Should we bring our nanny on vacation?

Image Gallery: Beaches If your nanny joins your family on vacation, it frees you for some time to yourself. See pictures of beautiful beaches.
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Ah, vacation. You labor year-round to support and care for your kids, yet it's so rare that you manage to escape for some family fun time. When you finally do, so many day-to-day childcare tasks demand your attention that your family holiday feels more like a working vacation.

Wouldn't it be nice to have an extra pair of hands along for the trip to help with the day-to-day tasks of feeding and watching over your kids? Not to mention arranging activities for your children that stimulate their intellectual, physical, emotional and social growth. (And keep them out of your hair.)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 1.3 million childcare workers employed in the United States in 2008, and about 33 percent of those childcare workers were self-employed -- most of them providing childcare in their homes. Obviously employing a nanny is fairly common practice, but whether you employ one already or not, chances are the idea of having an additional caregiver along on a family trip sounds appealing.

Can you bring a nanny to the beach or along for your luxurious European vacation? Sure you can. But you have to remember that bringing a nanny on holiday differs quite a bit from employing one at home. There may be added expenses for you. And although you may think you're doing your nanny a favor by taking him or her to the French Riviera, the nanny will still spend that time working, not relaxing. So you need to work out a very clear arrangement beforehand.

What are the pros and cons of bringing a nanny on vacation?

Benefits of Bringing the Nanny on Vacation

Bringing a nanny on vacation lets you focus on family fun and leisure by lightening your load of day-to-day childcare chores. Equally important, nannies free you for some much-needed "me time." After all, as much as you adore your kids, sometimes you just crave a grownup afternoon -- at the spa or on the links. Or maybe you'd like a romantic evening with the love of your life, your spouse.

The added flexibility you'll gain by having a nanny along on your vacation can be invaluable, particularly when emergencies arise or when your child is in the midst a developmental phase, like potty training. Your kids may also feel a sense of comfort and continuity with the nanny around, particularly if they share an emotional bond with him or her. If your child is special needs, a trained caregiver can provide extremely valuable assistance.

There are several ways to work out a vacation arrangement with your nanny. Some families bring the nanny on vacation but don't expect him or her to work. The trip is viewed as a "shared vacation," and the family hopes this will align the nanny's schedule with the family's so that the nanny is available at home when needed (and doesn't leave the family in the lurch by taking a separate vacation).

That arrangement differs greatly from one in which the trip does not count as vacation for the nanny (who is working, after all). The family pays for the nanny's travel expenses and the nanny's duties are outlined carefully before the trip.

On the other hand, you and your nanny might prefer to take separate vacations at the same time, to minimize friction and maximize the chance that the nanny will be available while you're not on vacation. In this case, you still have the option to hire a nanny local to your destination through a service, which is usually cheaper than bringing one along or employing a travel nanny.

As you can see, things quickly grow complicated, so let's take a closer look at some of the potential problems with bringing the nanny on vacation.

Problems with Bringing the Nanny on Vacation

Will the nanny be expected to watch the kids while they're in the water? That should be written into the agreement.
Will the nanny be expected to watch the kids while they're in the water? That should be written into the agreement.
Sean Ellis/Getty Images

Generally, there are no problems with bringing a nanny on vacation provided you can afford it and both parties can come to an amenable arrangement. When you think about it, though, those are two fairly big ifs.

Remember, unless your nanny isn't expected to care for the kids on this trip, this isn't a vacation for him or her. It's therefore customary to supply the nanny with travel expenses, food and a separate room. Costs can add up quickly, so you might want to consider renting a house and buying groceries instead of, say, booking two adjoining rooms at a resort.

Consider, too, that your nanny might not want to go on vacation with you. A trip to Paris or Santorini is one thing, but spending two weeks snowbound in a secluded mountain cabin with no escape and nothing to do during time off might be somewhat less appealing for your nanny. Even a resort trip will pall if the nanny never sets foot outside because of an ill child, or if everything costs more than the nanny can afford to spend on a day off.

Finally, mull over what it will be like to be around each other in such a confined space. Are you the sort of person who considers vacations sacred family-only time? If so, having a nanny around might feel a bit intrusive. Expect some friction if you don't consider these issues before you ask your nanny to accompany you, or if you fail to lay out an agreement ahead of time detailing schedules, hours, expectations and duties.

That said, it's still manageable as long as you break it down, communicate well and follow a few helpful tips we'll discuss in the next section.

Tips for Bringing the Nanny on Vacation

Ultimately, any arrangement that you and your nanny agree to within the bounds of law, reason and morality is probably fine. As with many things in life, the answer is communication and planning.

Tips for Both Parents and Nanny:

  1. Put a separate travel contract in writing. Set out the nanny's hours, duties, schedule and compensation (including the nanny's food, lodging, travel, etc.). The trip should not count as the nanny's vacation unless you both agree to that.
  2. Inform the nanny whether or not it's appropriate to post vacation pictures, which could include you and your kids, on Facebook and other social media Web sites.
  3. Communicate, be flexible and keep your sense of humor.

Tips for Parents:

  1. Hiring a nanny from an agency at your vacation destination can save you money, but you should only use a fully licensed and bonded agency that you have carefully investigated. Resort concierges may also have lists of preferred agencies. Ask the agency specific questions regarding what activities their nannies are allowed to do with the kids (swimming, for example). These can vary widely due to liability considerations.
  2. Consider hiring a travel nanny. They're expert at traveling with kids, adept at scoping out destinations for activities and amenities and will go where other nannies might be unavailable.
  3. Don't wait until the last minute. Your nanny will need time to arrange to travel. And if he or she can't join you, you'll need time to find and investigate a local or travel nanny.

Tips for Nannies:

  1. Before you accept, ask yourself honestly how well you think you'll get along with the parents and how flexible your eating habits are. Also consider your tendency toward travel sickness and other potential problems.
  2. Do your research ahead of time and be prepared with activities, emergency numbers and anything else you might need to do your job while you're at your destination.
  3. Be assertive but flexible.

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Sources

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. "Child Care Workers." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. (May 20, 2010)http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos170.htm
  • Capp, Lexy. Association of Premier Nanny Agencies public relations officer and philanthropic committee co-chair; owner and founder of Nannies & Housekeepers USA. Personal interview. May 5, 2010.
  • Patterson, Thom. "Recession Shakes up Child Care for Families." CNN. March 31, 2009. (May 6, 2010)http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/03/30/nanny.jobs/index.html
  • Rinella, Heidi Knapp. "Minding the Children: Like One of the Family." Page 1E. March 15, 2005.
  • Robinson, Donna. Traveling Nanny. Personal interview. May 6, 2010.
  • Sachs, Wendy. International Nanny Association co-president; founder and owner of the Philadelphia Nanny Network, Inc.. Personal interview. May 4, 2010.
  • Stout, Hilary. "How to Speak Nanny." The New York Times. Feb. 3, 2010. (May 5, 2010)http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/garden/04nannies.html?pagewanted=1&8dpc
  • Susan Tokayer. International Nanny Association co-president; founder and owner of Family Helpers, Inc., Dobbs Ferry, NY. Personal interview. May 4, 2010.