A “gap year” between high school and university is a pretty common experience throughout the world, and for a lot of people lucky enough to arrange it, it may be the best time of their life to travel. However, many high school graduates are 18 or 19, and around the world, that can make certain travel experiences a hassle.
Even with extensive planning and research before your departure, traveling as an 18-year-old may come with some surprises. Did you know that many hotels around the world require that you are at least 21 years old to register and check in? It’s also common for rental car companies to require that you’re at least 21 (and sometimes 25) to rent a car – but travelers can get around that by using public transport or ride-share services.
It can be a little bit harder to plan a vacation if you can’t find hotels that let you check in at 18. Not only do unique hotels with just a single location often require that someone 21 years old or older is present during check-in, but many large national hotel chains have a minimum age for check-in, too.
For instance, Hampton Inn & Suites has a minimum check-in age requirement of 21 for all of their locations. Not all hope is lost, though: Hyatt Hotel have some locations that allow 18-year-olds to register, and most chains leave it up to their property managers to set that age.
Youth hostels across Europe and in the United States exist to help with this dilemma, but hostel travel isn’t for everyone, and there are ways to travel the world as a young adult. Although it might take an extra phone call, there’s no need to put your vacation plans on hold before you reach the age of 21.
Reasons Some Hotels Don’t Allow 18-Year-Olds to Check In
The minimum age requirement for checking into a hotel room is usually 21.Some factors that can influence a hotel chain’s decision to restrict the age of its guests include the following:
Some hotels offer amenities designed for the 21-and-up crowd. For example, many Las Vegas hotels require that guests are 21 when they check in because the legal age for gambling is 21.
Some hotel owners associate 18-year-olds with reckless and raucous behavior, so they place limits on who can check into their hotels. Some hotel chains assume that you’ll act more responsibly when you’re a bit older.
One of the biggest problems faced by restaurants and anywhere that sells alcohol is underage drinking. A hotel may lose its liquor license if 18-year-olds are caught imbibing at the hotel bar, so it’s easier for hotels to ensure there is someone over 21 years old to check-in.
All businesses must have insurance against loss and theft, and a hotel chain might need to pay a lot of extra money to accept guests under 21. Insurance is a major expense for many national hotel chains, and increasing the check-in age is usually a better business decision.
See Related: Different Types of Hotel Rooms Explained!
Hotel Policies Around the World
Outside of the United States, you’ll usually see a minimum age of 18 for check-in. Interestingly, some hotel chains in places like the UK and Europe will allow 16-year-olds to check in, but it’s always best to check to make sure before you arrive. Let’s take a look at some of the places that allow younger folks to stay, and others that have a higher age requirement.
The UK and Ireland
In the United Kingdom, the minimum age for check-in is normally 18, but some hotels may require that guests be 21. If you dig around a little, you can find hotels that don’t have an official check-in age or allow 16-year-olds to check in, which is useful if you’ve got some young friends in the group.
One example is Covent Garden Hotel in London, which doesn’t have a published minimum age requirement and will allow you to make a reservation even if you’re not yet 18 (the rumor is they let 17-year-old guests book). In Ireland, the minimum age for checking in is 18.
For the most part, you should assume you need to be at least 21 to check in at hotels around the United States. Outside of the USA, though, 18 is typically the minimum for other places in North, Central, and South America.
The all-inclusive resorts popular throughout Mexico often require that guests are 18 because of the presence of alcohol. In Canada, the law may differ per province, but you can check into a hotel room in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan at 18 years old.
Many hotels throughout Europe allow 18-year-olds to check in and some European hotels will allow travelers as young as 16 to book and check in. But a few countries throughout the continent actually have stricter rules.
For instance, if you travel to Turkey (half of which is technically in West Asia but which has close ties to the European Union), many hotels require that you’re 21 before you check in alone. Never assume a hotel has a minimum age of 18, especially when you’re traveling internationally!
See Related: Cheap Places to Visit in Europe
Australia and New Zealand
Keeping in line with the rest of the Commonwealth countries on this list, the minimum age requirement for checking into hotels in Australia and New Zealand is 18, and in some cases, Australian hotels let travelers book at just 17 years of age.
Oceania is a popular spot for gap-year travelers, and the convenience of underage travel is just one reason. The ease of exploring bucket-list destinations like the Great Barrier Reef is another.
