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

Azul Sensatori hotel roomThree-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.

26 Comments on "At What Age Can You Leave Your Kids Alone in a Hotel Room?"

  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. 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

    • The moment you said kids were dumb, I was done listening to you.

    • MotherDear, I was done with her after her fourth word.

    • Do not listen to this kind of people. We are in a helicopter generation where kids are over protected. When it is time to go to college they do not know what to do and make all the mistakes but it is all on them at that point…We are raising our children to fly in the world and not to sink. How are they going to mature if they do not have to take responsibilities. If something is supposed to happen it will happen even if you are steps away from them.

  3. 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??

    • I’d kick his but. I wouldn’t be mad if he popped downstairs for an hour and had a drink but that’s aweful. No more trips with daddy. Sorry.

  4. Mom of 5 – how pompous can you possibly be?
    Her scenario is a bit different than the man referenced in the comments. Besides which, she asked for your opinion and whether you would feel comfortable in the same situation, not for others to bash, insult and criticize her. If you’re going to play queen and judge, then do so on your own page. Ever seen the movie Blended? They leave the kids in the room to go down for coffee and a quick breath of fresh air. I presume that too was selfish selfish selfish.
    To properly respond to this post: I think it depends on the situation, the surroundings, location and abilities of the children. My kids could be kidnapped from my own home, or while with me at a public pool. Then again, I am only a regular mother and not one with super human ability like others, and sometimes my kids leave my eye site. Maybe I am what is wrong with America, idk. But I too have had the need for this arise- being a military family keeps me from being near my family. I haven’t done it just yet, but when my kids are teens I will certainly consider it!

    • larry, dad of two safe daughters ! | March 23, 2016 at 9:23 am |

      Anyone that thinks ages 7-9 are “mature” enough to handle things, should not be bringing their kids to places where pervs are waiting for people just like you to make your innocent children available to them . Those who defend your actions are as selfish and as incapable of being responsible parents as you are. Next time, do your kids a favor , go alone !

  5. Put your kids first | January 31, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Reply

    I agree, you are an idiot parent, wake up.

  6. Well it’s exactly as you said, it depends completely on your child. My oldest niece is 7 and I think she would be fine on her own in that situation. I also know kids 12 and older that I wouldn’t DREAM of leaving alone! If ur kid is 10 and still eating change U’ve got bigger problems and obviously isn’t mature enough but not all kids are like that. And also, I would only do it with MY kids. I would never leave my young kids alone with a friend just because you really don’t KNOW what that kids capable of when by themselves. Even if ur kid is responsible it’s hard for a child to control another child. And I would never leave my kids alone late at night or to go party. But that’s my opinion.

    I really don’t think children benefit at all by being coddled or denied opportunities to try and be mature. That’s how u get 25 year olds who still have thier mommies solving all thier problems. Remember: children are adults in training, not pets 😘

  7. It all depends on the type of hotel and the maturity level of the kids. If you are in the U.S. in a hotel in a safe area and its not your kids first time being left alone then I think its ok. If they have a cell on them even better.

  8. As a hotel front desk employee, I can tell you this. If we find out a child is left in the room alone. We will try very hard to contact the parents. If an adult can not be reached with in 30 mins we will call the police. Our job is not to baby sit your children, but to insure the safety of all our guest, and try to make their stay as pleasant as possible.
    My personal opinion, Not leaving children alone in a hotel room is never a good ideal.

    • Ensure the safety of ALL guests. Including children. Did their parents NOT pay you, just like everyone else? In fact, some hotels charge more for kids in the room. So keep the creeps out of your hotels!

      As a military wife who’s traveled with kids for change of duty station orders unaccompanied (meaning without my husband), there’s been times where I’ve had to bring a kid and a toddler AND a playpen in to a hotel room, then go back to the car for diapers or luggage while leaving them alone for a few minutes. I’m a horrible human. Shame on me. Considering there was no one else who could travel with me and I was in a city I didn’t know, it’s a downright shame. And heaven forbid I walked a little slower than I maybe could have, because God knows I spent the entire day in the car alone with the kids. It’s horrendous.

      OR, you know, we could all stop bashing each other and understand that every single family is different and has different needs, and that every single kid is different and mature differently. I say, hey, if you think your kid/kids are mature enough to not open the door for anyone, know what to do in the event of an emergency, and well behaved enough not to cause damage to person or property, then let them hang out for a little bit while you soak in some sun on a quick walk or grab a quick drink in the bar or a snack from the vending machine. It’s even okay to take the long way back. It’s up to the family decide when the time is right.

      I swear, these high horses that all these perfect parents ride in on are downright worthless.

    • As a supervisor at a hotel, I agree. One time I had a little boy about 3-4 years old running around the lobby crying trying to find his parents. Had I been on the phone or with another guest, he could have easily ran out the door as he was very scared and distraught. Luckily, I saw him and was able to get to him before he ran off. During this time, his parents were sitting at the bar.

  9. NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD ALONE ANYWHERE. if you can not find a responsible person to watch them, then change your plans. Kids HATE being left alone. They get curious, scared and wonder off. If you do this, then you must be prepared for what could happen to them OR your family. It’s not ok at any age. Your kid may be responsible around you but unless you have ever watched them with a hidden camera, you really have no clue what could happen. No. NO NO NO. I don’t care what anyone says. It is NOT ok. If you DO, I pray you get caught. Like the parents of the two kids I just found I the PARKING LOT of our hotel. They went SHOPPING. ages 6 & 4. Wow. IDIOTS!!!

