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Who watches your kids when you go on vacation?
August 7, 2012 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Parents of MeFi: What on earth do you do with your children if/when you go on vacation and don't want to take the kids?

I've been thinking about asking this question for a while but never posted it because I'm not sure what I'm looking for here. Am I missing something?

When my brother and I were kids, my parents went on 2 or 3 vacations a year by themselves - anywhere from a couple days to two weeks. We could stay with any one of my mom's 3 sisters. They were stay-at-home moms. Or we could stay with either of my grandmas, who were both pretty young, in good health, and neither of whom worked outside of the home. We also stayed with some family friends (the moms didn't work). This also worked because my mom didn't work, so she would watch the kids of THOSE families sometimes, like a trade-off situation.

I would love to go on vacation with my husband, alone. Our son is almost 7 and this has never happened. We know LITERALLY NO ONE who doesn't work at least 30 hours a week. We can't be the only ones.

If you are in this sitation, what do you do? Just not go on vacation, or always take your kids? Are there some other options I'm not thinking of?
posted by peep to Human Relations (60 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are there relatives they can stay with? A week with the grandparents?
posted by Rallon at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Grandparents.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2012


Send the kid to camp, go on vacation. Everyone wins.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2012 [25 favorites]


Well, do you also work 30 hours a week? What are your kids doing when you're working? Wouldn't your kid still be doing that?

We've used two approaches: leave the kid home, going to daycare, and having various family members/friends handling the aftercare or bring someone on vacation with us who can watch the kids.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Summer camp.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're fortunate in that both sets of our parents are still with us and able to watch a gaggle of kids. Wait until summer and let him stay at a friend's house for a few days. Return the favor for your friends - watch their kids for a few days - so they can get away too.
posted by jquinby at 11:42 AM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid and my parents went on their 'second honeymoon,' my brother and I stayed with the woman who ran our daycare. I'm sure she was paid. During the days she would just take us into daycare with her. If all your friends work 30-40 hours a week, find a day camp or daycare that can take them during the day.

My parents also did 'family vacations' where we would come along but have heavy babysitter time.
posted by muddgirl at 11:43 AM on August 7, 2012


When my brother and I were kids, my parents went on 2 or 3 vacations a year by themselves - anywhere from a couple days to two weeks.

Your family was an exception, not the rule. Especially that "two weeks without the kids" part.

Once we had kids, the best we could muster was a weekend trip with the kids at Grandma's. It wasn't until they were older (basically high-school seniors) could we accomplish a week away without them (for our wedding anniversary) And, we still asked neighbors to check-in on them.

Once you have kids, you include them on vacations.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:44 AM on August 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


My parents hired a professional live-in babysitter for a week when they went on vacation once -- I'm not sure how they found her but surely this can't be that rare -- you may try contacting nanny/au pair placement groups.
posted by brainmouse at 11:44 AM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


My parents very graciously take my kids for one week in the spring. I imagine it's easier for them than most, though, because my mom has been a PT/occasional worker most of her life and my father's a professor, so he has time off that dovetails nicely with my needs.

What I've begun to keep an eye on, however, are locations that have day-camp options for the kids. This means everyone gets to have an age-appropriate vacation in addition to the fun of all traveling together.

Thirdly, sometimes my husband or I will travel solo, while the other stays with the kids. It's not the best solution for a relationship, but it can get each person some necessary R&R.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:44 AM on August 7, 2012


If grandparents are dead or otherwise unsuitable (and likewise other relatives), then camp.

My mom used to go on summer-long research trips when I was little; I split the time between my grandma and my dad (my parents were divorced). The one and only summer I went to camp - I was 13 - I think I'm remembering right that my mom went and took a trip of her own.
posted by rtha at 11:48 AM on August 7, 2012


My parents went on vacation while I was in summer camp. That was their time to play as a couple.
posted by immlass at 11:50 AM on August 7, 2012


My parents took some trips when we were kids and the various solutions they used were: a) summer camp (after age 8) b) sending us off to stay at the homes of various friends (this was reciprocal- we would then host my friend while her parents went away) c) there was an older couple who were not our grandparents but sort of filled that role locally, since my grandparents were far away, they stayed with us once while my parents were away.