Legally, the minimum age for check-in when you book a hotel in Japan is 18, and most hotels do maintain that policy. It’s worth noting that the legal age of adulthood in Japan has changed over the years, and it was only very recently changed from 20 (way to be different, Japan) to 18 years old.
Hotels With a Minimum Check-In Age of 18
So, we’ve already discussed that the Hampton Inn & Suites chain has a higher minimum check-in age and that only some Hyatt Hotels have age restrictions. But what about other chains? There are some motels and hotel chains where it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 years old when you check in, and you’ll find that information in their online policy disclosure.
For the most part, no corporate chain has a policy that allows 18-year-olds to check in everywhere, but many do allow 18-year-olds to check in at some of their properties. Here are some hotel chains to explore.
1. La Quinta Inn Suites
All it takes is a quick look at the information page for the La Quinta Inn Suites where you want to stay to determine whether they allow 18-year-olds to check in.
For example, you can travel to Los Angeles and stay at the La Quinta Inn Suites in Los Angeles, California, by Wyndham Worldwide Hotels if you’re 18, but the La Quinta Inn Suites in Richmond, Virginia, has a minimum age of 21 to check-in.
2. Hilton Hotels
The Hilton chain of hotels is another company that doesn’t publish a standard age limit, and they ask that you contact the property directly to confirm or check out the details on the website when you book your stay.
For instance, the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam, Netherlands, a Hilton property, doesn’t actually have a minimum age requirement. Other Hilton properties, like the Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites, also have a policy that varies from property to property, so it’s always a good idea to call.
3. Drury Inn
The Drury brand of hotels does allow 18-year-olds to check in, and even indicates their minimum age requirement is 18 because that’s the minimum age for someone to enter into a legally binding agreement.
Checking into a hotel room at the Drury Inn Suites is possible when you’re 18, whether you’re visiting the Drury Inn & Suites Charlotte Northlake in North Carolina or the Drury Inn & Suites Orlando in Florida.
4. Red Roof Inn
The Red Roof Inn family of hotels is one that allows its individual hotels to make the decision whether to let 18-year-olds check in. With more than 670 Red Roof Inns around the world, you’re likely to see one of these hotels during your travels.
As an example, the Red Roof Inn Plus+ in Woburn, which is outside of Boston, Mass, requires that guests are 21 when they check in. Meanwhile, the cosmopolitan Red Roof Inn Kamata in Tokyo doesn’t actually have a published minimum check-in age.
5. JW Marriott Hotels
JW Marriott Hotels leave it up to the property manager as to whether to let 18-year-olds check into their properties. The JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, which is right in the thick of Downtown Los Angeles, will not let you book if you’re under 21 years old.
Meanwhile, you can drive about 20 miles toward the coast and book a room at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott if you’re under 21, which might be more fun anyway because it’s just a stone’s throw away from the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. Starwood Hotels, a Marriott subsidiary, also varies by property, so always call to determine the house rules.
See Related: Best Apps & Websites to Book Hotels in Europe
6. Holiday Inn Express
Most Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express properties allow 18-year-olds to book hotel rooms, but it’s always best to call the property before finalizing a booking.
While the beautiful Holiday Inn Express Puerto Madero in Argentina sets its minimum age at 18, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Oswego, New York, only allows you to check in if you’re at least 21 years old. Never assume one of these properties will let you check in if you’re under 18 – always call before you book.
7. Best Western Hotels
Kids 12 years and younger get to stay free at Best Western properties, but you’re probably a few years too old to qualify for that perk, right? Fortunately, some Best Western hotels allow anyone age 18 and up to check in, as long as the local laws don’t prohibit it and the property manager is okay with the policy.
If you’re traveling to Maryland, you’ll need to wait until you’re 21 to check in at the Best Western Westminster Hotel. However, the Best Western Plus Heritage Inn Houston will welcome you with open arms, even if you just turned 18 last week.
8. Millennium Hotels
If you’re interested in staying in a luxury hotel like The Biltmore in Los Angeles by Millennium Hotels, you’re in luck because the property does allow 18-year-olds to book rooms and check in.
But not every Millennium Hotel has the same policy. If you’re under 21 and keen on visiting Minnesota to tour some of those awesome caves, don’t try the Millennium Minneapolis. That property requires that you’re 21 to book a room.
