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At What Age Can You Leave Your Kids Alone in a Hotel Room?

Three-year-old Madeline McCann disappeared from her hotel room at a Portugal resort after her parents left her alone, sleeping, while they ate dinner at an on-site restaurant about 130 yards away.

I thought about this tragic story during my family’s recent stay at Azul Beach near Puerto Morelos, Mexico, earlier this month — but it didn’t dissuade me from leaving my children, ages 7 and 9, in our ground-floor room alone while my husband and I took a 45-minute walk on the beach, and then ate breakfast on our own at a hotel restaurant.

Was this bad?

I don’t think so. Here’s my defense:

  • We put the “Do Not Disturb” signs on the doors, so housekeeping would leave them alone.
  • We closed the sliding glass door, but made sure they knew how to open it.
  • We made sure they knew to call “0” in an emergency to get the front desk.
  • We checked in on them in between our beach stroll and our breakfast.
  • It’s a tiny resort – just 97 rooms – and they’d found their way around the property within the first hours we were there.
  • We leave them unsupervised together for short periods of time at home — say, when I need to get to a PTA meeting, and my husband is on his way home from work, but still 7 minutes away by car; our relatives live next door and they know Grandma’s cell number (please don’t call social services on us).
  • They’d eaten room service breakfast and were totally occupied watching cartoons.
  • They get along swimmingly, don’t bicker and they watch out for each other.
  • They said they were comfortable with it.
  • The Kids Club wasn’t open yet and I didn’t want to pay $15/hour for a babysitter to sit in our room while our kids watched TV.

I’m thinking about Lenore Skenazy, the mom who let her nine-year-old son take the subway alone in New York City, as well as the wrath she endured afterwards. “What if something had happened!” commenters on her blog said. “Nothing did happen,” she replied. And she knew her son.

I know my kids, and I know what they are capable of handling. Leaving them unsupervised in a secure hotel room (though, we all know not all hotel rooms are totally safe) for 45 minutes at a time was something they could handle and I felt okay about.

Of course, if something did happen to them, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. The guilt would likely send me to a funny farm. But bad things happen at home, too. Kids are snatched from playgrounds or walking to the bus stop. Accidents happen. We can’t envelope our children in bubble wrap all the time. We’ve got to let them spread their wings so they’ll grow into capable, independent adults.

I admit I left my children alone in a hotel room because it was convenient for my husband and me. But we also feel they were mature enough to do just fine on their own. And they did.

What about your children? How old would they have to be to for you to feel comfortable leaving them by themselves in a hotel room? I’m curious what other parents would have done — or what they do — in this situation.

3 Responses to “At What Age Can You Leave Your Kids Alone in a Hotel Room?”

  1. 1

    That’s a tough call to make! I think situations differ for everyone and there will come a time when it feels right for the parents and the kids. For me, that time is now! My kids — 9 and 11 — are at the point where they are sage enough to be aware of their surroundings in a location like our house or a hotel room. And I’m well past the point of sacrificing my enjoyment by staying with them, getting a sitter, or making us all miserable by dragging them along to something that is not a good fit for their age. On the other hand, I think singletons need to have someone there to look out for them until they are old enough to care for themselves, in my opinion around 15 or 16.

  2. 2
    Mom of 5 says:

    You’re a total idiot and selfish me me me mommy!
    ” they were ok with oh!!??????”
    Are you kidding!!!!??
    In 45 minutes a fruit loop perv could enter the room
    Hotel employees in NYC and Boston have been arrested
    for raping guests. Look what happened to that
    sportscaster Erin something.
    She’s a adult and was peeped upon… You’re the
    type of parent the USA doesn’t need because
    you think it’s ok to put your kids in vulnerable
    positions because they act mature or tell you they are not
    scared. Kids are dumb!! They eat coins, too much
    junk, ingest poison, go off with strangers, put their
    fingers in dogs faces, omg!! Mine didn’t do any
    of the above but that still at 8 and 10 years of age
    means I’m willing to risk any type of trauma
    or drama. Bring your mother next time

  3. 3
    Jill says:

    I recently found out that my ex-husband left my ten year old daughter and her friend who was nine years old, in a hotel room in Downtown Chicago while him and the other girls guardians went out to party. He asked my daughter to FaceTime him at one o’clock in the morning..which tells me they were out very late and most likely until the bar closed. They were there for the kids ice skating competition which also means he wasn’t even with her to make sure she was in bed at a reasonable hour. A photo on Facebook shows him sleeping in his seat at the ice arena…hung over. I am beyond concerned and disappointed. Can someone tell me please…that has to be considered neglect??

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