Now that we have kids, we are waiting for them to be old enough for the summer camp option. Although we have also contemplated bringing my mother in law along to help with the kids so that we can do something like go diving, and gramma can watch the kids play on the beach.
posted by ambrosia at 11:51 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If none of the above is feasible, how about an overnight or weekend trip, just the two of you? If you could visit family for the weekend and leave the kid for an evening, you could stay in a hotel Saturday night, go out to dinner, and sleep in the next morning. Or you could even try trading off with a local family whose kids are friends with yours and wouldn't mind hosting a sleepover.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:51 AM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you want time without kids, but don't feel comfortable with your options for caretakers, how about a cruise? There are cruise lines that have activities specifically for children, you can dump your 7 year old and then go do adult stuff. If you want to do things in the evening, you can hire a sitter on the ship. (or get a second cabin for your kid and a neighborhood teenager or older cousin, who can be the sitter, and get a free cruise.)

I might arrange to care for a neighbor's kid while they go on vacation and then have them return the favor.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2012


Your family was an exception, not the rule. Especially that "two weeks without the kids" part.

Agreed. When I was a kid I don't know anyone whose parents went away without them. We went to camp a few times but my parents stayed home (they wrote to us and we could call them on the landline).
posted by missmagenta at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Summer camp, or find someone using SitterCity.
posted by spunweb at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2012


Due to my job, I am usually only able to take a day or two off work per year, and I work for at least part of the day most weekends. We have kids who are all under 10. The grandparents all live in other, distant, parts of the United States.

We have had "vacation" without the kids on only two occasions that I can recall at the moment. On one occasion, we had grandparents fly cross-country to stay at our place and watch the kids while my wife and I drove up the coast for a normal two-day weekend when I was lucky enough not to have to work. On the other occasion, the grandparents flew out and watched the kids for a week while we went on vacation with the other grandparents. That's the only time I've had a week off work in more than 10 years, and I don't foresee that happening again for a long time. But it was great, particularly because it was in a location where there were no telephones, broadcast signals of any kind, and where we couldn't get cell phone or data reception no matter how hard we tried. The only thing that matched the feeling of relaxation from being totally unreachable was the anxiety that accompanied the flood of thousands of e-mails awaiting me when I got back in cell phone range.
posted by The World Famous at 11:54 AM on August 7, 2012


In my childhood, it was always either "grandparents" or "long-term sleepover with friends' families." My parents had a wonderful babysitter for us, a lovely grandmotherly lady, who stayed with us for a few days once while they went away, but I think they were the only parents I knew who ever hired someone to stay with the kids even back then.

Everybody I know who currently has minor children always takes the kids or the kids stay with the grandparents. Except for one family who has a close family friend with a flexible work schedule, a mom whose only child is now an adult; she comes and stays with the kids in their house when their parents go on vacation, and I believe they either pay her for her time or buy her a lovely gift as an honorarium, though I am sure she would do it for free!
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:00 PM on August 7, 2012


Once you have kids, you include them on vacations.

This was my experience, too.

When I was in high school, I had a couple of weekend-long babysitting stints to watch the kids while the parents went out of town. To my memory, though, only one of them was for a parents-only vacation. The others were for family emergency-type things (funeral of a distant relative, someone's in the hospital, etc). I got paid (very) well.

If you don't have relatives or non-working friends nearby, there's really no way to do this without laying down some cash.
posted by phunniemee at 12:01 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


We flew my mother in to stay with the kids so we could get away for a 5 day weekend, but mostly we took the kids with us. If you go to a major resort like Disney there are always babysitting services available, so you can at least get out for a couple of dinners someplace that doesn't specialize in chicken nuggets. Also, the all inclusive resorts and cruises often have a kids program where they entertain the kids for a large chuck of the day, leaving you free to relax.
posted by COD at 12:03 PM on August 7, 2012


It was the exception and not the rule but once when my parents went away for a weekend without us and we were little, we got a live-in babysitter (a 20-something family friend who we'd known forever) to stay at our place over the weekend. She got paid. We got looked after. I was amazed that she let us bake cookies (we weren't allowed near the oven when my folks were home) and my parents came home well-rested.

