Taking a Family Vacation? Hire a Babysitter.

I’ve never considered myself a pusher, or particularly good at sales, but there is one thing I could preach from the pulpit with zeal:
When you take a family vacation, make room in your budget for childcare.

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I clearly love traveling with kids, even babies. Kids attract local interactions and encourage spontaneity, something one-percenters pay travel agents handsomely to orchestrate these days. Children tend to bring the best out of the people around you (outside of an airplane, anyway). And kiddos have a way of making the most mundane of places—airports, hotel lobbies, sidewalks—exciting thanks to their bizarre fascination with escalators, revolving doors, and disease-carrying pigeons.

But let’s make a quick list of a few things that aren’t as fun when the half pints are in tow. Huddling in the hotel bathroom with a mini-bar cocktail while you wait for your kids to nod off. Dining at 6 PM, and considering 20 minutes in the high chair a successful meal. Skipping activities that used to define your vacations: Spa treatments. Tasting menus. Shopping among breakables.

Guess what parents? There is a solution. It’s called babysitting. The key to a great family vacation, it turns out, is the same key to a healthy home life: Getting help.

So how can you track down quality caretakers on vacation? Here is a list of suggested resources. And for recommendations on how to vet a new babysitter abroad—because not everyone was raised on the What to Expect series—click here.

Your Hotel
Staying at a hotel or resort? Most properties can arrange babysitters. This route provides you with the most hand holding—and you’ll likely be paired with nannies that are familiar with Western childrearing practices—but will also rank among the most expensive routes. While this option is layered with checks and balances (hotels vet nanny agencies that vet reliable caretakers), it’s still worth going through the paces of getting to know your childcare provider in advance. Here’s how.

Nanny and Babysitting Agencies
You know those babysitting agencies that hotels use? You can also contact them directly. This is a great option if you are staying in an Airbnb or home rental. Even if you are staying at a hotel, it can save you money. On a recent trip to Toronto, I used babysitting service Nannies on Call, recommended by a friend. The agency charged me $17 CAN an hour (as well as a flat service fee), whereas the option through the Four Seasons Toronto was $37 CAN an hour. Keep in mind that babysitting agencies and the caretakers they work with still need to be thoroughly vetted, says Candi Vajana, a member of the board of directors of the International Nanny Association (INA) “Do your research before hand, always check references, ask if they are CPR and First Aid trained, and make sure they have experience with children the same age as yours.” (For more from Vajana, click here.)

Ask a Friend
Depending on where you’re traveling, you likely know someone with kids who can recommend a babysitter or a local babysitter service. Get in touch in well in advance, and as always, don’t be afraid to ask for references, credentials, and a phone interview.

Get Social
“Expat groups on Facebook are great resources for childcare options you might not have considered,” says travel writer Anna Davies. “In Costa Rica, my daughter went to a local kids camp that I found through the expat Facebook group.” (The Half Pint Travel Community members have also exchanged quality babysitting recommendations.) If you do opt to find childcare options via this route, keep in mind that this is step one in what should be a through vetting process.

Baby Paradise:  The baby room (6-18 months) at Martinhal Cascais in Portugal, which has full time caretakers from 9:30 to 5:30 daily.

Baby Paradise: The baby room (6-18 months) at Martinhal Cascais in Portugal, which has full time caretakers from 9:30 to 5:30 daily.

Plan Childcare First
When sorting through hotel—or even destination—ideas, you may want to make childcare your top vacation priority. Loads of hotels and resorts have out-of-this-world kids clubs, from the nautically themed Pirates of Canouan Kids Club at the Mandarin Oriental, Canouan to Royal Mansour’s Le Jardin de Lila in Marrakesh, where kids partake in Moroccan art activities and brush up on their Arabic. Most of these are only available to older children though (typically over four years old).
If you’re traveling with babies and tots, consider Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts in Portugal, which is setting a new standard in family travel. Not only are the chic properties outfitted with everything you would need for kids and babies—we’re talking bottle sanitizers, baby gates, and even chef-made purees—but also complimentary nannies on hand in public spaces such as the restaurants, all of which are equipped with playgrounds. And along with a kid’s club, there’s a baby room (€25 for two hours; free in the off season). Then there are properties like the Franklyn D. Resort & Spa in Jamaica, located on the island’s northern coastline. Along with loads of activities for older kiddos, the resort offers complimentary one-on-one nanny services. (Yes, you read that right.) CPR-trained childcare providers greet guests upon arrival and stick with you throughout the trip. They can lend an extra hand at the beach and pool, or take care of babies and kids while parents head to the spa or go out for dinner. Ski lodges and resorts like Snowmass and Breckenridge also often have childcare services—granted, the glorified drop-in daycare costs more than a day pass to Disney—for infants and toddlers during the ski season.

Playgrounds with Punch:  High design grounds that keep kids in mind are a specialty at  Martinhal Resorts  in Portugal.

Playgrounds with Punch: High design grounds that keep kids in mind are a specialty at Martinhal Resorts in Portugal.

Think Inside the Childcare Box
If you’re having trouble finding a local nanny agency in your vacation destination, search for other players in the childcare business and ask them for recommendations. Baby gear rental agencies or drop-in daycares might be familiar with local babysitting resources, for example.

Bring Someone With You
You could also consider bringing your childcare with you, though you’ll likely pay a small fortune in dollars or—if you bring a relative who will work “for free”—guilt. Whether you decide to travel with a nanny or a jet-setting grandmother, it’s particularly important to think through the childcare schedule and overall trip dynamics in advance, as this person will be a participating member of your group in a way that a part-time babysitter will not.

Grandma on duty:  We love our La G, but I wouldn’t say her babysitting services are free.

Grandma on duty: We love our La G, but I wouldn’t say her babysitting services are free.

Alright folks, there’s my sermon. I hope it leaves you feeling confident, hopeful, and inspired. If you’re not quite there yet, I’m not worried: After a date night or massage in the middle of a family vacation, I know you’ll be chiming in with a hearty Amen!


Do you have a family friendly hotel or sitter agency recommendation? Please Share below.