Taking a babysitter along on the family vacation provides you with the freedom and support necessary to truly feel like you're on vacation. It gives you the flexibility to see sights that aren't kid friendly, enjoy nightlife, and participate in activities that are not possible when you're caring for young children. It can also allow you to split your time and accommodate the needs and abilities of your children, like enjoying an amusement park with an older child while a sitter cares for an infant sibling. However, sharing a space and your vacation time with someone outside of your family can be new ground with potentially awkward moments and disappointments unless you clearly define and discuss expectations and the rules of the road.
Before a trip with a babysitter, have a frank and thorough conversation that includes how much she will be paid, where she will stay, when she is expected to work and how much free time she will have. Open communication will help to avoid possible points of friction that can easily occur when rules and expectations haven't been clearly defined.
1. Covering Costs and Compensation
Bringing a sitter along on your vacation means that you will cover all of her travel costs, meals and expenses, and compensate her for her time. Generally, families pay their sitter the same rate as they do at home, which may be an hourly rate for sitters and a weekly rate for nannies. Nannies should be paid the same weekly rate they are at paid at home, even if they will be working fewer hours on vacation. Remember that your sitter or nanny has bills to pay and depends on her pay to cover her expenses, even when she's away. Determine pay that is fair to you both. If you'll be depending on her for 24-hour care, it likely makes sense to settle on a daily rate.
Expenses to cover include all travel costs to and from the destination, meals and expenses she'll encounter while caring for your children, such as admission tickets, taxi fare, treats and miscellaneous needs. Determine how many meals she will be eating with your family and how many on her own. It's helpful to determine a meal stipend for meals she'll eat on her own or with the kids while away from you so you are on the same page with cost expectations.
2. Defining Work Hours and Personal Time
Even though her travel costs are covered and she's being compensated, it's not a vacation for your sitter. She'll need time to herself, just as she does at home. Many families find it helpful to create a schedule to define the hours they will require childcare on vacation, with an understanding that the schedule may shift as the family settles into vacation and better understands its needs away from home. It's helpful for the sitter to see when she's on duty or on call, which days and nights she can plan to have to herself, and when you'd like time alone as a family. A thoughtful approach is to give the sitter a day to recover and rejuvenate after arriving at your vacation destination, since travel is tiring and stressful. She'll be fresh and energetic to play with the kids after a bit of a break.
3. Determining Where She'll Sleep -- A Room of Her Own or With the Kids
Generally, babysitters traveling with families are given a room of their own or asked to share a room with the children. Your choice likely depends on not only your budget, but also your childcare needs. Consider whether you need the sitter to be responsible for nighttime care while you catch up on some sleep, or if you'll depend on her services mostly during the day. Providing the sitter a private room gives her more time to herself to rest and gives you more time alone as a family. If you provide her with her own room, be sure to ensure her privacy, letting the kids know they can't disrupt her, and ask that she be mindful of your privacy, as well.
4. Rules of the Road vs. Rules at Home
If you're taking a regular sitter along on your trip, she likely has a comfortable understanding of your rules at home. Traveling introduces many new circumstances and situations that require defined rules in order to avoid misunderstandings and awkward moments. For instance, will your sitter be allowed to have guests in a shared space? If you are sharing a house, is she expected to wait until you are home to go to sleep or can she go to sleep when the kids do? Does she have a curfew on her nights off? Do you expect her to take the kids on excursions or do you prefer they stay at the resort? Will she use taxis or public transportation when traveling with the kids? Take time to think through the "what ifs," as well as your expectations and make sure your sitter understands and has the same expectations.
Sharing childcare duties with a sitter on your family vacation can be wonderfully liberating and helpful, eliminating the stress that often accompanies travel with young children and allowing you to take full advantage of your vacation time. If you don't have a regular sitter to take on your family's vacation, services like UrbanSitter can help you to quickly and easily find a reliable, trusted sitter who's just right for the job.