A hotel nanny can be the difference between a relaxing family holiday for adults or parents being cooped up in a darkened quiet room every night trying to eat room service silently. But how can you make sure it is safe to leave your children with a complete stranger when you are in a foreign place and don’t have any recommendations? Here are our suitcases&strollers family travel tips for using hotel babysitting and maintaining peace of mind.
When you are selecting a hotel babysitter, opt for a hotel employee.
If you are staying at a large international family friendly accommodation chain, they should be quite open about providing credentials such as how long the hotel nanny has worked on staff and what her experience is with kids. If you are staying at a private villa or smaller family friendly accommodation, often you can request someone that you have already interacted with during the day (such as the cleaning lady) to stay on and act as babysitter for a couple of extra hours. Ask for a photocopy of their ID so you have it on hand if you need it.
Ask for someone who speaks English.
Or any other language you speak in your family. Otherwise if the hotel nanny can’t communicate with you or your kids, an unnecessary misunderstanding is more likely to arise.
If you only want a female hotel babysitter, say so upfront.
Otherwise you might get a rude shock later.
[If you’re really unsure about using a hotel nanny, you can bring your own instead. For the suitcases&strollers family travel tips on holiday nanny services, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Ask if it’s possible to meet the hotel babysitter beforehand.
Don’t underestimate your gut instinct; it can tell you a lot about a person. And kids have a good gut instinct as well. Having them meet the hotel nanny beforehand will give you a sense of whether there is any rapport as well as ensuring the kids will at least be familiar with her face when she arrives.
Presume the hotel nanny knows nothing about kids, so do as much as you can yourself.
Even if she is very experienced, the standards of childcare in other countries and the expectations of a hotel nanny can vary widely. To avoid confusion, do as much as possible to get your kids ready for bed before you leave. This is particularly true of babies and young kids. Opt for a late dinner restaurant booking for yourself so your children can already be fed, bathed and potentially even in bed (or at least winding down) and you can be sure everything is done how you like it.
Give really clear instructions.
Again, presume the hotel nanny knows nothing about kids and be sure to point out all your expectations (in a polite and friendly manner, of course). Instructions such as “Please do not leave the kids in the room on their own at any time,” or “Please do not let anyone else, including your boyfriend, into the room while we are away,” will make it clear to both of you what her role is.
Leave clear, written contact details of where you can be found in case of emergency.
Leave your mobile number as well as the telephone number of the restaurant and your name so she or the kids can call if they need to. If you are in a hotel, it is a good idea to leave these details with the front desk as well and to let them know that you are away so they can keep an eye out too.
[If you prefer to travel with your own live in helper from home, check out the suitcases&strollers family travel tips on Travelling With Maids.]
Have snacks, milk, nappies and comforting toys out for the hotel nanny to use if required.
Remove any valuables from temptation.
Make use of the hotel safe and lock anything valuable in there (including passports) to avoid any potential misunderstandings.
Ask the hotel nanny to arrive half an hour before you leave so you have time to get to know her.
Make the effort to sit down and ask her about her experience, if she has kids and to get to know her personality. Even if you are getting dressed in the background while she plays with the kids, this makes the whole experience more personable and lets her know that you trust her and lets you see how she interacts with your children.
Manage your expectations about bedtime.
If the hotel nanny is someone you are using once off it can be difficult for her to feel she has the authority to get the kids to sleep by a certain time. Treat this as a family holiday anomaly – if your children are safe and happy but still awake when you get back at 10pm, that is a good outcome and you’ve had a night out.
[Did you know that you can even hire babysitters for plane flights? To find out more, see the suitcases&strollers family travel tips on Inflight Babysitting.]
Consider whether you want to investigate nanny cam options.
It is a personal choice about whether you feel comfortable leaving a nanny cam on while the hotel babysitter is there. If you do decide to go with it, you should tell the hotel nanny about it as it is illegal in some countries to film someone without their consent. There are many apps (such as iCam) that now work between two mobile phones (or a tablet and smartphone) so you can leave one device in the hotel room and take the other to dinner with you while always being able to see and hear what is going on.
If you prefer not to use a nanny cam but still want to check in, call.
Even letting the hotel nanny know you are going to call at some point in the evening sends the message that you both (politely) know you are keeping an eye on things back in the room even while you’re away.
Tip, especially if you want the hotel babysitter to come back tomorrow!
A few extra dollars shows generosity and an appreciation of her services and will go a long way in keeping the hotel nanny (and, therefore) your kids happy.