Photo by lilysmommy850
Unless your name is Angelina Jolie or Katie Holmes, who probably bring their personal nanny (or team of nannies) on family vacations so they can enjoy some alone time, you may be wondering how the heck you're going to get even a semblance of a break while away this summer. Unfortunately, the process is simpler than it sounds.
Genevieve Thiers, CEO of Sittercity.com, knows all when it comes to this task -- she built a whole web business out of the concept. (BTW, CafeMoms can get 10 percent off their membership fee with the special promo code CAFEMOM10.) No matter which service you go with, chances are you'll be using the web. These tips can help your search:
Post a Job
The first step in the hiring process is to post a job to allow the most qualified sitters apply directly to you (with targeted cover letters!). Posting your job about a month in advance should be enough time for you to do the appropriate screening.
In your job posting, there are several important things you'll want to include:
- The exact date(s) and time(s) you'll need a sitter. If you're not sure of the specific days and times you'll need a sitter, just include the dates of your trip along with a quick explanation of how you think you'll use the sitter, focusing on the general amount of time you think you'll need him/her for. Ex: "We'll most likely need someone for just one night that week for a few hours so we can go to dinner." or "We'd like someone to spend one full day with the kids so we can check out the local museums and art galleries."
- The responsibilities your sitter will have. Let potential sitters know if they'll have to prepare any meals, take the kids on any outings, put children down for a nap or for bedtime, etc.
- A rate range for the hourly pay. Remember: The hourly rate around you vacation destination may be different than the hourly rate where you live. So, before you state a rate range, check out Sittercity's Interactive Rate Calculator to get an idea of the average hourly rate where you'll be vacationing.
- Extra info about your kids. Along with your children's ages, also include any quirks, special needs, allergies and general likes/dislikes to give sitters an idea of your children's personalities. Are your children very active? Are they content reading a book on the beach? Do they enjoy art projects? Providing this type of info helps potential sitters determine if they'd be a good fit for your family.
Screen the Candidates
Once you start receiving job applications, it's time to screen the candidates. One thing you'll want to look through is the cover letter. Look for caregivers who have clearly read your job description and are enthusiastic about the job. Use your instincts to select the top candidates whose cover letters impress you and make you feel comfortable.
Another element of the screening process is to review the candidates' profiles. Here, you'll be able to read reviews on them from other parents, get an idea of their experience level and any specialties they may have, examine their skills/credentials and see if they have a background check already on file. Look for sitters who took the time to fill out a complete profile, write a good bio, earned great reviews and posted pictures of themselves.
At this point, you should narrow your applicant pool to several sitters you'd like to contact for a phone interview. It's even better if you can conduct a video interview through a program such as Skype. Either way, don't skip this important step of interacting with the sitter!
Once you've done this, contact references who can give you even more insight into a sitter's personalities and capabilities. These references are typically listed on caregiver profiles, so gathering their email addresses and phone numbers is simple. Also at this stage, if the caregiver doesn't yet have a completed background check on his/her profile, run a background check yourself, either on Sittercity.com or whatever service you are using.
It's up to you whether you choose your one perfect sitter after these screening steps or whether you choose 2-3 sitters to meet with once you arrive on vacation -- whatever makes you feel most comfortable!
To best prepare everyone for this child care arrangement, talk with your children to let them know what they can expect during the trip. After all, they'll be in an unfamiliar place, so communicating the schedules and routines for the trip can help them feel more at ease being away from the comfort of their own home while you're out.
Keep communicating with your vacation sitter as well. For example, it may be a good idea to get in touch with her one week before you arrive at your destination to confirm the dates, times and plans. You should also contact him/her when you arrive just to let him/her know that you're finally there and excited to meet!
Have a Mother's Helper Period
Whether you'll need a sitter for one night, one day or the entire time you're on vacation, it's a great idea to have a brief mother's helper period before the actual sitting job.
Once you arrive at your vacation spot, you can either have the sitter come over an hour earlier than needed or you can schedule a completely separate day for this mother's helper period -- all that matters is that you get to see the sitter interact with your children and make sure everyone's comfortable/happy with the arrangement.
The final step? Enjoy your day/night out!
Tomorrow, part 2 of the interview with Sittercity's Genevieve Thiers, talking about whether to screen all-inclusive child care services at hotels and resorts.
Do you use babysitters when you go on vacation, or is that just not in the budget for you right now? Do you rely more on family and friends than strangers?