Dedicated to all who travel on business, here's FTF's guide on the best way to find reliable childcare when you're traveling with kids.Dedicated to all who travel on business, here's FTF's guide on the best way to find reliable childcare when you're traveling with kids.
It's no secret in the corporate world that business travel is one of the most hazardous occupations for Moms and Dads. According to a study we read about employees at the World Bank, male business travelers filed 80% more medical claims than their office-bound colleagues. Psychological disorders proved to be the biggest culprit, reminding those who didn't already know that missing a teen's soccer game or a first-grader's ballet recital can be as stressful as the latest tropical disease. Things don't seem likely to have changed since then.
One cure? Enroll kids in the School of Life and let lessons learned on the road help the family cope with your absence.
Should You Bring the Kids?
Combining a family vacation with a business trip can help you cope with another modern malady resulting from the economic downturn: a 2002 survey by The National Partnership found that 64% of America's workers said "time pressures on working families are getting worse." Again, imagine how that plays out now.
If your household economic situation is troubling, consider how combining a business and pleasure trip can be cost effective. Many hotels take care of kids with treats and activities, and the several caregiver options mean you can get a lot of work done and still enjoy some family time. Once you've considered the work issues, you'll have to decide if the childcare available will meet your needs.
Before you ask the boss' permission, ask yourself:
? Is this trip predictable enough to bring my kids?
? How will colleagues react if my family comes along? Do I care?
? Am I negotiating in a culture where having children with me is controversial?
? Can I budget work time realistically so there's some family time left?
How to Find Childcare in North America
The more inflexible your business meetings, the more careful you have to be in pre-arranging childcare, particularly in North America, where most hotels use outside childcare services.
Plan ahead. Be sure the concierge can book help from a local "nanny" agency or refer you directly to a few local agencies whom you can interview by phone. Typically, agencies are bonded and screen individual employees through thorough background checks, plus references from past employers in the daycare, education, or homecare/nursing fields.
Interview. Parents with very young children may want to interview a few candidates in person shortly after arrival. Allow time.
Ask questions. Agencies index employees by qualifications such as a driver's license, teaching or camp counselor experience, CPR training, practical nurse or lifeguard certification.
Know What You Need. Tell the agency what you need and expect. A good agency will try to pair qualified candidates with your preferences as to age, skills, whether or not caregivers are parents, smoking/non, whether they can leave the hotel premises, their continuous availability, etc.
Note that some agencies are not insured to allow care providers to bring children to a hotel pool. Double check if swimming will be the main diversion for your child.
At resorts and hotels with a supervised children's camp program (often seasonal) be sure to ask what is the counselor to child ratio? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends: 1 adult:3 infants, 1 adult:5 toddlers, 1 adult:7 school-age children, and 1 adult:10 teens.
How To Find Childcare in Europe, Asia & Abroad
For business travelers working outside the US and Canada, taking the kids along has become easier in the last few years, for a variety of reasons.
Convention organizers often establish daycare (usually through the hotel or resort), and plan some sightseeing and cultural activities for a spouse and older children.
If you're traveling with infants and toddlers, choose a full-service, international resort or hotel. It may cost more but it's worth it for the on-site amenities. Your family will often find recreational space, a pool and/or health spa, on-call English-speaking medical care, and a variety of dining venues with American and international cuisine. Independent travelers should call ahead to the hotel concierge or business colleagues, and check on and "reserve" an English-speaking childcare provider and driver/guide.
At international resorts, childcare providers usually come from within the hotel, housekeeping, or activities staff and may not meet your standards for training. Often, a daily kids' camp is staffed by wonderful caregivers without CPR or life-saving degrees, so be prepared to reconsider your needs.
Foreign cities offer a wealth of family activities. At better urban hotels, you probably won't find an organized childcare program, but you will find childcare available at an hourly rate (averages US$9-15/hour, four-hour minimum). Do you want a caregiver to sightsee with your child, or is that an activity you'll have time to do together?
Preparing Yourself & Your Children
As your big business trip approaches, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Infants usually adjust more quickly to new caregivers than parents. Some working parents may feel better hiring a qualified nurse than a babysitter.