It's entirely possible that your parents took so many parent-only vacations specifically because there was this support network available to them.
posted by jessamyn at 12:07 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I was a nanny I stayed with the 4 kids (ages 4-9) for two night while their parents took off. I was only like 23 at the time, but it worked out fine because the kids were pretty independent. Is your son mostly independent? Or would he be traumatized by you being gone? Because I think that really makes a difference in terms of who would take care of them. Not independent--family only. Independent--friends and/or camp.
posted by greta simone at 12:08 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Summer camp is the usual solution. If you are even remotely connected with anything religious in your town, I guarantee they have at least a 2 week sleepaway camp at some time during the summer. Pretty much everyone I know got shipped off to camp for the summer until we were about 13-14, and then it was off for Euro summer "enrichment" (aka lol we can get drunk here).
posted by elizardbits at 12:08 PM on August 7, 2012


When my brother and I were little my parents always hired a live-in baby-sitter when they went on vacations. I have no idea how they found her (I do have some vauge notion that she was a local college student). Since it was always the same woman, we were really comfortable with her. Plus, in our little kid minds she was so much more fun than our parents, so we were always really excited to have her come stay with us.
posted by Sabby at 12:09 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 2002 I worked at a summer camp in Colorado that was consumed by a wildfire (thankfully, everybody and all of the horses were evacuated in time). It was my job to call all of the parents and tell them "Sorry, your daughter can't go to camp this year. It burned down." Worst job ever.

Some of the parents were cool about it. Because, well, wildfire. Nothing we could really do. However, some of the parents flipped out because OH MY GOD OUR VACATION IS RUINED WE HAVE RESERVATIONS WHAT WILL WE DO WITH OUR CHILD NOW AUUGHHH!!! At times I could hear the daughters sobbing in the background, because, wtf, summer camp burned down. And mom is freaking out about their upcoming reservations at Sandals Resort.

So, in my traumatic experience, parents send their kids to camp and go on vacation.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:10 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Mom and Dad dropped us off at a close relative's house for five days once (we were ROYALLY PISSED that we didn't get to go on the trip, but that's for another thread!) That was the only time I ever remember them going away without us until we were teenagers.

Do you know a young person (college student home for the summer or the like) you trust enough to pay them to look after the kids?
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:12 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was the norm when I was a kid too. All of my friends and I were either sent to stay with relatives or sent to summer camp. Now it's pretty much the same thing.
posted by pink candy floss at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2012


My parents hired a live in babysitter with good references, one time.

However, she took us to her Pentecostal church and wanted me to brush her long hair, so your mileage may vary.
posted by availablelight at 12:23 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, ignore the people who are saying you have to include kids on your vacations now. My parents went on vacation by themselves for their milestone anniversaries (5th, 10th, 15th, etc) and sometimes did weekend trips/4 days by themselves. I generally stayed with my older sisters (who were old enough to have their own families), or with the woman who babysat me after school.

Part of building a strong marriage (as separate from a strong family), imo, is figuring out a way to build memories between you and your partner that can sustain you both when you are struggling with other life things.
posted by spunweb at 12:25 PM on August 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Two weeks of vacation away from young kids is exceeding uncommon unless you have a generous and competent family support network. In my experience a series of well planned one or two night get away trips do wonders in lieu of a long vacation. Another option we exercise is to invite a relative along on vacation and pay his way with the understanding that us parents get to go out for dinner or some other adult-only excursion during the family vacation. Don't feel bad that you can't swing 2 weeks... few others can too, but on the flip side it can be really good for the family to vacation together.
posted by dgran at 12:27 PM on August 7, 2012


My parents never went on vacation, with or with out us. This year was the first time we went away with out kids and we did a weekend while my best friend watched my son.

