Our top pool safety tips for travelers

Keep you, your pets, and your kids safe at your next pool party
Family playing in a pool.
St. Augustine resort pool

Accidents in the water can happen in the blink of an eye. That’s why knowing—and communicating—essential pool safety tips is crucial. And even when young children or pets aren’t around, swimming responsibly can immensely reduce risk of drowning or injury.

So we’ve compiled a list of swimming pool safety tips you need to know before you throw on the sunscreen. Let’s jump in.

1. Take supervision and adult responsibility seriously

Peace of mind starts with a plan—here’s how you can put pool safety first (without compromising on the fun).

Minimize your distractions and obstructions

Music blaring, BBQs smoking, toys everywhere—it can all seem innocuous until it’s not. When swimming—especially with children—be mindful of the environment around you, and how that environment might impede emergency response.

Splitting attention between cooking and keeping an eye on the swimmers, listening to music so loud that you cannot hear the chatter from the pool, or lots of big toys obscuring your view of the water underneath can be the difference between a scare and a tragedy. But you can keep the good times rolling—just foster an environment where trouble can be noticed and acted upon quickly.

Set clear rules and boundaries

Discuss safety rules with your party before donning your suits and making a splash, whether in the pool or a larger body of water.

Vacation rentals will often have posted pool safety rules to follow—and, in specific cases, lifeguards—but there are a few universal basics:

  1. No running: If you’ve ever been to a public pool, you’ve heard—or been at the receiving end—of a teenage lifeguard bellowing this rule. Water can make surrounding hard surfaces slippery (and you don’t want to ruin a perfect afternoon by introducing your skull to the pavement).
  2. No diving: Some pools are built for it, but most aren’t. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 46% of childrens' diving injuries between 2008 and 2020 involved the head and neck. With the short- and long-term complications associated with injury in these areas, it’s obvious why it’s smart to cannonball instead.
  3. Never swim alone: Not only because the water’s better with a buddy, either. Drowning can happen quickly, in both deep and shallow water—so always err on the side of caution and have a water watcher around.
  4. Never swim inebriated: Like driving under the influence, swimming—or chilling in the hot tub—while intoxicated can be extremely dangerous. If you find yourself considering taking a dip in a less-than-sober state, do the safe thing and abstain.
View from the pool overlooking a vineyard at a rental in Sonoma, CA.

Have an emergency response and preparedness plan

By learning some basic pool emergency procedures, you can swim with confidence. Water safety is doubly important when swimming without a lifeguard, as is the case in many vacation rentals with pools.

And while it’s great to be prepared, always call professional emergency services in the case of a potentially serious accident or injury.

Essential pool safety resources

Model safe behavior

Beyond following the basic rules laid out above, make sure you’re playing with water toys safely, aren’t roughhousing, and do basic personal care—like reapplying sunscreen—to lead by example.

Be aware of your pets

Your pets deserve the same love and attention as the people in your life do, which is why you should apply many of the same safety rules to four-legged fun in the pool. (Just be sure they’re allowed to join you for a swim before letting them loose).

Dogs can tire easily from swimming, suffer heat exhaustion, or injure themselves in many of the same ways we can. So keep an eye on them as they swim, try to keep energy levels relaxed, and make sure Fido gets a few breaks in the shade to cool off and rest.

2. Be mindful of pool design, equipment, and toys

Like our thousands of vacation rentals, every pool is unique. And that means your safety plans need to be too.

Assess the risks of indoor vs outdoor pools

Unlike outdoor pools, indoor pools often allow guests to close off access by locking a door. This can be a huge plus for safety, especially for groups with small children.

In some areas, fences with a latching gate around outdoor pools are a requirement—so if you’re worried about unsupervised swimming, look for a home with a gated pool.

Consider the difference between public vs private pools

Public pools, like the ones you might find in a city park or a resort, hire lifeguards to supervise swimmers and respond to emergencies. However, pool hours may extend beyond the posted lifeguard hours. If you are swimming alone, with children, or prefer to have a lifeguard around for peace of mind, make sure you plan your trip to the pool around lifeguard availability.

Private pools behind single-family homes or in apartment complexes probably won’t have a lifeguard on duty. That means the responsibility to keep your party as safe as possible rests on the adults present.

View from the pool of a La Quinta golf course
The pool area of a vacation rental in Rancho Mirage, CA.

Follow the pool rules

Public pools and private, shared pools should always have rules posted clearly around the swimming area. Private pools at a single family home aren’t usually required to post safety rules or signage, which is why preparation is so important when staying at a home with a dedicated pool.

Thinking of bringing floaties? Check with the public pool to see if they’re allowed, and make rules around what kind and how many are safe to enjoy in a private pool. Remember: Toys can help with floatation but they are not a replacement for basic swimming skills. On that note…

3. Brush up on your swimming skills and education

If you haven’t swum in a while, it’s a good idea not to overestimate your endurance in the water. Exhaustion from swimming can creep up on you—so be sure to take breaks and rest in the shade while you enjoy your time poolside.

Don’t know how to swim? Grab a lifejacket and stay in the shallows. Or, better yet, prep for your trip by enrolling yourself or accompanying children in swimming lessons. It’s a life skill you’ll be glad to have under your belt (and it’ll make your time at the pool that much more fun).

4. Prioritize health and hygiene

Pools are artificial environments. And messing with their chemical balance can spell trouble.

Help keep the pool clean

A quick shower before entering the pool can help remove oils and dirt, keeping the pool clear and inviting.

And it goes without saying, but we’ll do it anyway: The pool is not a toilet. And fishing out any evidence to the contrary does not mean the water is not contaminated.

(If you have a hygiene problem during a stay at a Vacasa-managed home, don’t hesitate to call us—we’re here to help get you back to the fun.)

Sun safety

Sun overexposure can be nasty—ask anyone who’s ever had a heat stroke, and they’ll tell you how miserable too much time out in the sun can be.

Take frequent breaks in the shade, stay hydrated, wear a hat and sunglasses, and reapply sunscreen frequently. And if you’re going to be swimming a lot, make sure you choose a water-resistant sunscreen.

Pool safety tips FAQ

By far the most common and life-threatening risks are drowning and injury from diving. That’s why swimming with a buddy, knowing basic first aid, and making safe choices when swimming are so important.

Yep, provided the pool is well cared for. If you have concerns about a pool’s hygiene, it’s best to check with the people responsible for managing it. Chemically well-balanced pools keep bad bacteria at bay (that’s good, clean fun).

The Red Cross is the go-to resource for CPR and basic first aid training in the United States and Canada.

To be blunt, putting pool safety guidelines in action can help prevent drowning and be the difference between life and death. It is always better to be over-cautious in the water than to be injured—or worse—later.

Showering before swimming removes oils, residues, and dirt from your skin. Jumping in unshowered transfers these to the water you and everyone else is enjoying. Want to use a tub after another person has washed? If not, then you know why showering before swimming is essential to good pool hygiene.

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