No room if you 'aint hitched?
September 28, 2009 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Do hotels or motels refuse to rent rooms to unmarried couples anymore? I took my girlfriend on a romantic getaway to the beach this weekend, and while I was not very concerned about it, I did wonder if it would be a problem.

Back in 1991, I visited a platonic friend in Indiana and when she reserved the room for me, she had to lie and tell the manager that I was her cousin, even though she was not spending the night in the room. We were not romantically involved but the manager would not rent a room to an unmarried couple. This was a major chain motel in a big city in Indiana. I did go out on the Internet to see if this sort of thing still goes on but did not find anything, save one notable exception.

P.S. My girlfriend and I had an absolutely wonderful stay on Cape Hatteras in North Carolina this weekend. Go if you get the chance!
posted by smoothvirus to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've never heard of such a thing. Also, how would they know you were unmarried? My husband and I have different last names, and there has been absolutely no difference in the way hotels have treated us since our marriage from the time when we were traveling as an unmarried couple.

And, yes, lots of English-speaking married couples have the same last name, but what about Spanish-speaking couples? Chinese couples? Billions of people in the world live in cultures where husbands and wives have different last names, after all.

I think that 1991 Indiana hotel manager was just a weirdo.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:16 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

On two cross-country trips with a boyfriend in 2000 and 2001, we got some dirty looks checking in at some hotels starting in the southeast and moving west from there. Eventually, I decided to get a ring that looked like a wedding band just to make the hotel people stop giving me that look. It worked fine.

Do you have to? No.
posted by sciencegeek at 8:17 AM on September 28, 2009

This is not in any way a common issue. If you do, by some unlucky chance, hit a 1950's throwback weirdo hotel manager just go to the next hotel.

You'll be fine.
posted by Brockles at 8:20 AM on September 28, 2009

Neither my sister nor I are married to our S.O.'s, and my stepmother did not take my father's name when they got married. None of us have had any kind of problem like you're describing. I suspect that this is an extremely parochial problem.
posted by mkultra at 8:24 AM on September 28, 2009

Just to add an anecdote on the other side, about 9 years ago I was checking into a hotel in Cairo with a female colleague. The front desk clerk assumed we were married and was seemingly baffled that we weren't. It took some prodding to get the guy to realize that a.) we weren't married and b.) we had separate rooms booked.
posted by mmascolino at 8:29 AM on September 28, 2009

Could it happen? Sure. Given a crazy enough desk manager, you could be turned away or have weird restrictions imposed over just about anything. But with the decline of owner-operated lodging, you're less likely to see it, especially if there's any competition in the vicinity. And with TripAdvisor, Yelp, Expedia ratings, etc etc, only the places truly in the boonies where you have no other choice can get away with that sort of thing for long.

I know gay couples who have been made uncomfortable, particularly at smaller establishments, but it was along the lines of thinly-veiled hostility rather than actual room refusal.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:40 AM on September 28, 2009

Are you actually only concerned with Hotels in the USA or also elsewhere in the world?

I think there can be issues in some African countries particularly if you look as though you could be a 'local'.
posted by mary8nne at 8:42 AM on September 28, 2009

I have never had this happen to me, and I have probably stayed in the same hotel room as a man I was not married to at least twenty times in the past ten years.

But one of the funniest things that happened on the road trip I took with my bf this spring was in Atlanta. The room was in my name and I paid with my card. The clerk caller us "Mr and Mrs. Mylastname" several times. We both giggled and I think I called him Mr. for the rest of the day.
posted by soelo at 8:45 AM on September 28, 2009

Previously on Metafilter: The Faubus Motel: Possibly the Worst Motel in America.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:56 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

About a year and a half ago a friend of mine was traveling from Western New York to the Hudson Valley by bike and stopped for the night near Deposit, New York. He went to a gas station to pick up some food and ask for a motel recommendation. He was told there were two motels in the area but if he was traveling with a girlfriend he should avoid one of the hotels. He was by himself and choose the other hotel so I don't know if it's true or not but it seems plausible.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2009

My sister and her husband have different last names and are an interracial couple. Apparently, every time they visit a hotel south of the Mason-Dixon line, they are asked whether they'll be staying in separate rooms, and several times they've been placed in a room with two small beds instead of one big one despite requesting one bed. However, they've never been refused service, as far as I know.
posted by decathecting at 9:20 AM on September 28, 2009

Some hotels don't rent to unmarried couples under 25 because they believe those folks to be more likely to trash the room after an all night party. We looked very young when were were married back in the early 90s and got hassled several times trying to get a room. It's not so much moral (although I'm sure that happens) as it is liability related.
posted by COD at 9:23 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a woman who has never been married but have done my share of travelling with man-friends, and I've never run into this issue. But then, I rarely leave the west coast - perhaps it's a regional thing?
posted by chez shoes at 9:28 AM on September 28, 2009

