Hiring Child Care on Trips

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Traveling with your young children can be infinitely rewarding, but the honest reality is that it can also be very limiting. As I talked about here, there are things you just can’t do on trips when you bring your young kiddos along. In some cases that really isn’t a big deal, it is just the different flavor of family travel. It may mean that you eat as a family at a casual restaurant instead of getting dressed up for a fancy restaurant for a romantic meal. It may mean that you skip on a massage in lieu of play time in the pool. No big deal. However, in some cases you either really need the kids cared for while you attend something for work, or you just really want to partake in activity that isn’t for kiddos (and no, that does not make you a bad parent!).

In those cases you have a few options, most of which I have utilized for my three-year-old on our trips.

Bring Grandma, Aunt, Cousin, Baby Sitter, etc., with you:

I personally like this option best for “hiring” child care on trips. We love to bring a grandparent or two along for the ride in exchange for some child care during the vacation. The drawback of this is the added expense of bringing an extra pair of hands (or two) along. It is going to be much more expensive than hiring care once you get there, however you are bringing someone that you know and trust and that is worth quite a bit.

This can be a tricky arrangement if the help you are bringing also wants to spend some time on the trip for their own vacation. This needs to be very well clarified from the beginning. Even if you are paying their way, it is totally reasonable for your helper to have some scheduled downtime as well. I recommend having a very open conversation before anything is booked regarding when you would need help, and when they would be free to do whatever they wished. Obviously if you are only paying part of their way, it makes even more sense they will want a decent part of the trip to themselves.

Grandpa watching C at Andaz Fifth Ave

I highly recommend making sure that you book a separate room for whoever is helping you. When possible, I think that separate bedrooms in a suite (or rental house) are ideal. Don’t just expect them to sleep on a rollaway or something similar. Set the trip up for success by ensuring everyone is as comfortable as possible. We love this method, and use it with some frequency. I have heard many success stories from other families who also use this same method, but I have also heard some stories of frustration and disappointment when expectations are not clarified from the beginning.

Use the in-hotel Kid’s Club: Many resort hotels have “Kid’s Clubs” or similar for children beginning at age three to five. These clubs are within the confines of the hotel and are staffed by hotel employees. Our daughter just turned three a few months ago, so we have started to use these services. The price can vary, but here is an example from the Camp Hyatt we used at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort. Morning session (9AM – 12PM) $30, Afternoon session (1PM – 5PM, including lunch) $50, Evening session (6PM – 10PM) $50.

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C at Lost Pines Camp Hyatt

This can be a great way to have a nice “adults only” dinner, a trip to the spa, or some downtime to just float in the adult pool while your kids are entertained in a space designed just for them within the hotel. Different hotels (and different states) have different minimum age requirements, so check with each hotel individually to see if this is offered, and what the minimum ages are. I have also sometimes seen the requirement that you must remain on the premises of the hotel, so keep that in mind if you planned to venture further away.

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C at Hill Country Resort Camp Hyatt

We have had very good luck with using in-hotel Kid’s Clubs. I think one thing that helped is that our daughter is used to a daycare/pre-school type environment, so she wasn’t sent into panic mode when we left her there after a few minutes. Some kiddos won’t do as well with the idea of being left in a strange place with strange people. Some of the times we have used Kid’s Clubs they have been packed and sometimes she has been the only one there. It was better for us when there were other kids there for her to play with, but you can’t count on that. I highly recommend making reservations ahead of time, and start small. Don’t book tons of time for your kid there until you get a feel for how it will go. Our daughter has literally begged to go back to Camp Hyatt, so we are very lucky that her personality meshes well with this type of care!

Hire a Local Childcare Provider:

On a recent trip to attend a conference in Colorado Springs, we used a service called “Tots on the Spot” that came to our hotel room and took care of our daughter there since she was not old enough for the hotel’s program. Since I was attending a conference put on by BoardingArea (the company who hosts this blog) they graciously covered the cost of the childcare, so I don’t know exactly what their rates were. I know we happily added a hefty tip both days!

