Are you thinking about booking a hotel but worried that you or your kid might be too young to check-in? In this article, I will break down the minimum age requirement for checking into hotels. I’ll explain why there are certain limitations and how to know what the minimum age requirement is.
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What are the age requirements for check-in in at a hotel?
Generally, hotel guests must be 21 years-old (or accompanied by someone 21 years-old) to check-in but age requirements vary. Some hotels may allow 18 year-olds to check-in while other hotels, in more rare cases, may even increase the minimum age to 25.
The age restrictions are often property specific but state laws and local ordinances can play a role in dictating the age requirements as well. Keep reading below to learn more.
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How to find the minimum age for check-in
Every hotel has a booking process that works a little bit differently but generally you can count on finding the minimum age for checking in the terms and conditions during booking.
A lot of times the terms and conditions will be visible near the end of the booking process — just before you input your payment details.
Scan the terms and conditions for any mention of age and a lot of times you’ll find the minimum age requirement around the “check-in” section. For example, take a look at this snippet taken from the terms and conditions for the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.
Other times there may not be an official terms and conditions section. Instead, you might find the age requirement listed near the payment details or price summary.
In the event that you do not find an age requirement explicitly stated, don’t take that to mean that there is no minimum age required for check-in. Instead, I would highly recommend that you contact the property and inquire about minimum age requirements.
Minimum age for booking a reservation may vary by hotel
One thing to consider is that the minimum age for checking in listed in a hotel’s terms and conditions could be different from the minimum age required by a hotel under that chain.
For example, Hyatt’s terms and conditions state the following:
You may only use the Site if you are at least eighteen (18) years of age and can form legally binding contracts under applicable law. The Site is not intended for and should not be used by minors.
Hyatt then offers somewhat conflicting guidance in its terms when Hyatt states:
Generally, the minimum age to reserve a guestroom at Hyatt is 21 years old. However, this age may vary by hotel. Please check the specific policy of the hotel you plan to visit. A person of the minimum age requirement must be present at check-in and become a registered guest in the room.
This is illustrative of the different ways that hotel chains and brands deal with the age requirement and why it is so important to contact the individual hotel to find out their specific policy. Don’t rely solely on 1-800 numbers or even universal terms and conditions for your information.
Why is there an age requirement?
So you might be wondering why exactly is there an age cut off at 21 or 18 for some hotels? Well, there are a few reasons.
Legally binding contract
Believe it or not when you book a hotel room you are entering into a legally binding contract with the owners of the hotel. In consideration for your payment of the room rate you are receiving the room for a specified period of time along with any amenities that go along with it.
This poses an issue for people under the age of 18. That’s because entering into a contract with people under the age of 18 gets tricky as those contracts may not be valid or legally enforceable. The reason: minors are considered not legally competent to enter into contracts.
Essentially, a 17-year-old could book a room and decide to check-out without paying and a hotel may not have much recourse because the contract entered in with that minor is void or not enforceable.
For that reason, a lot of hotels require a guest to be at least 18 years of age in order to book a room and check-in.
This is not an issue for ages 19 and 20, since those individuals are legal adults. For those over the age of 18, typically there are two other concerns that lead to age restrictions: alcohol consumption and partying.
Some hotels offer alcohol that can be served up through room service. Or, in other cases the room may have a stash of alcohol in the mini fridge or in a wet bar. It’s not uncommon to find alcohol in hotel rooms in places like Las Vegas or at all-inclusive resorts.
In order to ensure compliance with the minimum drinking age in the US, some of these hotels may require guests to be 21 years old when checking in. If alcohol is only available at the bar in the hotel lobby, the age requirement might be more lax.
Let’s face it, a lot of people under the age of 21 lack the maturity that a hotel wants to see when renting a room. They may be more likely to damage or practically destroy a room by throwing the party of the century. This is why it is pretty common to see the minimum age of 21 in party cities such as those located in Florida like Panama City.
At the same time there are a lot of mature people under the age of 21 who could rent a hotel room like any other responsible adult.
For these people there may be a workaround.
Let’s say a well-dressed and mannered 18 year-old is trying to check-in and they have a credit card that matches their government-issued ID. The hotel may be much more likely to work with them because they can ensure a deposit on the card at the time of check-in and may not have concerns about the 18 year-old’s maturity.
