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Let Kids, 12 & 9, Stay in Hotel Room Alone?

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Read Time: 4 minutes

Wow — there are 101 responses and counting to this question on our Raising Independent Kids Facebook group. A mom named Michelle asks:

Question about leaving kids alone at a hotel. My family lives in Texas and my husband and I were invited to his cousins wedding in Colorado, we really want to go, and we want to use it as an excuse to have a family vacation for a week or so before the wedding. Only problem is it’s a child-free wedding. We tossed around our options and the kids said they’d love to stay at the hotel and binge pizza and TV while we attend the wedding. They are 12 and 9 years old, and the venue is 4.4 miles from the hotel. It seems like a weird age to hire a babysitter, but also a weird age to leave them in new surroundings for 4 hours. Any opinions?

Update to answer some questions: They have been left at home for about 4ish hours while my husband and I have gone out, and my older child stays home almost every week when I do grocery shopping. They’ve definitely proven they are responsible enough and would not be destructive or disruptive to other guests. My husband feels like it’s perfectly fine, and I mostly agree, I’m just prone to second-guessing myself, especially since my husband’s mom and sister were horrified at the idea.

SO: Readers, here’s a sampling of the responses. Love to hear yours, too — as a comment below, or over at the FB group! By the way, the headlines are ours, not the commenters’:

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They’ll be fine!

I think you’re fine. They’re safer than staying at home alone. Talk them through fire alarm exit procedures and other than that they don’t leave the room or make enough noise to disturb other guests. Leave them a phone and tell them you’ll call once or twice and speak to them both briefly. Any unlikely emergency, like choking, and hotel staff are right there and you’re there in 10 minutes.

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No they won’t!

No way in hell I’m going anywhere without my kids. 12 and 9 should not be left alone without an adult no matter how “mature” you think they are. Someone needs to be over 18 and at least have a driver’s license in case of an emergency, accidents do happen.

You can always send a gift to the bride and groom. 🤷‍♀️

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They’ve got a phone and snacks. All set!

If the kids are comfortable with it and they have a cell phone to reach you then I would load them up with snacks and screens and enjoy your night.

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But at a hotel? I’m not sure.

I was babysitting at ten so their ages don’t bother me. It is a different city for them and it is a hotel. I would very much stress keep the door locked from the inside and not to answer the hotel phone. No they can’t go to the ice machine or vending machine.

Normally I don’t have a huge “stranger danger” mentality but it is a hotel so my nerves get the better of me too.
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Avoid hotels with pools.

Is there a pool? I’d stay where there isn’t one just to ensure safety while they’re unsupervised.

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Check in often and come home soon.

My kids would be in heaven; I think I’d let them, but I’d also check in all the dang time, and maybe leave the party early.
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No judgment but…here’s a judgment.

No judgment but I think they are too young to stay in hotel only because if fire alarm goes off they would have to evacuate room and if they somehow got locked out they would have to go to front desk for key. Maybe an older relative, cousin that’s also not attending could stay with them.

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Totally fine!

This seems fine to me. You know your kids best.

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Just remember not to have any fun.

I would go to the wedding but skip the reception.

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LET GROW’S THOUGHTS!

Our opinion: Giving kids that age a few hours on their own, knowing that they are pretty responsible, seems very safe. Nothing is ever totally safe: There can be an earthquake at the hotel OR at the wedding. But kids 9 and 12 are not babies. They are young people. And coming up with worries about strangers and fire alarms and ice machine maniacs doesn’t make anyone safer. Nor does going all the way to a wedding and then skipping the reception just to rush back to oversee the pizza-eating and movie watching.

Being a good parent doesn’t involve imagining every single worst case scenario. It involves teaching your kids the basics of safety — including that they are free to go and get help, even from people they don’t know, if they find themselves in some tough situation. If you’ve already seen that your kids can be mature and trustworthy, let them prove this some more in a new city while you Y-M-C-A your heart out!

And readers: We want to hear YOUR thoughts, too!

Comments

  1. CharlesCharles says:

    To the no people – Kevin McCallister was 8 in Home Alone. 9 and 12 year olds are highly capable 🙂

  2. MatthewMatthew says:

    It seems completely safe to leave them alone. Some of the specific concerns like pools (assuming a 9 and 12 year old can swim and if they can’t would not go to the pool) and fire alarms (wouldn’t you leave the kids a key if they need to get back in) seem overblown. Also, nearly every hotel has cameras in every hallway so that should alleviate concerns of “strangers” doing something bad. Just this last weekend we went to dinner with two other couple friends and left six kids by themselves alone together – two 11 y/o, two 9 y/o, an 8 y/o, and a 7 y/o. They were completely fine and enjoyed the freedom.

