Walt Disney World’s Pool Hopping Policy Reviewed

| February 27, 2012

There are certain “hot button” issues regarding Walt Disney World that are certain to get the attention of its fans.  Recently, I visited one of them when we reviewed parade viewing etiquette.  Well, it’s on to the next topic.  It’s a topic that’s right up there with the resort mug debate.  It seems many of the controversial topics regarding Walt Disney World have one thing in common - a policy with wording that is open for interpretation.  The same is true when it comes to pool hopping.  I’ve reviewed the policy and have spoken with several Assistant Managers and Cast Members at the various resorts regarding the pool hopping policy.  What I’ve concluded is it seems we all have a general understanding of the policy; however when we read it or discuss it with a Disney Cast Member the wording can allow us to interpret something different.  Continue through the page break and let’s “dive” into the various aspects of Disney’s pool hopping policy.  SPLASH!!!

Scenarios Abound – Who could possibly have all the answers?

Let me first get something off my chest.  I’m not defending anyone who knowingly breaks the pool hopping policy at Walt Disney World.  Most of the policy is pretty clear and there are some common sense elements to it that guests should easily understand.  Before we review the policy let’s discuss why the pool hopping topic is so controversial.

With so many resort hotels at Walt Disney World ranging from value resorts to deluxe resorts you would expect the pools to match the resort’s caliber.  Some of the Disney resort pools are on par with resort pools on the Las Vegas strip.  They are well-themed, large, and in some cases extravagant.  Knowing this, let’s take a look at a specific example of a gray area within the pool hopping policy.  Let’s say two families travel together to Disney World.  One family stays at Pop Century and the other family stays at the Beach Club Resort.  Both families wish to spend time together at the pool.  Through the natural course of the decision-making process the family at the Beach Club Resort invites the other family at Pop Century to join them at the Storm-Along Bay pool complex.  The family at Pop throws on their swim wear, packs up their pool bag, and heads to the Beach Club to meet up with the other family.  So, are guests from another resort allowed to pool hop if invited by another family?  We’ll discuss that shortly, but for now just know that there are pool hopping scenarios that aren’t clearly defined.  This is where Disney fans strike a chord of discourse and the intense debate begins.  The debate can go back and forth with both sides justifying their arguments.  Basically, there are enough scenarios and different points of view to create multiple opinions.  It’s difficult to draft a black and white pool hopping policy when so many scenarios are in play.

Examining Disney’s Pool Hopping Policy

With the busy Spring Break and summer months fast-approaching examining Disney’s pool hopping policy seems like a good idea.  You know it’s going to be hot and humid in Orlando and everyone will be looking to cool off, especially in the afternoon hours when the heat reaches its peak.  When looking at Disney’s pool hopping policy there are two categories.  The first is for DVC members and the second is for general guests.  Because both are very different let’s take a look at each separately.

The DVC Pool Hopping Policy

Congratulations!  You’ve taken the plunge and purchased an interest in the Disney Vacation Club.  When you made the commitment to join DVC you were also granted certain perks and privileges that come with your membership.  One of them is the pool hopping privilege.  DVC members staying on points at a DVC resort can pool hop to most Disney World resort pools with a few exceptions - Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club, Animal Kingdom Villas, and Bay Lake Tower.  Additionally, there are certain blackout dates DVC members cannot pool hop because of high crowds and resort occupancy.  Be sure to check the DVC member website for specific dates as they change year to year.

This policy seems pretty clear, but again there are scenarios where DVC members could make certain interpretations or decisions based on the DVC policy.  What if the family staying on DVC points invites a couple of guests not staying on points to pool hop with them?  They head over to a crowded Polynesian Volcano pool where the non-DVC guests grab a couple of lounge chairs and enjoy all the amenities that pool has to offer.  They are guests of the DVC members staying on points.  Is this appropriate?  Some DVC members would say yes and some would say “absolutely not”.  The DVC pool hopping policy does mention guests staying inside the room or villa can pool hop, but there really isn’t any language about guests.  This problem could potentially be solved if the family staying on points asks a lifeguard or Cast Member for permission when they enter the pool area.  Depending on the crowds and the time of year they may grant or deny you permission.  If you are denied permission just remember the Cast Members are only trying to control crowds and make it safe and enjoyable for the legitimate resort guests.

The General Guest Pool Hopping Policy

Disney’s resort pool hopping policy is very clear regarding general guests.  You may use the pool(s) at the specific resort where you are registered.  You may not hop to another pool at another resort and use their pool facilities.  Most pools have signs advertising this information to guests.  I’ve heard some pretty amazing stories of guests abusing the resort pool policy.  One guest paid for a night at the Beach Club Resort and hosted their child’s birthday party at the Storm-A-Long Bay swimming pool.  The family lived in the Orlando area and invited 8 of their child’s closest friends to the pool party.  How many guests can fit inside a room at the Beach Club?  What if the family paid for a suite that can hold up to 6 guests?  Should this be allowed?  Also, is calling their visit to the pool a birthday party legitimate?  Again, these scenarios need to be considered, but ultimately the pool hopping policy comes down to a few things, honesty, integrity, and common-sense practices by guests.