Just as another data point, I stayed with my boyfriend in about 30 different hotels and motels throughout the states on road trips in 2006, 2007, and 2008 and never had a problem.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:42 AM on September 28, 2009

Nthing the notion that this is a largely disappeared issue. I travel extensively for work and recreation, and over the years I have brought a few different women with me, none of whom I have been married to. I have yet to encounter even a second glance.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:52 AM on September 28, 2009

About 10 years ago, someone asked me if I knew how to make a fake marriage certificate for an unmarried couple that was traveling to Egypt and wanted to stay in the same hotel room. They were under the impression that a man and woman with different last names would not be permitted to share a room in that country unless they could show that they were married.
posted by brain at 9:52 AM on September 28, 2009

Nope, my now-husband and I never were treated any differently by hotel staff before we were married. We traveled quite a bit, too. The one time we had the now father-in-law book us a hotel, so we could use his travel points for a discount, the not-yet FIL requested us a room with two beds!
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 9:52 AM on September 28, 2009

I've never had a problem checking into a hotel with my girlfriend.

However, when I was in northern Idaho a couple of years ago on a road trip with a friend (we're both male), we were refused a room. They didn't give a reason, just said that there were no vacancies. The parking lot was empty.
posted by one_bean at 10:06 AM on September 28, 2009

Several years ago, my fiance (then girlfriend) drove halfway across the country. We had no problem what so ever checking into the hotels on that trip. This was entirely in the South.
posted by Atreides at 10:24 AM on September 28, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses everyone. I thought this was pretty much a non-issue in the 21st century. I guess the whole experience in Indiana tainted my expectations of things, even in 1991 I was really surprised when the manager made an issue out of it. It sounds like the issue in Indiana was just a fluke. WRT to COD's comment, I was 21 years old at the time so that may have been an issue.
posted by smoothvirus at 10:27 AM on September 28, 2009

one_bean writes "They didn't give a reason, just said that there were no vacancies. The parking lot was empty."

There is a good reason this can happen. Events like weddings, rallyes, bus tours or sporting events will often book entire hotels at a discount rate. The parking lot is empty because everyone is at the reception; bashing cars into trees; sightseeing or hitting a ball.
posted by Mitheral at 11:23 AM on September 28, 2009

Apparently, every time they visit a hotel south of the Mason-Dixon line, they are asked whether they'll be staying in separate rooms

I've been part of an interracial unmarried couple in many motels in the south and have never had this problem. The only place I remember being made the least uncomfortable was, strangely, in Indiana.
posted by frobozz at 12:28 PM on September 28, 2009

I am guessing this is only a problem with no name hotels. ME and my fiancee have never had this problem with the brand name hotel chains.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:30 PM on September 28, 2009

I think this is an age thing, not a married thing. Six or seven years ago I was traveling through Nebraska on a LONG drive, stopped around 10pm to get a room, and was told that they weren't allowed to rent rooms to unmarried people under age 25. (Note: I was traveling alone at the time, so it wasn't like this was an issue about an unmarried person having nonmarital sex.)

The front-desk lady was perfectly nice, and even directed me to another motel down the road. It wasn't a national chain but it definitely wasn't a fleabag place either. My guess is that to the extent you see unmarried people not allowed to rent rooms, it's more about age (e.g., we don't want a bunch of teens coming here on prom night from one town over and potentially having a party that may or may not involve underage sex)--the married thing fits in because they're not going to refuse a married couple a room even if they are young.

I wouldn't worry about it now, though, unless you look REALLY young.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:19 PM on September 28, 2009

I think that 1991 Indiana hotel manager was just a weirdo.

No, this was commonplace in some areas. I'm guessing that the tide had pretty much completely turned by the mid-90s, but I can vouch that at in the early 90s when I was in college, young couples in the South were still routinely refused hotel rooms if unmarried. Not because they're likely to trash the room, but because it was so obviously immoral and indecent to get a hotel room in which to have sex.

I suppose that big hotel chains would have cared a lot less, but at that point, the chains hadn't so thoroughly moved in to the smaller towns.
posted by desuetude at 3:29 PM on September 28, 2009

A small B&B in Lenox, Massachusetts once refused to rent a room with a queen bed to myself and my boyfriend -- magically as soon as the proprietor found out that we were unmarried, only rooms with twin beds were available. So... it does happen, but I think it's strictly a mom and pop thing.
posted by telegraph at 3:38 PM on September 28, 2009

I've had kind of the opposite issue once. My best friend and I (both females) were driving from Seattle to Salt Lake City and were exhausted when we pulled into a hotel in Eastern Oregon at about 10pm. We asked for one room (we're cheap, and who really cares anyway??) and the front desk clerk apologized because she only had rooms with two beds. We didn't particularly care either way but it gave us a good laugh/road-trip story.

Other than that, have never noticed an issue with staying in hotels with a boyfriend.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:39 PM on September 28, 2009

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