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8 vacation child care options (so you can actually relax!)

From local babysitters to hotels offering daycare services, explore safe, reliable vacation child care options for your next family adventure.

8 vacation child care options (so you can actually relax!)

There’s a saying that goes: “Parents don’t go on vacation; they just take care of their kids in a different city.” And if you ask any mom or dad who’s traveled with their kids, they’re likely to confirm. While traveling with kids certainly has its rewards, the arguing, complaining and mealtime battles that often accompany trips with little ones is far from Instagram idyllic. A potential solution? Enlisting vacation child care help.

Whether you’re up for hiring a vacation babysitter or vacation nanny, utilizing the hotel babysitting service or signing up for cruise daycare, there are a number of options.

“We’ve found child care on vacation a number of times,” says Keri Baugh, founder of Bon Voyage With Kids. “The option we’ve gone with most frequently is finding a local child care group through the hotel or resort concierge.”

Shelling out money to take a break from the everyday and want to actually … take a break? Here are several vacation child care options to consider for your next family getaway. 

1. Choose a hotel that provides babysitting 

One option, according to Baugh, is to look into hotels or resorts that provide child care (through them directly). “Sometimes, resorts have babysitters you can hire through them,” she explains. “For instance, some all-inclusive resorts, such as Beaches, have nannies who can be hired specifically for one-on-one care right in your room. These individuals are vetted and typically employed by the resort.”

Baugh adds that at Beaches Resorts, there are also staff trained to work with special needs children. “This is a possibility for families who need specialized care,” she says. “You pay for the service as an add-on, as it’s not included. But it’s a great option for families who need some time for an adult-only activity.”

Cost: Varies. Beaches’ out-of-room child care options (the nursery for children up to age 2, as well as Kids Camp options for children up to age 17) is included as part of their all-inclusive fee. One-on-one, private child care, including hiring a a Beach Buddy for kids with special needs, is available for an additional cost. 

2. Choose a hotel that works with a babysitting service (or a specialized sitting service)

While some resorts and hotels provide their own babysitting and/or nanny service, there are more that outsource the service (meaning, they’ll recommend someone to you); or, depending on where you’re going, there are companies that provide specific-to-that-location child care. 

“Some of the more popular destinations have lots of independent agencies that can handle care if hiring [on your own] makes you a bit nervous,” says Eileen Cotter Wright, owner of travel hub Pure Wander. Wright adds that some companies specialize in providing child care at popular resorts or theme parks. “They can help as much or as little as you’d like and are usually certified/vetted through the company,” she says.

As an example, many Disney hotels in Florida use Kid’s Nite Out babysitting services, which provides one-on-one, in-room child care or help out with the kids at the park. Another option is Theme Park Nannies in Orlando, Florida, which offers help at both theme parks and at popular hotel resorts. 

Kid’s Nite Out is available for kids aged 6 weeks to 12 years old, and while the service is not run by Disney, it is endorsed by them. The sitters are all over 18, drug tested and background checked. 

Cost: In addition to a caregiver transportation fee of $15, Kid’s Nite Out starts out at $30 an hour for one child and goes up from there. There’s also a 4-hour minimum, and before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., they charge an extra $5 an hour. Overnight hours also cost an additional per-hour premium.

3. Choose a destination that has a kids club or kids activities

For the times you just want to kick back by the pool for a few hours without having to “watch this!” every five seconds, consider the hotel’s kids club or signing little ones up for a kids-only activity. 

As an example, the Montage Blue Sky in Big Sky, Montana, offers full- and half-day kids camp sessions that offer “locally inspired arts and crafts, engaging group games and outdoor recreation activities under the bright Montana sun.”

Another option is the Tyler Place Family Resort in Highgate Springs, Vermont, which provides kids with a camp-like experience throughout the day (and it’s baked into the price).

Finally, you can consider a family-friendly cruise, such as a Disney Cruise, which is chock-full of kids activities to keep little ones entertained. Disney Cruises also have the It’s a Small World Nursery for an additional fee; however, space is “extremely limited” and books up fast. (Note: There’s no in-room babysitting on Disney Cruises.)

