ADA compliant, including some of the lower bunk beds.

The bunk beds have hostel living staples, including built-in lockable storage and privacy curtains. Additional chic touches include custom-designed wool blankets, power outlets, individual fans, reading lights, and ergonomic ladders. At the corner of the bunk beds, guests can access 11 en-suite bathrooms with luxury toiletries and lockers in the hallway. Being a hostel located in a ski resort, Cache House allows guests to store their ski and snowboard equipment in a storage room located in the lobby.

According to its website, Cache House is taking more coronavirus precautions than installing plexiglass in reception.

The hostel says they reduced occupancy levels to space out guest beds, but I still had someone in the bunk right next to mine. It also announces more frequent cleanings using hospital-grade disinfectants (plus additional disinfection of the 25 most affected areas); circulation of fresh air thanks to a state-of-the-art ventilation system; stocking the place with hand sanitizer stations; and requiring masks for all staff and guests in common areas (unless actively eating and drinking).

Are measures like this enough? I asked Iahn Gonsenhauser, quality and patient safety manager at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, about the safety of staying in a hostel during the pandemic.

“Having traveled to hostels when I was younger, I know they vary so much,” Gonsenhauser said. “There are definitely hostel environments that pose a significantly higher risk than a hotel or an Airbnb.”

For example, Gonsenhauser said, staying in a hostel with private rooms will pose less of a threat than staying in a hostel with a bunch of ward-style bunk beds. Would wearing a mask to sleep help reduce some of this risk?

“I don’t think it would be safe to sleep with a mask on,” Gonsenhauser said, instead suggesting travelers who want to sleep in a hostel get fully vaccinated before travel to increase their protection and be safe. ensure their hostel has coronavirus mitigation strategies in place. in place.

After checking in, I took my luggage down the stairs, down the dimly lit hallways, and into my bunk bed on the lower level. On a Wednesday in the first week of December – with the fall travel season almost over and the ski season not yet in full swing – there didn’t seem to be many other guests. A few puffy winter jackets hung on stacked coat hooks and a little light shone behind privacy curtains.

The place had the most spacious and luxurious sleeping configuration I have ever seen. The bed didn’t make the same creaking and creaking noises that a hostel bunk normally does when you collapse on it with your tired travel body. I hid some of my things in the drawer locker under the bunk and went back to exploring the city.

I came back from a long day of galloping and set up shop in the common area of ​​the hostel to charge my phone before retiring to my berth. The space had mid-century modern furniture and a guidebook table, a far cry from those in other hostels I’ve been to where you’ll find a basic bar or kitchen, and inevitably a bunch of backpackers flirting with each other. others or playing cards.

After mindlessly absenting myself on social media for an imperceptible amount of time, another hostel guest entered the room. It was like watching a wild animal. We said hello and she sat down at a table to unpack her take-out dinner. We continued to sit in our tandem silence, me listening to the sound of her chips crunching, she probably wondering why I was wasting my time in Jackson on my phone.

I needed to take a shower but was too tired and lazy to carry my things to the bathrooms and back. Instead, I splashed some water on my face and called it a night. In the morning I would learn that the showers are fantastic, much cleaner than you would normally find in a hostel.

Sleep next to strangers

Because I haven’t spent a lot of time sleeping with random people during the pandemic, crawling back to my bunk to go to bed was a nerve-wracking end to the day.

At home, in hotel rooms or in private Airbnbs, you don’t have to worry about the noise you make. In the hostel, I couldn’t help but think of the noise of the zippers of my gym bag, the excessive crackles that my phone charger produced when forcing it into the socket, if my crisp sheets produced an annoying rustle that could wake up my neighbors (if they were already asleep). Could they also hear me tapping on my phone?

Because I was paranoid about the noise and the thought of undressing hunched over in my ceiling bunk was exhausting, I chose to sleep in the clothes I wore all day. As I closed my eyes, I could hear the muffled voice of a guy talking on the phone in the distance.

But I fell asleep and woke up well rested in the super comfy bed. One drawback: all the woodwork gave the impression of being in a very spacious coffin.

In the morning, I did my best to quietly pack up my things and sneak out of the Cache House dorm room. There seemed to be more coats hanging than there were when I went to bed, but I didn’t encounter anyone. I went upstairs to the lobby of Anvil, left a tip for the housekeeping staff, and had a coffee on the way out.

As for the pandemic issues, I had felt safe during the stay despite the communal nature of the place. That was partly because it felt like a shoulder season – or slow time – ghost town in there; if there had been a lot of foreigners, I might have had more coronavirus anxiety.

Without seamless international travel, especially for the young and budget-conscious population, hostels will remain at risk of extinction. A future without them would exclude too many people from the privilege of travelling. Hopefully efforts to reduce capacity and keep things sparkling clean in hostels – along with continued efforts to get more of the world vaccinated – can save the accommodations that allow so many to see more of the world.

Linda G. Ibarra