Another option is going to a family camp. (I've always wanted to but they are pricey) The kids have stuff to do during the day and there are babysitters at night.

Also, cruises have the day camps, too.

If you do have someone willing to watch your son for a week (but they work) you could have the kid go to day camp in their area.
posted by beccaj at 12:32 PM on August 7, 2012


I guess I didn't live the norm at all. From the age of 13 onwards, Mom and Dad always took a 2 week vacation in the summer. I say 13 because that was the youngest age someone could legally work in Ontario - so my sister and I would get summer jobs, and in the early years, we had a friend of the family babysitting us in the after-hours. When we turned 16, my folks basically insisted that we get our driver's licenses (no failing, gotta pass the driving test!), handed us a wad of cash and the keys to the car and said, "have fun, see you in two weeks!".

I always thought that was a perfectly normal way to do things until I read this thread.
posted by LN at 12:35 PM on August 7, 2012


My parents went on a few trips away every year (though I am pretty sure it was never for more than a long weekend, and often within city limits) They traded babysitting services with their friends that also had young families. When I was a little older I was farmed out as a babysitter to my parents friends when they needed it.

you can probably check with the parents of your kid's best friends. I'd bet they would be pretty keen on trading weekends every once in a while.
posted by Blisterlips at 12:37 PM on August 7, 2012


I grew up in the 70's, so this may not be useful. A combination of camp, (hired)care-giver and relatives across Canada. I don't think there was a two month stretch of time that my guardians were home, but the thrill of being put on a flight by myself at 8 beat out the "they're having fun without me" feeling.
posted by whowearsthepants at 12:38 PM on August 7, 2012


Grandparents then and grandparents now, but if we didn't have that I think we'd do an arrangement with parents who have a daughter our daughter's age, see if they could watch her for a few days and we would do the same for them. Then during the day, they'd both do what they normally do (go to school or whatever.)

So the watching family would double-up for a few days and we'd do the same at another point. And if not that, then camp. Maybe it's useful to think of the kid's social circle, rather than the parents? If camp makes you feel uneasy, maybe you'd be less uneasy if Peep Jr.'s friend came along with him to camp?

My parents took vacations from us for a couple of days. One time I think they took a week and went to Florida. They may have gone for a week more than once, they may even have gone two weeks, but whatever it was was pretty seamless because I don't remember. I'm sure they had a blast. We took vacations as a family also. As parents, we take vacations on our own occasionally.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:39 PM on August 7, 2012


I should add, when we were little kids, my parents would take us down to Nova Scotia to see the rest of the family for two weeks. That was the only time I ever got to see my grandparents/cousins.
posted by LN at 12:39 PM on August 7, 2012


My parents sent us to our grandparents every year for a week once we were a certain age -- definitely by the time we were seven. But they were too poor to go anywhere else but stay at home But it was still a vacation for them. I'd really look into something like that. Getting some independence is good for the whole family.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2012


When I was a kid, maybe 13, my neighbor's folks went on vacation and hired the high school girls' gym teacher to sleep over with their kids. I was always crazy jealous because I had a raging crush on that woman.
posted by orangemacky at 12:59 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


My parents hired a babysitter when they went out of town - usually a college-age or early-twenties woman. Sometimes a friend of the family (a older child of a couple they knew, for example). Once or twice it was a coworker (much more junior) of my father's. We also had a nanny (not live-in) for several years, and she would stay overnight when my parents went on trips.

My grandparents and extended family would have been happy to do it, but they didn't live nearby.

In the summer, sometimes one or two of use would go stay with family for a week - with an aunt or uncle (the ones who didn't have kids liked the chance to spoil us, and for the ones who did we were just one more body in the herd to corral for dinner and bedtime) or older cousins.
posted by amaire at 1:19 PM on August 7, 2012


My parents sent me to seven weeks of sleepaway camp every year from age 8-14. We haven't gone to that extreme, but once a year the kid visits his grandparents in Chicago for a week, and we have also had grandparents visit here while we go away.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:22 PM on August 7, 2012


Well, my parents sometimes went on vacation alone (as in, one was left with us), but I know that is not what you are asking. As for what you're asking: nannies/babysitters, and summer camp, to reiterate what everyone is saying. Summer camp was an awesome experience, especially sleep-away. At least once, one of those resort places where my parents did fun adult stuff and we had a day-camp to attend.