We secured a suite in the hotel so that the childcare provider and our daughter would have somewhere to play other than on our hotel bed. That added cost as we would not have cared about a suite if we didn’t need a spot for our daughter and childcare provider to be during the day. I was a little nervous about this arrangement since there is really no oversight while they are alone in the hotel room, but I felt good about going through a company who ensured background checks, CPR certification, etc. Our daughter loved the woman who came both days to be with her, and every time I popped in on them they were doing great. She brought many different toys and activities for them to play with, and the company had talked with me ahead of time about various things that my daughter would enjoy doing. They also walked around the hotel grounds to play when the weather permitted.

Suite in Colorado Springs - big enough for "childcare"

At least with the service we used, it is expected at meal times that the care provider also order a meal for themselves from room service, so also factor that into the cost. I have friends who have hired an individual locally using a site like care.com to find a babysitter for them in the hotel room. I have never used this method myself, so I can’t really comment from personal experience but wanted to mention it. You can also ask the hotel for a referral to a service who may have babysitters available.

Arranging care for your child from someone you don’t know on a trip can be pretty nerve racking, but if you can find an arrangement that works for your family then you can include your kiddos on more trips than just the ones that are 100% family focused.

What type of child care have you arranged on trips? How did it go?

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  1. We have done the bring-someone-along thing twice, and it worked great both times. I think the key is that you have to make sure it is going to be totally win-win for everyone. Once we brought my mom to denver while my husband had a conference to attend. We got a two bedroom suite at the Residence Inn downtown (great hotel, BTW), and we had to pay the upcharge from the approved per diem rate (perfect). This coincided with a deal at our grocery store (Jewel) where you could buy $100 in Marriott GCs, get $20 grocery coupon back. I only went in for about $400, because I was worried that something might go wrong, but it was no problem and I’d go in for the full amount if I had it to do again. In this case – the win for my mom was time with the granddaughters and the fact that it was close to her sister as well. Solid win-win.
    The second time we brought my just-out-of-college (by two weeks) cousin with us to England and Paris. We paid for her plane ticket, meals when we were together, and any lodging expenses. Because we were visiting different family members who sometimes had room for all of us, but sometimes just had a tiny extra bedroom (this is England after all) – we did a combo of all of us staying with hubby’s family; getting a hotel room, but having my cousin stay with hubby’s fam; paying for a suite in a cool independent hotel in Paris; and sneaking an extra person into a horrible family room at a travelodge in london (btw – premier inn really is a lot better than travelodge). It also worked out great, largely because the personalities were right to begin with. She loves kids and didn’t need to be asked to help out. But also because we made sure that she got enough time to be by herself – at least one day in each location over the 3 week trip. We also took turns doing girls night out / guys night out, and she came with the girls while the dads were on babysitting duty. Sure, having a pint with people 15-20 years older than her might not have been the night of her life, but hey – we’re fun grownups. It was the best ~$1500 I’ve ever spent.
    If it fits with your situation, it might be easier to spell things out clearly in an email. That way you can read it over to make sure you’re being polite, but clear. And if it’s an awkward conversation you won’t be tempted to brush over details just thinking “I’m sure it’ll be fine”.

  2. We often stay at a lot of smaller places that don’t have organized kids clubs. When you have a decent amount of trust in the hotel, B&B or resort owner, asking them for a recommendation can be a great source. Apart from anything else, it often invests them in making sure that everything is going smoothly. We’ve done this with good success in places as different as Carmel Valley, Tuscany and Laos. Otherwise, we tend to look for a local agency so we get some benefit from pre-screening.

  3. We have used the kids clubs at the Disney resorts at Disney World and Disneyland — both have been excellent. The one at Disney’s Grand Californian was beyond impressive: The kids were required to do an earthquake drill and when they left the club to go to another location within the reosrt to watch fireworks, they were instructed to walk looking straight ahead so that they wouldn’t get distracted by something in the lobby and end up tripping or running into something! Our older daughter relayed all of this info to us, and we were like “WOW!” We also used the kids club at a historic resort in San Diego. It, too, was outstanding. We also used a service and had a WONDERFUL woman come to our resort room at Disney World. She was absolutely amazing and worth every single penny. I had read many reviews of this company and talked to them on the phone several times before we hired them. We have barely left our girls with anyone besides Grandma in their lives so having a stranger come to our room and also leaving our girls at clubs was a big leap of faith for us. It has helped that our older daughter is four years older than our youngest and can tell us what transpires. Sadly, with her last birthday she is now too old to use the clubs but is still not old enough that we’d leave her in our room alone or with sister without us, so we may be back to hiring someone to come to our room. For childcare, our first choice would always be a club, though, because of the structured activities and other kids to play with.

