Local Military Family Questions Minimum Age Policies at Hotels
An Owensboro family is raising concerns over minimum age requirements at hotel chains across the country. About a month ago, a son-in-law in the family was driving to Owensboro from the Air Force base at Langley, Virginia. It was late and torrential rain was making driving very difficult. This young man, who entered the service at 17 and is still serving at 20, was refused accommodations by eight different hotels in the Mt. Sterling area of eastern Kentucky. The reason for denial? His age. The details of this story, which I collected late Tuesday evening from his wife, who is also in the service (she's in the Air Force ROTC program and is well on her way to becoming a JAG), beg the question . . . how old do you have to be to reserve a hotel room? And should there be special provisions in place to protect our servicemen and servicewomen?
The Owensboro family interviewed for this story has three young members in active duty- all in the Air Force. The sisters are 18 and 21. I have already mentioned the service of the eldest sibling. Her younger sister is 18 and is currently stationed in Nevada. They, too, have had multiple issues booking rooms at hotels. In fact, on a recent trip across the country, to get the youngest sister back to base, the pair was denied accommodations in Oklahoma and eventually, finally, were able to book a room in Amarillo, Texas.
In fact, according to family members, these refusals happen so frequently that they literally have to plan where they will sleep if they are unable to get into a hotel or motel. The trio have been forced to sleep in their cars in Walmart parking lots or rest stops along the way. But why?
According to the family interviewed for this piece, the most common excuse for denial of accommodations is credit. The sisters (and son-in-law) are often told that "people their age don't have credit limits large enough to cover holds placed on the hotel rooms." But, the fact of the matter is, they actually do.
I have to be honest. I am baffled by this. But it's an issue that came to light before. In 2014, a Motel 6 location in Atlanta was called to task by the family of a 20-year-old soldier who was set to fly from Atlanta to his new base in Anchorage, Alaska. When he was denied accommodation (even after presenting his military I.D.), his family stormed social media to hold Motel 6 responsible . The company acknowledged the incident, admitted it happened, then launched a company-wide re-communication of its military policy- that " we welcome military personnel of all ages."
Some states have gone a step further and have enacted laws that require hotels to grant accommodations to active duty, reserve and guardsmen regardless of age. Florida, for instance, is one of them (according to the family I interviewed for this story).
So, out of curiosity, we did some local research. We called about a dozen chains that have hotels/properties here in the WBKR listening area. We called locations in Owensboro and Evansville. We asked the question, "How old do you have to be to reserve a room?" Here's what we found . . .
HOTELS THAT REQUIRE YOU TO BE 21-YEARS-OLD
Clarion Inn (Evansville)
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson (Evansville)
Courtyard by Marriott
DoubleTree By Hilton (Evansville)
Some hotels/motels in our area will allow people under the age of 21 to book and stay in a room. But that list is relatively short.
HOTELS THAT REQUIRE YOU TO BE AT LEAST 18-YEARS-OLD
Drury Inn (Evansville)
A few important notes: 1) The age limits above do not necessarily reflect the chains' policies regarding military personnel. 2) We discovered that the minimum age stated can vary from desk clerk to desk clerk. Representatives at one of the chains above gave us two different answers. 3) If a representative from a local hotel/motel would like to shed light on their establishment's military personnel policy, please message us through the WBKR Facebook page. 4) While our the Holiday Inn we contacted listed the minimum age as 21, the family interviewed for this story says that particular chain is "usually pretty good" about accommodating them.
A recent USA Today "Travel Tips" article attempted to answer the same question we're posing. They discovered that while many hotel chains require you to be 21+ to book a room, there are instances in which they may make an exception.
From USA Today: "Some hotels will make exceptions to the minimum-age requirement depending on the case. If parents or legal guardians put the reservation under their name and credit card, then some hotels might be okay with the actual guests being younger than 18 and without the presence of a guardian."
For additional "Travel Tips" from USA Today, CLICK HERE!
The USA Today findings echo what the Owensboro family claims is the most common excuse for denial of a room. It often comes down to credit . . . or the supposed lack thereof.
But is this okay? We have young men and women serving the country at 18, 19 and 20, but they are being turned away from hotels because of their ages. The picture painted for me by this Owensboro family, three young Air Force members strong, is a bleak one. It seems that, often times, there doesn't seem to be room at the inn. I can't shake the notion that we need to do something . . . enact some sort of legislation . . . that guarantees there's room.