Free vacation care your kids will love

free vacation care

Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2024.

The school holidays are upon us once more. Is it just me, or are the terms getting shorter? I’m sure the last term only started a few weeks ago. Of course, it’s a relief to have a break from the regimented school routine, but for working mums, especially working single mums, life goes up another gear as we struggle to juggle the inescapable vacation care / work scenario.

There is no doubt that vacation care can be stressful as we race to get our children places at the right care, cajole them to actually go and frantically crunch numbers to find the extra money to pay for it.

If this resonates with you, then why not consider setting-up a VACATION CARE CLUB?

By this, I don’t mean inviting everyone’s kids to your house. Not at all. All you do is hook-up with other mothers in the same situation as you and devise a simple plan whereby you look after each other’s children on certain dates in school holidays.

It’s a win/win situation. You get free vacation care in return for looking after people’s children. Your children get to hang with kids from their class. And you may even make some new friends in the process.

free vacation care

Step 1: Ask other mums

A few weeks before the end of term, ask around others mums in your children’s year groups to see if they work. If they do, ask if they’d be interested in forming a vacation care club. Here, you all pitch-in looking after each other’s children in the holidays. If they express an interest, grab their email address. Alternatively, draft an email and ask the teacher to send it out to all parents on your behalf.

Of course, never EVER forget about safety. Try to do background checks on all the prospective mums in your list. Also, make sure you're in the same page when it comes to childcare. I mean, it will be a problem if everyone has the same parenting style, and there's one mum who has stricter (or more lax) rules.

Step 2: Compile a list of interested mums

There’s bound to be a few. An ideal number would be about 4-6. Too many and it gets complicated. Plus, you could end with too many kids on your doorstep. Remember, siblings need to be taken into the equation too.

Step 3: Name your free vacation care group

You can give your new group a cool name if you like. The Havoc Free Holiday Club? Or The Vacation Vixens? Just a thought … you don’t have to!

Step 4: Send out general instructions

Email the interested mums with general instructions as to how it works. I’d advise that you keep it as simple as possible. It’s not like a babysitting circle, which is ongoing and requires a number of rules. You just need a framework with set dates to get you through the holiday period. I’d suggest you ask them to send you a return email with:

  • Confirmation that they’d love to join this fabulous new group
  • The names and ages of their children
  • Their address and phone number
  • Details of their children’s health issues or allergies
  • Which days they NEED childcare and can PROVIDE child care
vacation care

Step 5: Create a calendar

Print out a monthly calendar which encompasses the school holidays dates. Then in a quiet moment, maybe with a cuppa or glass of wine, work out who can look after whose children on what days. (Or you may like to use a calendar app you can share within the group. Google Calendar is free and completely collaborative.)

Try to keep it as even as possible, and remember you won’t be able to cover everyone’s needs throughout the holiday. Oh, and make sure you get yourself a good deal … you’re doing all the hard work after all.

Step 6: Create a directory for your vacation care

Compile a list with the information you requested earlier i.e. member names, addresses, contact details, children’s names and ages and children’s allergies. You can even create cute ID cards for the kids for each mum to fill out.

Step 7: Seek confirmation

Then email all members with your details list and your online calendar. Ask them to confirm back to you if they’re happy with the dates you’ve suggested or if changes are required.

If you have someone who’s particularly difficult or wants more help than they’re prepared to give, don’t waste time with them. Tell them you have their hours covered, and their help is no longer needed. Sorry, but this procedure is meant to make life easier, not harder.

Step 8: Final email

Once everyone’s happy, send one final email with the finalised calendar and a few simple ‘rules’ so everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet. I’d suggest:

  • All children to bring packed lunch and water bottle when going to childcare
  • Confirm set drop-off/pick-up times (allowing those caring to make plans for the day)
  • Children to be collected on time unless absolutely unavoidable
  • Unacceptable behaviour from child allows caregiver to request an immediate pick-up
  • Children not to be sent to vacation care if ill or has nits etc.

Step 9: Create a private group chat

With everyone on board, it's time to create a group chat. Yes, email is good, but a group chat makes life easier. It's more accessible for other mums, since everyone has a smartphone and connected to the internet all the time now. A group chat also gives a collaborative atmosphere, making it easier to brainstorm, pitch in their ideas, and react to messages.

Not decided yet on a platform for your vacation care club? Here's a list of video calling apps you can check out. (Of course, ol' Facebook Messenger works just fine too.)

free vacation care

Summary: Free Vacation Care Your Kids Will Love

That’s it. Easy.  It should be fairly straight-forward to organise, but this does depend on the mothers in involved. And if it works, you already have a fully-formed group ready for the next holiday period. Make sure you pass the organisational responsibility to another member – it’s only fair that everyone gets a turn! You can send the new organiser this blog with the list so they know what to do.

Hopefully you’ll find that even if your new group doesn’t alleviate all your vacation care issues, it will ease some of the holiday pressure. You may even decide to take the group further and set up a babysitting circle. These require a little more planning since they’re ongoing, so more records need to be kept. I’d highly recommend one though for the simple reason that YOU CAN GET A NIGHT OUT. YAY.

I’ll leave you with warm wishes for a safe, reasonably relaxing and enjoyable school holidays. Good luck, mum!

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Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

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