Travel Debates is a series in which our editors weigh in on the most contentious issues that arise in-transit, like whether you should ever switch seats on a plane or if you should check your work email while on vacation.
In the 2021 film The Lost Daughter, Leda (Olivia Colman) sits and reads upon a recliner at a beach club in Greece. But then a newly arrived, expansive family disrupts her peace—the children cavort, the adults bicker while cracking beers—and a member of the party asks Leda if she will move to a seat down the way so that they can spread out together, expecting an easy yes in return. But Leda declines, and spends the rest of the day lounging in the midst of a united front of newfound adversaries who remain indignant over her defiance.
It’s an age old quandary: You book a stay at a resort for access to a beach and/or a pool, and yet the system through which to claim a sun bed to relax on remains lawless and the etiquette unclear. How long can you reserve a recliner without using it? What is the appropriate means of doing so? Should you be amenable, aloof, or aggressive with your poolside rivals? Below, global digital director Arati Menon joins editorial assistants Charlie Hobbs and Jessica Chapel to discuss.
Charlie Hobbs: Today, we are talking about the chairs by the pool and on the beach at a resort, and how it is and is not acceptable to behave with regard to them.
Arati Menon: I want to zoom out and get a sense of what you think. Are we all in agreement that it’s okay to reserve a chair, or is it a practice that should be shut down?
Jessica Chapel: It depends, for me, on the vacation. If I’m going on my typical trip to Florida with my little cousins, and it’s a lot of people, I’m in the gray because we are with children. You want to be able to watch them.
AM: It’s like—do children get their own chair?
Charlie Hobbs: No child is reclining.
JC: No, but you want to be closer to the pool to be able to watch.
AM: So the best seats go to people with kids.
CH: So that they can play lifeguard. I mean, I don’t object to this idea. I am at an age where I’m mostly traveling by myself and so I’m flexible. If I’m going to the pool, it’s to sit and read and maybe to jump in. I don’t think that there’s an issue with me leaving all my stuff on the chair and going for a swim.
AM: I think that there’s two types of people: the ones that reserve chairs and then go do different things, and the ones that are just there for the time that they are there. We’ve all had this happen: You’re looking down from the veranda after breakfast, the patio seems fairly empty, but you amble down and there are hardly any chairs available. Pre-breakfast, or before they’ve gone to sleep at night, people have reserved chairs with towels. So I think one question is: How far in advance can you plunk down your stuff?