Hotel Hacks: How to Sneak into a Hotel Pool, Rooftop, and More

Hotel Hacks: How to Sneak into a Hotel Pool, Rooftop, and More

A night at a beautiful, luxurious hotel might not be in the cards, but you can live the dream—and partake in a hotel’s perks and amenities—by using some of these hotel-hacking tips and tricks. You don’t need James Bond’s gadgets to access a hotel’s rooftop deck or pool, but you do need to be savvy. (And don’t even dare to try to charge anything to someone’s room. We’re not advocating for theft here, just a little safe, legal fun.)

Here, a serial hotel hacker shares her tips.

Cocktails on the roof deck. The roof deck might only be accessed from a ground floor elevator using a guest key. Try taking an elevator to another floor, then switch to an elevator that goes to the roof.

It still might need a key. In this case, wait until someone gets in the elevator, pull out your sweetest smile, and pull the “I left my key in my room!” line—get the guest to plug in their key and hit the roof deck button.

Lounge by the pool. Surprisingly, many mid-size hotels don’t require a key to access the pool. Hotel hack achieved.

Let’s say a key is required. Here’s where your store of generic plastic hotel keys will come in handy (or at the very least, that one that you forgot to return that one time). Plug it in and express dismay/anger when it doesn’t work. Someone on their way in or out will certainly let you in.

But there’s this: The pool is the area where the staff is most likely to be on the lookout for intruders. Be prepared and know these three things off the top of your head: An actual room number at the hotel, something to order from the pool menu you’ve already looked up online (so you can act like you’ve had it before), and the manager’s name (it always helps to name-drop).

Also, call the front desk ahead of time to find out about the towel situation—will you need a room number to check one out, or are they automatically handed to you? If there’s no towel service, bring your own generic white towel.

Hit the gym. There are several ways to infiltrate a hotel gym. If it’s connected to a pool or spa, use one of those services first (for the spa, this will likely require booking a treatment, so just think of it as a two-for-one deal). Otherwise, a group fitness class is your best bet. Call ahead, saying you’re a hotel guest, and ask if it’s necessary to pre-register for a group class. Unlike pools, many hotel gyms aren’t busy enough to be staffed full-time, so chances are you won’t have to check in at the front. And if the classes are free for guests, the instructor isn’t likely to ask for your information, especially because they are usually not hotel employees.


Pick your hotel wisely. Consider the number-one obstacle to a successful sneak-in mission: tight security. The Peninsula Beverly Hills might be at the top of your dream hotel list, but it’s unlikely you’ll get in. Instead, channel your inner Goldilocks and go for something in the middle—not too exclusive, especially if it attracts high-profile guests, or too small, where managers or innkeepers are likely to recognize their guests.

Have a plan. It’s a little suspicious to walk off the street, in flip flops and a coverup, and head straight to the pool. Take a detour first, ideally to a bar or restaurant on the property. Chat up the server or bartender, find out their names, and pick up bits of insider intel about the property for future reference, like if there’s live music in the evenings or any upcoming special events. If a staff member approaches you later, it will be to your benefit to talk like you’ve been at the hotel a while.

Know the territory.

Here’s what not to do when you walk into the lobby: look confused, accidentally walk down multiple dead-end hallways, then bumble along until you find the pool. Anyone watching the security cameras is going to flag you immediately. Choose a hotel that has its layout on the website and study it so that when you arrive you’ll know exactly where to go. And, most of all, look confident. You’ve got this.

Jenna Scatena is an award-winning writer based in Istanbul and San Francisco.