Betty Kam, a 30-year-old teacher from Hong Kong, carefully planned her July vacation in Scotland. She plotted a detailed itinerary and reserved accommodations for each leg of her journey. The only unusual thing about her trip: She decided to stay in hostels, long the preserve of young and spontaneous backpackers.
Kam is among a growing number of people choosing to book stays at hostels in pre-planned vacations, a departure from the adventurous, happy-go-lucky ethos that has long defined backpacking culture. The trend springs from older travelers looking for cheap deals, easy access to city centers where many hostels are located, and a desire to experience a laid-back atmosphere.

"Customers have at least a rough itinerary and are less adventurous," said Niamh Ni Mhir, hostel division managing director of the Dublin-based online hostel company, hostelworld.com. "The customers now say, 'I know I want to have a bed,' whereas five to 10 years ago people would line up outside hostels at 7 a.m. hoping for a bed, or at least a mattress on the floor at a discounted price."

Many of the world's hostels are changing to cater to the pre-planner. Hostelworld.com, which lists more than 10,000 worldwide hostels on its website, books reservations for about 20,000 customers every day. Five years ago, only 1,000 people booked stays at a hostel. Ni Mhir attributed that partly to the growth of the Internet, but also to the changing profile of hostelers.

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