Summer pool party ideas make planning a get-together a lot more fun, and make a successful gathering much more likely. Whether you own a lavish pool with slide and diving board, or are lucky enough to have one maintained for you in your community—planning a pool party will make hosting a lot more relaxing once the tunes start blasting and the water starts splashing.

We’ve outlined pool party ideas in a step-by-step format to give you the party throwing confidence for a glitch-free and fun-soaked splash bash, from the pool prep to the rocking beach chairs

Step Zero: Prep the pool

A group of friends hang out at a pool party.

Party hosts don’t have to consider safety with dinner parties and barbecues, but a basic safety check is recommended before putting any pool party ideas into place. Three important preparations are recommended: shock the pool with chlorine about a week before so that water is clear, clean and safe from any microorganisms. Second, be sure to put down mats that will keep kids, adults, and older folks safe on otherwise slippery concrete. Third, remove sharp objects or other hazards from the area.

Step 1: Pick a theme

You don’t need artistic talent to put the pool party idea or theme into action. Easy ways to add a theme include picking a simple one so finding party supplies won’t be a hassle. A beach theme, for example, can include hand towels with sand, sun and surf motifs. Beach themes are also easy to launch with a few “guest” beach towels for those who forget their own, a few extra flip-flops, a couple of beach balls, and tiki lamps. Add the scent of coconut tanning oil and voila! Your pool party idea now has a theme everyone will appreciate.

Step 2: Shop efficiently

Pool party ideas include a great spread of food, including burgers and hot dogs on the grill by the poolside.

Once you’ve decided on food and beverages, whether it’s DIY or catered, and you have an estimate of how many guests will arrive, take a trip to Sam’s Club or Costco to buy all needed supplies. You may need a second trip to find that item you couldn’t or to pick up a last minute jar of pickles, but to make sure you first trip is efficient put together a detailed list. A common party mistake is to over buy, especially on food, but if you calculate the number of guests, you should be able to estimate how many hot dogs, buns and sodas you’ll need reasonably well. Do your best, and don’t stress if you end up with too much party food—it will get eaten by someone.

Of all the pool party ideas out there, there is one ultimate rule: calculate how much ice you’ll need. The guideline is 2 pounds of ice per guest, per 3 hour time period. Especially in hotter climates, ice is as important as chilled beverages. 

Step 3: Toys

A few pool noodles, beach ball and some nerf pool toys are usually sufficient—but if you have extras, by all means haul out the giant inflatable shark or volleyball net. Guests will dive in to the toy options without needing any extra encouragement.

Step 4: Supplies

A group of friends splash at a pool party.

Keep extra sunscreen, hats, towels and a first aid kit on hand. You never know what can happen, especially when your guest list includes kids. Also include extra garbage bags on hand, unbreakable drink and tableware, and coolers for drink storage. Consider a few really mind-blowing supply items we absolutely adore: the remote-controlled, floating drink tray; the waterproof playing cards. Oh, and don’t forget the beach chairs

Step 5: Changing area

Use signage to show people where the changing areas are, especially if in your house. At a complex pool, bathrooms are usually in obvious areas but in residences guests need help to know which room is the best one for their gender. Reinforce this concept with a sign on the way in and the way out of the pool that says, “Changing areas are inside for men and women!” and use a logo with color that is repeated on all signs. Since there will be dripping, make sure to line the hall with appropriate carpet or mats. Hair dryers and hair ties in bathrooms are a nice touch that guests will remember. 

Happy pool partying!