9. Crown Plaza Hotels & Resorts
The Crown Plaza family of hotels is owned by the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which also owns Holiday Inn. If you’re interested in finding a plush hotel in which to luxuriate, travel to Paris and request to check in at the Crown Plaza Paris Republique. They’ll let you stay even if you’re only 18.
Unfortunately, you won’t feel so lucky if you’re under 18 and try to stay at the Crown Plaza Seattle. That establishment firmly requires that you reach 21 before they allow you to check in.
10. Las Vegas Hotels
Most hotels in Las Vegas do require that guests are 21 because of the casinos, but not all Las Vegas hotels actually have casinos, and those are the establishments you’ll want to focus on as someone who hasn’t reached the age where you can gamble.
While you’ll get to enjoy the fountain show at the Bellagio from the comfort of the Las Vegas Strip’s sidewalk, you won’t get to check in unless you’re 21. Similarly, Paris, Las Vegas, across the street from the Bellagio, won’t let you check in either unless you’re 21.
However, check out the gorgeous Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Vegas (a beautiful property with super nice staff!). They’re down to let you check in at 18.
A lot of the hotels that allow 18-year-olds to make reservations are off-strip, so it’s a good idea to have access to a rideshare app so you don’t miss out on walking along the famous boulevard. Some Las Vegas hotels that allow 18-year-olds to check in are SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotels (near the convention center), the La Quinta Las Vegas near the airport, and the Hampton Inn & Suites, which is also near the airport.
Hotel Check-In Tips for 18-Year-Olds
It’s not impossible to travel and find hotels that allow 18-year-olds to make a reservation and check in, but you do need to conduct a little research before you book. Don’t risk showing up at the hotel and getting your check-in declined because you’re not 21. Figure out the minimum age requirement before you arrive.
Here are some other tips you may want to employ as you explore the house rules of your prospective hotels.
Travel with an older friend
Although a hotel chain might not allow 18-year-olds to check in as the primary guest, you can usually get around this requirement by traveling with a friend. Even if the hotel requires that everyone is an adult who checks in, you’re considered an adult at 18, so you’ll usually have access to the hotel, even if it’s an adults-only establishment, like a Las Vegas hotel.
Gather some extra money
Just as you will often experience when renting a car at less than 25 years old, you might end up having to put down a deposit when you check into a hotel room at 18. The hotel wants to have the money on hand should you decide to engage in property destruction during your stay, but we trust you won’t consider that sort of behavior! Either way, it never hurts to have a little extra scratch.
Purchase travel insurance
Travel insurance can help you reduce the cost of a canceled vacation or other problems you encounter during your travels, and you may benefit from having a policy as an 18-year-old. It’s very possible you can use your policy to convince the owners of independent or boutique hotels to let you stay based on your responsible behavior in securing travel insurance.
See Related: Proven Ways to Get Free Hotel Rooms
The Final Word on Booking Hotel Rooms at 18 Years Old
There is no universal rule when it comes to minimum check-in ages for hotels. The absolute minimum is almost always 18, but most hotel chains tend to leave the decision up to the local property manager, which means there’s almost always a chance that you’ll have the opportunity to book at 18 or need to wait until you’re 21.
Keep in mind that many hotels require a credit card rather than a debit card to hold a deposit and pay for your room. Make sure you’ve got the right method of payment available!
At the end of the day, all you can do is call the property to confirm whether you can check in as a teenager. At the very least, you might convince the property manager to let you book a room even if you’re not yet 21. It can’t hurt to ask nicely; you never know when the hotel staff will grant your request!
Why do some hotels have age restrictions for check-in?
Issues like expensive insurance and rowdy teenagers discourage many hotels from allowing 18-year-olds to check into their rooms. The increased costs that can occur when teenagers book a hotel room are too much of a headache for some hotel chain owners.
Are there any international chains with a check-in age of 18?
If you have trouble finding an international hotel chain that will rent a room to you, a look on VRBO or another short-term rental site may be the way to go. Many hostels around the world also welcome 18-year-olds for check-in.
Is there a different hotel policy based on location or country?
It’s not necessarily the location that dictates whether a hotel allows 18-year-olds to check in. Rather, it’s whether the hotel management has decided it’s a good idea. The vast majority of hotel companies do have some properties that allow 18-year-olds to check in, but it’s rarely based solely on the location of the property.