Family Vacation: How to Handle Childcare While Traveling

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1. Contact the Hotel Concierge

Call your hotel ahead of time for recommendations. The concierge likely has a list of childcare services/local nannies they use or refer on a very regular basis. Hopefully these recs are tried and true – or they wouldn’t continue to refer them! Even if you aren’t stay at a hotel, try contacting a local hotel anyway. They will likely not mind passing along information to you nonetheless.

2. Scope out or Sittercity ahead of time

Join and search through profiles in the area you are going on vacation. Filter by “part-time” or “occasional” to get the best results for vacation-only-use. I’d recommend a similar set-up as I would for a normal hiring process:

  • Send a high-level e-mail two or three weeks before your visit (Hi…we are going to be in Park City for the first week in August…looking for someone to help with our two kids everyday for about 4-5 hours….etc. etc.). Ask for resume, references, and any other relevant info.
  • Scope out their public image through social media/google
  • Read reviews from any/all caregiving sites they are a part of
  • Set-up a 30-minute Facetime phone screen! This is critical. Don’t just do a phone call.
  • Call any of the references they provide
  • Send an excited, committed e-mail or text with all the information needed to confirm your offer/job. Where you are staying, the hours, the pay rate, if they need to bring anything specific like a bathing suit or be prepared for anything special like a kid-friendly hike…If you’ll be paying for their food while on the job, all other expectations, etc. etc.
  • Ensure they receive and confirm all of the above!
  • Have a back-up! Interview a bunch of people, find your top person, make an offer, but keep your second rate person warm! If you’re first choice cancels, quickly reach out to your back-up person (who you have already done your recon on!).

3. Check out the Facebook parent page in that area

Look for Facebook groups for moms in the area you are visiting (i.e. Boston Mom’s Club). See if the administrator will let you post (or post for you!) asking for recommendations for a babysitter in the area. Hopefully locals moms will have some good insight on the care available – and even offer their sitters up for a short stint!

4. Post on Facebook/Insta

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your own network! Post for family/friends on your social medias that you are looking for a sitter recommendation in whichever city you are going to. Lots of times, a great sitter is just a degree or two away from someone you know! I’d leave off details like when you are leaving/coming back, that can be in direct messages with those you trust!

5. Bring a sitter with you

If you can afford the flight, room and board for a sitter to come with you, that might be your best option! You have extra hands at the airport and in-flight, as well as soon as you arrive at the hotel (and need to check-in, unpack, find the snacks for kids melting down…) is such a huge plus. If you have the means, consider it! There are a lot of sitters who would leap at the chance to go on vacation with you! Ensure you set the expectations upfront:

  • How much will they be paid each day or for the week? They should at least get a guaranteed minimum – they are traveling with you to another place and cannot leave at night to see their own friends or family. This is not their vacation. Even though you might be paying for their flight and hotel, they don’t have the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want, so they should be paid fairly for this.
  • How many hours each day they will work? What will their time off look like? Will it be in the morning? At night? During lunch or nap? Make sure to be clear and fair about giving them a break each day to get ready, shower, nap or take a short walk to explore the area… Even if their “break” is brief – they will appreciate the moment to themselves during a big trip with your entire family!
  • Where they will sleep? Are they expected to share a room with your kids? Will they have their own room? (Note: If they are expected to share a room at night with your kids – their comp for nights should be something fair/set since they are limited on freedom and privacy in this space and might need to wake-up throughout the night).
  • How will you provide their food or other petty cash for activities? Will they simply join you for meals? Will you provide groceries at the rental house? Will they be able to pick snacks or groceries for themselves?
  • During their time off – can go out for adventures on their on? A walk on the beach? A dinner out at the restaurant down the street? Do they have a curfew? Do they have access to a car? Are there ubers? Are you walking distance to anything?

6. Bring a grandparent along

If you have helpful and willing grandparents/in-laws or other family members who absolutely love spending time with your kids – consider bringing them along to help! Offer to pay for their hotel (or something!) in exchange for some “free” babysitting each day. This will lend both to family together time, as well as some built in sitting! You and your spouse can enjoy a dinner out together here and there and grandma and grandpa get some extra baby cuddles!

7. Consider an au pair long term

If you are a family that travels a lot for business or pleasure, consider an au pair for your long-term childcare needs. Au pairs can travel with you and become like a part of the family. The cost increases for your trips for transportation/board as it would bringing a sitter with you, but your yearly childcare pay doesn’t increase as the same rules apply for their hours and pay wherever you are! Check out my other posts about considering an au pair here.

8. Choose a vacation with built-in childcare

There are a lot of hotels, resorts, and cruises that offer kid’s clubs and supervised playrooms. If you are having trouble with all of the suggestions above fitting your family’s needs, try going a route that has built-in care. Unfortunately for those with younger babes, most of these services are designed for older kids (at least potty-trained and older). Check-out recommendations here, here and here.