Friday, November 1, 2013
When Nannies Travel With Kids - From Throw Up To Frost Bite And All The Whining In Between
When you travel with the kids as their nanny, especially if the family you work for is wealthy, it's unlikely you're going to enjoy the same five-star vacation everyone else in your party seemed to have. I traveled with "Chase" and "Bobby" to take them to visit their Dad who was working out-of-state, and it was more like me on call twenty-four seven for regular pay than anything that resembled a vacation. Sometimes I can't even remember what city I actually visited. But even though the trip was at times stressful and I was shouldered with more responsibility than ever before, I look back on it as one of my favorite nanny memories.Traveling doesn't have to be a complete drag for the nanny. But unfortunately a lot of it is usually damage control. Here are some tips for making it a bit easier.Lower your expectations. A lot of people think being a nanny for a wealthy or famous family is glamorous with lots of great perks. The reality is if you're lucky to find a very generous family, sometimes the perks are okay. Otherwise, you're probably going to be working your butt off and be so tired you won't know that you're in Hawaii or Miami Beach or on a freezing cold movie set. Don't go on vacation with the family expecting to be on vacation yourself. You are working. You can't sunbathe and take a nap when you have to make sure the kids aren't drowning in the kiddie pool, you can't order a margarita because you're working and the kids are always watching you, you'll be busy tracking down tissues and extra sweaters and jackets when a nice spring day suddenly turns 35 degrees and the kids are whining because they're cold and Daddy is too busy looking at the dailies, and you can't do anything or go anywhere the kids won't enjoy too. If your family is kind enough to give you some time off during the trip (mine didn't--the kids were mine to look after every second of the trip), keep in mind you will be alone in a strange city, unless you happen to know someone there. That's not fun, and it can even be dangerous depending on where you are. So treat this vacation as just another day of work. Bring your A-game and be there for the kids and see your role as helping to make the trip fun and exciting for them, and easier on their parents. If you happen to enjoy a little of the vacation in the meantime, you got lucky.Talk to the parents beforehand. Sit down with the parents and talk about their expectations for you on the trip. Will you be on call 24/7 or will you be off at a certain time? What will your sleeping arrangements be? (I slept in one full bed and Bobby and Chase in the other--this is a typical nanny/child vacation arrangement.) If you're going to be working a lot more than usual, discuss how they will compensate you.On the subject of compensation, remember You are working on this trip. Your employer should pay for everything. Aside from you doing personal shopping or taking the afternoon off to have lunch with a friend who lives in town, insist you bill all vacation expenses to your employer if they don't offer already--food, transportation, attraction fees, toiletries the kids forgot that you had to pick up in the hotel store, etc. You didn't ask to stay at the Ritz Carlton, so you shouldn't have to pay for the 100 dollar dinners you and the kids had to order to the rooms. But make sure both you and the kids aren't throwing around money like it's Monopoly. Even if your employer has encouraged you to be extravagant, you don't have to go over the top. This is a good lesson anyway in teaching the kids to be responsible and restrained even if you're on vacation, not throwing away money on silly things. Don't order the most expensive thing on the menu or a bunch of junk. Don't let the kids bill expensive movies or food to the room without permission. Tell them to call their parent and ask. Bring a folder along to save and document all your receipts in case you have to pay for anything out-of-pocket. Then turn them in promptly to be reimbursed. You're already probably very stressed and working extremely hard, it's not fair you have to pay for your reasonable expenses, too.Don't expect parents to help. Depending on your family, you may get little to no help from other adults on this trip. Dad may be working, Mom may be down at the spa on her third massage and fourth martini. It's great if the parents chip in with the kids, but the truth is some parents don't necessarily want to be or can't be watching the kids the whole vacation. That's why they paid you to do it. Be prepared that you may have to do all of it on your own for the bulk of it. Don't expect appreciation either. A lot of parents have never traveled with the kids without a nanny, and frankly have no clue how hard it is. I don't think Chase and Bobby's parents ever thanked me for flying them up there to see their dad. Maybe they saw it as no big deal. It is the way it is.Research the area ahead of time. Find out kid-friendly places to eat and a variety of attractions you could possibly do.Packing. Pack as light as you possibly can for yourself, because chances are you'll be carrying a bunch of kid luggage too. Unlikely you're going to need clubbing clothes anyway because you'll be with Chase all night when he's throwing up that questionable cheesesteak he had. However if the kid is old enough to walk he is old enough to carry some luggage, within reason. You are their nanny, not the porter. Part of your job is to teach them to be responsible, and that includes carrying and keeping track of at least one bag of their own.Airports. Chase and Bobby have traveled extensively internationally, so I got lucky in that they're great in airports and outrageously patient. But for a child who's not, books, DVDs, puzzles, small toys and snacks will help.Your number one job though is to keep your eye on those kids and not lose anyone, or their tickets and IDs. If a kid is crying and you need to show their passport, worry about the passport first. If your family can afford it, pay an airport employee to help you escort the kids to your gate. Chase and Bobby's mother always uses this service, because she is well-known and will be hounded if she has to wait in line with the rest of us peasants, and fortunately she suggested that I use it too. Our escort was actually reserved in her name, so the escort was expecting to get to meet a beautiful and famous big-shot. His disappointment was evident when it was just me and some runny-nosed kids who got out of the car. An airport escort service allows you to nearly bypass security, take the streamlined way to your gate, and they help you carry your luggage and get you on the plane seamlessly. This way I could focus on the kids.Take pictures. Though you may be working, take time to snap photos of the kids having fun. Parents are usually thrilled to get these pictures. Take a few of you and the kids together for yourself. A lot of times nannies will work for years for a family and then realize they don't have one picture of them with the children. These little guys are part of your life and it's okay to document it. My favorite picture of me and Chase and Bobby is the three of us outside our hotel in these new shirts they had just bought that had silly sayings on them. They look so cute, and it's kind of a funny reminder of where we spent the bulk of the trip--at the hotel.Like I said, vacations are damage control. And you may be right back to work the next day so you don't even get a chance to recover. Expect that it will be hard and you will be exhausted, but if you can make it through with relatively happy kids and parents, you are doing very well.