Use this guide to negotiate with the relative or nanny you’re planning to travel with, and see how much more relaxing your family vacation can be.
My sister and her husband love to travel — with St. Martin and Disney World being their favorite spots. And now, with two children in tow, they seek to maximize their holiday enjoyment by retreating from their dual income, daycare driving, hectic life. Their solution is to bring along a traveling babysitter.
The advantages of taking a caregiver with you is that you and your husband will have more freedom and more flexibility. Additionally, having an extra hand on deck can come in handy in emergencies. When my sister’s motion sickness landed her in the hospital, the sitter was there to take care of the kids. What a relief! Conversely, the disadvantages to consider include less privacy and the additional cost.
I asked my sister how she always managed to make this work, and here’s what she shared:
Planning for the Trip
- Research the destination and know what activities you are going to do before you depart. One need not be ‘married’ to a schedule, but you should be engaged – at the least.
- Pick a resort that’s sitter friendly. The more activities and services available the better.
Choosing a Professional Sitter
- Parents should sit down and draw up a list of criteria for the person they will hire. Factors to consider include age, level of experience and training, availability of sitter at the time of your trip, valid passport if necessary, stipend to be paid, and amount of time “off” from duties.
- The children should definitely know and have spent time with the person who travels with the family. While the mom/dad must be at ease with the sitter, the children must feel comfortable as well.
Taking a Relative Along
- If you choose to travel with family members that double as sitters, make sure there are onsite activities for them, as well as alternative babysitter options, at the destination. (You don’t want to lose a relative by squabbling about how much time they should devote to the kids.) At Orlando’s Disney World, there’s a regular supervised group for Kids Night Out programs at most hotels, so all the adults in your party can have some time off from the kids, and vice versa.
- You can also hire a private sitter who comes to the resort to provide in-room childcare. My sister says doing this is “pretty cool, but a little scary.” Check the credentials of the sitting service so you’ll be at ease. At Orlando resorts, the professional sitters are not Disney cast members (employees) but the recommended companies have been working on the property for years. My sister has used them and claims, “They are reputable and reliable.”
Negotiating with the Sitter
Parents need to clearly and simply outline their expectations. It is important to cover the following items with your traveling sitter:
- Determine a schedule including the hours the sitter will be on and off, the general time that you’ll be leaving for /returning from activities, and how many days/evenings the sitter will be alone with the children.
- You need to trust the sitter’s judgment but do keep in touch. Encourage her to call you if there are issues, and call her just to touch base. Remind the sitter that no question or concern is too small; when in doubt — call. And always inform the sitter of your location!
- Discuss special needs such as children with disabilities, restricted diets, allergies, etc, as well as the children’s interests (active versus video game lover).
- Reach out to the sitter as a family friend – not a servant — who shares the whole experience from plane departure to return. For example, include her in some family photos, ask her to participate in decisions such as a theme park ride she would like the family to go on, invite her to a special family dinner and buy her a little token of thanks.
Choosing the right baby sitter can make the difference between your vacation being a nightmare or a heavenly experience. Spend the time to select your sitter carefully and plan your trip so that you will not have an unpleasant or unexpected surprise.
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