Whether you book an Airbnb for the weekend or just an afternoon with Swimply, you and your kids will enjoy hours of fun with very little effort or money, even in the winter.
By Maria De La O
Winter came in like a lion in California this season. Talk of an end to the year’s long drought was on everyone’s lips and all over the media, which rightly kept saying it would take a whole lot more than a month of good rain to replenish our aquifers.
And just like that, January came and the spigot shut off. Tight.
It was terrible for the state’s water supply and the Sierra ski resorts, but it was great for planning non-snow daytrips and weekends away. I’m not making light of the drying of California, I’m just suggesting that our family chose to make lemonade out of dried-up lemon husks when we decided to take advantage of the gentle weather to book a last-minute weekend at a house with a heated pool. If I couldn’t find a place on VRBO or Airbnb, I had a backup plan to reserve an afternoon at a pool with Swimply, a great option for booking a pool for an afternoon or even a whole day. And of course, a whole lot less expensive. (In the Bay Area, rates average about $60 per hour for a heated pool in the winter.)
A heated pool, of course, is key when thinking about renting a pool, whether for the day or the weekend. A quick glance at homes with pools on VRBO showed many a grand pool, but upon further investigation we found the owners didn’t heat them! So we lowered our expectations of staying in a place set among the vineyards—we were looking to stay in Sonoma County—and went for the place with heat in the ’burbs.
Still, I worried the pool wouldn’t be warm when we arrived. So when we got there, and let this be a tip, I immediately checked the water temperature. And—horrors!—the water was cold, cold, cold. I texted the property manager and she immediately contacted the home’s owner, who luckily was able to crank the heat via a phone app. Saved by technology!
The pool was a perfect temp by the next morning, and we took advantage of every minute thereafter. I believe renting a pool is the perfect off-season getaway for anybody with kids who can swim. Still need convincing? Herewith, my reasons:
You can read a book. When was the last time you read a book, a real book, not something on Kindle while you cuddled in bed with your child? If you feel like you should keep an eye on the kid, you can alternatively listen to a book on Audible like I did, after realizing I forgot my stack of books at home. (All I wanted out of this vacation was to read!)
You can tire ’em out. A tired kid is a good kid. Or is that what they say about dogs? No matter, same idea. Our kids had a great time just racing after a tennis ball in the pool. Yep, they played fetch. And for once our city kids didn’t have pent up energy at the end of the day. No whining or bouncing on the bed at bedtime—just direct to dreamland.
Your partner will want to cook! And everyone will love it, even if it’s just hamburgers and hot dogs with store-bought potato salad. Because they’ll be really hungry after swimming all day.
You won’t have to limit screen time. And they won’t miss it either.
You can just get up and go. As long as it’s reasonably warm out, you can do it anytime. No expensive gear that takes forever to put on (and take off when your kid needs to pee or declares that it’s itchy or hot). Yeah, I’m looking at you, skiing! Just grab your bathing suits and go.
You don’t need a passport. Or even a plane ride. Someone near your town has a pool, and they’d be happy to make some money off it. Bonus: no Covid.
You don’t even need to wait until it’s that warm. Speaking of warmth, it doesn’t even have to be hot. As you know, kids’ internal thermostats work at an entirely different normal than adults’. (My girl is trying to get through the winter just by layering a couple of hoodies.) In fact, we stayed an historic hotel with an Olympic-size pool in San Diego over Christmas, and the weather was rainy and in the low ’60s every single day. That couldn’t keep Vivi from swimming six hours at a time. Of course, you should make sure the place has a hot tub so the adults don’t freeze their keesters off.
Your kids will be clean! Without any effort on your part. Even if they don’t rinse off the chlorine after pool time. And really, who cares? You’re on vacation. At the pool.
Don’t forget friends. It’s a real rookie move to only bring your only child. Snag your kid’s best friend, or at least one of their friends. Otherwise, that child will never stop whining for you to get in the pool and play, and you can just forget those books—and your dreams.
Maria De La O – February 2022
Magazine editor. Documentary filmmaker. Copy expert. Mother. Traveler. Maria brings it all to the pages of ROAM.
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