Traveling With Your Nanny: It's Your Vacation, Not Theirs


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We've already covered the protocol for when a family goes on vacation and chooses NOT to take their nanny, but how should a family go about traveling with their nanny? This is a question many parents and nannies have. Just like with most everything else, because there is no set law regarding most of this, a lot of parents and nannies simply do not know the industry standards when it comes to this topic. That being said, while I genuinely believe some people simply don't know, I'm not sure how that often results in parents totally low balling and thus taking advantage of their nanny. If parents would simply put themselves in their nanny's shoes, I think they would see what they are offering in a totally different light. I've said many times that having a nanny is a luxury and today I'm here to say that having a nanny travel with your family, is the ultimate luxury; and just like with any ultimate luxury, it costs a lot of money. 

Just like with the other vacation article, let's look at some real life examples to see what many nannies are having to deal with when traveling with their nanny families. Again parents, I ask that you read these scenarios and think about which of them sound like something you would be interested in...

Scenario 1 My nanny family asked me to travel with them to Maui for a month. They said my payment would be the "free vacation." When I told them I wouldn't be able to go because I couldn't afford to have a month with no income, they agreed to pay me enough to cover my bills, which was only about 1/3 of what I typically make in a month. I felt stuck, so I said yes. I won't do it again, that's for sure. It wasn't a vacation...I was working. 

Scenario 2 A previous family I worked for was going on a vacation for 10 days and they wanted me to go with them. I was told they wouldn't pay me anything since they'd cover flight tickets, accommodation, etc. Plus, they said it woud be a nice vacation for me too. They even expected me to use my 10 days of PTO! At first I was seriously thinking about going, but then I realized how disrespectful this offer was and I refused to accept it. I told them I'd like to use my PTO however and whenever I wanted to. I explained that even though I loved their child, it was still a job for me and I would be working, so it was not a vacation. It wasn't easy telling them, but I was happy I stood up for myself. They then told me I was ungrateful, and that I should thank them for taking me abroad. I didn't work for them much longer.

Scenario 3 I was working overnights at a fixed rate for a single Dad. He told me that for 4th of July, he wanted to take his son to the beach house with family, but he had to work on the 4th. So, he had me drive his son the hour and a half to the beach house to meet up with the family and he would join us the next day. Normally, I would only have had the child from 6pm - 8am, but because of the travel and being "on vacation" at the beach, I had him from 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm the next day. He paid me the overnight rate with nothing more because I got to go on "vacation". He didn't even pay my gas to drive his child an hour and a half to the beach or my gas to get back home. I don't even like the beach. I think by the time you factor in the gas prices I wasn't reimbursed for, I probably made $15 for the entire 15 hours. I was too green to realize how much I was being taken advantage of.

Scenario 4 About a year ago my nanny family decided they were going on a cruise. The mom informed me they had bought me a ticket so I could go with and still work. I did NOT want go on a family vacation with them, but ended up not having a choice. They then informed me that since they bought my cruise ticket, they were not going to pay me for the week since I was getting to go on "vacation". I shared an interior cabin with the two-year-old twins I as in charge of, as well as two 16-year-olds and a 13-year-old. There were 5 of us in a tiny room! I was stuck in the cabin every afternoon while the twins napped and every night by 8pm when they went to bed. I also was caring for them the entire time they were awake. I literally had them 24/7. The family also took several excursions off the boat that I was required to attend (so I could take care of the twins), but I had to pay for them myself! It was an all around nightmare. On the ride home (I drove the mom & all the kids 9 hours), I finally just started crying and said I quit...I can't do this. The mom calmly told me "No, you can't quit. The kids love you". I still work for them to this day and I still have trouble standing up for myself because they are like family to me. 

I'm pretty sure no one reading this feels those scenarios sound like a vacation. But maybe that's just me.

Parents: Your vacation is not a vacation for your nanny. Ever. 

Even if a nanny has a great time on your vacation and gets to do a lot of fun stuff, it is still a work trip for them. Even if you and your nanny are super close and they love your kids and fun is had by all, it's still NOT a vacation for your nanny. Your nanny is working on the trip...even if you give them ample downtime. Your nanny is not on the trip with their own friends/family. Your nanny isn't choosing the destination of the vacation. Your nanny isn't choosing the vacation activities. Your nanny isn't choosing anything! Your nanny is being brought along for your benefit and your benefit alone. 

Parents, I really want you to think hard about how you would feel being asked to go on a work trip and not being compensated for it or compensated less because your job told you it would be like a vacation, even though you would be working. That's honestly the exact opposite of a vacation. Vacation = no work. If one has to work, it's not a vacation -- even when it's a cool destination. Sure, getting to travel to cool destinations for work is certainly a nice perk, but it does not replace getting paid.

So, what are the laws and industry standards when traveling with your nanny?

- Your nanny has guaranteed hours (they should, anyway), so they get paid for their normal work hours even if they work less. This is because your nanny relies on their normal weekly income to pay their bills. You taking them on your vacation doesn't pause their bills for that month. If your nanny works more than their normal hours, they get paid for those as well, with applicable overtime (yes, even when traveling, overtime laws still apply and when traveling, legally a nanny must be paid for every hour worked). And of course, NO banking hours. All laws that normally apply to employing a nanny, also apply when a nanny travels with your family. Oh and do not have your nanny use their PTO for the vacation. PTO is for the nanny to use whenever and however they please -- definitely not for when they are traveling taking care of your kids.

