The following article on how to be a travel nanny is a guest post by Felicity.
“Oh, you’re back already”. I quickly jumped up from the sun chair I had been lounging on and wrapped my bikini body up with a towel when I saw them walk through the door.
“Sorry, these two are nightmares, I hope you don’t mind. I’ve left Suzie so I’m going to go back to her. Bye boys!”
I took the hands of Jack and Chris as they waved bye to their dad who ducked out as quickly as possible. I turned on a big fake smile as I looked down at them, “So, what do you want to do?”
Since arriving in Portugal with Jones’ family as their nanny four days ago, I had yet to have a waking minute to myself. I was quickly learning what it actually meant to be a traveling nanny.
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How to Be a Travel Nanny
I had my heart set on finding a nanny job abroad the minute I finished university. I loved working with kids and wanted to get out and see the world, so it was a natural fit.
My brother and sister in law were already living in London, so I jumped on a plane and took the plunge. As soon as I arrived I learned all about the agencies they had set up over there. It was a huge market.
They have night nannies to get up for the babies at 1, 3, and 4 am, maternity nannies to help with newborns, au pairs who were there to learn English, full-time nannies, part-time nannies, and maids.
Yes, maids. Believe it or not I turned up to one interview (sent by an agency) and got ask mid-interview if I was willing to wear a maid’s uniform as part of the job? To say I bolted is an understatement…
I ended up using Gumtree—the UK one is MUCH better than the Australian version—and landed the perfect job with a young French family.
They had two little girls, 5 and 1, and I stayed with them for the entire two years I was in London for.
Each summer, they took a month off and traveled to France, I was given the option to join them, or to do my own thing!
The first year I joined them, the second year I decided to get a holiday nanny position instead. I had heard all about traveling nanny jobs and was keen to give it a go. What could be more fun than getting paid to travel?!
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Finding a Travel Nanny Job
This was the easy part. The UK is set up for nannies and is full of families who love escaping over the summer. And who wouldn’t with places like Paris just a skip and a hop away.
I started by signing up with a few different agencies. While it may seem ideal to join them all, there is a process involved, so just be wary of that.
There are forms to fill out and then an interview to attend before they even start looking for a job for you. But they are very diligent and great to work with. Here are a few of my favorites:
I was matched with a family within a week and asked if I was interested in traveling to Portugal and Ireland. Yes, please!
These were two places I hadn’t yet visited, so that was an added bonus for me.
Interviewing to Be a Nanny Abroad
Have you ever interviewed for a travel nanny job?
It’s much harder than it sounds. It’s like being asked to interview for an office job but to start doing that job while the interview is taking place.
That’s right, the kids are around, so you have to do your best to win them over while they snuggle up to Mum and Dad and suss you out. Here are my tips:
- Don’t be too friendly, it often scares kids into hiding and clinging onto mum and dad.
- Don’t try and lure them away from mum and dad to play or come close to you, they won’t feel comfortable.
- Do ask them questions they can answer from a safe distance. Don’t worry if they don’t answer, just add a throwaway line “never mind, maybe we can chat about that later” and get back to mum and dad.
- Do smile lots. Warm personalities win the kids over.
The kids in question were two boys, 4 and 2, and the interview went really well.
When I went to leave we were discussing the next time I could come over the meet the boys properly and look after them.
Traveling Nanny Etiquette
There is no point hiring a travel nanny and meeting them for the first time on a trip. It takes kids a while to warm up to new people and that can set the holiday off straight away on a disaster path.
It’s good to see them a few times before the trip, so you all get used to each other and so all expectations can be laid out on the table beforehand.
By the time I met the family at the airport to head off to Portugal, I was greeted with warm smiles all around.
It made for a much more pleasant experience. The boys didn’t want me at all for the flight, as usual with little kids, when mum and dad are around, the nanny is going to be no fun in comparison.
Instead, I made myself useful helping with the bags, organizing snacks and so forth.
It did feel awkward when they bought us all lunch at the airport – I immediately reached for my wallet, ready to pay before they told me of course not, they cover all the food. This took a while to get used to.
The travel nanny job begins the moment you meet the family to start the trip. I learned so much in my month overseas with them. Here are my key tips for anyone considering doing the gig.
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Things to Know About Being a Travel Nanny:
1. Get Creative
I was up with the kids in the morning while the parents slept (which is fair enough, this is their holiday!) and was expected to entertain the kids around the home.
I expected us to be out and about doing things. Seeing things. Exploring. That wasn’t the case.
The parents had booked a place with a private pool and had no intention of leaving. My job was twice as hard.
I had to keep the boys entertained and away from the parents, all in close proximity. We read books, built forts, played make-believe, made up stories, swam and watched TV.
2. You Get No Downtime
The boys didn’t nap anymore, which meant there are no breaks.
You are on duty all day with people watching every move of yours. Once again, I thought we would be out and about exploring so it wouldn’t be so awkward.
I was given one morning off while they went to see friends and that was the time the dad delivered the boys’ back home after half an hour because ‘they were too much’.
I did, however, get a day off each week (so two days in each place), which was nice and I made sure I spent the day out and about seeing what I could.
3. Family Gets Messy
The second half of our trip was to stay with family the in Ireland. Boy does this get messy.
Cousins come, so suddenly you are looking after more kids than before.
Then they entertain each other and you feel useless as you have to stick around, and you have no idea when you should be stepping in—after all, you haven’t been told these other kids are your responsibility.
4. Parents Get Messy
Let’s not forget the parents. You are living with these people on holidays and they are relaxed, drinking and enjoying themselves.
You have taken away all their stress and they often like to have a chat.
Some of the things the mum told me—about her family life, about her parents (who we stayed with while in Ireland) about her want for more children… I just had to nod and smile while trying to maintain a professional relationship.
5. You Do What You’re Told
You may envision how the trip is going to go beforehand. Don’t.
Every family is different and the way you holiday is unlikely to be the way they holiday.
Learn to go with the flow quickly, and understand that while traveling sounds great, it’s not a holiday for you. You are unlikely to get to see what you want to see or go to the places you want to go.
6. Go To Bed Early
Best way to deal with it all! Early nights, early rising. Get plenty of rest to take on the day ahead and you will be fine.
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Why Choose a Travel Nanny Job Abroad
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of perks to being a travel nanny, but it is hard work. The money is good (around $500 USD a week), and you don’t have to spend a cent while you are away.
There is no need to pay for food or accommodation, so you are simply just saving money on the trip. That’s a big perk!
Would I do it again? Probably not to be honest.
It’s one thing to nanny in a familiar place where I can be home at the end of the day and recharge, but being on the go in a strange place was draining, and a lot more challenging than I expected.
The family was great, and I am so glad for the experience. I was able to add money to my travel fund and go on my own trips later on, so it was worth it. Come to think of it, now that I have kids of my own, maybe I should think about hiring a travel nanny for our next trip?
Would you be a travel nanny? Let us know in the comments!
Felicity is mum to her two daughters, Cassandra (3) and Vivienne (1). Her passion is the parenting industry and creating a community where everyone feels welcome no matter how they choose to parent. It is this passion that led to the creation of The Baby Vine.
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.