During the holiday season, many families choose to visit faraway relatives or take extended vacations at ski resorts or in warmer climates. However, when you have young children, planning and embarking upon these trips can cause a great deal of stress. Many parents will invite their nanny to come along on the vacation, or enlist a nanny agency’s help in acquiring a travel nanny for the duration of their trip.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your holiday travel to-do list, we’ve come up with some quick tips to make the planning, traveling, and vacation itself as relaxing as possible.
When planning your trip…
Whether or not you delegate planning tasks to your live-out or live-in nanny, it will take a fair amount of research to find the best deal, so start working at least eight weeks in advance of your trip. With children, it’s important to schedule any flights strategically.
If you can manage to fly a bit early or later than the high-traffic time, or midweek instead of a weekend, those flights will almost always be less crowded and might offer your family better seating options. If the kids are still young, it’s also a good idea to schedule the flight for a time they are likely to want a nap. That way, other passengers will be grateful, and it’s less likely that you’ll need to keep fidgety, energetic kids in their seats.
If you’re visiting a city your family has not yet been to, it can be useful to have your nanny research child-appropriate activities in the city. This can be as simple as Googling “family-friendly activities in [city].” Other websites, such as Yelp and Trip Advisor, also have good local suggestions. Additionally, most cities have an arts and entertainment section on their city website, or a list of popular news and entertainment daily and weekly publications your nanny can consult.
On the travel day…
On the day of your flight or road trip, the number one thing to remember is to allow yourselves a great deal of extra time. Traveling with children is a completely different experience than traveling as adults; everyone in the family is bound to get stickier, messier, and crankier than you would ever have imagined before having kids.
If you bring your nanny along for the trip, he or she can certainly help to keep the kids entertained and happy. Some foolproof tips? Bring a bag with you that has toys, snacks, any medication, baby wipes, extra formula/milk if necessary, and a change of clothes for everyone. Keep this bag with you at all times. Be sure to give toys to the kids in a strategic manner; only pull one out at a time, and hide it when they get bored. That way, you won’t exhaust all your resources early in the day.
It’s also smart to bring children’s books on tape that the kids can listen to, and have a number of family games on hand in case of delays. These games can be as simple as I Spy or the Scribble Drawing Game, but it might be a good idea to keep a deck of cards, coloring book, or travel-sized board games in your bag, too.
Now that domestic airlines are unlikely to serve food to passengers, it’s important to pack your travel bag with healthy snacks for the kids to eat. Fruits and berries such as apples, clementines, and blueberries are always good options; so are homemade trail mixes that include dried fruit, whole grain cereal, and nuts. If your child has a nut allergy, you can easily substitute nuts with seeds or leave them out altogether. Avoid snacks made with refined sugar, which will spike blood sugar and can make kids crankier.
Lastly, if you have an iPad, a long travel day might be the best time to loosen screen time rules. This is for your benefit as much as the child’s; traveling is stressful for everyone! Remember to be patient. The day will end eventually, and then you’ll have time to relax.
While you’re on vacation…
A vacation should be relaxing for the parents as well as the kids. One perk of visiting extended family is that there will likely be cousins for the kids to play with, and you’ll have a village of family members to help watch them all. However, if this vacation is just immediate family, it can be a good idea to take your nanny on the vacation or hire a travel nanny to help out for the duration of the trip.
The International Nanny Association says that roughly 40 percent of nannies travel with their employers. One reason for this is simple: a family’s nanny already knows the rules and routines and has the trust of her employers and her charges. If you do bring your nanny with you, you’ll want to work a schedule and payment out with her. Remember, your vacation is not her vacation; it is a business trip. Communication about expectations is key and can make the difference between a tense trip and a smooth one.
It is a good idea to write any travel expectations into the nanny’s initial contract, or to update the contract to include travel requirements when the opportunity presents itself. Remember that being responsible for children’s safety in an unfamiliar setting can be challenging for the most seasoned professional. It’s important to allow the nanny time off to relax and explore. This will help keep him/her refreshed and thus better able to attend to your children’s needs when he/she is on the clock, as well as more likely to agree to go with the family on any future travels.