I rented a stranger’s swimming pool and backyard for the day, and it was the perfect summer activity

A swimming pool with playset on the left and frank with swimply pool ball on head
I booked this swimming pool with Swimply. Frank Olito/Insider
  • I rented someone’s pool and backyard for three hours for $271 using Swimply, an Airbnb for pools.
  • When I arrived at the stranger’s backyard with four friends, I found an oasis with a pool and grill.
  • Despite a limited number of pools available and a two-hour drive, I had the perfect summer day.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I’ve lived in New York City for six years, and I always dread the hot summers.
New york city reopening
New York City gets very hot in the summer. John Lamparski/Getty Images
Growing up, I had a pool at my father’s house, and I remember spending most of my summers swimming. These days, I no longer have access to a pool, but I spend the warmer months looking for a great public place to swim. Yet pools are always too far away or seem to be overcrowded.

This summer, though, I came across a new website called Swimply, a company like Airbnb where people list their backyards and swimming pools for strangers to rent by the hour. I decided to try it out.

When I went on Swimply’s site to book a pool in the New York area, I wasn’t impressed with the options at first.
The homepage of Swimply with a woman swimming
The homepage of Swimply. Swimply.com
Swimply was founded in 2018, and it has spread to 25 cities around the US, including Phoenix, Tampa, Houston, and Los Angeles.

To find nearby pools, you enter your location on the site. You can also select dates and times that work for you.

When I searched for pools in New York City, there were only two pools available, and they had limited availability for the rest of the summer. This meant I had to look beyond the city for a pool to rent. I found that the nicest-looking pools were in New Jersey and Long Island, places I could travel to.

Once I found a pool I liked in Long Island, I chatted with the host to confirm a date and time.
A conversation between booker and host on swimply.com
My conversation with the host. Swimply.com
Much like on Airbnb, I couldn’t immediately book the pool. Instead, I had to talk with the host and agree to the rules and timing. The hosts I chatted with were worried I might throw a party at their home, and I assured them I would be using their backyards with just a few friends.

I had to confirm the exact number of people who would be coming, which proved to be difficult, especially because I had to book weeks in advance. When I asked my friends who wanted to join, some said maybe, or to ask them closer to the date. I couldn’t offer a concrete number, but ultimately I decided to say five people would be attending.

I booked the pool for a Sunday afternoon for three hours for $270.
Premium amenities listed on swimply
The list of premium amenities to add to the booking. Swimply.com
The pool cost $64 an hour, and I booked it for three hours. It came with free WiFi and pool floats, but anything else was considered an add-on. For example, every person after five people cost $10 extra dollars (10 people max), access to the barbecue was $50, and usage of the fire pit was $40.

I decided to add the barbecue to my booking, and the total came to $271, which included Swimply’s service fee.

On the morning of my booking, the host sent me a long list of rules, as well as directions for accessing the backyard.
Text messages from Swimply.
Text messages from Swimply. Frank Olito/ Insider
When I invited friends, they all had the same three questions: Will the hosts be home? Wouldn’t that be awkward? And where do we go to the bathroom?

My answer to all those questions was “I don’t know,” but on the morning of my booking, I learned a bit more about the pool in the welcome message.

Swimply sent me a text message notifying me I had a message in the chat feature of the website. In that message, the host told me to park my car in the driveway and to access the backyard through the side gate. She also told me glassware, pets, and smoking were strictly prohibited. She also warned there were security cameras around the house used only for security purposes.

When I solidified the group to four people, we packed into a car and embarked on the long journey to the pool.
Traffic on a highway
Stuck in traffic. Frank Olito/Insider
From Brooklyn to the pool on Long Island was supposed to take only an hour and 15 minutes. But there was so much traffic that it took us two hours. While sitting in traffic, my friend turned to me and said, “The things New Yorkers do for a pool.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I was getting frustrated. It looked like we were going to arrive an hour late, turning our three-hour pool day into a two-hour event. I messaged the host through the app and told her we would be at least an hour late, and she graciously offered to extend our booking an hour later free of charge. It was the exact relief I needed. 