- The family covers all of the nanny's travel expenses including: airfare/mileage, all meals, all lodging, and all excursions/activities. Your nanny should not be responsible to pay for any of these things. Remember, this is not your nanny's vacation. Look at it like a business trip. On business trips, the company pays for the airfare, the meals, the hotel, etc. It's simply unfair to expect your nanny to pay for these things. Would you ever be okay with going on a business trip where you were required to stay in a hotel, dine out for every meal, go snorkeling, zip lining, to the zoo, and a museum...and pay for it out of your own pocket? If your nanny has the day off and chooses to go on an excursion on their own, then sure, your nanny should pay for that. But everything else, including meals when not working, should be covered by the family. This is because your nanny is not at home able to cook themselves dinner -- they are forced to order food/dine out -- an expense they would not incur if not on a work trip for your family.

- Legally, your nanny must be paid for time spent traveling to and from the destination. This means that even if you have your nanny sit in a completely different row on the plane and they are not at all responsible for the kids, LEGALLY they must be paid their hourly rate for the travel time. Even though the law is very clear on this so there should be no confusion, if it still doesn't make sense to you, think of it this way: If your nanny is stuck on a 5 hour flight or car ride for your family's vacation, that is 5 hours of their time that they are not free to do what they want. They are only on the plane/in the car because you are requiring them to, so their time must be compensated for what it's worth. 

- Your nanny should receive a daily 'per diem' for every 24-hour period they are away on the trip in addition to being paid for their guaranteed hours/the hours they work. This is sometimes referred to as an "inconvenience fee" because your nanny is making a lot of sacrifices to accompany your family on your vacation. This daily 'per diem' usually ranges anywhere from $25-$200+. The lower end is for when your nanny has private accommodations and is not responsible for the children at night. The higher end is for when your nanny either has to share a room with the kids or keep the monitor in their room for a night or two so the parents can have a completely kid free evening. For example, a nanny might charge $50 per day if they have their own accommodations and are not responsible for the children overnight, $100 per day to cover overnight hours if they have their own room, but are responsible for the kids overnight (i.e., have the monitor in their room), and $200 per day to cover overnight hours if they have to share a room with a child. In fact, some nannies charge their full hourly rate overnight (including applicable overtime) when having to share a room with the kids. When a nanny doesn't have private accommodations, it is like they are working 24/7, as they have no space to relax and unwind -- they can't watch TV in bed before drifting off to sleep, they can't call a loved one to chat with them before bed, etc. If you're thinking it's crazy to pay a per diem even when your nanny has private accommodations and isn't responsible for the kids overnight, think of it this way: Your nanny is away from the comfort of their own home. They might have to pay a petsitter while they are away. They are missing out on fun outings with friends and family. I know it's hard to believe since to you your vacation is so great, but your nanny has to make a lot of sacrifices to accompany your family on your trip and at the end of the day it is a work trip for them, not a vacation. 

- Give your nanny some downtime. Traveling with families is hard work for a nanny. Everything is out of whack when traveling -- routines, sleeping arrangements, meals, etc., so the work that your nanny is doing with your kids on the vacation is significantly harder than the work they do with your kids at home. This is why it's so important they are compensated fairly and given enough time to rest and relax.

- Make sure everyone is on the same page before the trip. Discuss thoroughly what your nanny's schedule and roles will be and make sure everyone agrees to the compensation and working conditions. In fact, travel compensation should already be covered in your contract, but it's important to go over it again to make sure there is no confusion. Communication is key. If you expect your nanny to share a room with the kids, you need to ask them beforehand if that's okay. Your nanny might not want to do that and it's their right to say no. Many nannies do not find it to be worth the money to not have a private space to comfortably recharge, so they simply refuse to travel if they won't have their own room. Another important thing to thoroughly discuss is when your nanny is on the clock and when they are off. Traveling with a family can be tricky, as the nanny's downtime may often be intermingled with the family, and if the parents haven't explicitly said the nanny is off the clock and not being paid, the nanny may not realize that and feel like they have to help out. Clearly let your nanny know each day the hours they are working and when they are relieved of their duties. Do not assume anything and treat your nanny how you would like to be treated if you were in their position.

- If it's a long trip and your nanny is working for a week or more straight and then having to jump right back into their normal workweek upon returning from traveling, please consider giving them a paid day off to recharge. Remember, you're getting back from a vacation where you relaxed and had fun with your family, but your nanny is not coming back from a vacation where they got to relax and recharge -- they are coming back from a very busy and demanding business trip. If your nanny went on a 7 day vacation with your family, and you all got back on a Sunday, and your nanny then has to be back at work Monday at 8am to work their full workweek, by the time the weekend comes, your nanny will have worked 12 days straight. Nannies are human and after a long work trip, they do deserve at least one day off. 

So parents everywhere, please...I beg you...shift your mentality. Your family vacation is not a vacation for your nanny. Put yourself in your nanny's shoes and really think about what you're offering. Is it expensive to take your nanny on a trip with your family? Absolutely. It's actually very expensive and when you do the math, you might realize it's not something you can afford and you may opt to use a service to hire local babysitters once at your destination. But if you want the luxury, the convenience, and the comfort of having your trustworthy nanny who is intimately familiar with your kids and family accompany you on your trip, it's going to cost you a decent amount of money. If you can't afford it, that's completely understandable, but please don't ask your nanny to travel with you and then offer them unfair pay simply because it's all you are able to or are willing to pay -- many nannies feel guilty and put on the spot, so they say yes but then later regret it and feel resentful, which is a recipe for disaster. If you can't afford to pay your nanny properly to travel with you, simply don't take them. Your nanny will stay back and either have paid time off (because they have guaranteed hours and you are choosing to not have them work) or they can do their normal contracted duties during their normal scheduled hours while you are away (such as child laundry, sorting through child clothes, organizing the playroom, etc.) -- either way your nanny receives their full pay while your family is away. 

Lastly, to all the nannies out there: please stop agreeing to travel without proper compensation. Just say no. It's amazing how empowered you'll feel when you do.