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When Nannies Travel With Kids – From Throw Up To Frost Bite And All The Whining In Between
When you’re traveling with kids as their nanny, especially if the family you’re working for is wealthy, you’re unlikely to enjoy the same five-star vacation that everyone else in your group had. I was traveling with “Chase” and “Bobby” to visit their dad who was working out of state and it was more like me on call twenty-four seven for a regular paycheck than anything resembling a vacation. Sometimes I don’t even remember which city I actually visited. But even though the journey was stressful at times and I had more responsibility on my shoulders than ever before, I remember her as one of my favorite nannies.
Traveling does not have to be a complete obstacle for a nanny. But unfortunately a lot of it is usually damage control. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.
Lower your expectations. Many people think that being a nanny for a rich or famous family is glamorous with lots of great perks. The reality is that if you are lucky and find a very generous family, sometimes these are advantages good. Otherwise, you’ll probably work your ass off and be so tired you won’t know you’re in Hawaii or Miami Beach or on a movie set. Don’t go on vacation with your family thinking you’ll be on vacation alone. You are working. You can’t sunbathe and take a nap when you have to make sure the kids don’t drown in the kiddie pool, you can’t order a margarita because you’re working and the kids are constantly watching you, you’ll be busy looking for tissues and more sweaters and jackets when a beautiful spring day suddenly turns 35 degrees and the kids are whining because they are cold and daddy is too busy looking at the journals and you can’t do anything or go anywhere, the kids won’t enjoy it either. If your family is kind enough to give you some time off during the trip (mine didn’t – the kids were taken care of every second of the trip), keep in mind that you’ll be alone in a strange city if you happen to know someone there. This is not fun and can even be dangerous depending on where you are. So treat this holiday as another working day. Bring your A-game and be there for the kids and see your role as helping make the trip fun and exciting for them and making it easier for their parents. If you happen to enjoy a bit of vacation time in the meantime, you’re in luck.
Talk to your parents beforehand. Sit down with your parents and talk about their expectations for you on the trip. Will you be on call 24/7 or will you be off at certain times? How will your sleep be? (I slept in one full bed and Bobby and Chase in the other – a typical babysitter/kid vacation arrangement.) If you’re going to be working a lot more than usual, discuss how they’ll make up for it.
When it comes to compensation, remember that you are working on this journey. Your employer should pay for everything. In addition to doing personal shopping or taking an afternoon off to have lunch with a friend who lives in town, insist that you invoice your employer for all vacation expenses if they don’t already offer them—food, transportation, attraction fees, toiletries for children. you forgot you had to pick up at the hotel store etc. You didn’t ask to stay at the Ritz Carlton so you shouldn’t have to pay for the $100 dinners you and the kids had to order to the rooms. But make sure you and the kids don’t throw money around like it’s Monopoly. Even if your employer encouraged you to be extravagant, you don’t have to overdo it. Anyway, that’s a good lesson to teach kids to be responsible and restrained even when you’re on vacation and not throwing money away on stupid things. Don’t order the most expensive item on the menu or a bunch of junk. Don’t let kids charge expensive movies or food to the room without permission. Tell them to call their parents and ask. Take a folder with you to store and document all your receipts in case you have to pay for something out of pocket. Then return them promptly to be reimbursed. You are probably already very stressed and working extremely hard, it is not fair that you also have to pay for your reasonable expenses.
Don’t expect your parents to help you. Depending on your family, you may get little or no help from other adults on this journey. Dad might be working, Mom might be down at the spa on her third massage and fourth martini. It’s great when parents check in with their kids, but the truth is that some parents don’t necessarily want or can’t babysit for the entire vacation. That’s why they paid you for it. Be prepared to do most of it yourself. Don’t even expect an award. Many parents have never traveled with children without a nanny and frankly have no idea how difficult it is. I don’t think Chase and Bobby’s parents will ever thank me for flying them to see their dad. Maybe they thought it was no big deal. It is the way it is.
Research the area beforehand. Find out about kid-friendly places to eat and different attractions you could do.
Packaging. Pack as light as you can because you’ll likely be carrying a lot of baby luggage. It’s unlikely you’ll need club clothes anyway, since you’ll be with Chase all night after he throws up that questionable cheesesteak he had. However, if a child is old enough to walk, they are old enough to carry some luggage within reason. You are their babysitter, not a doorman. Part of your job is to teach them responsibility, and that includes carrying and monitoring at least one bag of their own.
AIRPORT. Chase and Bobby have traveled internationally a lot so I was lucky that they are great at airports and incredibly patient. But for a child who is not, books, DVDs, puzzles, small toys and snacks will help.
However, your number one job is to keep an eye on those kids and not lose anyone, not even their tickets and IDs. If the child is crying and you need to show their passport, take care of the passport first. If your family can afford it, pay an airport employee to help escort the children to your gate. Chase and Bobby’s mom always uses this service because she’s famous and will be harassed if she has to wait in line with the rest of us peasants, and luckily she suggested I use it too. Our escort was actually booked in her name so the escort was expecting to meet a beautiful and famous fan. His disappointment was evident when only me and some children with colds got out of the car. An airport escort service allows you to almost bypass security, use an efficient route to your gate, and help you carry your luggage and get you on the plane without a hitch. That way I could focus on the kids.
Take pictures. Even though you may be working, make time to take pictures of the kids having fun. Parents are usually excited when they get these pictures. Take a couple of you and the kids together for yourself. Many times nannies will work for a family for years and then realize they don’t have a single photo of them with the kids. These little guys are a part of your life and it’s okay to document that. My favorite picture of me and Chase and Bobby is the three of us in front of the hotel wearing these new shirts they just bought with silly sayings on them. They look so cute and it’s such a funny reminder of where we spent most of the trip – at the hotel.
Like I said, vacation is damage control. And you can go back to work the next day, so you don’t even have a chance to recover. Expect it to be tough and you’ll be exhausted, but if you can pull it off with relatively happy kids and parents, you’re doing very well.
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