Should You Bring Your Nanny on Vacation?
Look at the pros and cons of traveling with your babysitter.
When Lynn Singer and her husband of Armonk, N.Y. travel with their three school-age kids, there's one essential aspect to a successful trip: They bring along their live-in nanny. "Having an extra pair of hands just makes everything run more smoothly," explains Singer. "There's one more person to help put on sunscreen and bathing suits in the morning, play on the beach or take someone to the bathroom, and if my three year-old son wants to nap or skip dinner out, he can do that too."
Singer and her husband aren't alone. Over 35 percent of live-out nannies and over 45 percent of live-in nannies travel with their families, according to the International Nanny Association.
"For families with a full-time nanny, it often makes for a smoother, more peaceful vacation," explains Neysa Richardson, Care.com's Nanny Expert. "Having a nanny ensures that there are more people watching the kids at busy destinations like Disney, lets parents get the occasional dinner out together, or even sleep in some mornings," she explains.
Bring Your Nanny With You
Richardson, who has traveled often with families, recommends creating a vacation contract before traveling. "Specify your expectations as to the nanny's hours, salary, and duties," she says. "Compensate your nanny for extra hours working, or allow her some time off." If you expect your nanny to bunk with your children, make sure she agrees to it before you leave.
Read our tips on what you need to create a nanny contract »
Remember that just because it's your vacation, it's still work for your nanny -- work that's likely made more difficult by the unfamiliar food, surroundings and the break from routine. "Negotiate a lump-sum for the total number of hours worked before departure, which you can then spread out in any way that works once you arrive," says Jessika Auerbach, author of "And Nanny Makes Three." "Also, make sure to talk about whether or not watching an On-Demand movie in the hotel room while the kids are sleeping constitutes 'work' -- parents never think that it does, but nannies always do."
To ensure a successful trip, Lissa Poirot, editor of FamilyVacationCritic.com, recommends traveling with a nanny who you're very familiar and comfortable with. "Your nanny needs to be someone that you can live with for the duration of the trip, often in tight quarters, as well as someone your kids will listen to," she says.
Be Creative with Payments
Don't have a full-time nanny or babysitter that can travel with you? Vacations offer lots of ways to get creative. Sharyn Clark Castagno of New York, N.Y. loved the idea of bringing a babysitter to help with her rambunctious six-year-old son Luca, but couldn't afford the sitter's hourly rate of $20 over the whole week. "I asked my sitter if she would consider coming along and helping out if we paid her travel expenses, lodging, and food, and gave her time off in exchange for babysitting Luca," she says. "My sitter, who is an underemployed actor, loved the idea and it worked so well that I'm hoping to travel with her every time we go away."
Consider Other Options
While having a full-time nanny may sound wonderful, it's important to have realistic expectations. Besides the expense of extra airfare, food and lodging, you still owe your nanny her regular vacation time, which means you may need to scramble for child care those weeks.
If it doesn't make sense to bring your nanny with you on vacation, learn about the 8 Ways to Find Child Care on Vacation »
For both parents and nannies, it's important to have strong lines of communication, says Poirot, who has both traveled as a nanny and now, as a parent with her nanny. "I have had some awkward conversations, both with parents who were staying out partying all night and expecting me to work 24 hours a day as well as with my own nanny, who started drinking so much wine at dinner that it was interfering with her ability to do her job the next day," she says. "In both cases I had to take them aside and re-establish some ground rules."
Don't forget that it's also your children's vacation, and if they're used to being around the nanny most of the time they may prefer mom and dad when they have them at their disposal. This is a problem currently facing Singer whose kids are getting older and want more parent-time. "We may actually not bring her when we travel this summer, and just see what it's like to vacation as a family. But then again, we may bring her just to make sure we get some peace too!"
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