I must admit: I never thought I would travel with childcare. That was a luxury that never entered my mind until we hosted our first au pair over four years ago. One of the premises of the au pair program is the cultural exchange between the family and au pair so it was a natural fit to let her explore the USA with us. Now, having taken more trips with our au pairs over the years than I can count, I must say it is a huge relief to have an extra set of hands around while navigating the stress of travel with young children.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you are sipping margaritas at the beach solo, and it does take preparation to be executed well. We found having our au pair with us allowed us to do special activities with each of our children, while not being confined to nap schedules as our au pair could stay with the nappers. Squeezing in a few date nights is a perk, too!
Here are my best practices for travel with caregivers:
Set a schedule
Explain your plan for the trip as well as the daily schedule while on vacation. Be specific about your caregiver’s schedule and hours expected to work. Let her know of any days off or downtime, and when that will be (and stick to it!).
Sort out sleeping arrangements
Will your caregiver be sharing a room or bathroom with your children? If so, are they expected to wake up with the children in the middle of the night or morning? Will they have their own space where they can go at the end of the day? Whichever you choose, make sure they understand the rooming situation and responsibilities.
Discuss your expectations for childcare as well as other chores that will need to be done on vacation. Will they only be responsible for playing with and watching the children? Are they also responsible for laundry, meal preparation, clean up, driving? If they will be in charge of the children near water, find out their water safety knowledge and comfort level with children in water.
Define what compensation they will receive for their time. It is expected that the family pay for the travel and accommodation costs for the sitter. In addition to those expenses, what rate will the sitter receive? Is it an hourly rate while she is “on duty” or will it be a flat rate for the entire vacation?
In addition to communicating all of the above expectations before departing, it is important to continue to have open communication while on the trip. Have daily check-ins to go over the schedule for the day and rest of the week. Communicate how they can be most helpful during their hours and what you would like them to prioritize in terms of responsibilities. Most important, tell them how much you appreciate them and point out what they are doing well!
Following these guidelines will alleviate much of the stress of traveling with children and allow you to enjoy your vacation time together. Happy travels!