It’s Vacation Planning Time!
Looking to get away this winter and planning a family trip with your Au Pair? This is something we have done and it takes good communication to ensure things go well. Here are our tips for planning a family vacation with your Au Pair.
Know your Au Pair
Before you plan your trip and invite your Au Pair, get to know her first! Don’t assume that your Au Pair will be a good travel partner or that she will even want to join you just because you are going somewhere exotic in the dead of winter. Consider how having a young adult on vacation with you may impact your vacation goals and how the Au Pair will react in a variety of vacation scenarios. Is she the type who will get lost, miss the last bus, or come crashing back into the condo or hotel at 3 in the morning? Will she be sullen if the weather turns bad or will she sulk because she finds she has spent all her money in the first two days? Hopefully you do not have an Au Pair who will do any of these things but if you aren’t sure, you might opt not to invite your Au Pair.
Explain that it won’t be as glamorous as it seems (hint “privacy”)
Does your Au Pair have a good grasp on the type of family trip you are planning? Vacationing with a family means close quarters living, dealing with kids at all hours, fewer distractions for kids (toys etc), travel delays, less abundance of food choices and chosen restaurants may be more geared towards getting the kids fed quickly than enjoying a beer on a patio. Privacy may be minimal.
Not only will your Au Pair’s privacy be limited compared to home but yours will be too. Travel often means tight living quarters. You need to consider how this will be handled if you and your husband wish for some quiet time to yourselves, especially if you are sharing a small condo and your Au Pair does not have her own room.
Are you taking her because you need her to work or because you are treating her to a new experience?
This is an important aspect of the vacation and your Au Pair will want to know what you expect. You will need to discuss wages, time off, responsibilities etc… IN ADVANCE of your trip. Will you be paying for everything including accommodation and food? Who will pay for airfare? Communicate, communicate, communicate! If you are not requiring her to work while away then make it clear what you do expect from her. Will she still be required to help out as a family member would or is she simply allowed to “tune out?”
In my experience while vacationing in Hawaii, we have not required our Au Pair to work regular hours or any set schedule. Vacation was essentially “time off” for our Au Pair. In exchange for accommodation and food, we asked her to be helpful with dishes and meal prep and make up her bed etc… just like a member of the family would. She paid for her flight and aside from sporadic babysitting (which we paid her an hourly wage for), she essentially could do as she wished. We enjoyed sharing Hawaii with our Au Pairs because we were able to showcase a part of the world with them that they would otherwise not get to experience given the geographic distance from their home country.
Absolutely discuss sleeping arrangements when discussing the family trip with your Au Pair. Will your Au Pair have her own room? Will she be sleeping on a pull-out couch? Will she have to share a room with kids? This may impact her decision to join you on vacation and thus it is an important aspect to discuss. She most certainly will need her own bed but how you arrange sleeping quarters will be between you and your Au Pair.
Where is your Au Pair from and does she need travel authorization from your destination country? Not all countries can enter the USA or other nations with ease. Do your research well in advance of your travel date. Discuss who will cover the cost of travel authorization if there is an associated fee. If travelling to the USA, she will likely need to apply for an ESTA (electronic system for travel authorization).
Give your Au Pair options
Your Au Pair should not have to join you for every excursion or dinner but she should at least be invited. If you have invited your Au Pair on vacation with you then you should be anticipating the extra expenses. If you are headed to a theme park, aquarium or out for a good meal, your Au Pair should be included. As far as cost goes, you should offer to pay for meals. If you do not feel comfortable paying for entrance fees etc… then make sure you have a discussion about this extra cost BEFORE you leave on vacation and that you and your Au Pair agree on how these extra costs will be managed. There is nothing more uncomfortable than when neither party knows who is going to foot the bill.
This being said, there are some activities that come with exorbitant cost (such as ski lift tickets in Whistler or tours on a cruise ship). These activities should be planned ahead of time and discussed with your Au Pair. I suggest that these costs should be the Au Pair’s unless you require the Au Pair to come along as part of any childcare duties. Any activities you plan and expect your Au Pair to “work” should be your responsibility to pay for.
If your vacation happens to come close to your Au Pair’s birthday or Christmas, perhaps a good idea for a gift would be an “experience” while away. Lift tickets, bungee jumping, zip lining or any fun excursions make great memories and gifts.
Souvenirs and other “optional” purchases
You should not feel like you are on the hook for buying your Au Pair souvenirs, specialty coffees or extravagant treats while you are on vacation. These are the “extras” that she can foot the bill for. Remind her to set aside money in the months before the trip.
This is what random babysitting on your trip may be good for. A few evenings of babysitting or mornings when you and your partner can take off to the beach alone may put a few more dollars in your Au Pair’s pocket for t-shirts, postcards and other fun items she wishes to buy to remember her trip. Remind her about baggage limits and whatever she buys needs to fit in her carry-on.
Wifi / Internet etc…
Depending on where and how you are travelling make sure you have a conversation with your Au Pair about the availability of wifi and internet where you are going. Some places have free wifi but others (like cruise ships) charge an arm and a leg. Prepare her for the ability (or lack thereof) to keep in touch with family and friends while away. This may also help her plan for the extra costs that come from paying for service abroad. It may also have a huge impact on whether or not she wants to join you on your family trip. No wifi or internet may mean no-go.
Now that nearly every airline charges extra for luggage, be clear with your Au Pair regarding what she needs to pack. Can she get away with only packing a carry-on? Can any incidentals be put in the family’s luggage to help save on baggage fees? Remind her of the limitation on liquids in carry-ons, especially if she has not done much travelling before her Au Pair year.
Help your Au Pair plan her activities
Before you go, help you Au Pair research and plan any activities she might like to do on her own. Show her a map of where you are going in the event she wants to venture out in the evening, go shopping or head to the beach on her own. This will help you plan family activities as well and give you an idea of which days she may want to join you and which days she prefers to adventure off on her own. Definitely plan for some separation during your family trip.
Explain the concept of gratitude before you go
One thing that many host families complain about when they return from vacationing with their Au Pair is that the Au Pair did not say thank you or express gratitude for the multitude of things the host family did to ensure it was a great trip. Before you go, ensure your Au Pair understands that this trip is not a drop in the bucket and (especially if you do not plan for your Au Pair to work while on vacation) that you would love for her to show her appreciation from time to time. The millennial generation doesn’t always show their gratitude like we would have when we were in our late teens or early twenties and instead of stewing about this and becoming resentful, tell them what you expect in advance.
This of course works both ways. Always thank your Au Pair for the help she gives you while on vacation, whether being paid or not.
Hopefully these tips are helpful!
Canadian Au Pair Solutions