But let’s say there is an 18 year-old trying to pay cash for the hotel room. That could end up being a major problem because it makes it a lot harder for the hotel to guarantee there will be a way to cover incidentals and potential damage to the room.
You might still be able to get by but chances are you will have to front up a pretty hefty cash deposit.
Some hotels that are really worried about partying may even jack up the age requirement to 25! Sometimes this might be a temporary policy that gets applied during known party times such as spring break.
Some states or cities may have specific laws or ordinances that require a minimum age to check into a hotel.
How can a minor check into a hotel?
Sign a guarantee of liability for the child
The best way for a minor to check-in to a hotel would be for the parent or guardian to contact the property and ask if they can work something out.
Specifically, consider bringing up signing a guarantee of liability for the child. This is an agreement between the hotel and the parent/guardian of the minor child staying at the property.
This makes the adult responsible for any damages caused by the minor. Sometimes, it also may place limitations on amenities that the minor can utilize such as room service. Ask the hotel about faxing in one of these forms or sending one in via email (lots of hotels have their own standard forms for these).
Some hotels may be open to this, especially if the booking is not taking place in a party location or during a party time such as New Years, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. Also, if there is no direct access to alcohol (even via room service) that would help your cause.
A point of controversy for the 21 year-old age requirement is military members.
For one, it seems illogical that someone would be old enough to fight for their country and put their life at risk but not old enough to simply check into a hotel.
It seems that some hotels make exceptions for military members under the age of 21 especially when they are in their military uniform or can present a military ID.
A lot of people want to avoid showing disrespect to military members at all costs so it is definitely worth asking the agent at the front desk if they can make an exception to the age requirement based on your military status.
Out of state/area young workers
If you are under the age of 21 and have an out-of-state ID your odds of being able to check-in might actually increase in some cases.
Usually, having an out-of-state ID raises more concerns of fraud but if you present a valid ID and credit card a hotel might be more willing to accept you provided that you are traveling on business.
The reason is they understand the type of inconvenience they would be causing to young business travelers and so they may be willing to accommodate you. (If you are perceived as a local then the hotel agent may be more likely to suspect you to be a kid just looking for a place to party.)
This out-of-towner exception will probably be more common at hotels known for catering to business travelers versus hotels known for being party hotspots. And again, your ability to convey maturity at check-in could dictate if the exception is made for you.
Parent adding child to reservation
Some people attempt to get around the age requirement by getting the parent to book the reservation and adding the child to the reservation. The minor then attempts to check-in and simply tells the hotel agent that the parent is “on the way” or some other type of excuse.
Reportedly, this can work better when the booking is made through an OTA such as Expedia but I can’t personally vouch for that method. Presumably, this would work better because some of those OTAs have a minimum age requirement for using their services.
If the minor were to show proof of booking (email receipt), perhaps a hotel would not focus on the minor’s age as much when viewing the ID.
This is an approach that is not guaranteed to work so I would not recommend going this route. But if you do go this route you need to make sure that the minor has both an ID and a credit card in their name. Without both of those the chances of this working go from small to nonexistent.
Checking in under the age of 18?
I’ve seen online reports of people being able to check-in at hotels at the ages of 16 and 17. After reviewing tons of hotels all over the country I have not seen any terms that would explicitly permit someone that young to check-in. (Hotels in other countries will probably be more accepting of guests under 18.)
If I had to guess I would say those cases involve generous hotel agents who felt that the 16 and 17 year-olds were mature enough to check-in. There may have also been extenuating circumstances as well such as a parent arriving at the hotel late.
I personally would not count on this working but it’s possible since in the terms and conditions of some hotels they state to contact the hotel if the individual checking in will be under 18.
Note: If you are a parent thinking about allowing your child to check in, remember that in many states you can be liable for property damage caused by the conduct of the child.
You might also be interested in finding out more information about unaccompanied minors which are minors flying on planes without adults.
The policies for each airline differ and they often have key distinctions in how they classify minors and how they allow them to fly. You can learn more about unaccompanied minors here.
Many hotels will require you to be at least 21 years-old to check in. Some properties may allow you to check-in at the age of 18 while others may even require you to be older than 21. That is why it is always smart to check the terms and conditions during the booking process and to also contact the hotel to verify their age restrictions.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.