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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.
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.
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.
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.
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?