Hiring a Sitter Away From Home

Posted by Eileen on January 6, 2011

The Chicago mom of two young kids felt like she'd been let out of jail on her last vacation, sleeping late.

“You can't put a price on a full week of sleeping in,” she said. But they hadn't left their baby and toddler at home. Instead, they took their regular sitter with them to Florida for a week, figuring that the added cost of a plane ticket and meals were well worth the R&R time and flexibility she and her husband got in return, even to spend time with each child.

“This was the first vacation with the kids that felt like a vacation,” she said. “I didn't come back exhausted.”

girl-coloring (girl-coloring)Planning for time away from the kids on a family trip is a dilemma all parents face whether their kids are toddlers or teens.

Traveling families, leery of child care providers they don't know, like best the idea of inviting an extra pair of hands along on the trip – whether a teenage neighbor or cousin, a single brother-in-law, or grandparent. Others vacation with another family with children of similar ages so they can swap child care chores. Some parents choose vacation locales that offer children's programs. But even that's no guarantee Mom and Dad will get a break. The kids might be too old or too young or they simply might balk at going.

If you know you're going to need to hire a sitter:

NETWORK with friends, colleagues, and relatives in other cities to arrange in advance for sitters where you'll be visiting. Expect to pay considerably more than at home.

Hotels typically will refer guests to licensed agencies but all that means, experts explain, is that they've met minimum state requirements for operating a business. Goggle the agency.  Even if you hire a hotel employee, that's not a guarantee that the person has been thoroughly checked. All employees don't necessarily require criminal background checks, hotel executives explain.

ASK your child's resort camp counselor, ski instructor, or tennis teacher if they are willing to babysit—assuming your child likes them. Smaller hotels often have lists of local teens and employees who babysit for guests—often for years. You might be able to book the same sitter the entire week.  

the  agency route, or hire a sitter through the hotel, ask a lot of questions:
    •    Is the agency licensed and regulated? How long has it been in business?
    •    Has the sitter been screened for a criminal record?
    •    How much child care experience does she have?
    •    Does she know CPR and first aid?
    •    Can you call her references?
    •    What kinds of activities would she do with the kids? How would she handle an emergency?

And just as you would at home, make sure you can be reached at all times.

But what happens when the kids insist that they no longer need a babysitter?

The best thing is to discuss all of the possibilities before you go on the trip – what the kids would do in case of fire, in case someone is banging on the door, in case they feel sick. Don't make the vacation the first time they're on their own, either, or responsible for younger siblings.

If you've got any doubts at all, don't leave them. And when you do, remember to check up every once in a while.


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