The Details of Traveling With A Nanny

19 min read

Jul 8, 2024 | New Parent, Busy Parent

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Executive Summary

Not only will traveling with a nanny make your family vacation so much more relaxing, but they can also help take on some of the mental load of planning and packing for a trip. Below are my tips to ensure traveling with your nanny goes smoothly so you can do it time and time again!

Investment Cost: $2,730*
Time Reclaimed: ~14 hours
Worth it? If your household makes more than $195/hr (or ~$400k/year), then yes!

*These calculations are for a 3-day ski trip. It’s based on the extra amount you would pay a nanny who usually makes $35/hour. Plus, the cost of their flights, hotel, and meals.

Thinking about traveling with children under the age of 10? I highly recommend traveling with your nanny! Having them there will make your family trip so much more relaxing, and it will enable you and your partner to sleep in, have dinners out, or explore a new city after the kids are in bed. Plus, having that extra set of eyes and ears on young children when in a new place will help you feel more at ease. 

I also recommend involving your nanny in the travel process early on when you’re starting to think through logistics. Being able to offload some of the mental (and physical) load of prepping for a trip, is a HUGE benefit as a parent. 

Below are my tips for ensuring that traveling with your nanny goes smoothly…

Traveling With A Nanny: Communicate Your Needs Beforehand

Hopefully you already knew you wanted a nanny who would travel with your family before you hired them. You would have asked about it in the interview process and made sure traveling with the family was in their contract. If travel was not mentioned as part of the job requirement, you need to have a sit-down conversation before planning a trip. 

Absolutely do not assume travel is something your nanny feels comfortable doing, so please do not put them on the spot and approach this request nonchalantly. I would recommend emailing your nanny with a specific time that you would like to sit down to discuss the possibility of having them travel with you. To be clear, you are paying them for their time to sit with you to discuss this opportunity, and it is your responsibility as the employer to have a proposal for what you would like to pay, what you envision their role on the trip would look like, and any additional details that you can provide at the time, such as sleeping arrangements. From there it can be a discussion about what’s possible on both ends to make it work. If your nanny is unable to travel with you, there are travel nannies you can hire for trips. 

After you’ve established that your nanny is comfortable traveling with you, I recommend giving them at least one month’s notice about any upcoming trips, though obviously the sooner the better. I usually don’t book anything until I’m certain the time frame works for our nanny too. Once my partner and I start to consider a trip, we put the dates on our shared household calendar. 

Traveling With A Nanny: The Schedule

After you’ve confirmed the dates, set aside time to discuss the upcoming vacation with your nanny. Start with your expectations for the trip. Do you expect your nanny to be available and “on” the whole time? Is it their job to entertain and wrangle the kids for most of the trip so that you and your partner feel like you are on “vacation”? Or, are they there just to be an extra set of eyes and ears, and help travel go more smoothly? Or maybe it’s somewhere in the middle, and you want to have nights free with your partner and have them cover naps during the day back in the room. All of this should be thought out and communicated clearly ahead of time through a shared calendar or itinerary. Follow up in person too — we do this during our weekly meetings — to see if they have any questions. 

After you’re on the same page with overall expectations, talk through the travel day itself. For us, help on the actual travel days to and from the destination is a big part of why we wanted our nanny to travel with us. We wanted a nanny who could keep up with the physical demands of a long travel day —  helping with the kids’ suitcases, walking through airports, and generally having a great attitude about it all, which is not always easy to do on long travel days for any of us!

Go through the travel day timeline together, and think through all the steps of when you need to leave the house, what may be needed for airport entertainment, food, naps, accidents, etc. When discussing these details, I recommend asking for their advice on thinking through what you may be missing. We all know the mental load of parenthood is huge, so accept their expertise and extra brain power! 

Traveling With A Nanny: Have Your Nanny Pack The Kids

traveling with a nanny

Our nanny packs the kids before we leave based on a packing list she and I have perfected over the years. Building repeatable processes like this allows her to take on quite a large assignment such as “pack the kids” and it’s one less thing we have to do as parents. Once the kids turned two years old, she created packing lists with pictures so they could start packing on their own based on visual cues. They think it’s fun — plus, it helps build their independence. 

Our nanny thinks through not just the clothes the kids will need, but also what toys/activities to bring on the plane or car ride. She packs any food and water we will need for the travel day, puts extra clothes in the kids’ carry-ons for accidents, and has jackets and blankets easily accessible for a nap on the go.

