Traveling to Out-of-Town Weddings with Children
If you’re invited to an out-of-town wedding and have a baby or toddler, your first question is likely “Who will look after him?” Below is The Littlest Passport’s guide to finding childcare that will allow you - and your young one - to enjoy the wedding weekend.
Tips to starting your childcare search for an out-of-town wedding:
Plan early. You don’t want to find yourself scrambling last minute to sort out childcare - and accommodations - that work for your family. On site accommodations - which can be the most convenient option for young parents wanting to slip away to put down the little ones, breastfeed, or sooth an unconsolable child - are usually the first to sell out. Or you may discover that all on venue rooms have been reserved for family and wedding party, meaning you need to come up with a Plan B. You won’t want to send your last minute regrets to the happy couple because you can’t make childcare and accommodations work.
Read the invitation carefully. If the invitation doesn’t include your child’s name or read “and family”, assume that the happy couple want a child-free wedding. Even if your little one is invited to some or all of the events, carefully consider whether you can trust your little one to keep the peace, or if you and your partner can come up with a Plan B if your child isn’t cooperating. Otherwise, plan for childcare. No one wants their special day highjacked by disruptive children, and you won’t have fun if you’re stuck far away from the festivities with a cranky little one.
Don’t ask if your little one can attend. Many couples want a child-free day, and it can be stressful for the couple to say “no” to your baby directly. If you want to broach the topic, you can ask for childcare recommendations, which will alert the couple that you plan to bring your children, and that an ultimate RSVP will depend on securing childcare for your little one. If the couple wants to make an exception for your child, they will. If they instead offer you a list of babysitter agencies, secure childcare or send your regrets.
Peruse the wedding website to see if it includes any mention of childcare, or babysitter recommendations. Some couples will have considered these logistical issues in advance, and researched options for families. If several guests have small children, the couple may even offer childcare in another room at the venue.
Match accommodations to childcare. If you plan to trade off monitor duty with other friends attending the wedding, you’ll want to book hotel rooms beside one another, or go in on a multi-family house rental. If you plan to hire someone to stay with your sleeping baby after you put her down, does the room you’re considering have someplace for the sitter to comfortably sit and not disturb your little one? How will you get back to your little one in case of emergency - are your accommodations you’re considering close by?
Carefully consider whether an on-site room is best. As mentioned, this can be the most convenient option for parents that need to slip away from the festivities to tend to their little one. But if the wedding is being held in a small inn, consider whether noise will be an issue. At an out-of-town wedding we attended last summer, the reception hall was right below many of the hotel rooms. Being an old building, we assumed walls and floors would be thin, and we ultimately decided to look elsewhere for accommodations.
Childcare Options for an Out-of-Town Wedding
1) A local nanny or babysitting agency
Parents with out-of-town wedding experience highly recommend going with a babysitting agency. Though often a more expensive option, the agency does all of the leg work for parents - sourcing highly qualified, certified sitters. Plus, with an agency, there’s less risk than a cancellation will send you scrambling to find another last minute sitter.
Parents can reach out to wedding venues, a couple’s wedding planner, or even their kid-friendly hotel for agency recommendations. If preliminary inquiries come up short, a Google search should yield some quick results. It’s best to do a bit of online research and schedule a phone call with the agency to ensure they seem legitimate and well qualified.
“I've had great success with local nanny/sitter agencies. It ensures they've been fully vetted and background checked (which honestly is more than most "local recommendations" can provide). It may be a bit more costly, but definitely worth it for the peace of mind, in my book!” - Monica
“We just went to an out-of-town wedding this past weekend and got a list of babysitters from the wedding venue. We ended up with 2 great babysitters -- we used it as an excuse to get a couple of date nights in.” — Jessica, mom to 8 month old
2) Childcare websites like Care.com, UrbanSitter and SitterCity
Parents we canvassed were happy with the babysitters they found through these childcare websites. If you choose to get a short term subscription to one of these websites, be sure to look for babysitters with multiple references and extensive experience with kids. Begin your search early - all parents did comment on the considerable amount of time it took to filter and sift through profiles, find suitable options, and check references.
“My husband and I had good success using Care.com to book babysitters for our then 9 month old daughter while in Miami. My one regret is that I didn't start the process earlier, because it did take some leg work to search, filter out folks who didn't have an anxiety-reducing number of good reviews, communicate with everyone, check references, etc. … I ended up doing a lot of this while I would have preferred to be relaxing and enjoying the beach! But it did work out great.” - Anna
3) Connect with wedding guests that also have little ones
Ask the happy couple (or their wedding planner) to connect you with other guests that have babies or toddlers. This way, you can piggyback on any leads or childcare that they have secured. Or perhaps you can coordinate to split childcare duties throughout the event. It takes a village, as the adage says. Having to miss an hour of the reception on monitor duty is better than one partner missing the whole event, or sending your regrets.
“Another friend attending the wedding brought her Mom to babysit, and her Mom agreed to look after my daughter as well. Our backup plan, if my friend’s Mom hadn’t been able to make it, was to find a nanny for both kids, and make a play date out of it.” - Ana
In rural or remote locations, it can be difficult to find local agencies or babysitters. Or perhaps you’re worried about leaving your little one with a stranger. If a local babysitter isn’t (or doesn’t feel like) an option, consider asking family to travel with you to the wedding. This can be particularly appealing for grandparents or aunts and uncles that love to travel, or who don’t get to see your children often. They get plenty of bonding time with your little ones, and you don’t need to worry about dealing with stranger danger or separation anxiety.
“My husband’s best friend got married in a small rural town, and finding a vetted local babysitter wasn’t possible. We decided to ask my parents to join us at the wedding, and extended the visit by a few days after the weekend. My parents were thrilled to see their granddaughter, and preferred the idyllic location to visiting us in bustling, chaotic NYC!” - Brandi, mother to 2 year old
5) Bring your babysitter
If you have a nanny or babysitter that doesn’t have family obligations and would be excited to travel, consider bringing them along. Your child won’t need to adjust to an unknown babysitter, and you’ll be able to relax knowing your little one is in good hands.
This scenario may only make sense if there are several wedding events to attend, since it can be an expensive proposition to pay for travel costs in addition to hours worked. Parents who have brought along their babysitter to weddings agree that you should pay for travel costs, accommodation, food, as well as for hours worked. Some families even pay travel bonus.
“Our wedding was in France, and we had previously lived in London, so we actually flew our babysitter from London down to the South of France to stay with us for two days. (Thanks Easyjet)!
We only paid her for the hours she worked (we discussed that with our sitter and she was fine with this), but we paid for flights, accommodations and food. It worked out really well! I felt better about the arrangement than hiring someone we didn't know, less because of the not-knowing than because of the language barrier, honestly.” — Kelsey, mom to 1.5 year old
“When I asked my nanny to travel with us, I put together a detailed itinerary so she could know what to expect and tried to give some time during the days for her to explore by herself or relax. She liked having it all laid out and knowing when she would be working. I included paying for expenses (flights, car service to and from the hotel/airport, her own hotel room, and a per day food allowance) and paid her by the hour for her time based on our normal agreed rates (including travel time to/from airport, flight time, and actual time for childcare) plus a daily travel bonus.” - Kezia, mom to 3 year old
Still have questions about navigating childcare at an out-of-town wedding? Reach out in the comments.