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What is the age requirement for checking into a hotel? Your guide to checking in with ease

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Whether you travel for work or leisure, your trip preparation needs to take into account some essential rules applicable to hotels worldwide. Among these, you’ll need to know the age requirement to check into a hotel in the United States and abroad. Universally, this tends to be 18, but there are places where it varies. Here is an easy guide to checking in and making sure you comply with the minimum age rules.

Why have a minimum age requirement to check into a hotel?

Before you even consider whether you have to be 21 or 18 to check in, you may be wondering why this restriction exists. U.S. hotels restrict travelers to a minimum age of 18 because your check-in is the equivalent of signing a contract. Contracts with minors cannot be enforced by the hotel, thus leaving them at risk of not recovering their money if a minor leaves without paying their bill.

Secondly, hotels may be held responsible if anything happens to an underage customer while staying with them. There is an inherent “duty of care” that hotels have toward their customers, regardless of their age. This is even more serious when someone is an unaccompanied minor.

Finally, you probably know that most hotels have minibars in their rooms. Imposing an age restriction of at least 18 makes it less likely for hotels to be responsible for underage visitors who drink alcohol from the minibar. In some cases, the hotel will require guests to be at least 21 if checking in alone, partly because of this reason.

A hotel reception bell

How old do you have to be to check into a hotel?

Around the world, hotels impose a minimum age of 18 years old to check in unaccompanied. This tends to apply almost universally outside the United States, as the minimum drinking age is 18 in most countries.

In the US, the age requirement to check into a hotel depends on the state and general location. This can be 18 in most places, but will change to 21 in so-called “party destinations” like Las Vegas or Miami Beach. This isn’t a legal requirement, but it protects the hotel more widely from any responsibility while guests go out and drink or party in the city.

Booking a hotel versus checking in

When you plan a trip, booking a hotel is one of the first essential steps of creating your itinerary. As you can book online without any direct contact with a hotel, you will not encounter any restrictions at this stage. In fact, most often, all you need is a valid credit card in your name and you will not be asked for your age.

However, most hotels will mention their minimum age for checking in somewhere on their website. This is why, before you make your hotel choice, you should check if you need to be 21 or 18 to actually check in when you arrive. Don’t leave it until you’re at reception and are denied a room, when you will most likely not be able to get a refund on your stay, either.

Planning a trip with a map and accessories

What do you need when checking into a hotel?

To make your hotel check-in experience run smoothly, you will need to bring a credit card and a government-issued ID card or passport. Most hotels prefer to run your credit card through when you check in. This creates an open tab in case you charge anything to the room while you stay with them. It also allows them to charge you for any potential damages later.

You should also be prepared to know what to say when checking into a hotel. The receptionist will need your booking number and your full name, so make sure you write down the booking details or have them available on your smartphone. It is also important that the name of your booking matches the name on your ID or passport. It used to be wise to bring printed copies of your itinerary or booking form, but this is no longer necessary thanks to smartphones.

Many hotel reservations are prepaid, depending on the hotel’s policy. Others will require that you settle the cost of the room when you check in. Therefore, be aware of whether you have paid already, or be ready to pay upfront for your stay.

The 18 versus 21 age requirement to check into a hotel

You will likely not encounter this debate unless you’re traveling within the United States, specifically to places such as New York City, Las Vegas and Florida. The minimum age to check into a hotel in these locations can vary widely, so you must always double check before booking your stay.

New York City hotels are famously inconsistent. The best approach is to check the website or call the front desk to ask whether you can access a room on your own if you’re under 21 years old.

In Las Vegas, many hotels have casinos on their premises and there are strictly enforced gaming laws. This means that the large majority of front desks will require you to be 21 to check in, without exception.

The same minimum age requirement of 21 applies in most destinations in Florida. However, certain “party cities” are even stricter. In Key West, several hotels require guests to be at least 25 to stay with them. Sometimes, you may be able to check in if you are between 21 and 25 years old and accompanied by someone over 25.

Las Vegas city view at dusk

Final thoughts

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when you book hotels, especially in highly popular destinations in the US where hotel managers have added a different minimum age requirement for checking in. We hope this guide makes it clearer why this is and how to make sure you’re always covered when you travel.

Wherever you plan to head to next, remember to review active local government guidelines and restrictions. Make flexible bookings when you can and ask the hotels of your choice what measures are in place so you’re prepared when you arrive.

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Frequently asked questions about the age requirement to check into a hotel

Can you check into a hotel at 18?

Yes, in most cases the minimum age to check into a hotel is 18. However, there are locations where hotels require their guests to be at least 21 or sometimes even 25 years old. These include so-called “party destinations” like in Las Vegas or cities in Florida. This is why you should check with your hotel before booking to be fully covered.

Who decides the minimum age to check into a hotel?

There is no specific legal requirement around the minimum age for guests to be allowed to check in. Sometimes, this requirement is not even set at the corporate level, in the case of hotel chains. Most often, it is the local hotel manager who decides their prerequisites. This is why it’s a great idea to check with the hotel before making a booking.

Are there exceptions to the minimum age to check into a hotel?

You may be able to negotiate an exception if you’re a minor trying to check into a hotel, but this is very rare and exposes the hotel to potential risks. The most likely exception allowed is if you check in while accompanied by someone over the age limit. However, this companion will need to be with you for the duration of your stay.

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