Traveling With A Nanny: The Sleep Situation 

traveling with a nanny

We have our nanny sleep in an adjoining room with the kids. This means she’s the one who wakes up with the kids each morning so that my partner and I can sleep in. This is the biggest benefit of traveling with a nanny to an earlier time zone. That Hawaiian vacation doesn’t taste as sweet when you are up at 4 AM because it’s 7 AM at home. If the kids get up early, it’s her room they walk into while my partner and I get to sleep. We really prioritize our sleep because when we’re well-rested we can be more present and engaged with the kids during the day’s vacation activities. 

It might be tempting to save money by having your nanny share a room with the kids. But remember, your nanny needs some privacy and alone time too! I’ve found an adjoining room is ideal because it gives her privacy when she needs it, while still putting her next to the kids for early morning wakeups.

If you’re traveling with a baby you may want your nanny to share a room with them to help with overnight care. The few times we did this, we booked a room that had a living area separate from the bedroom so that our nanny could have a space to hang out after our baby went to bed at 6 pm. Also, if your nanny is expected to get up in the middle of the night to soothe your baby, then they need to be paid for that. It’s legally required that your nanny get at least 5 consecutive hours of undisturbed sleep, or they need to be paid for working the entire night. 

The idea of tracking hours on vacation sounds miserable, so we instruct our nanny to let us know if for any reason she was not able to get 5 hours of consecutive hours of sleep. That has never happened (knock on wood for her sake), but it’s important to make sure she is aware of the requirements, and more importantly that you are too as the employer.

Traveling With A Nanny: Nap or Quiet Time

tips for traveling with a nanny

Our nanny also keeps our children’s nap (or quiet time) schedule in place when we travel, which is one of our most valued parts of having a nanny travel with us on vacation. Young kids get exhausted and cranky when their routines get messed up. There are real consequences in our family — seriously, the 4-7 pm hours become a war zone —  if they miss nap time more than two days in a row.  So when our nanny travels with us, she handles the afternoon nap time while my partner and I use that time to explore or relax.

Traveling With A Nanny: Mealtimes

tips for traveling with a nanny

Your nanny’s role in mealtimes while traveling with you can vary depending on your needs and preferences. With two young kids, we like having our nanny with us at most meals to be an extra set of ears, eyes, and hands.

But again, it really depends on the trip. On our ski trip, she took the kids to lunch so that we could either get extra adult ski time in or grab an adult-only lunch, which enabled us to show up in the afternoon fed, energized, and ready to give the kids our full attention. On that trip, we had most dinners with the whole family and our nanny (when you’re exhausted from skiing, an early 5 pm dinner is gold). But in Hawaii, we usually ate dinners separately from the kids since the time change meant they were usually in bed early. 

Again, it all comes back to figuring out what works best for you and your family and then communicating this clearly with your nanny. If you want to eat with your kids without the nanny there, that’s ok! Do your best to plan ahead and put it on the household calendar with a clear title, like “Dinner – Family Only” so that they can plan accordingly and don’t have to remember. I would also bring up the “family only” meal in your meeting before the trip. Politely let them know about the expectation to eat separately and provide options for your nanny to decide if they want to explore on their own, or order room service. 

The bottom line is that you want your nanny healthy, happy, and well-fed! This is not the time to get stuck on per diem spending for meals. Let them know that you trust their judgment and to simply order off the menu whatever they would normally buy for themselves. I’ve found that this wording provides enough wiggle room for them to make good choices, but to also order that extra dessert or appetizer if they want to.

Traveling With A Nanny: Ensure They Get Downtime

how to travel with a nanny

Your nanny needs downtime too or they will burn out. They deserve a break and some time alone to decompress. On our family vacations, the downtime often happens naturally when we take our kids on a family-only adventure. When we have those outings planned in advance (like family bowling during our ski trip), then we put it in our household calendar, and our nanny knows that they will have time to chill while we are out and about.

If you don’t foresee “family only” activities on the trip, then you may need to do more planning to make sure you are scheduling downtime for your nanny. The reality is if you are finding yourself annoyed at having to give your nanny a break while traveling, then I suggest leaving your kids at home and taking a shorter 3-night getaway with just your partner to recoup your own energy.  

