Hostel Booking for Humans

While backpacking in Europe can be exciting and rewarding, it can also be a stressful experience. The last thing you want to do is spend too much time in front of a computer, desperately trying to find a place to stay. PackerShack is a new hostel booking service that provides a user friendly way of finding those overnight stays with the minimal amount of effort.

“Since we make a concerted effort to travel abroad once a year, we share the same frustations as our fellow backpackers. For instance, while we were travelling in Croatia last year, we found ourselves trying to find a place to stay within walking distance of Plitvice National Park. There were a lot of places listed on various hostel booking sites. Unfortunately, most of them were miles away from the Park’s entrance. We spent at least 45 minutes in an internet cafe in Zadar trying to narrow down our options rather than ejoying our last night in that city. We ‘scratched our own itch’ by creating PackerShack. It is very important to us that our users can immediately zone in on a list of ideal budget accommodations in terms of location, price, and ratings,” said Lih Chen, PackerShack’s co-founder.

The existing hostel booking sites display their listings in a way that is not particularly intuitive. Typically, you can only sort by attributes like price and ratings; however, there is very little emphasis placed on location. As a result, you ususally find yourself opening several different browser tabs (list view, map view, hostel detail views) in order to keep track of the important attributes among various hostels. In a sense, you are coerced into performing a mental flexibility test. PackerShack has a strong belief that hostel booking doesn’t have to be an agonizing experience.

When you first arrive at PackerShack, the immediately discernable difference from other booking sites is that the majority of the browser real estate is dedicated to the map. With this increased elbow room, you can easily pan around the surrounding area to see which hostels are in great locations: close to the train station, bus and metro stops, and other sites of interest. On the right hand side, the list of available hostels can be quickly sorted by price and ratings. Upon clicking on an individual entry, an info bubble will be displayed directly on the map. Alternatively, users can open an info bubble for a particular property by clicking on map icons. PackerShack also serves as a price comparison tool by showing how much each booking site is charging for the same property. Also, you can further filter the list of available hostels by room type (shared vs private) and price range.

“PackerShack has been one of my most personal projects since college,” said Jenny Dickinson, co-founder, “We are planning on travelling to India this fall, and we can’t wait to use our own project. I’m sure that we’ll come up with new feature ideas during our trip to make PackerShack even more useful and intuitive.”

Jenny Dickinson and Lih Chen have been working on PackerShack on the side for about a year, and it’s 100% self-funded. It was officially launched in April 2012. PackerShack is ever-evolving. It will be interesting to see what new features will be added in the coming months.

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