I got pregnant with Lucy while traveling abroad, and even though I was panicked, I also knew, underneath the confusion and fear, that I was going to give birth to a traveler.
And I was right! Now two years old, Lucy and I have been on over forty flights together, and have been abroad to Costa Rica, England, Ireland, Denmark, and Sweden. I cherish the memories we’ve made.
But as a single mama, sometimes I need to get stuff gone. Which is why I’ve become pretty damn good (if I do say so myself) at finding babysitters abroad.
Here’s the thing: It’s always something to do at your own risk, and you should always trust your gut and do a background check. But it’s absolutely possible, and I’ve found it can actually make your child’s experience even more memorable as well. Not only do you have a chance to do something they wouldn’t enjoy, but having a local sitter means a peek into the culture they wouldn’t otherwise have experienced. Here, tips I’ve found.
Try an App. Going somewhere in the US? Chime, an app from SitterCity, has background-checked babysitters available. The app experience is Uber-like—you put in a time, date, and zip code, and instantly, available babysitters with bios, references, and videos appear. I haven’t used this in another city, but I did use this in Jersey City and was pleased with the results.
Ask Your Network. In Galway, Ireland, my babysitter was the sister of a roommate I’d had years ago. In Santa Theresa, Costa Rica, my babysitter was recommended to me by an old middle school classmate. You never know who knows who, and finding someone a friend of a friend knows can be a great way to verify someone’s identity, as well as get a solid reference you trust.
Ask Your Online Network. A babysitter I booked in Burlington, VT, came from a reference from a woman in the same mom Facebook group as me. We didn’t know each other IRL, but I was able to check the background of the woman she recommended, and it worked out great.
Join a Local Online Network. Sometimes it’s worth joining a local parents' group in the place you’re planning to visit. Going abroad? Search that city + expat to get recommendations from English-speaking locals.
Ask a Church. I’ve never done this, but some friends swear by finding a local church or faith-based organization, and connecting to the youth pastor or leader—who may have young acquaintances eager to make extra money, who are vetted by someone who is likely trustworthy.
Find a Babysitting Service. These can be pricey, but honestly, not any more than what you pay for a one-off sitter in Hoboken. I used a sitter service in Steamboat Springs that was super simple, with all background checked babysitters, who were happy to play in the snow with Lucy while I went to some work-related meetings.
Again, do your own due diligence, but I’ve found that with the right planning, you can always get some much needed time off!
Anna Davies lives in the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City with her two-year-old daughter, Lucy. Anna is a writer who has written for The New York Times, The New York Post, Glamour, Cosmo, Elle and others. She's also written thirteen young adult novels, including ghostwriting five Gossip Girl novels (shhh!) Prior to Jersey City, Anna lived in Brooklyn for ten years and is a Northern NJ native. She loves going on adventures with Lucy; follow along @babybackpacker on Instagram.