Scheduling Summer Needs Before the Rush

This post is written by Katie Bugbee, the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com.

Mother Pushing Her Daughter on a SwingLast year I missed out on the camp of my dreams – for my son, of course.

It was a farm camp. And the kids had barn and stable assignments, which I thought would be an amazing way to combine his love for animals with my desire for him to take on more responsibilities!

But, when I got around to booking in April, the only spot the camp had left fell right in line with our pre-arranged family vacation. So, my dream of him being a room-sweeping, food-gathering helping hand, were swept under the rug.

So, by this January 1st, I had created a camp spreadsheet. My categories were: cost, time, location, reputation, activities (as in, does it have unique learning experiences as well as the sports you would expect?), and swimming (I want him to swim every day at no additional cost). With proper planning, we were not going to miss out this year.

Summer camp on the water

But, camp is only one of the summer care needs families have to plan, with fears that the best ones go quickly. There is also the need for summer nannies, vacation babysitters, summer tutors and pet care while traveling. At Care.com, we see the earliest summer care posts go up in March. School is out and parents, especially working parents, need to line up who their day-to-day caregivers are. Here are some of the care needs families face – and the best times to start the hiring search:

  • Summer camp: January to April. The camps are open for signups, so cross this off your list early in the year. Do your research and send the check. You won’t have to think about it again until June!
  • Summer nanny: March to May. Allow three months to search for the person who will be with your kids all day and every day. It might only take one week, but the more time you can give to finding the best candidate for your family, the better you’ll feel. You don’t want to rush this decision.
  • After-camp sitter: March to May. Many of the part-time nannies or sitters you’ll find are college students home from break. This is the energetic person who only needs a 3-month gig and is open to it starting at noon or 2 p.m. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but with college needs in mind, you’ll probably get more responses to your job post in early May.
  • Weekend night out sitter: May. If your weekend sitters are in college, line up your summer crew in May when the local kids start coming home. Get three or four in your contacts and you shouldn’t miss a date night or friends-out request all summer.
  • Vacation babysitter: 1 week to 2 months before departure. Depending on if you’re taking a sitter with you – or finding someone local once you’re traveling, these are two different hiring ballgames. If you’re taking the person with you, you’ll need someone you can actually vacation with – and live with – for a week. Start with the sitters you know best, asking them if they’d be interested in a week-long job (at the beach!). If striking out, post the job with the requirements that this person babysit and get to know your family for the next few months. You might even “interview” candidates for a few weeks, letting the kids decide who they want to play with on vacation (sand snacks anyone?).

If just looking to hire a sitter for a night or so while away, you can Skype interview, check references and run background checks one to two weeks before you leave.

  • Summer tutor: June. Depending on how much help your kids need, this might just be a back-to-school prep course they take. But, if a certain subject was always a struggle, get a weekly or bi-monthly tutor to keep the material fresh all summer long. You don’t want to have to start from scratch in September.
  • Pet sitter or Kennel: March to June. We usually recommend allowing three months before you plan to leave. Kennels book quickly during peak months and if choosing to leave your pet at home, you’ll want to find someone you trust with the keys.

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Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.

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