If it's your first vacation to Disney World, you might be surprised to learn once you get there that there are a lot of fun, grownup things to do, whether you want to enjoy a quiet dinner at one of Disney's signature restaurants, see a show like Cirque de Soliel, or just explore the parks without the kids. But unless you're travelling with a sitter or your in-laws, chances are you don't have childcare. For kids ages 4-12, you can use Disney's on site child care available at some of the deluxe resorts. At $10 per hour with a three hour minimum, it's an economical way for parents to enjoy a night out, but the hours are limited, only 4:30 until midnight. If your kids are older or younger or if you need more flexible hours, this option won't work.
One alternative is to use an in-room babysitting service. We used Kids Nite Out on our last two trips to Disney World and have been very happy with them. Kids Nite Out, which works with both on and off site hotels, is one of several well-known babysitting services in the Orlando area. All their sitters are screened and have undergone thorough background checks through state law enforcement. You can request a male or female sitter, but make sure you let them know when you make the reservation that you have a preference. They show up at your hotel wearing a Kids Nite Out T-shirt and name tag and will feed, entertain, and put the kids to bed. They'll even take them to play areas around the resort, but they won't take them to the pool. They also don't bathe kids. Most sitters arrive with a bag full of age-appropriate activity books and toys. Rates run from $16 per hour for one child to 23.50 per hour for four children. There is a four hour minimum and a $10 transportation fee per sitter. There is a $2 per hour fee for sitting services that begin after 9:00 pm.
On the plus side, Kids Nite Out works around your schedule, whether you need them during the day or night. Since they aren't at a set location for a set number of hours, they'll stay as long as you need them. If you'll be out late, it's nice not having to move a tired, cranky child from a Kids Club back to the room. To me, it's a huge plus having the kids put to bed at their usual bedtime.
Of course, using a service like Kids Nite Out requires a lot of trust on your part. It can be nervewracking leaving a total stranger with your kids, but we've been very comfortable with the sitters we've had. Many of the young women are college students; one sitter was actually a law student on her winter break. All of them have been super-friendly and immediately interacted with the kids. They took notes on what the kids' schedule was like and asked the kind of questions you'd expect an attentive sitter to ask. We actually used two sitters because with really young twins, it's easier on everyone, particularly me and my husband (Okay, me. I'm a worrier.). When you consider the hourly fee for three kids, it's not that big of a jump to split it between two sitters.
If you hire an in-room sitter, make sure you provide a meal (we usually order a pizza) if your sitter is going to be there longer than eight hours. We want the people taking care of our kids to be happy, so we leave plenty of snacks as well. If you want to tip your sitter, Kids Nite Out doesn't let you put it on the credit card you left with them, so you'll need cash or a check.
We'll definintely use Kids Nite Out again. We had a really fun night riding attractions we can't go on with the kids and loved coming back to the resort and seeing three sleeping children. We also got a great report from our older son the next morning. Excellent service.
Note: Several posters on the Dis have successfully used this coupon for a free hour of babysitting from Kids Nite Out. Google turned up a few others as well.