One of the most stressful parts of heading back to school is managing schedules. Last August, I actually created an Excel spreadsheet to map out who needed to be where and how each one was going to get there. Whether both parents work outside the home or you have multiple children, our kids are busier than ever after school, and it can be very stressful on a family.
Over the past year, I have been intrigued by some new companies that claim to be “Uber for kids.” I was interested but could never get over the anxiety of putting my kids in a car with someone they didn’t know. That all changed when I had the chance to talk to three moms, all of whom are CEOs of various ride-sharing companies for kids — two of which are based right here in the Bay Area. Each company is unique in its own way.
This company offers rides and childcare. They are able to accommodate children of any age and provide car seats and/or booster seats. Sara Schaer, a mother of two, started the Bay Area-based Kango. The app can be downloaded to a smartphone and is easy to set up and navigate.
There are several things I like about this app, including that you can book for the same day, which is helpful if something last-minute comes up. You can also meet your driver beforehand to quell any uneasy feelings about sending your child off with a stranger. Also, drivers are available to babysit.
I recently booked a same-day ride for my two children. Within minutes of inputting my request, I received a text with the driver’s picture, vehicle information, and a short bio. All drivers undergo extensive background checks and must have at least two to three years of childcare experience; most have more, as they tend to be teachers, nannies, or even moms themselves. Our driver was very personable and friendly and immediately put my children at ease. I was able to track their ride in real time through the app and received a text from the driver upon their arrival. Payment is handled through the app similar to Uber and is based on time and distance with a minimum fare of $16. Kango currently has a monthly subscription of $9/month. Childcare rates range from $15–$20 per hour for one child.
Based in Los Angeles, HopSkipDrive has been operating in the Bay Area since May. They are similar to Kango in how extensively they screen their drivers and their vehicles; however, riders need to be at least 6 years old and you need to book by 7 p.m. the night before. There are no membership fees; you pay by the ride. You can also book a recurring ride.
Another feature I really like is the “carpool option,” where families can book a carpool, split the fare, and either pick up or drop off at multiple locations. I also had my children try this service. The driver arrived in an orange t-shirt with decal flags on the car. When inputting information about your child on the app, it asks for a “code word” for each child. This is an extra safety measure if your child is being picked up somewhere. For example, the driver tells your son his code word so he knows that the driver is the right person. The company was started by three moms, including Joanna McFarland, who is the CEO.
This company is slightly different: They don’t offer on-demand service but contract directly with schools to provide rides. They are essentially a smaller, safer private school bus. They take students on field trips and after school to sports practices and games. The hourly rate is $95–$115 depending on mileage. A minimum of 10 riders pencils out to $8–$10 per ride, which is very reasonable.
The company has been operating for three years and shows no sign of leaving the market anytime soon. The CEO and founder, Benny Shaikh, started the company after the birth of her twin sons, and was looking for safe, reliable way to balance work and her children’s busy schedules.
The staff all undergo extensive background checks both preemployment and after hiring. The vans are all monitored with a GPS tracking system. Kidzjet is also able to monitor a driver’s behavior, including cell phone, use to make sure the children are getting the safest ride possible. The vans are all professionally serviced and cleaned regularly. Kidzjet works with schools across the city, including Katherine Delmar Burke, Live Oak, Chinese American International, and the AltSchools.
Could these companies be the answer to easing after-school carpool craziness? For many, yes. These services won’t be for everyone; part of my fear in writing this was realizing I was going to have to give these companies a try. I had great experiences and would absolutely try them again. Whether you are looking for a one-time ride to get you out of a jam or setting up a recurring ride for the whole school year, it is nice to know there are safe and reliable options.