Travel & Day Trips

Can You Book a Hotel at 18 in California? The Details

For many young adults, embarking on a solo or group adventure in California marks a rite of passage. But when you’re 18 and looking to book a hotel, what can you expect?

The age of majority in California is 18 years old, which means you can legally book a hotel room in California at 18. Hotels are free to set their own policies, though, and many California hotels require you to be 21 to book a room.

Here’s what to know.

Disclaimer: This article is based on our research and experience. It is not legal advice. Consult an attorney for any specific legal advice. Regulations may change or vary between locales. Travel at your own risk.

At a fundamental level, the age of majority in California is 18. This means you’re legally an adult and have the rights and responsibilities that come with that status. But does this mean you can book a hotel room?

Booking at hotel is like entering into a legal contract. You get a service up front, and you agree to pay for it when you check out. The hotel also has to trust that you’re not going to damage the room. And they have to worry that you might get injured on the premises.

For that reason, you need the legal ability to enter a contact in order to book a hotel in California. You receive that power when you’re 18.

  • Age of Majority: 18
  • Ability to Book a Hotel: Varies
Atrium of a hotel
Hotel policies can differ

The Reality: Hotel Policies Can Differ

While the legal age in California is 18, hotel policies can and do vary. Each establishment has the freedom to set its own age requirement, often based on factors like insurance policies, past experiences, or business preferences.

Table: Typical Age Requirements for Hotel Chains in California

Hotel ChainMinimum Age to Book
Hilton18 or 21 (Varies by location)
Holiday Inn18 or 21 (Varies by location)
Best Western18
Motel 618

Why Might Some Hotels Have a Higher Age Requirement?

Hotels aren’t trying to ruin your fun. Many of them are required to set a higher age for booking a hotel room. Some have also had bad experiences–especially in college towns where younger folks may have been roudy or disruptive.

For those reasons, hotels often increase their age. Usually this means setting a limit of 21 years old for booking a hotel.

  • Liability Concerns: Younger guests might be perceived as a higher risk for property damage or other issues.
  • Insurance Policies: Some insurance companies might have stipulations about the age of hotel guests.
  • Past Incidents: Hotels may raise the age requirement if they’ve had negative experiences with younger guests in the past. This can be especially true in college towns or other places where the risks of roudy behavior are higher.

Tips for Booking a Hotel at 18 in California

If you’re 18 and eager to book your stay in California, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Call Ahead: Always check with the hotel directly to confirm their age policy. Sometimes the official age is 21, but the hotel manager may be willing to make an exception for younger guests. You can offer to pay in advance for the nights you’re staying.
  2. Look for Independent or Boutique Hotels: They might be more flexible with age requirements than larger chains.
  3. Try Inexpensive Hotels: Many motels or budget hotels cater to younger clients. You may have better luck at these locations than larger and higher-end chains.
  4. Try Luxury Hotels: Conversely, many luxury hotels are used to dealing with young, affluent visitors. A Four Seasons or comparable hotel might not bat an eye at an 18-year-old staying–so long as you have the money for the room!
  5. Consider Alternative Accommodations: Look into hostels, motels, or vacation rental platforms like Airbnb, where the age requirement might be lower.
  6. Have a Valid ID: Ensure you carry a government-issued ID to prove your age.
  7. Review and Respect Hotel Policies: If you do get a booking, ensure you respect the property and its policies to maintain a good record for future bookings.

In Conclusion

While the age of majority in California is 18, hotel booking policies can vary widely. If you’re 18 and planning to travel in the state, arm yourself with information, call ahead, and explore all your accommodation options. Safe travels!

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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