Childcare and kids' clubs are a growing part of hotel services. Parents can make sure kids have a good time -- and stay safe -- with these strategies.
Parents naturally have high expectations of hotels when it comes to issues of their children's safety and security. Such concerns are even higher for travelers who hope that hotel "kids' programs" will offer safe, fun activities while parents are elsewhere in the hotel. Experiences with hotel-based childcare can be enjoyable and safe for children if parents check out options, activities, and the premises first. There are several ways to do that.
Every state has its own laws regarding the policing and licensing of childcare centers, including those in hotels. In New York, for instance, a drop-in childcare center does not need a daycare license if it doesn't care for kids for more than three hours or on a regular basis. So too in California and Arizona, drop-in care such as hotel kids' camps do not need a daycare license, and parents must sign a consent form stating that they will be available on the hotel premises while their kids are in care. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care has details on all state childcare licensing regulations on its Web site at http://nrc.uchsc.edu/STATES/states.htm.
If you plan to use babysitting services instead of the kids' camp, call ahead and ask whether the hotel has a contract with a registered service that checks the background of its employees.
Hotels have begun to recognize the need for kids' programs to coincide with convention timings and conference events. Often, however, hotel kids' camps end by 4 p.m. A call ahead will let you know whether to arrange for a babysitter afterward or rearrange your own schedule.
At many Disney hotel and resort properties, for example, recreation programs for children begin at 3 p.m. and, depending on the age of the child, go on past midnight to help parents who wish to be at a business banquet or hang out at the spa.
If the staff doesn't ask you to fill out a thorough registration form when you drop off your child, take the initiative and provide your contact information. Also indicate your child's allergies, nap times, fears, eating preferences, physical abilities (especially swimming skills, since pool activities are common), and whether your child can leave the premises for a field trip.
Even with Mom or Dad in the hotel room with them, young children may still get into trouble. It takes only momentary distraction -- going into the bathroom, unpacking, or answering the phone -- for kids to escape a parent's watchful eye. Michelle La Rowe, recipient of the International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year award, suggests the following areas that parents should check in a hotel room: