When I first started my search for daycares in May 2016, I was already 3 months along with our daughter Lily. I tried to visit a few during my lunch breaks, putting my name on TWO expensive waitlists, both of which I am waiting to be contacted for my now 16 month old daughter! So clearly my timing wasn't right, but yours doesn't have to be off. And the whole thing was so confusing. Not only was I apparently 2 years late in my search, but there were waitlist fees, registration fees, enrollment fees, supply fees, and on it went. Then some daycares charged monthly and charged supplies once a year. Others charged weekly and charged supplies every other month. Even with a spreadsheet, how is a tired pregnant woman supposed to compare all these things?
1) Ask for help!
Ask your partner for help in this search, it is a tremendous one. What is important to you both? Do you want a daycare that serves meals so you don't have to worry about it? Are you the kind of parent who would rather make all of their children's food? What kind of hours does it need to have to match your work or school schedules? Do you need full time, part-time? Are there any other things (such as a bilingual focus) that are very important to us? This is when I started my spreadsheet so I could note all of the things we decided were important to us. For us, that was distance, price, if meals were provided, AVAILABILITY, and focus on foreign languages for me. Luckily, we found a place that was incredibly close to home and checked off all those tick marks except providing meals - which is changing soon! Yay!
2) Google first, but be wary. Ask around instead.
A lot of people are much more likely to write bad reviews than good ones for a daycare. How does the daycare handle the bad review? I've also found that parents are shy about posting positive reviews on their child's childcare page due to privacy concerns. So word of mouth may be a good thing. Ask a moms group or some friends you have with children. They will also have heard of other daycares from their parent friends, so they're a good (but sometimes biased) resource. Decide for yourself if the things they loved or hated about a daycare matter to you. Ask lots of questions!
3) Officially Start the Search
Start calling daycares and googling ones you have heard of. Look for others near you (proximity was a HUGE factor when looking for daycares for me), near your place of work, or on the way to work. Others that are easily accessible, or so incredibly affordable and reputed that they are worth the detour, go for it! You can easily google Daycares Near Me for a list of daycares and start touring! It really is worth seeing what they have to offer in person, versus from a website.
Be wary of daycares who won't give you any information over the phone, especially tuition. The main tactic here is to make you visit the center and get you sold before they tell you the price. It's a good tactic, it works often, but it can blind your judgement a bit.
Here are some questions to ask when touring or on the phone with the Daycare Director
What are your prices?
How is my child's health and safety insured?
How stable is the environment
Education and training
Other Amenities to consider:
I hope that this helps you in one of the biggest searches for your life.