Mainly I went with my parents on vacation, though. We always did educational, adult-catered things, and I probably learned something.

But when twelve came around, we were responsible enough to be left on our own for a weekend, so take heart! Not recommending this for everyone, but in my family it worked out.

Note: if you do leave your kid at home when you go on vacation (seriously, go) make sure to give someone (the nanny) the power to make medical decisions for them in your absence. In elementary school I had to have an emergency appendectomy while my parents were still out of the country on vacation, and it was a nightmare.
posted by tooloudinhere at 1:27 PM on August 7, 2012


I know a lot of people with kids in elementary school, and the few who go on vacation without them have the grandparents look after the children. Lucky bastards.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2012


Oh, and I know plenty of people who work at home or are full-time parents. That doesn't have anything to do with it; if you have childcare now, you would have the same childcare when you were off without your child.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:37 PM on August 7, 2012


As a child (and not a parent, thankfully), my parents didn't go on vacation without me, my brother or my sister after we were born until I was about 16 years old, when I was tired of camping with my family and stayed with my grandparents (who worked) while my family was on their summer vacation camping trip.

From my perspective, fun vacation is just one of the many things you give up to have kids.

My uncle, on the other hand, he went away with his then wide two or three times a year without my cousin (an only child) since the year he was born. His grandparents (mom's side) watched him every time. He did go on vacation with them once a year or so.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:39 PM on August 7, 2012


I'm on a two week vacation from my kid RIGHT NOW! Mwhaahahah! So what I'm saying is, it can totally be done, and its name is usually summer camp. This way, your kid gets a fun vacation too, so they're not resentful, and you get time to remember how much you love each other as people, not as parents.
posted by corb at 1:47 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have another kid so that the older kid can watch that kid when that kid is 15 or so. And then another kid so that the younger kid has someone to watch. Swallow the spider to catch the fly....

Wait. Start over.

Yes. Summer sleep-away camp is a good time to go away. Trading sleepover nights with friends works. You have just 1 kid so this is a pretty good situation. My parents took us on family vacations and when they were gone for longer than a week once (I was in high school, my younger brother was in first grade), they hired a local college-age girl to come stay at the house. She mostly was there for my little brother but of course was also there to make sure I didn't have parties and burn the house down. She got paid for her time.

My mom lives 12 hours away. We are contemplating flying all of us to her house and then my husband and I vacationing nearby for a weekend. That's how bad we want to get away. But, yeah, I have a small mom's group of SAHMs or part-time Moms but for the most part everyone works.
posted by amanda at 2:01 PM on August 7, 2012


Thanks for the responses! Some updates:

Grandparents aren't an option for various reasons.

What are your kids doing when you're working? Wouldn't your kid still be doing that?

During the school year, he's at school. In the summer, he's at daycare. But I would either have to have a relative fly up here (but they work!) or send him to them, and I guess enroll him in a local daycare where our relatives live? That's a summer option only. That would mean paying for the new daycare, paying our current daycare in order to keep him enrolled, and usually, paying an enrollment fee at the new daycare.)

We don't know many families who: 1. we would be comfortable asking (it really is a lot to ask of someone), 2. would agree to take our son for several days, 3. live close enough to shuttle him to and from school or daycare and still get to work themselves, or 4. have the job schedules that would allow them to do that. One of my best friends is a nurse. She would absolutely take him, but her schedule doesn't mesh with a school/daycare schedule. Another good friend who would do it manages a retail store and usually works swing shift - daycare closes at 6:30. My husband's best friend has a job that involves overnight travel most nights of the week, and his wife is an ER doc, so they couldn't do it.

