By Carol Garcia
There comes a time in every family’s vacation when the quality of the “quality time” spent on vacation with family starts to dip. There can be too many opinions on the next ride or meal, too many interests trying to be met, or too big of an age group to keep everyone happy at once. That moment came for my family during a stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort at Disney World. We only had two children then, and our youngest was not quite two. He decided that 1:00 am was a fine time to be awake and it took a stroll around the lake with Daddy to convince him otherwise (he wasn’t crying, just awake).
The next time when traveling with our family to our favorite vacation destination, we tried to make changes. We took breaks and we changed to a resort with a balcony so that Mom and Dad could be somewhere else while the kids (now three in number) fell asleep. But on these trips, we were also realizing something — the World does not stop at our children’s 8:00 pm bedtime. There are fireworks, shopping, nice restaurants and a place called Pleasure Island waiting to be explored. We did not want to spend all of this time watching our angels sleep when there was fun to be had.
What to do? Well, we discovered a great solution for our family: in-room babysitting. Many people know about the Kids Clubs that Disney offers at many of the deluxe hotels. These are for potty-trained children over age four. We had one of those, but still two more darlings in diapers not ready for that experience. But in-room babysitting was an option that could suit us well.
Although there are other reputable options, we chose to use Kids Nite Out www.kidsniteout.com for our first experience with a babysitter at Disney World, and have used them several times since. First we checked out our potential care givers. All of them must be at least 18 years of age (and all but one in our many experiences with them have more than met that requirement). All of the caregivers are trained, experienced, and certified in CPR and basic first aid. They undergo background checks and are thoroughly screened. With all of these credentials, the care givers were more qualified than the neighborhood babysitter we use at home.
Next comes the price. How much is a night out at Disney World worth to us? Well, considerably more than we pay said babysitter at home. The rate for one child is $14 per hour; $16.50 for two children; $19 for three children and $21.50 for four. In my case, I have 3 children. Even if they all met the requirements for using a Disney Child Care center, I would still be paying $30 an hour for all of them. The $19 wasn’t looking so bad. Plus for the smaller ones there are regular bedtimes, and some sense of normal, which can be a problem when vacationing with little ones.
In-room sitters also offer services that can’t be had anywhere else. Upon request (and I stress this is only if you authorize something like this), they can take the children out of the room and even accompany your family to a theme park (great for adults who are outnumbered by children or facing the problem of everyone wanting to go in a different direction). When we felt our kids were ready (about 10 trips under our oldest child’s belt), we let the sitter take the kids down to the counter service restaurant at our resort for dinner. The kids loved the feeling of getting out for a special evening too! And Mom and Dad didn’t have to see another all burger meal.
Now many people interested in this service want details. The reservationists will be happy to answer any questions you have. You can make your reservation over the phone well in advance of your arrival and just call the company with your room number after you check in. This also allows you to confirm your reservation, something I always feel better doing. Your sitter will arrive at the resort at the appointed time (which can be almost any time of day, not just in the evening). At Kids Nite Out, the caregivers all wear purple polo shirts and are required to wear a name badge. After he or she arrives (if you have a gender preference, you can make that known at reservation time), there is a form to fill out. Medications are noted, specific instructions documented, cell phone numbers recorded and all other pertinent information exchanged, including a general idea of your plans for the evening. You will be required to sign the form with all of this information as well. We have often had our caregiver feed the children a dinner we brought or prepared in the room and authorized any bedtime snacks.
Upon return to the room, this same form will contain information regarding your child’s activities. Bedtimes, food and other things will have been recorded. The bill will be totaled (you are required to put down at credit card at reservation time, subject to a 24 hour cancellation, so all charges except an optional gratuity will go straight to the card on file.
Now the part I cannot directly review is what happens when Mom and Dad are off exploring the World. Of course I have my notes and information from the caregiver, but the kids are the real experts at this part. So I asked my children what they thought about babysitters on vacation. Lots of usual adjectives where thrown out: “nice,” “fun”, etc. But after a few more questions, I got this mini-review from my oldest:
When I first had a babysitter, I was scared because I didn’t know if they would be nice. Now I know that they are nice. Some of them bring toys most of them are Disney toys. The one on my last trip brought a cat’s cradle book. Some of them bring PlayDough. Some of them bring coloring books. Some of them are good at story telling and some of them are good at making people laugh. I had a boy [aka male] babysitter that knew magic tricks. He could do card tricks and string tricks and he was really nice.
When you go to bed it is sort of like your parents because they are there. I like to be quiet in the room because I have been walking a lot. It’s nice to be away from Mom and Dad for a little bit.
The last comments are what keeps bringing us back to Kids Nite Out. Days at Disney are long for young ones. They need a break and sometimes adults like some time to themselves. A trip last year, my middle child was tired from the sun. He actually asked when he could have a babysitter night, so we left the younger two and had a special dinner with our oldest, which doesn’t happen much anymore. The other two where rested and ready to go in the morning and those who wanted to still got to enjoy dinner at Boma and shopping.
So for our family, the too much togetherness has been solved by building into our trip (and budget) a babysitter night (or two if it’s a long trip) for the kids to recharge and the grown ups to wind down. We are all still in the place we love to vacation and all ready for more family fun in the morning. This has made our vacations a truly enjoyable experience.