Whether you're aboard a cruise ship, lounging at a resort or just kicking back at the community pool, chances are you've suffered the aggravating, uncomfortable phenomenon that is the scarcity of the deck chair. There simply aren't enough deck chairs in any given place for every guest to enjoy at once.
The politics of the pool deck chair can get ugly, though it doesn't necessarily have to: A Cruiseline.com poll shows that 48 percent of travelers would just move someone's things or tell a crew member about a long-abandoned deck chair, while 52 percent would just sigh and move it along. Here's how to navigate what should be the most relaxing — but can sometimes be the most annoying — part of your vacation.
Wake Up Early and Check the Rear Row
If you're looking for a free seat, don't expect it to be right by the water unless you get there at the crack of dawn. Jose Bone of The Passport Office points out, "Pool deck chair placement is a little bit like real estate. Everyone is going to want to snatch the chairs closest to the pool, this means that if there’s vacancy it’ll most likely be in a rear row. Ultimately, if you’d like to grab a pool deck chair without hassle or fuss in a great location around the pool, make it a point to wake up early."
An Easy Way to Mark Your Territory
Travel Addict blogger Rick Orford told us his simple trick for keeping your deck chair claimed seemingly indefinitely, barring any crew interventions. "I too have been known to be guilty of hoarding loungers," he told us. "My go-to method is to attach a pair of cheap Boca Clips to the towel. Never, since I started cruising in 2007, have they ever been touched."
Don't Expect the Crew to Take Initiative
Deb Pfeifer, veteran cruiser and author of "Cruising with Confidence: How to Be a First-Time Cruiser Without Looking Like One," says that your fellow guests, not the pool staff, are most likely to handle a seemingly-abandoned perch, despite the posted signs about time limits for unattended deck chairs.
"If you are away from your chair for more than an hour, don’t expect to find your things there when you return," she warns. "While you may be able to get a deck attendant to move something from someone who has been gone for a while, they most likely won’t. But other passengers will."
Play Good Cop and Interrogate Politely
It sounds almost too easy (and, frankly, not nearly dramatic enough), but simply asking if someone is using a chair can go a long way in having a peaceful poolside exchange. Nicole Ratner of Cruising with the Family says that even if a pool deck chair has been unoccupied for the posted 20 to 30 minute intervals "it's just proper etiquette to simply ask. Too often we don't bother to just ask if anyone is sitting there or if it would be possible to put your belongings down."
Of course, a big reason why people don't ask is they won't like the answer they're expecting to receive. If you think a fellow traveler will pose an issue with you sitting, be sure to ask a crew member to intervene.
Don't Take More Chairs Than You Need
Ratner also points out that if you're traveling with a family of four, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll need four deck chairs. If one or more people in your party are going in the pool or hot tub, or if your kids are small enough to fit on the same chair comfortably with you, consider nabbing fewer chairs than people in your party. You'll make everyone else on the boat happy.
Practice the Golden Rule
On a pool deck, like everywhere else, it helps to simply be nice to the people around you. Pfeifer says that the most pleasant and friendly you are to the guests surrounding your spot, the more likely they'll be to save your seat for you if you have to get up. Another way to charm them is to offer to share a chair and let them sit in it and watch your stuff while you take a dip in the pool and vice versa.
Relax and Accept the Nihilism
No matter how much good karma you may have accumulated on your trip, Pfiefer advises that the biggest rule is that, well, there are no rules, even if you put a personal item like a book or bag down on your deck chair if you get up. "As someone who spends quite a bit of time in the pool, I watch as others swarm around and move things as they search for a chair," she told us. "Even if I’ve been in the water for just five minutes I find people trying to move my things."
Sometimes, the only thing you can do is chuckle and suck it up. If you can't snag a deck chair, instead of making a frantic, melodramatic S.O.S. call, just ask a friendly face if you can leave your towel and personal items with them and go for a swim — or indulge in any of the other activities offered on your trip, because let's face it: You can tan or nap just about anywhere else you want.