by Erin Foster
My husband and I are obviously Walt Disney World aficionados. We wanted to share our love of the parks with our children as early as possible. But with three children born in three years (we had twins), we knew that getting our clan some Disney time while they were young would be a challenge. Taking one baby or toddler on vacation is a snap; taking two is a tag team project; but when you’re outnumbered by the diaper-bound, you’re going to need some help. For many families, extra hands may come in the form of grandma joining you for the trip. And while we have traveled with extended family several times, on two separate occasions our solution was to bring our babysitter with us to Walt Disney World.
Here are some things that bringing a sitter allowed us to do:
- Have each child with one adult on two-person rides such as Buzz Lightyear
- Have each child fully supervised in the pool and in the parks.
- Have each child get personal attention.
- Lighten the amount of weight each adult had to carry (strollers onto buses, diaper bag supplies, etc.)
- Allowed parents some quality adult time in the evenings.
- Allowed better meal-time experiences at buffets and multi-line quick service situations.
- Allowed us to customize park time for the individual needs of each child.
For example, when our oldest daughter wanted to go on the Haunted Mansion, one twin needed a nap, and the other twin was afraid of the Mansion and needed more Small World, everyone got what worked best for them. And when my husband and I wanted to go out for a signature dining experience, we didn’t have to worry about hiring an unknown sitter from an Orlando agency.
There were also several benefits of bringing a hired sitter over enlisting a family member to help out. Chief among these was the fact that we got to call the shots and dictate the timing of our day. Since we were footing the bill, we got to set the timetable and agenda in a way that we could not have if we needed to accommodate a family member doing us a favor. Of course, the chief negative of bringing a sitter with us was that adding an adult to our trip increased our vacation costs. This was balanced out a bit by the fact that since our twins were under the age two, we did not need to pay for any of these items for them.
During our first sitter trip, we with brought with us JM, who had worked with us for a few years on an almost daily basis. She was beloved by the children (as well as by us) and knew our habits and preferences well. When we first proposed the trip to JM we all sat down and had an honest chat about money and expectations. Here are some of the questions we discussed:
- Was her hourly/weekly rate of pay appropriate during travel?
- Did she need her own room or was she comfortable bunking with one or more of the children?
- How much time off did she need?
- Did she have any specific concerns about visiting Walt Disney World? (fears about rides, etc.)
JM was thrilled at the proposition. She had never been to Walt Disney World before and was eager to go with us. While each family’s situation will be different, by mutual agreement we arrived at the following:
- We would pay for her airfare, a week-long Park Hopper ticket, and meals while she was dining with the family.
- We would pay her regular weekly salary plus 20% more since she would be working some additional hours. She would work from wake-up time until just after dinner on most days.
- We would get a two-bedroom villa (we are DVC members). JM would share a room with our oldest daughter, while my husband and I shared a room with the twins (who were in the Pack n’ Play cribs at the time).
- During the seven-day trip, JM would have one full day and one afternoon off. She would work two evenings while my husband and I had “date night.” This allowed JM to experience some of the more adventuresome rides.
- JM would be responsible for paying for her own meals on her day off.
- JM would be responsible for paying for any additional non-park entertainment. For example, at the time there was an admission fee for the Pleasure Island clubs.
Overall, this worked like a dream. The kids got lots of attention and none of the adults felt overwhelmed. We were comfortable enough with JM that it felt like we were traveling with a member of the family, but without the stress of family dynamics. And when the inevitable hiccup occurred, a lost bag, for example, we all were able to roll with the punches.
After our great success, we decided to again bring a sitter with us to WDW a year later. By this time, JM had started a college degree program and was unable to travel during the dates we needed. We ended up bringing a relatively new sitter, LS with us, using most of the same parameters. Unfortunately, while still fun, this trip ended up being a bit less successful, mostly because LS was less familiar with our parenting style and was less able to improvise during unplanned problems. For example, she was unwilling to switch her night off when one of the children developed a fever, and she was unwilling to help entertain the children during a severely delayed flight because she was technically off the clock. Were we to do this again, I would have added a discussion about flexibility to our pre-trip planning.
Again, we have successfully visited WDW with blood relatives several times, but bringing a paid sitter did end up being a viable alternative when we were in need of travel assistance.
Have you ever brought a sitter with you to Walt Disney World? Would you ever want to? Let us know some of you experiences or concerns in the comments.