All-Season Tips for Family Fun

Evaluating Vacation Child Care Programs

Posted on October 14, 2013

For those parents looking to enjoy time with their partner, or perhaps a bit of “me time” while on vacation, finding the right child care arrangement is very important, both for the child’s wellbeing and your own peace of mind. Vacation destinations may offer hourly babysitters or a center with full day care, but a truly family-oriented destination provides more than just services. A top-notch child care staff understands the tug parents experience between the desire for adult time and concern about their young child, and does everything possible to offer a secure, fun, and comfortable experience focused on responding to the family’s needs. And how would you find such a gem of a nursery? Shelly Schaffer, director of TREASURES nursery at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont, offers a checklist of tips that will help you identify and evaluate vacation child care programs so that you’ll find the best care for your young child.

Begin the search. What resources can families use to find destinations that offer child care services? There’s nothing like word of mouth from trusted sources, so Schaffer suggests checking in with your friends and family first to see if they have had a great experience with vacation child care. Second, check the Internet. Typically, vacation destinations will include information on child care options on their website – and this information should be easily found. Family destinations with reputable child care centers will highlight their programs as an integral part of vacation planning and not as a side bar or buried page. When searching, you’ll also probably turn up useful articles prepared by online travel and parenting resources that identify “top 10” family destinations. Your searches should yield a list of destinations with basic information such as pricing and hours; if you are considering several destinations, it might be useful to prepare a grid to assist with further research.

Delve into the details. What questions do parents need to ask to determine if a child care option is reputable?
Schaffer encourages parents to call the resorts they are considering. She says, “Families should ask whether child care centers are regulated and licensed by a state division, and inquire about the center’s discipline policy and child care philosophy, security protocols, and staffing requirements: qualifications, training, and certifications. They can also look into state Department of Education child care licensing divisions to determine the credibility and quality standard of licensed centers.”

Imagine your child’s day and ask about situations they might encounter while at the center.
This will help you determine if the center will be a good match for your child. Staff should be happy to respond to inquiries from parents, notes Schaffer. She suggests asking questions such as “What is your daily routine? How will your staff nurture and support my child? Is your staff trained in special needs? How do you accommodate allergies and special dietary restrictions?” Address safety and security procedures, staff qualifications, daily schedule and routine, the physical facility, food, and accessibility – the ability of parents to drop in or contact the center during the care period.

If you’re considering a private sitter, many of these same questions apply. Consider qualifications, training, certifications, and whether they have references. You may consider asking to meet with a sitter in advance, which will give you ample time to ask questions and get a sense of their disposition and ability to connect with your child. Ask about their knowledge of safety procedures. Be sure you understand pricing and other policies, such as minimum hours required or payment procedures if you return earlier or later than expected.

Prepare your child for the experience. Once you decide on your vacation destination, how can you prepare your child in advance of child care?
Schaffer recommends explaining to your child that he or she will be going to “school” or “day care” and meeting new people. It’s fine to acknowledge any anxiety and reassure your child that you will be back to pick them up; it might be helpful to remind your child of another time when he or she was away from you and had fun playing with new kids and toys in your absence. Talk to your child about time in a way he or she will understand; for example, “I will pick you up right after lunch and I will be so excited to hear about the fun you had.” Allow your child to bring along a nurturing item like a blanket, picture or favorite stuffed animal. Encourage him or her to draw a picture or do a craft to show you when you return. Always say goodbye! If you have time upon arrival at your destination, you could visit the child care center prior to drop-off and familiarize your child with the setting. Ask a child care provider if your child can borrow a toy to play with that they will have to return to the center when they are dropped off. On the day or days your child attends the center, let your child choose what to wear, and let them help back their bag or backpack. Make the experience theirs.

What happens after drop off?
Schaffer recommends calling the center after an hour to get a sense for how your child transitioned. She notes that it’s likely your child will be happy and engaged in some fun activity with their new playmates … which means that it’s time for you to relax and enjoy YOUR experience!

Working together with the expert staff at Smugglers’ Notch Resort, as well as with the families that visit, Karen Boushie, Smugglers’ public relations director, serves as the lead content wrangler for “the view from up here.” If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact Karen at
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