- Budget adjustment time for young children so they won't be overcome by stranger anxiety during your absence. A trial run with a new caregiver, such as a room-service meal or a bath (with parent around), works well.
- Explain to school-age children, traveling siblings, and those who've had experience with a variety of caregivers that "some playtime will be with a new babysitter at Mom or Dad's hotel."
- Set out rules for TV, snacks, naps, bedtime and spending money with kids and caregivers so that everyone knows what The Parents expect.
- You know your kids best. Evaluate them honestly and plan accordingly. Don't impose a "snorkeling with stingrays" program on a child afraid of pets.
- Stay in touch by hotel or cell phone; many resorts and hotels provide cellphones if yours won't work in the locale.
Though traveling with a working parent may be a necessary evil to some infants and toddlers, it's a wonderful introduction to adult life for older kids. Consider it the Road Warrior's version of "Bring Your Daughter To Work Day." And don't forget that old adage about all work and no play…
Hotels Where Families = Business
Since family travel has withstood the current recession better than other segments of the indusstry, everyone wants a piece of the action. Examine each hotel's "family-friendly" offering before you book a room. According to our 2006 survey, of the major US-based hotel chains, 79% accept children under 18 years free in their parents' room (many international hotels accept children under 12 years free), have children's menus, minibars, offer free cribs, and tout some welcome gift. Many also offer child-proofing kits with outlet covers and nightlights, a stroller or high chair to borrow, and a books/games lending library.
Several chains, including Loews, Howard Johnson, and Hampton Inns, offer family enticements ranging from milk and cookies at check-in to souvenir frisbees, sing-along audiotapes, coloring books, and sometimes an unsupervised play room. Others like Marriott, Four Seasons, Radisson, Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La, Westin and Wyndham offer various supervised programs (usually during holiday periods) at US and international resort locations, sometimes for a fee.
The following hotel chains have extensive, system-wide programs throughout the US and in many resort destinations. They really mean business so you can go about yours.
- Hilton's V.I.C. (Very Important Children) Program: Many Hilton hotels and resorts in the Caribbean welcome families with day-long children's activities in a supervised, drop-off camp for 5 to 12-year-olds. Pool games, field trips, crafts, and day and evening theme parties are included in the cost, which ranges from free to as part of a family package. Camps are available at many Hilton hotels and resorts in North and South America and the Caribbean all summer, and at many resort properties year-round. The simplest version of the V.I.C. program provides kids' gifts and discounted dining. Private babysitting arranged through concierge year-round. Contact Hilton Hotels & Resorts (800/HILTONS) for information.
- Camp Hyatt: The Hyatt's well-run, supervised, drop-off daycamps for 3 to 12-year-olds operate during the summer and holiday seasons at 16 deluxe resorts. Daily activities include cooking classes with top chefs, nature and wildlife hikes, and educational programs on local language and culture at a cost of $70-80/D. For 2010, Camp Hyatt teamed up with National Geographic Kids and features all new adventures loaded with eco-friendly activities, animal crafts and facts, photo safaris and tons of locally inspired activities. There are limited family activities available year-round at more than 100 Hyatt Hotels in the US, Canada and Caribbean. Families also receive a nifty 50% discount on a connecting room. Private babysitting is arranged through the concierge year-round. Contact Hyatt Hotels & Resorts at (888/591-1234) for more information.
- KidSpree Vacation Club: Available at many Holiday Inns and the 13 Holiday Inn Sunspree Resorts in the US, Canada and Caribbean (children's program may operate under a different name specific to the property), with an activities program for 4 to 12-year-olds. Each moderately priced resort offers arts n'crafts, sports, and a themed counselor-led activity geared to location, operating hours, and season. Some properties offer supervised activities for families to do together. Notable are this chain's Kidsuites or Familysuites. At many properties, some guestrooms are divided into one bedroom plus an adorable sleeping/play area (themed like the Arctic, Marinelife, Space, Wild West, etc.) with bunkbeds, VCR and game player. Costs for the KidSpree activity programs vary at each resort; Kidsuites cost somewhat more than a regular room. Private babysitting at most locations can be arranged through the concierge. Contact Holiday Inn or Sunspree Resorts(888/HOLIDAY) for information.
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