Even when your children are staying home, your vacation planning will center around them. Preparing your home for your absence, creating lists and gathering up everything your caretaker will need for the children will take much longer than packing a child's suitcase would, but every minute of preparation will pay off in the long run. A caretaker who is armed with all the information she needs will be better equipped to handle any problems that arise, so your child will be well cared for and you'll be able to stroll the beach or enjoy a cruise without too much worry.
Create a medical treatment release form for each child. Ask the staff at your pediatrician's office if they have a form you can fill out, or write out a letter of permission stating that the caretaker is allowed to authorize medical treatment in case a child gets sick or injured. If your state requires that this form be notarized, your medical provider will let you know. Sign the letter and have the children's other guardian, if applicable, sign it as well.
Write a permission letter for the caretaker to transport, drop off and pick up the children from school or from other activities such as day camp and music lessons. Contact the administrators at the school and other activities to let them know you're giving this permission, but ask the caretaker to carry the letter with her as well.
Refill any prescription medications the children take, if necessary, and place them on a high shelf. Write out directions for administering each medication and for giving over-the-counter drugs as well; for instance, let the caretaker know what you would give each child for a headache, nausea or the beginnings of a cold.
Create a daily schedule for your child. Write in the times she does everything, from waking up in the morning to doing homework to taking a shower. For a young child, write out the times when you normally change her diaper or remind her to use the toilet. Write out a schedule for weekends too, to let the caretaker know about any play dates or different wake-up and bed times. On each schedule, write some tips for dealing with each child's temperament, such as instructions on how to soothe her or details on her favorite bedtime rituals. Also detail any television or computer-time limits or restrictions.
Make a copy of all your travel plans. Include flight numbers and airlines, the names and numbers of your hotels, and the attractions you'll be visiting on each day.
Create an emergency contact sheet with your phone numbers, and the names and numbers of neighbors, family members, the parents of the children's friends and the children's doctors. Include a list of foods and other items the children are allergic to. Draw a map of the house showing where the fire extinguishers are and what route the family should take in the event of a fire.
Leave a box full of ways to keep the children entertained. Include the family library cards and season passes for museums or amusement parks or membership cards to the local pool. Buy some new books, board games, art supplies and a new DVD or video game.
Leave a set of house keys and car keys. Place some spending money in an envelope and include a credit card for groceries or emergencies. Buy a prepaid debit card for groceries if you prefer, and explain that the credit card is only to be used in an emergency.
Set aside at least an hour or two before you leave to give the caretaker a thorough house tour. Demonstrate any quirks, such as door handles and toilet flushes that have to be jimmied to work, and show her where to find basics such as scissors and extra batteries. Point out where to find cooking supplies and show her the food in your pantry, explaining what each child likes to eat and how to make it.