Letting the kids take a dip in the pool on a hot day can seem like a great idea. But if the pool is across town, getting the children cleaned up, dressed, in the car and driving them there several times a week can turn that great idea into a great strain.
One alternative is installing a pool at home. That requires money--upward of $20,000 for a low-end model--and space. Another is buying a plastic or inflatable wading pool.
You might think finding such a backyard pool in Ventura County would be as easy as finding the water to fill it, but it may be too late.
As we discovered, smart minds think alike and many sweltering Ventura County residents already have purchased their pools.
Some retail sources are sold out and are likely to remain so through the summer season. Others are down to a precious few and aren't planning to restock.
Kmart stores in Simi Valley and Santa Paula were out of wading pools. The Simi Valley store was trying to get more on the shelves, but Santa Paula was out for the summer.
The Wal-Mart store in Oxnard was down to just two small inflatable pools, priced at $4.88, suitable for one or two children.
It would be wise to call ahead before making the trip, because an employee told us the store doesn't plan to order any more this summer.
At the Big K (Kmart) in Camarillo, inflatable pools were priced from $49 to $149, with the largest measuring 12 feet across and 3 feet deep. It can accommodate two adults and three children.
Serendipity Toys in Ojai also has inflatable pools, measuring 4 feet across and 10 inches deep for $14.95.
In Oxnard, Sportmart has a 3-foot-deep inflatable pool that seats six for $100 and a 3-foot-deep pool that seats two adults and two children for $34; Kay-Bee Toys at The Esplanade mall has inflatable pools for $29.99 and $39.99.
For the best selection and the surest way to find a pool that children and parents both will like, Toys R Us stores in Thousand Oaks and Ventura probably are the best bets.
We checked out the Ventura store to see the options.
They have hard pools made of plastic, pools with built-in slides, small and large inflatable vinyl pools and vinyl pools with sprayers that hook up to a garden hose, all decorated with colorful prints and designs.
Among the more timely designs was a circular, vinyl inflatable pool decorated to look like the Trade Federation Droid Control Ship from "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace."
The spray pool, a little over 6 feet across by about a foot deep sells for $19.99. Another "Star Wars" pool, decorated with pod race scenes, rolls out and snaps together and also sells for $19.99.
Other inflatable vinyl pools included an aquarium pool with see-through walls and a fish print for $49.99. The pool is suitable for four children and one adult. A 78-inch spray pool, with the spray coming out of a large mushroom, sells for $24.99.
And at Neighborhood Swim Center, an octagonal inflatable pool measuring 144 square inches was priced at $99.99.
According to the picture on the box, it comfortably can accommodate seven children and three adults.
One vinyl pool that could be a real lifesaver for parents is the Jr. Quick Pool, manufactured by Aero.
The 54-inch pool, for two children, inflates in just one minute with the help of a pump included in the package. The pool, priced at $39.99, also comes with a pump recharger.
For parents concerned that an inflatable pool will be torn by rambunctious children or careless adults, a plastic pool may be preferred. Toys R Us has a selection of those as well.
A basic, 73-inch-wide pool, with a built-in mini-slide, was priced at $29.99.
And a 60-inch spray pool with an elephant head crafted into the structure of the pool was priced at $19.99. The water spray comes out of the elephant's trunk, located in the center of the pool.
Another model, with a plastic wall and sea character decor, comes with a water pump and filter. It is 12 feet wide and 2 feet deep and is priced at $99.99.
Two less sturdy, laminated pools, measuring 60 inches across and decorated with sea characters, were priced at $9.99 without a built-in slide and $19.99 with a slide.