It’s a cruel joke of family vacationing that instead you and your spouse enjoying the world’s most beautiful and romantic places, you’re basically hotel-trapped chaperones, making sure the kids sleep soundly despite the fact that they’re wedged into a weird space between the door and the bathroom. But it doesn’t have to be that way, if you have the nerve to do something batshit crazy: Hire someone you’ve never met, in a foreign place (and probably a foreign language) to babysit while you have a date night.
That’s according to Henley Vazquez, the CEO of Passported, a new travel site with family-specific intel from top destinations all over the world, including detailed hotel reviews that answer all the questions only parents have (“How likely is it they can crawl off the balcony?”). Even without her other travel bonafides — she’s worked with Departures, Town & Country Travel, and National Geographic Traveler — Vazquez has cred on the topic because she’s been hiring never-before-met kid-watchers while globe trotting with her husband and 2 kids for years.
“Travel needs to be good for parents,” says Vazquez. “People don’t want to go to Orlando for every vacation.” Assuming she’s not being presumptuous, read on for her tips on how to get over the logistical and psychological challenges of hiring babysitters while traveling. And if you really do want to go to Disney World for every vacation … have fun?
The first thing Vazquez does is post on Facebook (presumably after being distracted for 15 minutes by her newsfeed): “‘I’m a parent, I’m going here, and I need a babysitter,'” she explains. “There might be a friend who’s moved to Paris and you didn’t know. They may know someone who knows someone they can introduce you to. This is a way to access local information that’s not really out there otherwise. You can get really strong recommendations from people and parents who’ve been in that place, which gives you a little more comfort.”
Use The Hotel Concierge
“Hotels and resorts work with babysitting services all the time,” she points out, because date nights while traveling with kids really isn’t as uncommon as you might think (it’s usually the Europeans). “They have sitters or an agency they can recommend. You’ll pay a little more, but you’ll get people who’ve worked with the hotel and know the people. There’s more comfort there than hiring a complete stranger.”
Don’t Make Assumptions About Sitters You’re Considering
“If something is important to you, ask,” Vazquez says about things like background checks or infant CPR certifications. She says your gut instincts with someone are important, but so are the basics: “Have they babysat here before? What sort of feedback have they gotten? Tell me about your background.” She also points out that the conversation shouldn’t be one-sided — she always asks prospective sitters, “What can I tell you to make this go more smoothly?” Don’t worry, it sounds way less passive aggressive in other languages.
It’s Perfectly Normal For Kids To Sleep In The Closet
“I kind of feel terrible that the sitter has to sit in the dark, but they always say it’s not a problem. They bring a book and a little light or use their phone,” she says about the fact that they can’t really watch TV when the kids are sleeping in the same room. She also points out that you can try to solve this before you even arrive by booking rooms with walk-in closets if they have them. “I’ve put a crib in the closet so many times — I thought the babysitter might judge me, but they just said ‘Honey, everybody puts their baby in the closet.” The closet, yes, but never a corner.
The Kids Won’t Think It’s A Big Deal If You Don’t Make It A Big Deal
“It’s the same as if you were getting a babysitter at home; the more low-key you are with them the better. They feed off your energy and will read your anxiety,” she says, although she points out that it doesn’t hurt to have some new books and toys to break out for the occasion. She also suggests loosening up whatever screen time policy you might normally stick to, but you probably did that already because, doctor’s orders.
The Younger Your Kids, The More You Should Schedule Around Them
While Vazquez is all for hiring babysitters in foreign lands, even she thinks asking them to execute meal times with a finicky baby or toddler can be a recipe for disaster, so she advises having them come after the kid’s dinner is finished. “That way, the sitter’s job is to be there in case the baby gets up — they’re babysitting the room more than the baby.”
Assuming you’re a responsible parent, you’re going to be so focused on getting the right sitter that you’re not going to have a ton of time to figure out the date itself, so do that beforehand. “Don’t screw that up,” Vazquez says. “If you want to go to a nice place, get the reservation done before you arrive. Don’t wing it.”
If You’re Nervous, Choose Your Hotel Carefully
Vazquez points out that you don’t have to go to Vegas or Miami to find a hotel with solid dining or nightlife on the premises, and the proximity can significantly reduce stress if either parent is anxious about leaving the kids. Also, call before you arrive, because certain upscale hotels have begun offering in-room baby monitors that are reviewed by the reception desk, who can notify you in the hotel restaurant or bar if your kid wakes up.
“They’re in the service industry and they know they are to follow your rules with your children,” she says of whoever you wind up hiring to look after you kids. “They’re just going to put them to bed and read them a book.” The whole point of date night while traveling is not to be hotel-trapped chaperones, remember?