It’s mid-November and I was holding a glass of port wine, which one should always do when in Porto, Portugal. My father and I were on vacation and struck up a conversation with another father/daughter duo. We began talking about our travel plans. We were in Portugal celebrating our birthdays and I explained that I would not be going back to my home in New York, but instead was flying to London to meet the family I worked for. We would then spend 9 days in London and France.
What is a Travel Nanny?
I frequently travel with the family I nanny for and have had many people comment on how fun my “vacations” must be. I love the family I worked for and am a part of their family. I enjoy the opportunity to teach the child in my care about new environments and cultures. We’ve gotten to ride golf carts in the Dominican Republic, swim in the sea in Spain and see the bison in Golden Gate Park.
Traveling with families is a unique and beautiful experience; however, it’s important to remember that when a nanny (or manny) travels with a family, it is not their vacation but part of their job. The work may be in a new and exotic place that people dream of traveling to, but the nanny is working. Sometimes the nanny will have to work even harder, doing research on a completely new area to find age-appropriate activists and events for the child in their care. When we went to Spain, I did hours of research on parks close to our hotel and found local events and activities for the children.
Like the parents and children, nannies are also jet-lagged and they have to work through the exhaustion while providing quality childcare. When it came time to meet the family in London, I was excited because I had already adjusted to the time change and therefore could give the best care possible.
There are many factors and things to think about if you wish to travel as a nanny. Here are some things I’ve learned about being a traveling nanny and the key to success involves planning, communication and flexibility.
Update the work agreement
Planning is critical because of the importance of understanding what is expected from both you and the nanny family. Before the trip, you need to understand the parents’ expectations regarding the trip. Will you be spending time alone in a room with the children, taking them to see the sights or will the entire family be together most of the time? When the family is together, who is in charge of the children – you or the parents or both? Are you expected to get the children up and ready in the mornings and down for bed at night? Are you expected to entertain and care for the children while in transit (in the car, on the train, in the plane)?
With any nanny job, whether you will travel internationally or go on a domestic vacation with the family, compensation and job duties should be included in the work agreement. To cut costs and keep you close, families may expect the nanny to share a room with the kids. If there will be a lot of travel involved, you may document whether you have a private room. You may be okay sharing but if not, don’t be afraid to express your concerns. If you prefer not to travel, make sure your employer knows your preferences.
Finalize a schedule
Understanding the schedule will help everyone know what is planned. Nannies will need time off during the “vacation”. The nanny and parents should discuss this in advance, so they can plan accordingly. If the family has specific times when they will care for the children, the nanny can have that time off. If there are no specific times scheduled, the nanny and family should revisit the schedule and make sure the nanny can have downtime as needed.
Depending on what is included in your work agreement, you need to determine what the family expects to pay for, what you are expected to pay for and reconcile any differences before the trip begins. In general, all logistics and expenses regarding travel should be taken care of by the family. Meals and activities done as a family are generally paid for by the family. If the nanny is expected to work while the family visits Disney, then the tickets to the parks should be paid by the family. If the nanny has a free day and wants to go to a Disney park, then the nanny would pay for her own ticket.
The nanny also needs to know if there will be additional responsibilities. For example, if the family plans on traveling with friends who also have children, it’s extremely important to align on expectations for childcare between the nanny and any traveling companions. Do your friends also plan on bringing a nanny? If not, what are their plans for childcare? Families cannot expect a nanny to take on additional charges without first discussing it with the nanny and ensuring fair compensation for additional work.
The nanny also needs to address some personal things before the trip. When traveling out of the country, you must have a passport and any other necessary documents along with proof of any vaccinations needed to travel. If you have your own place, you must make arrangements for pet care, ensure utilities are paid on time and stop your mail so it doesn’t pile up while you are away.
Communication is key
Constant communication with the family is key to avoiding misunderstandings and ensuring everyone has a good experience. For example, if you are responsible for entertaining the children during a long flight and the Dad is responsible for luggage, make sure he understands the importance of the carryon bag being readily available.
Even the best-laid plans will experience bumps in the road. When preparing for contingencies that happen with the children, don’t forget you are also responsible for yourself. Many travelers keep a change of clothes handy in case of a travel accident. If the weather cancels an event, you may have to come up with spur of the moment creative ways to entertain the children. Sometimes you just have to ‘go with the flow’.