Summer camp: OK, I'm looking at this option. Honestly, I have never heard of overnight summer camp for 6 year olds. That kind of blows my mind. My best friend went to week-long overnight summer camp, but it didn't start until age 10. There are hundreds of summer camps around here, but they are all day camps.

Live-in help/au pair: Looking at that. We are not well off, but we (clearly) don't vacation often, so maybe we can save up and factor that into the cost.

Never going on vacation/always taking the kid: totally always an option!

On-site childcare: good idea.

I can see this will likely cost $$$ no matter what so I'll just get to work accepting that! Thanks for all the responses so far.
posted by peep at 2:12 PM on August 7, 2012


I have never heard of overnight summer camp for 6 year olds.

I went for the first time when I was six, for a week. When I was 8 I was going for a month (four weeks). But this was in the 70s when parents were looser with kids, and I was an only, and also my father travelled a lot, so I was expected to be mature. I was also flying to the airport where the camp picked me up solo at 10. That worked for me, but ymmv.
posted by immlass at 2:15 PM on August 7, 2012


In the summer, he's at daycare.

Absolutely ask the people who work at the daycare! You already trust him with them during the day, and they already deal with transport to and from daycare.

If you're uncomfortable with that, then what about the other moms who take their kids to daycare? If you don't already have a village, then start forming one.
posted by muddgirl at 2:17 PM on August 7, 2012


I have (eh, hem, very rich) friends who take their babysitter on vacation. That seems to work for them because they get some adult alone time and the kids get to splash aroun

One random data point --- the overnight camp I went to in the 80s started for kids at age 6 or 7.
posted by bananafish at 2:32 PM on August 7, 2012


By the time I was about 8 years old, my parents would put me on a plane by myself to visit my grandparents. The flight attendants would make sure I got to the right gate and then got to the exit and got picked up. Of course, in those days my grandparents could come meet me at the gate, so it was a little bit different, but I definitely didn't have a problem flying there alone, and I could entertain myself during the day with books and things, in fact I was working as a mother's helper by that time watching other people's toddlers. Then again, I was a really bookish kid.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:32 PM on August 7, 2012


I agree that it is a lot to ask of someone, which is why I think people have suggested proposing it as an exchange, vs. asking it as a favor. I don't think knowing someone who's a full-time caregiver for their kids would really help, because you wouldn't be able to offer a period of full-time caregiving yourself (unless you took time off work to do it). But it might be something you could bring up with a wider circle, including parents of school friends rather than only your close personal friends, if you approached it as a proposed exchange.

If you're uncomfortable asking people about it, maybe think about whether you ever do this kind of thing yourself -- do you do babysitting for friends here and there? Friends drop their kids off at my house occasionally, when they need to, which would help me not to feel like I'm imposing if I approach them about watching my kids.

It sounds like the easiest way is to hire help, which, yes, will be expensive. My brother and his wife did that a couple of times, and I think they paid about $125/day.
posted by palliser at 2:32 PM on August 7, 2012


Of course, in those days my grandparents could come meet me at the gate, so it was a little bit different

In case it's relevant, someone dropping off or picking up an unaccompanied minor can get a gate pass and drop off and collect the kid at the gate, just like you could in the old days, though of course with more hassle and checking in at the desk to get IDs checked and gate passes issued, and then going through security, so it's not exactly without pain, but is still completely doable.
posted by brainmouse at 2:59 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, before my parents divorced they would park my sister and me with our maternal grandparents for a week or two each summer and go on vacation. A couple times in the winter they went on trips and had a maiden aunt stay with us. (She must have been out of work at the time; at the time I was too young to wonder why she could do that.) In fact my parents were in Georgia when the blizzard of 1978 hit us in western Michigan. My 9-year-old self thought that it was a shame for them that they missed the excitement.

I started going to overnight camp for a week or two when I was 8 or 9, but my sister never did (she wasn't the camping type back then). I loved it, even as a socially awkward kid, but it's not for everyone. In fact I spent 1-2 weeks at camp, or on backpacking trips, every summer thereafter until I went off to college.

