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Traveling With your Babysitter… Plan a Successful Vacation

You are planning a family vacation, but you and your spouse would like one romantic evening in your destination city.  Wouldn’t having your babysitter nearby come in handy then?  Additionally, by taking the babysitter on vacation with your family, you can potentially make the vacation more relaxing for the family. 

When planning to take your babysitter on vacation with you, it is essential that you establish shared expectations pre-departure.   Ensure that you and your babysitter have an understanding on the following subjects:

1. What the travel accommodations will be. Will the babysitter have her own guestroom or is the family renting a shared suite in which the babysitter has her own bedroom? If there will be a shared suite, will the babysitter have her own bathroom?

2. What accommodations will be made for privacy. If the babysitter has her own guestroom, privacy is achieved by having separate guestrooms for your family and your babysitter. If, however, there will be a shared suite, plans will need to be made on how to accommodate the privacy needs of everyone involved.

3. What schedule will be maintained for shared spaces, if any. For example, if your family and your babysitter will share a bathroom, you should have a shower schedule so that there isn’t a morning shower queue that delays the rest of the day’s activities. Often, a shower schedule will designate morning showers for half the family and evening showers for the other half of the family, with the babysitter designated at whichever time works best for her personal needs. Similar to a shower schedule, how much time in the shared bathroom is each person allowed? If the babysitter takes an hour and a half in the bathroom to shower, do her hair, and put on her make-up, is that acceptable? If not, what alternatives will you offer? A lighted make-up mirror for her own personal use? Or something else?

4. What the babysitter’s responsibilities will be. Will she have responsibility for the children at all times or will she be allowed personal time? Will she be virtually the primary caregiver for the children or will she be akin to a mother’s helper? If she will be granted personal time to visit sites of interest to her (and not your family), what will the designated times for those activities be? What boundaries will be in place during those times? For example, is it acceptable for her to become intoxicated on her personal time? Or, what happens if she meets a gentleman on her personal time and brings him back to the guestroom? Is it acceptable for him to meet your family or go with your family to subsequent outings in the locale?

5. Which expenses will be paid by the family and which expenses are hers to bear. It is common for the family to pay for the babysitter’s transportation, lodging, and admission tickets to attractions that the family will visit. The family usually pays for the babysitter’s food, either in whole or up to a specified dollar limit per meal or snack. The babysitter is usually responsible for purchasing her own souvenirs and her admission tickets to attractions that she will visit apart from the family.

6. What compensation will be due to her for her services during the vacation. The average is $150 per day, based on the babysitter working eight hours each day. If you choose to pay her by the hour worked, you will need to ensure that you and your babysitter have a shared understanding on what constitutes hours worked. This can be tricky when the work involves vacation. To avoid conflict and confusion, be as clear as possible on the distinction between work time and non-work time before the vacation begins. For example, if inclement weather prevents your family from going on planned excursions for the day, and your family and your babysitter decide to lounge by the hotel’s indoor swimming pool for several hours instead, if the children play in the pool and you and the babysitter chat in the nearby hot tub, is that work time or non-work time?

7. When her compensation will be paid. Will she be paid in advance of the vacation so that she has spending money on the vacation? Will she be paid after the vacation so that you can pay her for work performed? Will you pay her throughout the vacation (i.e., daily pay or some other short pay interval)?

8. By what method she will be paid. If you pay her before or after vacation, you will likely pay her via check. However, if you pay her throughout the vacation, you are more likely to pay her using cash, which you will make note of for subsequent payroll recording when you return home.

9. What the wake times and bedtimes are expected to be, and whether family vacations are active adventures or leisurely breaks from the usual hectic pace of life.

10. What the appropriate attire will be for the various activities during the vacation. For example, if visiting a beach is on the itinerary, is it acceptable for the babysitter to wear a string bikini? Does acceptable casual attire for family vacations include a dead-head or heavy metal T-shirt?

11. What constitutes appropriate attire at breakfast and when lounging in the evening. Does your family dress for breakfast or is it acceptable to have in-room breakfast in your pajamas? Are casual clothes your family’s traditional evening lounging clothes or do you don pajamas when you lounge at homes (or in guestrooms) in the evenings? (Note: This is relevant only if there will be shared living space during the journey.)

12. To what degree it will be deemed acceptable for the babysitter to use her personal cellular telephone while on the vacation. Is it acceptable for her to receive personal calls, texts, and e-mails at all hours of the day and night? If you plan to restrict the personal use of her cellular telephone, what boundaries will you put in place? No personal use of the cellular telephone while she is watching the children? If you have a shared suite, no personal use of the cellular telephone after bedtime? Or some other restrictions? And what provisions, if any, do you want in place for babysitting-related use of her cellular telephone? For example, if she keeps her cellular telephone on while she and your family are at the zoo, you can call her if you become separated. Plans can thus be made to reconnect at a designated place and time. However, if her cellular telephone is on, she can then receive personal calls on her cellular telephone too. How do you wish to draw that boundary?

13. How to comply with local laws and customs (if your vacation takes you to a foreign destination). Your babysitter may need to acquire a passport. Will that be her expense or yours? You will need to check the employment laws of your destination. Some countries have laws about the minimum age of childcare workers and the maximum number of hours worked in a day, to name but a few of the possible employment laws you may need to know in your foreign destination. Once you have researched the employment laws of your destination, you will need to communicate those to your babysitter so that you and she can work together for compliance.

14. Who bears liability for illnesses and injuries that your babysitter may sustain while on your family vacation. If your babysitter needs stitches from an injury during the vacation, you will likely be responsible for that medical bill. The same is true if your babysitter becomes ill after being exposed to an illness from the local people of your destination. You will need to check the liability laws of your destination as well as the laws of your home state. You are also wise to check your insurance coverage of such incidents.

15. Who is responsible for immediate pre- and post-departure duties. Is the babysitter responsible for packing and unpacking the children’s luggage? Is she responsible for preparing snacks and materials to keep the children entertained while traveling (i.e., toys, hand-held video games, i-Pods, etc.)? Is she responsible for doing laundry before and/or after the vacation?

Pre-departure, you may want to give your babysitter a written statement of  your expectations on the preceding subjects:  such a document is typically signed and dated by you and your babysitter, with you retaining the original document and a signed copy being given to your babysitter.  This reduces the opportunity for misunderstandings.  Further, if you or your babysitter forgets one or more of the pre-departure understandings, any confusion can be quickly and easily cleared up while on vacation by simply referring back to the written statement of understanding. 

As always, communication is key to maintaining a solid relationship.  Clear, up-front communication before and during vacation lays the foundation for a wonderful journey for everyone.

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