  10. It is subjective, that’s why many states in the US, don’t have a legal age to be left alone. However, some situations just shouldn’t be left to chance. I recently found out my ex left my 8 year old daughter, his girlfriends 7 year old son and my 5 year old who is undergoing rigorous counseling in home 8 times a week for a behavior disorder, in a hotel room in Las Vegas. Namely, circus circus. A place designed to entertain parents and children alike. The two adults may or may not have been there when the kids woke up in the morning. (Conflicting reports from the children) either way i felt like i was punched in the gut. My daughter who barely turned 8 that weekend, was so proud of herself, saying she stayed up all night to make sure no one came in the room. THIS IS NOT OK!!!!! Sometimes kids say its ok but really they are fearful. Its up to the parents to be responsible and plan ahead to avoid these things. Also, if your bringing the kids on vacation with you, then don’t expect to get away. Or maybe try and do it when more resources are available. Thank you for writing this and bravery for telling the truth in such an open way. Your obviously good parents, we don’t always make the right choices. I’m glad your babies were safe in the end.

  11. Holy hell! These are some intense, helicopter parents you’ve got here. I agree with you. I think your children are capable of assessing a situation and at least understand the basic steps of how to proceed. I mean, 45 minutes is nothing in the scheme of things. I guess if you’re in a busy city, maybe, but the chances of getting kidnapped are comparable to getting struck by lightning. Get this, I allow my 7 year old to go across Target, while I’m shopping, to use the restroom and to get a cooki, all by himself. Alone. Even with all those tannins roaming the Earth… Unsurprisingly, he came back in one piece. We can’t live in fear of what could happen. If we do, then we teach our kids to fear the world. When you get back and everything went fine, that will empower them(and you! ) to be brave and smart about your surroundings. I want my child to have those qualities.
    On another note, I sort of agree with what one of the other parents said. Kids are dumb. Hear me out; think about it. They just got their brains a few years ago. Compared to all of the different age ranges of people in the world, they are statistically dumber than older people with experience. So, I say, give your kids the experience. They can’t be expected to remember what they haven’t been taught.

  12. Here’s the thing: if you never leave them alone for even 45 minutes until they are 18 (to the person who said “at any age”), how are they going to cope when they are 18 and go off to school or something? They will have zero experience or confidence being alone.

    Just like you can tell when your own kid is ready to sit by thenselves or use the washroom by themselves or be in their bedroom by themselves or make a meal by themselves, you should also be able to tell when they’re ready to be alone at home or in a hotel.

    Historically, if you think about what humans were responsible for at the ages of 10 or 14, and how much they would be alone, the idea that 45 minutes is is irresponsible regardless of the child, makes no sense.

    You do you, mama! I certainly plan to.

  13. Im not upset with what you did. I have an 11 yr old who is very responsible and I am at the point of wondering “can my husband and I go have dinner nearby and leave him occulied in the room?” I am not ready yet. I think your kids seem a little young but thats your call as their parent. My only concern is this is a hotel not home. Your neighbors aren’t there. It is a place full of absolute strangers. Mine is also an only child. I acknowledge it is way different to have a pair but I probably wont leave mine aline in a hotel until 13….maybe 14.

  14. As a hotelier I would call it very irresponsible. There are state laws to actually discourage doing this. We’re not baby-sitters. Maybe your children are mature enough to sit there in a locked room. Are they mature enough to react to an emergency? Fire? Earthquake? Choking? Also many hotels and guests will contact the police if children are found unsupervised and the parents can’t be contacted. Child protective services may get involved.

  15. Mommabear4two | June 4, 2017 at 7:02 pm | Reply

    When my daughter was 12 she took the Red Cross babysitters class. It taught them about emergency situations and how to care for other children. So at 12 and 13 she was hired to babysit other children. She was very mature and did a great job. She had a cell phone and we had no problems leaving her and her younger brother in the hotel room while we got a quick drink at the hotel bar after driving 12 hours. I mean for crying out loud 13 year old girls are hired as babysitters. How will your kids ever learn to make good choices and grow in their maturity if they’re never given the opportunity? Think about it… the law feels, in many states…some even sooner, that a 16 year old can drive a car. Yet at 11-14… or “any age” they’re too stupid to be left alone…. really?!? They’re only that way because they were allowed to be with no other choice or guidance. I’m not saying I agree with neglectful parents partying all night but using some parental sense when making that decision is key.

  16. Red Cross will certify a child to babysit at 11 years old. So I would say 11 and up is fine, 10 is fine alone for a very short period but not with anyone younger, and no younger than 10 unless an 11 year old or up is with them. However, leaving them in the room while you run down to vending, or to the car to finish unloading is fine, as long as it’s no longer than 10 mins or so until they reach double digits. Then as long as they are easily reached, know all the safety rules which are given by Red Cross as well, and you feel they are responsible there should be no reason not to. Some states have laws regarding ages to be left alone. Most of those laws are around 10 years old. Some states as young as seven, which seems a little too young to me, but not my child, not my parenting decision. I miss the old days when people minded their own business. And didn’t call CPS over 10 year olds playing in their own front yard because a parent isn’t with them. And them whine and complain that kids are so spoiled and coddled and grow into helpless entightled adults. Huh… I wonder how that happened…

  17. My kids are 11 and 13, and we plan on taking them on a trip to New York. My husband wants to hit the town at night because it will be his bday weekend,, but i am not sold on leaving them in the hotel room for a few hours at night. So we are debating on whether or not we should bring them.

    • Person with 7 yr old | August 12, 2017 at 1:49 pm |

      New York has some good babysitting services, so you can bring your kids but also go out. You don’t mention your kids’ ages but even if they are a bit older you are saved the worry about how they are doing.

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