We finally arrived in the suburban neighborhood, parked in the driveway, and went through the side gate to the backyard.
Open gate to a backyard
The side gate was propped open. Frank Olito/Insider
The host told me she wouldn’t be home when we arrived, so she left the gate open for us. Before this, I was nervous about accessing the backyard, especially as strangers. I imagined a worst-case scenario where neighbors would see the four of us entering a fenced-in backyard and call the police. Luckily, accessing the backyard was extremely simple.
When we entered the backyard, we found an expansive oasis.
The backyard with fire pit, pool, and bar
The entire backyard was huge. Frank Olito/Insider
The backyard had an eating area, a bar, a fire pit, a large playground, and of course the giant swimming pool.
The pool was even more beautiful in person than in the pictures on the listing.
The swimply pool surrounded by flowers and plants
The pool and surroundings. Frank Olito/Insider
The saltwater pool was 40 by 20 feet (6.10m) and went from 3-feet (0.91m) deep to 8-feet deep. It also had a diving board and a waterfall. It felt like we were at a private resort.
Once we got over the shock that all of this was ours for the next three hours, we got changed in the cramped porta-potty.
The porta potty at swimply booking
The porta-potty. Frank Olito/Insider
Since the owners understandably didn’t want strangers trekking through their house, they got a porta-potty for us to use during our booking. Though it was very clean, it was still difficult to get changed into a bathing suit because of the lack of space.
We then took turns jumping off the diving board.
Swimming in the pool at a swimply booking
Swimming in the pool. Frank Olito/Insider
We found the floaties that were included in the price of the booking and spent the bulk of our time swimming. 
After taking some time to swim in the pool, we decided to soak in the sun on the lounge chairs.
Pool side lounge chairs at swimply booking
Lounging poolside. Frank Olito/Insider
Luckily, the weather was amazing, but Swimply does have policies in place in case it rains on the day you booked. I could’ve worked with my host to schedule to a different date and time free of charge if it rained. Swimply’s support team could also facilitate the rescheduling.
We then unpacked the food we’d brought and put the meat in the cooler our host provided.
Outdoor bar with snacks at swimply booking
We set up snacks at the outdoor bar. Frank Olito/Insider
We’d brought a few snacks like hummus, carrots, and fruit, and laid those out on the bar. We also brought hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, and chips.
It was a great choice to pay the extra $50 for the grill, because what’s a pool day without a summer barbecue?
Serving up hamburgers at the grill at swimply booking
I served up some hamburgers. Frank Olito/Insider
I grilled the burgers and hot dogs when everyone got hungry.
We spent the rest of our time enjoying the beautiful backyard.
The playground in the corner of swimply listing
The playground. Frank Olito/Insider
There was a giant playground in the far corner of the yard, making this a perfect booking for a family with children. Unfortunately, we weren’t small enough to fit on any of the equipment.
We spent the last 10 minutes of our booking cleaning up and making sure everything was the same way we found it.
The backyard at a swimply booking
The backyard after we cleaned up. Frank Olito/Insider
This Swimply host offers an extra 30 minutes at $35 for cleanup so that it doesn’t eat into the time you get to enjoy the backyard. But we didn’t have much to clean up, so we just lost 10 minutes at the end to get everything together.
When we were done, our host arrived, greeted us, and asked how everything went.
The bar at a swimply booking
The welcome sign had the host’s phone number beneath it. Frank Olito/Insider
Although many of my friends thought it would be awkward swimming in a stranger’s backyard while they were home, our host stayed out of our way and gave us privacy. She left her phone number on a piece of paper on the bar in case we needed her, but otherwise she stayed completely under the radar, only saying goodbye to us as we exited the backyard.
On our long trip back to the city, I felt recharged.
Swimply pool and beach ball
I would use Swimply again. Frank Olito/Insider
Although Swimply is a relatively new service, I think it has huge potential. It’s perfect for people who don’t have pools in their backyard and who don’t want to deal with the upkeep. It’s even better for city dwellers who crave outdoor space, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sure, I had to drive two hours outside of the city to get to the pool, but the experience was well worth it. For me, it was the perfect summer activity, and I’m certain I’ll be booking another pool by the end of the summer.