From time to time pools at the various Disney World resorts close for refurbishment.  If this happens you’ll probably receive a letter in the mail prior to your vacation from the resort announcing this closure.  Included in the letter will be instructions with another resort pool option.  For example, if the pool at the Polynesian is closed, guests of that resort may use the pool facilities at the Grand Floridian.  Although this doesn’t happen a lot it does occur from time to time.  Don’t be surprised, especially during off-peak times, if you receive notice of a pool refurbishment affecting your vacation.

Enforcing the Policy

Bottom line – Disney’s enforcement of the pool hopping policy is inconsistent at best.  Every so often you may be asked by a Life Guard to show your room key to verify you are allowed to be at that specific pool.  As a DVC member myself I’ve only been asked to show my room key at the Polynesian Resort’s Volcano Pool and at Storm-A-Long Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club Resort.  I’ve never been asked to show my room key at any other resort pool.  Some resort pools do have gated access that requires your room key to gain entry.  Personally, I’ve seen guests get in without swiping their room key at the gate.  They sort of walked-in behind someone with legitimate room key access.  Since those pools require a room key to get in lifeguards are not as likely to check your room key.  They assume you had to gain access with your room key before entering the pool.  This is another flaw in the system and another way for guests to sneak into a pool where they don’t belong.

Disney’s enforcement of the pool hopping policy needs to be more consistent.  There really needs to be a check-point at every deluxe resort pool.  When guests enter the pool area a lifeguard or Disney Cast Member needs to check your room key to validate you are allowed to be there.  As far as allowing invited guests not staying at your resort into the pool area it has been said if you ask permission to the lifeguards or Cast Members prior to entering the pool you may be allowed to bring them with you.  This is usually a situation where it depends on which lifeguard or Cast Member you ask on which day.  They may allow you to do it or they may say no.

Conclusion

With so many scenarios and so many unanswered questions in Disney’s pool hopping policy it’s easy to understand why there continues to be a strong debate about it.  For some guests, they can understand it relatively easily while other guests misinterpret the policy and unknowingly use it to their advantage.  For those guests who know the policy and take advantage of possible loopholes you may cause Disney to take steps in the future that could affect legitimate pool guests’ enjoyment.  Pleading ignorance of the policy if you get caught may clear you of any wrong-doing, but just remember the possible affect you could have on other guests who couldn’t find lounge chairs for their family, or had to wait in an exceptionally long line at the pool slide.

Do you have a pool hopping story to share?  Have you witnessed pool hopping abuse by other guests?  We want to hear your story.  It’s important for us to know what loopholes illegitimate guests are using to pool hop.  It will better help us to report abuse during our future Disney World vacations.  It’s up to legitimate pool guests to report possible abuse to help control the problem of improper pool hopping.  For more information about the pool hopping policy at Walt Disney World check out this great thread on Disboards.com that discusses and answers many questions about it.

The popularity of deluxe and even moderate resort pools at Walt Disney World is creating very high crowd levels around the pool facilities.  If illegitimate guests are using these pools it only puts a further strain on lounge chair access, slide lines, and other water features, especially during the busiest weeks of the year at Disney World.  I’ll admit Disney lifeguards and Cast Members have been checking room key cards more frequently as of late at the pools to try and control the problem.  So, if you are considering pool hopping illegally just remember you may be asked to show your room key.  If you didn’t know the rules and you are asked to leave then it’s a lesson learned.  If you did know the rules and you’re asked to leave the pool area don’t let the gate hit you on the way out.

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  • psac

    During our last stay at the Boardwalk Villas, I saw a family talking, and the husband said to the wife “the kids want to go BACK to stormalong bay, so we’re going to get changed and take the boat over.”

    Whether or not people know they are breaking the rules, they definitely do. Often. We go to Vegas often, and there you need to show your key card every time you go to the pool. Not difficult at all. However, the physical layout of many pools (like Luna Park at BWV) would make gating the pools very difficult or annoying to guests who often have to walk through the area to get from one part of the resort to another.

  • Skegeeace

    Part of me doesn’t want to be thought of as a snob and say, “Well, they should stick to their OWN pool!”, but if it’s a matter of crowd control, then I’d have to say it’s better to follow the rules and not try to go to a resort pool where you’re not staying. If you’re paying $200+ dollars a night to have *your* pool available as an amenity, then I can understand the frustration of “outsiders” taking up the space you’re paying for.

  • gwmort

    I’m a DVC member, on our room keys it says “DVC Member” (at least it used to, I heard this may have changed). This November I’m taking my in-laws to Disney with three families staying in one grand villa. I am unclear if only I am allowed to pool hop, my immediate family, or everyone staying in the villa with us [I am aware of the blackout dates in November around Thanksgiving].

