Twice the Work and Half the Fun – What you Need to Know About Vacationing with your Nanny

If you have vacationed with your nanny before, or are considering it, you are likely aware of the unique challenges and tensions this dynamic can present. If you are the nanny, you’re doubly aware (for most of us, it isn’t our first rodeo!). There can be a lot of drama around this topic. Nannies get upset, parents get upset, and not many people know where to turn for answers when it comes to establishing a standard.

For starters, let’s get this out of the way: You are going on vacation, not your nanny.

Your nanny is still working (hence why you brought her). But here’s the most important part – she’s probably working more than usual, not less.|

That plane ride to your vacation destination? She bounced and soothed your fussy infant while entertaining your active toddler the whole way, somehow even getting them to nap. The beautiful resort you’re staying at? Your six month old is refusing to sleep because it’s an unfamiliar environment, and the time zone change has your toddler melting down left and right. Your nanny is balancing nap schedules, dietary needs and restrictions, activities for the kids (often water-based, instantly hiking stress to a Level Orange), and helping to coordinate family outings, all in a new setting, possibly in a foreign country.

Your nanny is not on vacation, trust me.

But she is happy to be there, so long as she is adequately compensated.

This is where it gets sticky. Where the drama and negotiating begin. Parents want (er, need) the help, but struggle with justifying potentially doubling the cost of their vacation. Yes, doubling. These costs include at the minimum standard full-time pay to the nanny plus her traveling expenses. Often this financial prospect results in parents unintentionally shortchanging their nanny, which clearly isn’t fair to her, or conducive toward a communal vacation experience. So how do you know what is fair?

Emily Dills, founder of Seattle Nanny Network, Inc. states that the best scenarios come from employers who do the following

Offer separate accommodation. This is most economical for a family when it simply includes a room in their vacation home or rental, not a hotel room. Your nanny should have privacy and a place to rest. If you are staying in a hotel and wish to have the nanny share a room with the children, then compensation for overnight care should be factored in as well (a reality with infants and toddlers), providing that she is comfortable with this arrangement.

Provide airfare with a clear definition of whether the nanny will be on duty while flying. Unless she is traveling separately and meeting you at your destination, the nanny should be on the clock from the moment the plane takes off (if not earlier!). Most likely she has been juggling the kids through the airport, and either assisting in caring for them or solely responsible for them the entire flight. One client, Ms. Dills recalled, sat in first class while the nanny and children sat in coach. No question as to whether the nanny was on the clock in that situation.

Pay for all meals, period (and don’t be weird about it). Nickel and diming this aspect creates too great a margin for discontent. For example: if you tell your nanny that breakfast and lunch are paid, but she’s on her own for dinner, does that mean she has to leave the family and eat alone, in a strange place? It’s beyond awkward. And speaking of awkward, nanny Lynda M. will never forget her meal experience during a two-week long road trip: “The mom bought one foot long [sandwich] and two drinks for us all to share – mom, dad, me, and the three kids. The mom called it “trough eating” and we all shared [food] and drank from the same drinks. We did this the whole trip.” Just don’t…

Establish a set schedule where parents trade duty with the nanny. Whether you want to drop the kids off after dinner so you can stay out (or in!) all night, or have your nanny take charge during the day so you can socialize with friends or be able to relax guilt-free, it should be clear to all parties from the beginning who is on kid duty and when. Kim S., who worked a vacation with her boss and extended family, recalls of her ten day Vegas trip: “I was the ‘nocturnal nanny/daycare worker’, as I was in charge of all five children from 5pm until 10am the next morning. The parents would drop the children off with me in our rooms at 5pm, along with dinner, and then [they] left to take naps and get ready for their night…Once the parents arrived [the next morning], I…had the choice of joining the families on whatever adventures were scheduled for the day or of going off on my own to do whatever I wanted (often a nap by the pool!), as long as I was in the hotel rooms and ready to go for the next 5pm drop-off.” Chaos, maybe, but organized.

Pay the nanny a rate that everyone agrees to, on top of travel expenses. An hourly rate might seem logical, but this is often abused. Nanny Jill R. shares: “I was only compensated for the hours I was with the baby ALONE, which was minimal since I was basically hired to be the mom’s companion!” Another common approach is to pay the nanny her at-home/salaried rate, but this can be problematic if she is working considerably more hours than her normal schedule, or working with additional children. It is best when families accommodate this accordingly. Kim S., the “Nocturnal Nanny” mentioned above, was compensated by being paid her regular salary, “plus extra pay for taking care of three additional children, extra for working 17-hour shifts, and extra for having to work away from my normal work environment. All of my expenses were paid for by the parents.” It doesn’t make the job any easier, but paying your nanny a rate that recognizes the unique challenges and additional responsibilities of vacation definitely helps make it worth it for her. I mean, you want her to do this again, right?

Navigating the ins and outs of vacationing with a nanny can be a bit daunting, but once you do get to your destination, remember to enjoy yourself! Misty Ewing Belles, Director of Global Public Relations at Virtuoso, the travel industry’s leading luxury network, shared: “Don’t be afraid to let your nanny do her job…I think there’s a tendency to feel guilty watching someone else care for your children when you’re in the same room. However, if…you’re comfortable with her daily care of your kids, enjoy the advantages that come with having some assistance.” Your nanny is there to help make life during your getaway easier, just like she is at home, and you can rest assured that your children are with someone they trust and love.

So sit back, sip that cocktail (how long has it been since you’ve had a cocktail?!) and relax.

You’re on vacation now.

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