How to find a vacation babysitter

A vacation doesn’t feel like much of a getaway if your kids are still whining, crying and clinging to you 24/7. Thankfully, it’s possible to get a babysitter when you’re on vacation. It just takes a little extra planning, experts say. Here’s how to make it work:

Use social media

When you’re looking for a babysitter in another city, state or even country, Facebook, Twitter and all other social media avenues are great because they reach far and wide. “However, keep in mind social media safety rules,” said Cindy Richards, the Oak Park-based editor-in-chief of travelingmom.com an online travel magazine. “Don’t post publicly that you are planning to visit X city on X dates and that you need someone to watch your kids. Keep that info for the private exchange once you identify someone in the locality.”

Go through an agency

There are plenty of agencies in the United States that provide babysitters for traveling and local families. These include sittercity.com care.com and urbansitter.com. While some of those require fees, subscriptions or memberships for their services (which may include vetting and help depending on the agency.) Shelly Rivoli, the San Francisco-based author of the “Travels with Baby” guidebooks and blog, has created a free (no subscription, no registration required) online worldwide directory of hotel-babysitter and vacation-nanny agencies at travelswithbaby.com. “I think that going through the established agencies is the safest bet when hiring an out-of-town caregiver,” Rivoli said. She also recommended opting for a paid service to ensure that the sitters have been fully vetted and background checked — and then do your own Skype interview with the sitter before committing your kids to that person.

Contact a local college or university

Call the department of student affairs or the financial aid office of the college in the area where you’re vacationing. If you’re already there, you can go to the college and look in the college newspaper or on the bulletin board in the campus student union building. Ask for a list of babysitters — most colleges have an up-to-date list of students who want to babysit. “I think that is a great idea as long as you follow the same safety procedures you would at home with a new sitter,” said Seattle-based Anne Taylor Hartzell, of hiptravelmama.com.

Kid’s clubs

Many hotels have kid’s clubs — especially the larger resorts. For a minimal fee, you can drop off your children for a few hours or even for the entire day to be entertained in a room with other children (almost like camp). However, Richards said, they aren’t all created equal. “Some have incredible programming, and some are little more than another place to watch TV or play video games,” she said. “But if you want an hour to get a massage at the spa or two hours for a quiet dinner with your spouse, the kid’s clubs can be the answer.”

Co-vacation

Save babysitting money — and don’t stress about a stranger watching your child — by vacationing with friends. “This works best if traveling with friends who have children with similar ages and interests as yours,” said Colleen Lanin, Scottsdale-based author of The Travel Mamas’ Guide and editor of travelmamas.com. “Couples can take turns babysitting to give grown-ups a chance to steal away for date night.”

Do everything ahead of time

Regardless of the method you choose for a sitter, Lanin suggests booking your babysitter before you leave the house so you’re not wasting your vacation time finding child care. “Save time by checking references before your trip, too,” Lanin said. “If you know that you want to book a sitter more than once during your vacation, book the same sitter in advance so you and your child can feel comfortable with the consistency of a familiar face each time you go away.”

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