  4. We never feel comfortable about hiring someone we don’t know when we travel. However when the the kids were younger we have vacationed at grand mayan puerto Vallarta every year because of its huge water park, slides and lazy river and the awesome kids club which cost only $15 per day per kid with lunch included! We have gone so often that we even made friends with couple of the girls who worked at the kids club. To this date I am still facebook friends with them and they come to see us and spend an evening with the kids when we vacation there again. 😉 our kids are now older and the oldest is a teenager. They all become helpful watching our friends’ young kids when we travel together, making private tasting in napa totally doable! 😉 So if you can, bring along a teenager who you know is trust worthy, and their rates are usually cheap if not free!

  5. Tim2, glad you like the post!
    Jamie, good advice and I agree it needs to be a win-win for everyone involved.
    Adam, good advice, thanks!
    Carrie, I prefer clubs in general over in-room care as well. Sorry to hear your oldest has outgrown the clubs!
    Passports, I am actually really a big wimp about that as well. We have never hired a babysitter for C at home, but sometimes we do what we have to do on the road. I so much prefer relatives as well. 😉
    Sharon, wow that is a great deal! That is great your kids can now help your friends kids. 😉

  6. We had great luck with Disney’s kids clubs when we stayed at the Disney Aulani a few months ago. Our daughter was begging to be dropped off there every day, so we got lots of nice dinners out. We’ve also hired a babysitter through a service a few times, and it has gone well. A lot of resorts have babysitter lists, so you can know that other guests have been happy with certain agencies/sitters. And, if you are in California, the state maintains a database of background-checked sitters (“Trustline”), and any reputable agency will use only Trustline-certified sitters. And extra layer of protection!

  7. My husband and I are Scuba divers, so we rely on kid’s clubs and hotel babysitters a lot when we travel.

    Our first time doing this was at the Westin in Grand Cayman when my son had just turned 1. We hired a resort-recommended sitter for 2 days and on the third day we found a drop in child care place down the street.

    We’ve also used drop in child cares in Salt Lake City and ski resort kid’s clubs in SLC and Colorado.

    On one trip to Cancun the grandparents came with us, which was…….ok :/ Not sure I would do that again. :0

    And for the past 2 years (and again next year) we are going to Beaches Turks and Caicos which has THE BEST kid’s club I have ever seen! My son loves it and so do we. Can’t wait to go back!

    There are many people who think it’s terrible to put your child in day care on vacation (I’m honestly surprised nobody has piped up on here) BUT for me, it’s a vacation because I am a stay at home mom and a break is nice. Plus, we don’t leave him in there all day, every day. It’s usually just for a few hours while we scuba dive or have a nice, quiet dinner. When he was an infant and too young for kids clubs, we did leave him all day while we were skiing. But we did check on him often and he was perfectly happy playing and interacting with other babies and toddlers. If he was throwing a fit or suffering terrible separation anxiety, of course I would not leave him. But he is used to it and he’s fine.

  8. ok this is vague so I apologize because I cannot remember this from our trip there last May nor can I currently find any emails or my folder on Kauai I have somewhere in this house, but when we stayed at the Sheraton Kauai there is a nice shopping plaza with shops and eats down the road a bit and I THINK it is called the Waimea Canyon Plaza Shopping Center. Well in this plaza was a little cafe that looked kinda earthy and artsy and they had fresh lemonade and snacks and I think even mac & Cheese, which kids love. We happened to ask about day care and they handed us cards of local area sitters and services. We contacted one and had a wonderful young lady come to watch both kiddos all day (then 4&6) at our hotel when me wife and I headed out for a bit of alone time. If you are staying in that vicinity, ask the front desk or checkout the local area for little shops that could help. Some could call it sight unseen, but hey, on the islands, things are more relaxed and safer. This aint the mainland, brah.

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