Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in an environment with natural, pristine, palm tree-dotted beaches. I wasn’t—growing up in mostly suburban, landlocked pockets of Texas and Arkansas, I dreamt furiously about having access to such a sandy, sunny place. Thankfully, I had something else that came close: swimming pools, in all their chlorinated glory.
Pools are wonderful respites from the cruel summer heat, and like a mirage in the desert, they can often appear before you in your deepest moments of need. But unless you are a homeowner who happens to live in a locale where seasonal variations in temperature necessitates a yard pool, you may not go near one very often.
I’m here to tell you that all that can change—you can go to a pool today, tomorrow, whenever you want, if you decide to strut into the nearest hotel, roll out your towel, and park yourself poolside for as long as it takes for you feel 30 percent more relaxed.
I generally follow the rules, unless the rules are stupid, and in this case, the facts are clear: Sneaking into a hotel pool seems like a perfect [way to redistribute resources] distribution of resources. I would NEVER encourage anyone to do this themselves, and I myself haven’t tried it yet, because although I can generally tell when the rules are stupid, I am also a huge chicken. But there’s something about the act of luxuriating in a well-kept hotel pool that seems impossibly cool, in addition to being a thoroughly rewarding summertime activity.
The first time I heard about an older friend of a friend sneaking into hotel pools in college, it struck me as a poetic rebellion against the monotony of scorching summer heat and the tyranny of the bloated hotel industry. So I became obsessed with the idea, determined to cross off my bucket list. The idea of being able to sit—without having to speak to or bother anyone—and read a book in peace and maybe even get a tan was tantalizing. It was not so much that I longed for a pool during my college years (although I definitely did; the nearest body of water was the Schuylkill River). It was more that getting away with the act of sneaking into hotels would mean making myself anonymous and undetectable. I wanted to know that power.
Thankfully for cowards like me, many hotels, especially fancier ones that are more likely to identify as lifestyle brands than mere places of rest, have public pools. This is what I discovered while visiting a friend in Los Angeles earlier this year; the Line, the Ace, and the Standard all have free and public pools. Here it was: A chance to get a tan without having to get on the highway to hit the beach and not agitate my long-running fear of angering law enforcement. Perfect!
My friend, who had been initiated into hotel pool-hopping by a more seasoned friend, planned it all out: We rolled up to the Line on a sunny mid-week day and walked from the front door to the elevators (which would take us to the rooftop pool) with confidence. We brought our swimsuits, towels, and reading materials with us, and changed in the bathrooms by the pool. Walking out onto the pool deck, I was reminded of the specific appeal of hotel pools: They’re sparkling clean, will make you forget about the outside world, and also sometimes have celebrities. (Tessa Thompson was definitely in the pool at the Line, although my friend did not notice for a solid 30 minutes, which probably strongly telegraphed to her that we did not care, we see celebrities all the time, and were totally fine!) Lounging by a hotel pool will make you feel like you’re on vacation even if, in fact, you are just stopping in and live a 10-minute drive away and you have to go to work tomorrow. And isn’t that what we all want?
If you decide to get into hotel pools this summer, keep a few things in mind. In general, aim high. Fancy hotels are more likely to have fancy clientele, and might even have a bar or al fresco dining spot by the pool.
The second rule of thumb is don’t be a dick. Even if you’re not staying there, hotel workers still have to clean up after you, so practice good camping etiquette and leave the poolside area as you found it. If you pay for a towel or buy a drink, tip.
I’m not saying don’t talk to anyone, but feel free to use this as an opportunity to keep to yourself. You have just slipped away from the daily mayhem of wherever you live, and found yourself a relatively quiet place, where time is suspended and nobody knows your name. Enjoy it! This is your time. Summer only comes once a year, and it is up to you to make it count.