Babysitter directory that might change your life

Please. Someone. Come watch these maniacs.

Please. Someone. Come watch these maniacs.

I’m not going to lie: Whenever Powerwoman and I take the kids on vacation, we’re hesitant to use sitters we don’t know.

Most of the time, we talk ourselves OUT of it, allowing our overriding lack of familiarity with the sitters in a particular destination (as well as our own neuroses about who is watching the girls) push us into inaction.

Translation: We rarely go out when we travel with the girls. Ever. And the few times we’ve actually used nanny services, we’ve been basket cases the whole time.

Naturally, then, earlier this week, when one of my favorite family travel blogs, Trips + Giggles, launched a brand new hotel babysitter directory, both my wife and I were stoked.

With the service, Juliana Shallcross, my buddy who runs the site, created a list of babysitting agencies in more than 20 cities across the United States. Her list comprises sitters who are often recommended by luxury hotels; she actually worked with luxury hotels to screen candidates and grow the list. The sitters on there now are people with whom she would trust her two girls (who are roughly the same ages as L and R).

Which puts my mind at ease.

In her announcement post, Juliana was careful to lay out parameters of the service. She notes that, because of liability concerns, most hotels cannot make the sitter reservation for you, so it’s up to you to call the agency and find out their pertinent info. She hipped readers to what rates and cancellation policies they can expect ($20-$25 per hour, 24 hours’ notice, respectively).

She even went so far as to recommend that travelers call the babysitting agencies themselves, at least two weeks in advance, and find out as much as possible about the sitters. A direct quote from her site: “Agency directors understand how nerve-wracking it can be for parents to hire sitters, so a good agency director will take the time to answer all of your questions. All of them.”

The catch (if you want to call it that) to all of this: In order to gain access to the directory, you have to sign up to become a member of Trips + Giggles (which, by the way, is free).

On the fence about joining? I’m a member, and I’ll tell you this: If being a part of the Trips + Giggles community brings you peace of mind the next time you and your partner want to have a date night on a family trip, I say it’s worthwhile. I know we’ll be using the directory the next time the four of us travel together.

Understanding a New Option for Vacation Rentals

KCLogoSquareOnWhite-703c666b90bed46938544a8c8603a272In the world of vacation rentals, there’s a new “kid” on the block: Kid & Coe. The company, which launched in October 2013, not only lists rentals but also vets them, offering users pre-qualified references in cities all over the world. The endeavor is the brainchild of Zoie Coe, a mom who travels frequently with her kids (and who also happens to be the wife of DJ Sasha, from Sasha & Digweed). Following a small feature on the company in a recent issue of Travel & Leisure, I caught up with Coe to understand a little more about her approach.

Tell us more about your inspiration for the company.
We were on tour in Sydney as a family and were lucky enough to be checking into the Four Seasons, planning to stay there for a few weeks. Nothing against Four Seasons, but within two days we realized it wasn’t going to work for us as a family; once Luca was asleep at night, we were tiptoeing around him in the dark, whispering so we wouldn’t wake him. We realized he wouldn’t be eating any healthy home-cooked meals and we just needed more space to enjoy our family time together. I think all parents that have stayed in hotel rooms with their kids know this scenario!

When I started the process of looking for an apartment to rent, it took days. Most were unsuitable for a young child. I had to go and personally check them all out. When we found somewhere that did work, I then had to source a baby equipment rental firm to kit us out with high chairs, stair gates and the rest. It took a whole week out of our trip just getting to that point.

But then everything opened up. As soon as we were situated, it felt that all of Sydney was our Sydney: We had a base to find local fresh grocers, nearby playgrounds, farmers markets, and cafés.

That’s how it started. From that I realized that staying in a house as a family was the way to go. Spending too much time going through uninspiring websites looking at uninspiring houses that claimed they were family-friendly made me realize there was a real lack in the market for people who need the space of a home the most. And Kid & Coe is an elegant solution for traveling families.

How can a family know if it is better suited for a rental over a hotel?
I think that for anything over a few days, a self-catering property would prove to be the better option. That’s primarily because it comes down to space, unless you’re in the lucky position of taking two adjoining hotel rooms, it becomes difficult to navigate a hotel room with two young children. Homes provide the opportunity to stretch out yet still be connected at the same time. They also offer a more authentic experience—you can really get stuck into a neighborhood, with farmer’s markets, fresh grocers, etc. [Rentals] provide a great base to explore.

Where is the line in terms of what you should expect a rental owner to provide? For instance, if an owner doesn’t offer outlet covers, should you look elsewhere?
From a host perspective, we’re looking for properties that tick a few boxes. Is it in a fantastic location? Does it provide any family amenities? Is it safe and spacious enough to accommodate a family comfortably? There are many variables that we take into consideration when evaluating a property—we wouldn’t turn one down for not having outlet covers!

Our aim at Kid & Coe is to present the specific information that a family needs for their own unique needs. What’s child-friendly for a parent of a 2-year-old is very different from what’s family-friendly for a parent of an 8-year-old. We don’t try to make the decision for the family, but we aim to present all the information clearly so parents can make the right choice for their family.

What do you consider to be the must-haves for an ideal family rental?
For my own family, we take into consideration the location. If we’re in a city, we want to be right in the thick of it, if we’re by the beach, we want to be very close to the water. Location is key. I’m personally less concerned about the level of toys that a home might provide because I have older kids now and we want to be out exploring the destination. But when I traveled with my 1-year-old, I was definitely concerned about stairs, high chairs and cribs etc. So again, it comes down to what those family’s unique needs are at the time.

We’ve had a range of requests, from a mom and teenage daughter wanting to explore London, to groups of families holidaying together. Families come in different shapes and sizes and we hope to provide suitable accommodation suggestions for all of them.

How many rentals currently are in your program? How do you evaluate them? Do you see them all in person?
We have about 200 live on the site [spanning international destinations from Oakland to Umbria]. More are being added every day. The first step is that we ask hosts to fill out a quick application and a paragraph detailing why their property would be a good fit for our family community. We request photos so we can get a feel of the space.

Once they’ve been accepted, our team takes a lot of time working with the host to make sure all the information provided is relevant and clear. We currently don’t see them all in person—those that we do, have a yellow ‘verified’ stamp on the page. We work so closely with the hosts we accept that we feel we really get to know them that way.

To what extent do you pre-qualify family customers?
We’re working hard on building out more community features on our website. For example, I’d love to be able to see the Instagram feed of the family that’s coming to stay in my home, if they want to share that information. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s very much a case of like-minded families sharing with other like-minded families and we’ve seen the idea of community really taking shape. We’re working hard to develop more features on the site that really grow that community.

Tell me a little about yourself. What did you do before Kid & Coe?
I worked in various jobs, the most recent was that I managed my husband’s music business which granted me the opportunity to travel extensively, both before the kids and after. I’ve been working on this concept full-time for the last year and a half.

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