If you're going to need to spend a lot for child care or camp, are there things the two of you could do that are relatively cheap? When my wife and I were in grad school, our vacations mostly involved car camping, with a tent, cooking gear, hiking maps, and a discreetly disguised minibar for state parks that don't allow booze. We had lots of fun for not much money. If you go somewhat off season, while your kids are still in school--just after campgrounds open, or just before they close--you can have a lot of privacy, and airbeds with electric inflators are surprisingly comfortable these days.

I don't have kids of my own, so take what follows with a grain of salt, but my impression from my own childhood, and from some of my friends these days, is that it's not a huge imposition for a family to take an extra kid for a few days, as long as the extra is about the same age as ones of their kids and gets along OK with them. If your son is high maintenance or has special needs, it's another story. But if he's just a normal kid, what's the big deal if they're already used to having kids around? I spent weekends a couple times a year with a friend whose family moved 15 miles away when we were both 8 or so, and he would come to my house a few times a year. It didn't seem to be a big deal. If you're uncomfortable being the first to impose, why not invite one of his friends to stay for a night or two, to get things rolling? That kind of stay can also be a good way to gauge whether your son is ready for an overnight camp.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:20 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The American Camp Association has a database of camps where you can search by age. There seems to be a few sleep away options for campers as young as five (and the number of options increase as the campers get older).

When I was about nine, my aunt invited me to join her and her kids (three and six years my junior) at the beach house. This way, we kids could entertain ourselves, which made her life easier.

I also recall a night or two where our trusted college-aged baby sitter spent the night while my parents went on some sort of staycation.

Also, sleepovers!
posted by oceano at 5:15 PM on August 7, 2012


Keep in mind that as your child gets older, a few things will happen: he'll make closer, long-term friends; you'll come to know and trust those friends' parents; he'll be capable of productive long-term play with those friends; and he'll be more self-sufficient and socialized. My 7yo is just at the age where I think he'd say some 'pleases' and 'thank yous,' eat whatever is put in front of him, get himself dressed and ready for the day (or bed), and play for two to three-hour stretches without needing much support from me, etc. So the prospect of trading a weekend of "babysitting" with another family becomes quite palatable. Heck, I've hosted five kids on some snow days and found it easier than many days where it's just my two.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:53 PM on August 7, 2012


Get to know the day care providers, the other parents, and the parents of school friends. We took care of friends' kids a couple times; it was an extended sleepover. I'd start with an occasional overnight and see if you can develop a relationship before going away for a week; it would also give your child time the chance to adapt. I also recommend trying to make friends with somebody who has a kid your age; going on multi-family camping trips or resorts is big fun.
posted by theora55 at 8:28 PM on August 7, 2012


Another one who has a kid at camp right now - ALL of our family are on the other side of the world, so him staying with relatives is not an option. He went on his first sleepover camp six months ago (we are in the UK, he was seven) for three nights and loved it. Currently he is on another three night camp, I pick him up today and then he is going to a week long camp somewhere else starting on Saturday.

He loves it. We get a break from each other*, and he feels he is getting to do something special. Admittedly it costs (I found various special deals), and that means rather than we parents taking leave and going away, I am spending two nights away and my husband is working through. But the whole idea that you should/can only vacation with your kids once you have them is a bit too child-centric for me. As others have implied upthread, you can still be a loving family and not have to do everything together.


*I currently home educate, so we spend a lot of time together. But I have previously worked and son in daycare, and if that was the case right now would still probably send him to camp for at least part of the holidays.
posted by Megami at 12:31 AM on August 8, 2012


I always went on vacations with my folks, but if you want alone time (understandable), perhaps a temporary nanny service would be the answer? (Apologies if anyone else already suggested this.)

It's not free, and requires some research. Perhaps you can ask friendly parents you know in your area for suggestions / recommendations, or look online. A short term live in nanny, with references and training / experience could be the answer though.
posted by 6 of 1 at 2:44 AM on August 8, 2012


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