  3. AnnieAnnie says:

    Honestly, I’m regularly shocked by how fatalist parents are! You really believe that the worst will happen every time? So I can’t instruct my child what to do in the instance say a fire alarm goes off? Or how to go to the front desk? Why would I not trust hotel staff in the instance there was an emergency? I can easily see my child doing exactly what these kids would do – eat food and watch tv. Big freakin’ deal! Please parents, go enjoy the wedding, including the reception!

  4. RachelRachel says:

    It is so easy to get help at a hotel–instructions for calling the front desk are written right in the phone. Nine and twelve are more than old enough to handle this situation. Furthermore, freaking out about every horror-movie outcome and telling then to lock the door and not answer the phone is not a reasonable stance and is anxiety-inducing. What’s wrong with going to the ice machine? My only concern would be if there are laws about how old children have to be to be alone and if the hotel employees have some obligation to report you if they find out. I’d at least look into that first.

  5. MarkMark says:

    I’m 3 yrs older than my big bro’. We moved to a new neighborhood when I was 7. No babysitters, no bad problems w/ me the caretaker. Also while camping: running off to the beach, no lifeguards. We were very responsible, obedient: earned my parents’, grandparents’ trust. We would have chaffed at continued babysitting or rules not to be left alone. Rightly so IMO. The anxiety leaping out above sounds parent-generated; not within kids. As Lenore articulated before, as my Mom acknowledges now, FRing required ST bravery from my parents. Not from us by/large. My paper routes, others were typically delivered by pre-teens. When camping w/ Scouts, our terrific Scoutmaster and assisting adults could not hover over us 24/7 even if he HAD thought this a good idea. My parents could not have both held the jobs necessary to keep us out of poverty. We could not have had the pets so pivotal to our emotional development. Played freely w/ our friends. I never heard “playdate.” WE set our social lives, by/large. We’d been taught a lot; learned so much more. Yes, we went to the ice machine. I would have been irate had we been denied

  6. RandyRandy says:

    My brother and I were left in a swanky hotel room in Venezuela when I was 12 and he was 9. That was 60 years ago. We loved it. Parents were going out to dinner with some friends they knew there. We were told to lock the door and not let anyone in. They left us with snacks and the TV and the time went fast. We had been on a cruise and were given free run of the ship with stern warning to never put a foot on a railing. It was wonderful! I have done the same with my own kids. Knowing when to trust your kids is an essential parenting skill.

  7. MarkMark says:

    I shudder had my parents NOT developed the bravery, boundaries THEY needed. To pursue adventures themselves, provide the FRing we needed ourselves.

  8. JennyJenny says:

    Here’s some encouragement because I was in the exact same situation 4 months ago. This no-kid wedding was in San Francisco and because the ceremony and reception were in different locations of the city, the total time alone for an 8 yr, 11 yr, and 13 yr old would have been 7h. Rather than leave them cooped up in an AirBnB in a residential area, I hired a college student through care.com They had a blast going to the botanic garden, a playground, and bought boba tea then watched TV once they were thoroughly tired from all the walking. I vetted the sitter by calling two of her recommended contacts, and care.com sitters are background checked. If this was a city my kids had experience being solo in , I would not have hired a sitter. But neither did I want them cooped up indoors for 7h! So, they got to be adventurous with a college student, and still eat and watch fun things. If my oldest was 14 years old and in high school? I would let them be solo since she has plenty of babysitting experience and solo bike riding to stores in our home area. I would just prep her with maps and situational awareness before such a wedding adventure. Have a great time at the wedding!

  9. KateKate says:

    I think the question we should be asking is, what’s with child-free weddings?! Why are we shutting children out of these important cultural gatherings? How will they learn to behave and interact at weddings if they are excluded on the basis of age? Another example of kids not being trusted or given any opportunity to prove themselves.

  10. CaryCary says:

    Based on your account of their maturity and previous experiences being left alone, I say yes, absolutely yes, you can leave them alone in a hotel room. When my younger brother and I were little kids, we had a babysitter who was twelve. There will be no problem, so go for it. It’s good experience for them.

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