Whether you are traveling with your kids or in a bind at home, you may be wondering about finding babysitters online. I’ve tried a number of services both at home and in hotels and can tell you the process is not easy. From Care.com and Facebook to services like Sitters In A Second, Inc., I’ve had a range of success. This guide will help you through the process of finding babysitters online and a hiring a babysitter at a hotel.
I’d like to start with Care.com to get it out of the way. This is a service I’ve tried a few times in a few cities with a success ratio of 0%. Care.com works by trying to match you with caregivers in the area you live or the area you are visiting.
Let’s start with the facts. The fees to join Care.com are pretty hefty if you are using the service sporadically. Care.com also absolves itself off all responsibility for sitters before you even hire them. Essentially, you are responsible for making the right choice. Oh and heads up, Care.com does not verify the accuracy of the information caregivers post on the site. You can find out more in the safety section of their site.
While I’ve searched in a few cities and paid the fees a few times, I’ve never had any success with finding a sitter. Either the people who responded seemed off the wall crazy or something else was a little off for my liking. A few times, I simply had no responses at all.
Bottom line: Proceed with caution.
One place I have had surprising luck is with local moms Facebook groups. Although I rely less on these when I travel, I have found quite a few good sitters around my neighbourhood this way. I find with Facebook groups its easy to see the sitter’s general profile and to ask for references from local moms. Always double check that the reference profiles aren’t made up and ask for phone references. Other positives to this method include no referral fees and usually much lower rates than other online services.
Bottom Line: Worth a try.
Hotel Kids Clubs
There are a lot of hotels out there with really great kids clubs. Luxury chains like the Four Seasons tend to have incredible options for childcare and I find the more expensive the hotel, the more likely the kids club is included in your stay. Still whether you have booked a 3 star resort or something like Beaches family resorts, you will want to know what to look for in a hotel kids club. My first check is general cleanliness. If the club isn’t visually clean, there are probably other issues at play. Next I check the sitter to child ratio. Sure it may be great when there are 2 kids but how do the handle 10+? After that, I ask about electronic usage. Although I don’t mind a movie night, I don’t like to pay for kids clubs that rely heavily on electronics to entertain my kids. Bonus points go to hotels who have the capacity to explore the property with the kids, take them to the beach and pool and engage them in things like science experiments and nature hunts.
Bottom Line: Try and find hotels with an all-inclusive kids club. It’s a great perk.
In Hotel Care
Hiring a babysitter at a hotel can be as easy as speaking to the hotel staff or concierge if there is one. Big resorts like Disney tend to have one company they stick to while local hotels may have staff who will offer their services. In Ireland, I was able to utilize a babysitter who was a nanny in the past and now worked at the front desk of the hotel during the day. After her shift, she simply came upstairs and watched the kids for a few hours. Last summer, while staying in the small town of Beaufort, South Carolina, the breakfast staff at the Best Western also moonlighted in babysitting. The plus to finding a sitter this way is that they are employed by and known to the hotel. The fallbacks are that this type of sitter is usually based entirely on luck and you have no idea what hiring process they went through to work at the hotel. In both these situations, I felt comfortable leaving the kids and had excellent experiences.
Bottom Line: Doesn’t hurt to ask.
Sitters In A Second, Inc.
The best company model I have found for hiring a babysitter at a hotel is Sitters In A Second, Inc. In business for 22 years, Sitters in A Second, Inc. is currently in 9 cities throughout California and Florida and is now expanding into the northeast. We most recently used them when visiting the Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World.
Where this company differs is in their hiring practices. Each babysitter is professionally screened through their unique screening process. The difference is that the screening doesn’t stop there. Instead the company constantly checks in on their sitters and plans events where company leaders and sitters all spend time together working on ways to better the service and getting to know each other better.
Where the company really excels is in their selection process. They allow parents to request sitters who will be a perfect fit for their kids whether you need someone with experience in something like Autism or prefer a sitter who is a strong swimmer.
I felt incredibly comfortable leaving my kids in the sitter’s hands after watching her head into the water with them and seeing how attentive she was. When I returned back to the room, the kids were disappointed to see me and asked if I could come back a little later. Our room was filled with crafts and drawings and most importantly the television and all electronics were still turned off.
Bottom Line: While Sitters in A Second, Inc. may not be in every location, I always check their website after booking a trip to see if they will be available to help out.
Hiring A Babysitter at a Hotel or Finding Babysitters Online
Leaving your kids in someone else’s hands is never easy. The key takeaway to hiring a babysitter at a hotel or finding babysitters online is to check the vetting process the sitters go through. Simple background checks and much more intricate interviewing processes help weed out those who may not have the best intentions or the skills required to truly ensure your children’s safety. As someone who has gone through the process many times, I can tell you there are great sitters out there waiting to give you a much deserved break.