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Don’t be the fool at the pool

A day at the beach or the pool should be as fun and carefree as, well, a day at the beach. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some basic rules that every well-mannered traveler should follow.
You might think twice before taking a dip in the pool at the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel.
You might think twice before taking a dip in the pool at the Sheraton Manhattan

As they check into and out of hotels in the course of taking notes for their assigned site visits, staff members of the recently launched site, Oyster Hotel Reviews, take a lot of pictures. Some photos confirm that a hotel’s king-size beds are as plush and as large as advertised. Others, like the shot taken at the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel (above), might make guests think twice before taking a dip in the pool.

Ick, right? Do people really need to be told not to poo, pee, spit, or blow their nose in a hotel pool? We can only shudder to imagine what convinced someone at this property that they do. Looking over the results of a recent TripAdvisor survey, it’s clear that there’s an ocean’s worth of other travelers out there who could use some tips on what sort of behavior is acceptable, or not, at the pool.

Travelers told TripAdvisor that loud music, hogging beach chairs, and urinating in the pool were some of the activities they found most annoying. Although 53 percent of the almost 4,000 people surveyed admitted they thought it was OK to pee in the ocean as long as other swimmers weren’t too close by. (Note to self: just stay clear of other swimmers.)  Other irritating behaviors high on the list included smoking, littering, not showering before entering a pool and letting kids take other kids’ beach or pool toys without asking.

PDAs are TMI
In some places, it’s PDA, public displays of affection. In Las Vegas, an Oyster reviewer witnessed “some pretty aggressive making-out at the all-ages pool at Planet Hollywood and again at Excalibur. At Planet Hollywood, a guy was actually lying down on top of a lady, smooching it up something fierce. The Excalibur etiquette breach was less obvious but more raunchy — some groping from behind.”

At the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa in Vero Beach, Fla., the pool concierge (yes, that’s a job) says he keeps an eye peeled for couples getting a little too cozy by the pool and, when necessary, steps-in and asks them to tone it down. “Usually it starts out subtle,” says Alex Serkadakis, “but then after a few drinks, they can get a little too frisky. Rubbing suntan lotion on their partner’s back can turn into a seductive massage and then next thing you know, they are rubbing oil all over each other.”

Other poolside hanky-panky that Serkadakis sometimes pours cold water on includes cannon-balling (rolling up into a ball and then jumping into the water to create the maximum and most irritating splash) and people who move other people’s belongings in order to steal their lounge chairs. He also sees a lot of people who arrive without sun tan lotion and then “borrow” other people’s lotion when they’re not looking. And then there are the bathers who think it’s funny to slip fish, turtles, and other animals into the pool.

At some pools, the etiquette breakdown comes not when people put something into the water, but when they want something taken out. Like all the water.

Erin Scheinost, the manager at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak’s River Ranch in Phoenix remembers one mom who demanded that the resort’s 4-acre water park be drained because her 12 year-old son had lost his retainer in the lazy river section of the park. Not only could Scheinost not accommodate the woman’s request, but she couldn’t even promise to contact the woman’s if her son’s retainer was later found. “The problem with actually contacting her is that my staff finds a lot of retainers and we have no way of identifying the owners.”

Avoid being the fool at the pool
Of course, a day at the beach or the pool should be as fun and carefree as, well, a day at the beach. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some basic rules that every well-mannered traveler should follow. So, with thanks to Jodi R.R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, Erin Scheinost at Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak, and Lisa Choate, the pool concierge at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz., here are 10 basic rules to keep in mind when you and your family head to the water.

1. Don’t change children’s diapers in the pool area; use the rest room.

2. Don't let kids run wild and don’t expect anyone else, especially the lifeguard, to watch over them for you.

3. Keep food and beverages out of the pool. In a home pool, sipping a smoothie while you float on a raft may be OK, but don't risk contaminating the pool water at a hotel or public park.

4. Don’t be a lounge or chair hog. If you're going to leave your pool chair for an extended period of time, take your stuff with you and let someone else enjoy the sun.

5. Many pools and beaches are designated non-smoking areas. But even if smoking is allowed, keep your smoke away from others and, at the beach, don’t bury your cigarette butts in the sand.

6. Watch your language. “Being in the pool is not unlike being in a restaurant,” says Choate of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. “It's not appropriate to be screaming across the pool or lounging area to friends and family.”

7. “Create your space” at the beach, says Mannersmith’s Smith. “Find a spot that’s at least three paces from other's belongings and give them some personal space. The spacing should allow beachgoers to walk between your towel and another one without kicking up sand on either.”

8. Protect the view.  Make sure your umbrella, beach chairs, rafts or water toys don’t block other people’s view of the water.

9. Gather before shaking. Smith suggests you walk away from people before shaking out any blankets or towels that have collected sand. “The windier it is, the further you need to go.”

10. And, finally, everyone agrees on this one: Don’t pee in the pool. Ever.

Harriet Baskas writes 's popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the , and a columnist for You can follow her on Twitter.