It takes precious pre-trip time to get things ready for departure without the kids, but your efforts will result in a better experience for everyone. You’ll leave with peace of mind, your children will know what to anticipate during your absence, and the caregivers will be prepared to carry on the daily routine in your absence.
In order to really enjoy scenes like this during vacation (instead of fretting about what’s happing day-to-day with kids back home) we recommend preparing the following items prior to your departure.
SCHEDULE: A calendar-format schedule of all activities and appointments. If more than one caregiver is involved, I like to assign a color to each person for clarification. On this most recent trip, I ran out of colors, but here is a more simple version from a 2011 trip when there were fewer children and activities. Click here for a downloadable version you can customize.
CONTACT LIST: A contact list including each caregiver’s name, phone number, address, and email. Include additional information like school name and address, pediatrician, and piano teacher contact information. We also try to include a list of back-up friends/family to contact in case the caregiver has questions or needs a break. Make sure to note the best way to contact you during travel. Several methods are available for free international calls, but you may want to include dates and phone numbers for each hotel in your itinerary.
MEALS: For the days we’ll be away, we like to ask each child to choose the dinner for at least one night. Our kids typically choose easy-to-make dinners. I shop for the ingredients beforehand, include simple recipes if necessary, and asterisk the location of less-obvious ingredients.
CASH: Always leave some cash on hand for emergencies, activities, groceries, or rewards. I will often say, “If the kids finish all their responsibilities by a certain time of the day and they are being really good, go ahead and order pizza tonight.”
DOWNTIME: If possible, try and schedule a little downtime for the caregiver each day. When grandparents or hired help are our main source of support, I understand that going from zero to four kids overnight is a big change. Including a daily break can make a big difference in whether they will be available and interested in helping again. If the children are school aged, this may provide the break they need. Otherwise, coordinate some play dates beforehand, but consider that this can actually add frustration if the caregiver is responsible for transporting each child to the play date location.
SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS: If additional information will help the caregiver succeed, make sure you pass it along. Here are a few examples:
- Minerva loves to sleep with Bob, the purple Jellycat bunny.
- The wifi code is ________________.
- Cora and Philippa are both allergic to penicillin.
- Hero needs 30 minutes of physical activity first. Then she’ll be able to focus on homework and piano.
- Sports team / dance class uniform locations.
Preparing the caregiver in advance will help you relax and enjoy your vacation. I owe it to my kids and to the caregivers. We’re all more at ease. A more relaxed mom and a more confident caregiver translate into a better experience for the child.