    I don’t want to break any rules, but my immediate family has used pool hopping frequently in the past, jumping in the nearest pool to whatever park we are in to cool off.

  • daneenm

    I think they should be checking room keys at every pool. This way, there will be no question to the ‘fairness’ of the implementation. As a family who paid A LOT for a room at a deluxe resort, and the pool was weighted very heavily in our decision, I would not be happy to have people who made a different choice of lodging taking my family’s space at the pool at my resort. It is simple, you factor in price, amenities, etc into your decision of where to stay. You go in with your eyes open to what is available to you.

  • BriarRosie

    @gwmort: Yes, anyone staying in your villa as a guest listed on your reservation is allowed to pool hop with you.

    I wanted to add my .02 on the subject based on what I witnessed happening in the fall of 1996. I had been staying at Yacht Club with some friends, all of us had key cards, so we were entitled use of Stormalong Bay. Back then, it was easy to get to the pool, because the fence wasn’t there. What struck me as an “aha” moment later was that I noticed fencing parts laid out ready to be installed. Apparently the abuse was so rampant back then, day guests not even staying at a WDW resort were using Stormalong Bay. They’d walk over from the International Gateway. Guests at Yacht/Beach in peak seasons couldn’t find places for their families to sit.

    So yes, I can understand why they put the fence up and check IDs. I bought my DVC specifically at Beach Club because I wanted the booking advantage 11 months out.

  • catomi01

    I’ve been going to Disney for close to 25 years now, and I’ll confess, I haven’t given this much thought…my wife and I spend very little time in the pools, so honestly the last time I gave the pools much thought was probably as a child at the Caribbean Beach Resort.
    I do remember my Grandparents always listing one of the best features of staying in one of the Monorail resorts being the ability to pool hop from the Contemporary to the Polynesian and Grand Floridian. To them (and it made sense to me at the time)they saw it as a “perk” of staying in one of the Deluxe resorts.
    Being able to jump on the Monorail makes it so easy, that this seems pretty natural..whereas many others – going from Pop Century to Wilderness Lodge say, just doesn’t make too much sense to me…yes the pool area is much nicer there…but is it worth the bus ride there and back?

  • gwmort

    “@gwmort: Yes, anyone staying in your villa as a guest listed on your reservation is allowed to pool hop with you.”

    @Briar Rosie, thank you for the response. As yet another example of how wording can cause confusion here, do you know if they are allowed to pool hop WITHOUT me? (for example if my brother in law and his kids are off on their own at MK and decided to go cool off at GF) they are listed on the reservation for the villa (and on the dining plan, we’re not hiding anyone or sneaking all-star resort guests in).

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  • tiggerguy

    I can understand the pool hopping rules but as a DVC member they should also enforce it at the DVC pools. A lot of times the table and chairs are taken over by resort guest because they can’t get a table at the resort pool.Other then Stormalong bay which blocks off pool entrance I have not seen much pool policing.I watched many times at the boardwalk people who you know are not staying at the resort squatting at the pool coming in from the parks.I can’t see how they could stop anyone unless they check room cards like at stormalong bay pool.I don.t see why you can’t have guests while staying at the resort but it needs a cap.

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  • exploringme

    Just follow rules so everyone is safety. Just have fun in the water without any one having hurt.

    http://www.swimnj.com

  • Ruben Camacho

    This is a simple one, if you are staying at a moderate resort you should be able to pool hop to any other moderate resort pool. Value resorts stay with Value resorts , etc etc. What’s the big deal? I paid to stay on Disney property and this is all disney property. If I went to Fort Wilderness for the afternoon and feel like taking a swim for an hour before heading to Epcot then why should that be a problem? Why should I have to be sent all the way back to my resort to swim for just a small amount of time?

  • imakescomments

    “It will better help us to report abuse during our future Disney World vacations. It’s up to legitimate pool guests to report possible abuse to help control the problem of improper pool hopping.”

    I would never rat someone out on something like this… EVER. More power to them, frankly, because it isn’t their fault since they are on VACATION. There is nothing nefarious happening here at all. It’s common freaking sense. Go to the cool pool. Who would’t want to do that after unloading thousands of dollars to be there?

    Readers should not be encouraged to turn against pool hoppers, period.

    It is not the Disney guest’s problem, or fight.

    If there is a rampant issue here for resort guests, then it’s much larger, and comes down to Disney not creating pools at a larger percentage of the hotels that are fun, and keep people at those pools.

    Basically don’t dangle low hanging fruit, and then complain when people try and eat it.

  • imakescomments

    yeah that’s real… and if someone is making those trips that’s real too, because it means disney didn’t do a good job by giving them a pool that kept them happy. At that point they should be going to one of the two water parks for free, if that will keep them out of a much smaller wet area.

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