We’ve all heard it before. You have to be 18 or over to stay at a hotel. You have to show your ID to prove you are over 21. You need a credit card if you want to go on vacation. To those of us younger than these age restrictions, vacationing cannot seem further away.
But are these statements true? Can 16-year-olds stay in a hotel legally? And what are the options? Read more for our brief guide to whether two 16-year-olds can stay in a hotel legally.
Whether 16-year-olds can stay in a hotel legally entirely depends on the minimum check-in and/or booking age of a hotel. For some hotels, it is legal for 16-year-olds to stay at the property alone. For others, it might be harder to reserve and stay at the hotel for 16-year-olds.
The minimum age limit varies across hotels in the US. The two most common ages are 18 and 21. This means guests have to be 18/ 21 or over to reserve, book, and stay at the hotel. Depending on the hotel you are staying at though, staff may push this minimum age to the lower end.
You can find information on the official minimum age boundary of a hotel on their website. Usually under the ‘Terms & Conditions’ or ‘Hotel Policies’ tab.
What affects the minimum age boundary?
There are several factors that play into the minimum age boundary.
Age of Criminal Responsibility
As we have explained, the minimum age protects the hotel legally and financially. This means that hotels take the age of criminal responsibility in their country into account when setting this minimum. In the US, the age of criminal responsibility varies between states from 6 to 15.
Legal Drinking Age
Another factor hotels will consider when setting the minimum age is the legal drinking age. Obviously, legal drinking ages vary across the world. So, this may affect the minimum age boundary of hotels differently.
Why do hotels take the legal drinking age into account? Because most hotels will have a minibar or a mini fridge in their rooms. In these appliances, the hotel may offer guests alcoholic drinks. So, some hotels may be reluctant to let you in if you are under the legal drinking age of the country you are traveling to.
Legal Gambling Age
Hotels with casinos can be stricter about their minimum age boundary. Casinos usually have bouncers there to check the age of any suspicious entries. But most hotels will want to eliminate the risk of accidentally letting underage people gamble completely. This means turning away guests under the legal gambling age at check-in.
How does setting a minimum age protect you and the hotel?
What does setting a minimum age do exactly? A minimum age policy is there to protect two parties in two ways. The interests of the hotel, and the safety and wellbeing of guests. For guests, this policy is to make sure they can look after themselves responsibly when left alone in a hotel room.
For hotels, this policy makes sure guests are legally and financially responsible for any damage they may cause to the property during their stay. Whether this is in their rooms, or in communal areas.
How strict is the minimum age boundary?
For most hotels these days, if you have a credit card and some ID to prove your identity, they are reasonably lax about the minimum age policy. Especially now that young adults are often trusted with a debit card from a young age. This change is certainly making vacations easier for younger travelers.
It’s best to double-check with the hotel before you arrive to check in during your vacation. Some may have the policy to turn away guests under 18 at check-in. This includes guests with correct documents and financial capability.
Just because the hotel’s official policies state the minimum age boundary to be 18 or 21, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will reject all underage travelers. How strictly this boundary is followed depends on each individual property.
If you are between 16 and 17, it may be worth asking hotels with 18 instead of 21 as their minimum age to see if they might let you stay. The closer you are to the minimum age mark, the higher chance you have of getting in. When you are asking to stay at a hotel when you are below the minimum age mark, act confident and responsible. If you give a trustworthy impression to the clerk handling your case, you will have a higher chance of succeeding.
What are your options?
Given that minimum age policies are hard to predict between each hotel, and even harder to do so internationally, what options do you have when booking accommodation for your vacation?
Here are our suggestions for young travelers.
1. Hotels with 18 or Over Minimum Age
For hotels with 18 or over as their minimum age mark, 16-year-old guests should always call ahead to confirm how lax the hotel is willing to be.
As we have suggested above, behave yourself when communicating with hotel staff. Whether this is over the phone, via email, or in person. Be confident, respectful, and understanding of the hotel staff. You will find these qualities can take you a long way.
2. Hotels with 16 or Over Minimum Age
For hotels with 16 or over as their minimum age mark, congratulations! You are legally allowed to stay at these hotels.
It is easier to find hotels with 16 or over as their minimum age outside the US. This is because the legal drinking and gambling ages for other countries usually average at 18. Which is far lower than the usual 21 in the States.
For example, the Premier Inn in the UK allows guests 16 and over to stay alone or accompanied by a person of the same age at their properties. However, the interpretation of this policy may vary from location to location. If you are thinking of traveling to the UK, be sure to call ahead and ask the hotel whether their property follows this official policy.
Travelodge also follows the same policy. You can find their official policies online. And it states that guests can “only make a booking if you are 16 years old or over”. So, looks like Travelodge can be another safe option to add to your hotel list.
3. Youth Hostels
Out of all the suggestions we are offering, Youth Hostels are your best bet. And should be the first one you consider. This is because you are guaranteed entry, booking, reservation, and check-in. As the name of it suggests, these are hostels for youths or hostels that accept youths. With a younger demographic in the hostel, this might also mean a better, more fun vacation experience for you!
By staying at a hostel, you are likely to be hotel room neighbors with people closer to your age. You can visit tourist sites and go out for food together with new people you met at the hostel. Who knows? You might even make friends that you will stay in touch with all your life!
So, here is a brief guide to hostels in a few locations:
- In the US
If you are traveling in the US, HI USA has hostel properties at various locations in the country. From the sunny beaches of California right across to the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Young adults can stay at all HI USA hostels alone or with friends of the same age. The hostels have a variety of room types for you to choose from. This means you will not be missing out on the high-end accommodation experience crucial to a vacation.
- In the UK
For those traveling in the UK, YHA Hostels offer properties for everyone at multiple locations across the country.
Younger guests are of course allowed to stay alone at their hostels. The most exciting parts about YHA hostels are their location and quality. These hostels are usually found at tourist vantage points with amazing views. And some of these accommodations look like they came straight out of a fairy tale with their Victorian architecture.
- For the Rest of the World
For the rest of the world, usually, there are youth hostels at most tourist locations. You will find a hostel suitable for your vacation.
One thing to take away from this article: don’t be afraid to ask! Especially when you are planning your vacation.
Whether 16-year-olds can stay in a hotel legally or not depends on many factors. Some of which we have covered today. But no amount of information you can source from the web would be as useful as calling the hotel or sending them an email. To avoid disappointments or setbacks on your vacation, you should always double-check with the hotel staff. They have the final say, after all.
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