How Do You Find Good Child Care While Traveling?

It can be hard to figure out child care while traveling, but these options, from agencies to kids' clubs, will make your next family trip a bit more relaxing—and fun!

Mid adult woman at beach walk in sunset with three children. Running and having fun on the beach.

Hobo_018 / Getty Images

Along with my children’s first plane flight and first hotel stay, I’ll never forget the first babysitter we hired to watch our kids during a vacation. Her name was Tat. She was in her mid-30s, not much older than I was at the time, and her charges for New Year’s Eve 2014 in Park City, Utah, were my two daughters, ages 3 and 2, and our friends’ children, ages 4 and 6-months-old. 

My friend had done a precursory interview with Tat, who was recommended to us by another family, but I had no idea what to expect when she arrived at the rental house we were staying in for the trip. Even though everything with Tat checked out from a safety and background standpoint, I still had my reservations. I kept wondering how she would manage with four kids.

It was below freezing that night with snow covering the ground and icicles dangling from the roof. Taking the kids outdoors would not be possible. Since it wasn’t our house, there weren’t a lot of toys around except the ones we had brought. And what if the kids didn’t like her? Or what if someone wouldn’t stop crying? Worse, what if there was an emergency? All these questions, and more, ran through my mind as we introduced her to the kids, showed her around the house and went over the bedtime routines. 

Then, as the parents were about to leave for dinner, dreading that moment when the children finally realized we were out the door, Tat reached into her bag and pulled out the most genius item of distraction—a balloon. It turns out she brought a whole stash of them. She blew each one up and the toddlers spent most of the night chasing these balloons around. The balloon trick was two-fold—it was something to do and it tired the kids out. 

When we got back to the house after dinner, every child was sound asleep and Tat was calmly reading a book. 

Resources for Finding Child Care While Traveling

Looking back now, we were pretty lucky to have found such a skilled sitter during our trip. Much like finding a new babysitter at home, hiring responsible child care while traveling can be stressful and difficult, especially since the pool of available sitters is often much smaller than your hometown. Your child and you are also without your usual comforts such as favorite toys and bedtime books. And depending on where you are traveling, the options to take the children out to explore or even stroll to a local playground might be limited or not at all possible. Not to mention you’re staying in a new place with a different bed, which already might have your child, and possibly you, on edge. 

Yet, there are times when you actually need childcare while traveling like when attending a wedding or a conference, or any other event where bringing kids isn’t ideal. So what’s a parent to do? 

Not every sitter can be as cool and calm as Tat, but there are several options for finding someone to watch your kids when staying in a hotel or a vacation rental. Here are a few of our suggestions:

Contact a Child Care Agency: While most hotels don’t hire their own babysitters, many keep a list of local child care agencies that you can call during your stay. These agencies are licensed and bonded in the state they do business in and typically require that their sitters complete several certification classes before working with children. These sitters do cost more than your at-home sitter, however, as most agencies tend to charge by the hour and usually request a four-hour minimum. 

Get a Referral: If you’re visiting a town or area where you have friends with children, ask them for referrals, whether it be their usual Friday babysitter or another kind of childcare provider, or maybe even their relative. Just remember, despite your friend’s recommendation, be sure to do your own due diligence when interviewing the sitter, asking all the questions you would ask of a new sitter back at home. And no sitter stealing!

Consider an All-Inclusive:  If childcare is important during your vacation, consider staying at an all-inclusive resort, which tends to have in-house babysitters and kids clubs with extended hours. That way you and your partner will be able to sneak away for a few hours alone, even if it’s just to the adults-only pool or the hotel restaurant. Similar to babysitting agencies, the childcare costs at resorts tend to be much higher than your usual sitter. Be prepared to budget for this when plotting out your vacation spending.

Bring Along a Relative: Unsure about hiring a new sitter? You could always ask your parents or relatives to come along with you. That way you’ll have total peace of mind when you step out for a few hours. This is an especially good option if you’re attending a multi-day event, like a conference or a wedding. Of course, it will be your relatives’ vacation time too so they may not always be on-call when you need them. But as long as you specifically state what hours and days you will need help, your relatives will know exactly when they can have their own time to explore. 

Travel with Your Usual Sitter: Asking your usual babysitter or nanny to travel with you may make the most sense, since they are someone you trust completely and your child is already familiar with them. And you won’t have to feel as if you’re imposing on grandma or grandpa yet again. There are specifics to work out such as how much the sitter will be paid for the trip, their travel expenses, and if they will be staying in a separate hotel room from you. This is where it’s best to look for extended stay hotel brands, which offer much more space for families than regular hotel rooms. 

My daughters are now rapidly approaching the age where they don’t need a babysitter at all anymore. Indeed, on our most recent vacation, they watched their little brother in the hotel room while my husband and I spent an hour together in the lobby going over the next day’s schedule without interruptions. But to this day, whenever I pack for a long, trip I stash some balloons in my bag. It's still a crowd-pleaser. Thanks, Tat.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles