Holy Cabbage Patch 1983 redux, parents! When we named the Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet to our 10 hot holiday gifts of 2011 list, we knew it would be hot, but we had no idea how many parents would be emailing us in a panic, trying to track one down for their kids this year. I get it, I get it! The product is wonderful, and oh that video camera…

If you’re in a bind, I’ve put together some options for you:

1. Check the Leapfrog Site. Again. And again.
The manufacturer’s own site is often the best source of info. And often, the best prices. Here you’ll find a collection of
Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer bundles
that cost more than the basic system but include a lot of extras. The most basic, the Leapfrog Super Bundle is $159 and includes the tablet, two games, and a $20 credit to the app download center.

Right now, every package is showing dreaded red disclaimer about unavailability. Fortunately, it’s followed by the line Check back often as shipments are arriving regularly. I’d do just that.

2. Check all LeapPad Explorer authorized web sellers
Right now, these include TargetToys R Us, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Kmart, Amazon, and that other huge box store. Some of these sites even give you the chance to check on stock in local stores. Target is currently showing limited stock in several stores, as is Kmart. You may have the option to order online, hold it, and pick it up locally in-store.

3. Check your local retailers. By phone.
Before rushing out to Target or Kmart, I would call them to see if they have them in stock–and if not, ask when they’re getting them in stock. Depending who you get on the phone, the information may even be accurate! It’s been known to happen.

If they do have the tablet in stock, you may be able to put down a credit card number and have it held for you. Our local Barnes and Noble is good with that kind of thing.

4. Try Google Product Search for any other sellers
Right now, Google product search is yielding lots of sellers–hey, there’s one for $225 at Buy.com! Oy.

On the up side? I also found some at Sears! At the normal price. (Yay Sears!) You can even pick it up in store and save shipping costs.

leapfrog leappad explorer learning tablet

5. Pay a scalper…er, an Amazon Third-Party Seller
The Leapfrog LeapPad Tablet on Amazon is, at the time of publishing, available from 89 different sellers–however none of them are Leapfrog itself. And none of them are charging the $99.99 retail price.

You really want a LeapPad Tablet? Prices range from $195 to $227.94 (eep) which…well, I’ll withhold the judgment calls. It’s supply and demand.

If you realllly want one and are willing to pay the premium, this is one case where you might not just go for the seller with the lowest price. What’s $10 more or less at this point, if you’re dealing with a shady seller–please look at the ratings! Also consider a seller like Loft Party which fulfills orders through Amazon–saving you money via Super Saver Shipping and guaranteeing delivery times. Even so, it will cost you $219 right now.

6. Wait until after the holidays.
Buy an accessory case, put a LeapPad gift card inside, and and wrap it up all purdy for Christmas or Hanukkah. Hopefully your kid will be excited enough that one will be coming his way, even if it’s not the exact day he was hoping for it. Delayed gratification isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially if it saves you 125 bucks and a lot of agita.

7. Consider an alternative
The Leapster Explorer is a fine little gadget, even if it’s more like a DS than a tablet. It’s just $69.99 with free shipping from Leapfrog, and is a great introduction to the Leapfrog world for younger kids.

If you have your heart set on a kids tablet, the VTech Innotab Learning Tablet (previously reviewed here) is one heck of an awesome kids tablet, and might even be more appropriate if your child is on the higher end of the recommended age range. It’s more of a “my first real tablet” than a learning/gaming system, with features that kids in the 6 and up range will really appreciate.

Good luck out there! -Liz