As a parent, the goal of family vacations is always to ensure as many happy, enduring memories as possible, especially for the kids. These getaways are the perfect opportunity to instill in them an appreciation for new people and places, and hopefully to pass along some of your own wanderlust tendencies. Vacation is also a great time to slow down and reconnect, free from the day-to-day distractions that can unwittingly build distance throughout the year.
That distance doesn’t just fall between you and the kids though. Consider your significant other and how much excitement a change of scenery would add to the two of you stealing away for a night out on the town, or perhaps even a day trip to a less than kid-friendly destination, such as a winery or particularly challenging hike. Regardless of your taste, you shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to incorporate some “adult time” into your vacation.
You might be lucky enough to have extended family with you on vacation to keep an eye on your little ones while you go have some grown-up fun, or you might be ridiculously lucky and have a nanny who goes where you go… although that one is a lot less likely. Many families, however, are left trying to find a babysitter in a place where they don’t have any personal connections whatsoever, a decidedly frustrating act when the well-being of your children is on the line.
The only way to minimize this hassle is by the same means with which you’d ensure the smoothness of any other part of your vacation – preparation. Here are some tips that can help you in your search:
Post a Detailed Job Listing
There are many great online babysitting services you can use, like Sittercity.com or Care.com. You can even post in the part-time or etcetera jobs section of craigslist for the city you will be traveling to. No matter what you use, you’ll want to create a detailed job posting about a month or two before your vacation, including information such as:
- Exact date(s) and time(s)
- Responsibilities the sitter will have
- General personalities of your children (active, artsy, etc.)
- Any special needs information about your children (allergies, disabilities, etc.)
- What you are looking for in a babysitter (over 18, CPR certified, etc.)
- Hourly rate you will be paying
There isn’t an easy rule of thumb for what hourly rate to pay your babysitter, but the team over at Sittercity.com has compiled data from thousands of babysitting jobs into a really nice (and free) babysitting rate calculator.
Interview the Candidates
Once you’ve read through the responses and narrowed it down to a handful you feel are a good fit based on their experience level, enthusiasm, and general personality fit for your children, it’s time to do some interviews. By phone is OK, or even via video chat if the option is available. Here are some questions you should consider asking:
- What is your favorite thing about babysitting?
- What is a challenge you have experienced when babysitting in the past, and how did you resolve it?
- Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
- Do you have your own car, and are you comfortable driving with children? (if applicable)
- Do you have any pet allergies/fears? (if your pet will be with you)
Questions like “How long have you been babysitting” and “Are you trained in First Aid/CPR” should have already been answered via their resume/response to your job posting, but feel free to ask again for posterity’s sake. Try to think of anything that might be considered unique to your situation (special needs, dietary considerations, daily religious practices, etc.) and make a list so you don’t forget to address them during the interview.
After selecting your final candidate(s), they should be completely willing to submit themselves to a reference and background check, so don’t worry about requesting these things from them if you require that extra layer of security/peace of mind.
Make a Plan
About a week before your vacation, contact your sitter to make sure they are still available, and to communicate the plan for their upcoming job. In your plan, be specific with dates and times, document where you’ll be, important phone numbers, and any information that is critical to your child’s well-being. Pretty much the same as you would do for any babysitter back home. You should also consider what activities they’ll be participating in, especially if you’ll be away for an entire day, providing your sitter with the funds needed to cover expenses for both them and your children, including gas if you feel comfortable with them driving together.
When the time comes to meet your babysitter in person, it’s not a bad idea to schedule them to arrive an hour earlier than your planned departure. This will give you time to brief them on the situation in person, watch them interact with your children, and make sure everybody is comfortable with one another.
The final, and most important step – go have a good time!
Jay Ferris is a Seattle-based writer, husband, and father of three, whose penchant for outdoors-based travel is rivaled only by his dependence on a steady internet connection and spider-free existence. Follow him on Twitter at @jayferris.