Cost: For half-day care at the Montage Blue Sky, the cost is $150 (lunch included). A kids stay at Tyler Place ranges from $129 per day in early season and up $198 per day in peak season. 

4. Hire a babysitter or nanny locally

If your hotel doesn’t offer a service or you prefer to do the vetting yourself, hire your own temporary sitter or nanny for your trip. Use a site like Care to search background-checked babysitters or nannies who live in that area. Post a job in the zip code where you’ll be traveling (use your home address when you sign up and create an account).

Another way to find reputable local care services is through Facebook. “There are several locally owned Hawaii nanny services with vetted child care providers, and visitors often find them through Hawaii-specific Facebook groups, like Hawaii Travel with Kids,” says Marcie Cheung, a family travel blogger in Seattle. “Here, people share their personal experiences using a nanny service while vacationing in Hawaii.”

When in Hawaii, Baugh has used The Nanny Connection, “which has wonderful, vetted and highly experienced nannies who not only care for kids, but are familiar and registered with the resorts, so they can watch the kids on the property.”

“They have come as early as 6 a.m. for us when we have had an early scuba dive time and brought a bag full of activities like Mary Poppins,” Baugh continues. “The nannies have taken our kids to the pool, out for meals, to the game room, on scavenger hunts and more.”

Cost: The Nanny Connection costs $25 per hour for one child and $5 more per hour for each additional child. There is also $50 one-time booking fee, and travel fees may apply. To find out the average cost of a local babysitter or nanny in the city where you’re headed, check out our cost of care calculator

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5. Bring your babysitter or nanny

One of the best options, if you can swing it (and if they want to go), is to bring your favorite babysitter or a vacation nanny along on your trip. 

“We’ve had success bringing along a nanny or sitter on vacation,” Wright says, adding that, in addition to their normal rate, travel expenses, such as food and lodging, need to be covered.

You also need to pay them for any overtime. 

Read more: 5 payroll tips for when a nanny travels with your family

“Having a caregiver on hand can be more expensive but takes the guesswork out of finding someone for your children at the destination,” she says.

Cost: Whatever their normal rate is, plus travel costs and any overtime.

6. Plan a multigenerational vacation 

“Sometimes we travel with grandparents,” says Baugh. “This assures that we have a trusted adult to stay with our kids or even be an extra set of hands when visiting the beach or the theme parks. Especially with younger kids,” she adds, “it’s always helpful to have another adult to manage multiple needs when on vacation.” And as a bonus: Grandma or grandpa get a vacation (and extra time with the kiddos). 

Cost: Potentially, grandma or grandpa’s travel expenses.

7. Book a suite, adjoining rooms, a condo or a house

“When the kids are old enough [generally ages 6 and up] to be in their own room, book a suite, condo or house swap,” says Cindy Richards, editor-in-chief of She Buys Travel. “Anything that keeps you in the same space but gives the parents a separate room and gives the kids their own space.”

Cost: The extra cost of a suite or rooms that connect or condo or home with multiple rooms.

8. Reserve a room with a view — and a veranda

Not all families can afford a resort, however, and not all parents can afford or are comfortable turning over responsibility to strangers. Richards has a simple suggestion for families in that situation: “Book a hotel room with a balcony, so you and your spouse can take a bottle of wine out to the ‘veranda’ once the kids are asleep.” This is an inexpensive and easy option for getting at least a little alone time while vacationing with children.

Cost: Potentially, the additional charge for a room with a view. 

A note on safety

When using a service through a hotel or resort, generally, the child care providers are heavily vetted and accredited. (For instance, all of the nannies at Beaches locations are members of the International Nanny Association.) However, it’s still smart to do your due diligence by taking proper safety precautions upfront.

Keep the following in mind when searching for vacation child care:

Consider a background check or using Care, on which all caregivers must complete the CareCheck process to interact with families on the platform, particularly if you’re hiring someone independently.