I also recommend checking in with your nanny each evening before you part ways (ideally after the kids are in bed).  It can be as simple as just asking “how ya doing?” or “how ya holding up?” to start a dialogue and make sure they are feeling comfortable with everything.  Ask if they have any questions or feedback about the day, and make sure your plans for the next day are very clear since your routine is out of whack. The check-in is a version of our weekly team meeting, but on vacation, it happens more often since we are all experiencing a bit of discomfort outside of the home and adjusting on the fly, together, as a team. 

Traveling With A Nanny: How To Pay Your Nanny For Traveling With You

It’s important to remember that while this is a vacation trip for you, it is a business trip for your nanny, and they should be compensated accordingly. Your trip is absolutely not their PTO.

Obviously, we pay for our nanny’s flights and hotel room. We also pay for all the nanny’s food when she is with us and when she is alone.

In terms of pay, this is how I recommend calculating how much extra to provide for travel…

  1. I start by figuring out how many extra hours we will need our nanny for beyond the eight hours per day that they are typically paid for when we are not on vacation. For us, that’s usually 12 total hours (6 am – 6 pm), so there are four extra hours per day that I need to account for.

  2. Our nanny is salaried, so I calculate their hourly rate by taking whatever their yearly salary is and dividing it by 2,080 hours (the number of hours in a standard working year). Let’s assume it’s $35/hr. 

  3. I then multiply the hourly rate by the 4 extra hours. ($35 x 4 = $140 per day) 

  4. Next, I take that number and multiply it by the number of days they are coming on vacation with us. For a 3-day weekend trip that would be $420 ($140 x 3). I do this regardless of how many hours they actually work. It’s usually not 10+ hours straight of non-stop working, but we’re paying for them to be available 12 hrs/day. 

  5. Finally, I take that total and add it as a bonus on their next paycheck. 

  6. It’s also standard practice to offer a travel fee — usually about $150/night — to account for the fact that they are away from their home. For a 3-day weekend trip, that would be an extra $300 for the two nights. 

If your nanny is paid hourly, remember that you are also legally required to pay them overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a week. 

We personally don’t offer overtime pay because our nanny is salaried and lives with us, and also because our nanny is usually not working for 10+ hours straight. Our nanny is happy with the arrangement because besides the standard additional pay of traveling with us, they value traveling to destinations they’ve never been to, nice meals, and unique experiences.

Traveling With A Nanny: What Not To Do

One evening, after a long day of travel and after the kids were put to bed, my partner and I were going to watch TV together. Instinctually, I invited our nanny to join us because I didn’t want her to feel left out. Thankfully, she declined and did her own thing. I felt so relieved because I really just wanted to be alone with my partner. 

This is a long way of saying, don’t play host and invite your nanny to everything on a trip when you would rather have alone time with your family. Instead, clearly and kindly communicate to your nanny before and throughout the trip when you do and do not want their presence.

The importance of having these discussions ahead of time, when possible, is about setting a boundary for when you need their assistance and then giving them their space as well. 

Throughout this post, I’ve gone over a lot of other things not to do when traveling with your nanny. Here is a recap:

  • Don’t spring a last-minute trip on your nanny. Give at least 3 weeks notice. 
  • Don’t forget that this is your vacation, not your nanny’s. Even if it is a unique experience, they are still working and need to be compensated accordingly. 
  • Don’t assume your nanny has childcare covered at all times, and that they never need your help. Check in with them before you part ways every night to see if they have any questions or feedback about the day, and make sure your plans for the next day are very clear since your routine is out of whack.
  • Don’t forget to factor in some alone time/downtime for your nanny. 
  • Don’t introduce your nanny as “the help” to new people you meet. Try to just use their name. If I need to identify our nanny, I refer to them as our Family Assistant and acknowledge their immense value, something like “She keeps our life running!”  The point of introducing them with the utmost respect is to signal to the staff that they are an extension of your family. You want people to treat them, and by extension your kids, the way they would treat you around the hotel/resort.
  • Don’t forget to show your appreciation! Traveling can be stressful and hectic, and it’s always a good idea to show how much you value their help. I also usually try to buy a gift or pampering service for our nanny on each trip, as an extra way to say thanks. 

If you follow these guidelines, traveling with a nanny is a total game-changer. It will make your trip more relaxing so you can actually be present during the trip and come back feeling rested from your vacation. Not only will your nanny help with the mental burden of packing and planning, but having an extra set of eyes and ears with young kids is incredibly helpful. 

For more tips on stress-free travel, check out my post on 5 Reasons To Use A Travel Agent.  Need more help building a support team at home? Download my parenting guide: 3 Steps to Hiring Support at Home.

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