If there’s one thing my husband and I have learned about traveling with kids, it’s to make sure to hire a babysitter at least once during any vacation.
Getting to enjoy a nice dinner out with your partner, without having to worry about crying or fussing, is well worth a sitter’s price tag.
However, it can be daunting to find, let alone trust, someone in an unfamiliar place to watch your children. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
According to Lynn Perkins, chief executive officer of UrbanSitter, a site that helps connects parents with sitters, there are certain strategies you can employ to more easily find a good, and reliable, babysitter on your next vacation. Today’s hint is her five tips.
1. Ask a hotel concierge for help. Ms. Perkins says that anecdotally, she’s heard that people tend to have better experiences with vacation babysitters from local, rather than national, babysitting agencies.But how do you know which local agencies to use? If you’re staying a hotel, the hotel concierge will generally have a list of such services, and may even be able to arrange the sitter for you.
And even if you’re not staying at a hotel, you can call the concierge at a nearby big hotel and ask for recommendations – often the concierge will be happy to help you out, Ms. Perkins says. In addition, she says sometimes front desk employees at a hotel (who you can trust have already been vetted by the hotel) are looking for extra hours and willing to babysit as well, so it’s worth asking a concierge about those options too.
2. Leverage your alumni network. If you’re in a location where you don’t feel comfortable using a babysitting agency or Web site, and you want word of mouth recommendations from those you trust, Ms. Perkins suggests checking with members of alumni groups associated with the schools you attended. For instance, if you’re traveling to New York, you could email the New York alumni group listserv for your school, or post something on your alumni Facebook or LinkedIn group, and ask for babysitter recommendations.
3. Mom groups are your friend. Another option, Ms Perkins says, is to contact local moms groups in the areas you are visiting (if you know of any) or nationwide moms groups, and ask if anyone has any recommendations for sitters to reach out to. For example, if you’re coming to San Francisco, you could post something on the Facebook page for the Golden Gate Mothers Group, asking for sitter recommendations, and you could do the same over at Big City Moms’ page if you’re planning on visiting New York.
4. Don’t rule out UrbanSitter. UrbanSitter is an option for the markets where it has a presence as well as for certain other vacation areas near the markets it serves. For instance, Ms. Perkins, says its network includes babysitters in Lake Tahoe, the wine country region around San Francisco, Hawaii, the Hamptons and the Cape Cod area. And if your friends, professional contacts or people in your broader network frequently visit those spots and use UrbanSitter, there’s a good chance you may be able to find a sitter through the site that comes recommended by someone you know.
5. Ask your college sitter. Finally, if you have a sitter you trust who is in college, ask if he or she has any college friends from the vacation spot you’re heading to, recommends Ms. Perkins. Students at many colleges are from across the country, so if you’re heading on vacation during a college break, your favorite sitter may have a friend to recommend, Ms. Perkins says.
Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy your next family getaway a bit more. And on a final note, I thought it was worth sharing some of the local vacation sitter agencies my friends and I recommend.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, my daughter loved the babysitter (she was Mary Poppins) we hired from Big Island Nannies Aloha. Hint Mama contributor Leslie Neeland Harvey of Trips with Tykes, meanwhile, has some other babysitter agency recommendations for travelers to San Francisco, Hawaii and Disneyland.
How do you find good and reliable babysitters when you go on vacation? What tips did I miss?