Should I take my nanny on holiday?

We’ve all had visions of idyllic family holidays: cocktails and a novel beside the pool while you take turns swimming with the little one(s), or messing about for hours on a beautiful beach. The reality can be very different: the toddler is constantly two steps away from drowning, there are more tantrums over hats than book pages read, and you find yourself turning on mobile data roaming so you can google ‘baby eating sand how much is dangerous’.

If you’ve got a nanny, you may have wondered -- would it be more relaxing if they came too?

Clearly, there are major benefits to having your nanny with you on holiday. You can go out in the evenings. Both parents can do child-free things together, like snorkelling or ski-ing. Someone else can put the sunscreen on the toddler. Maybe plane and car journeys could be nicer, too. You might even read a book.

If you do decide to bring the nanny along, you’ll need to sort out some special arrangements for the trip. The topic can be a minefield -- it’s a frequent source of complaints on nanny forums -- so here are our tips for doing so.

  1. Don’t assume it’s going to be a fun trip for the nanny. Many nannies are excited to take on their first travelling job, but return home and say to their nanny friends, ‘Never again’. Why? It’s harder than the normal job. Kids play up in an unfamiliar place, and you don’t have the resources you normally would. It’s hard to not be able to switch off (would you really want to go on holiday with YOUR boss?). The nanny can end up working 24/7, and not necessarily getting paid to reflect that. Some nannies will really miss their usual home activities, friends, and partner.  
  2. Agree in advance how it will work. Recognising that it’s a bigger job than usual, you have two choices: Either continue your normal working hours and non-working hours, and stick to them, OR agree that some other arrangement will apply for the holiday, and pay for it accordingly. What you can’t do is expect the nanny to be ‘on-call’ all the time without changing her pay.
  3. Clarify the grey areas.  This is about defining when a nanny is ‘on duty’. For example, if your child wants to chat to your nanny during the plane ride, is that paid or unpaid time? You might consider it downtime, but as far as your nanny is concerned, she’s working. For this reason, some experienced nannies have been known to even refuse to fly with the family unless paid for that time.
  4. Be mindful of boundaries. If the nanny isn’t on duty (getting paid), make sure she isn’t working. You might like to establish an unbreakable rule that the children are never allowed in the nanny’s room. That makes sure she gets downtime. If it’s a long trip, try to give days off with spending money -- and if the holiday is over a weekend, consider a break away entirely, e.g. a hostel room and train fare somewhere close by.

You may decide, given all of this, that it’s just not worth it. Taking your nanny can be very expensive and not necessarily that much of a stress reliever. Ask yourself how much work the nanny will really do -- once you add in flights, accommodation, food and pay, you may find yourself paying thousands of pounds for little more than a bit of babysitting!

Additionally, having an extra person around might feel awkward - even someone who is a big part of your normal day-to-day life. Some families (and nannies) who get on great when the parents are at work all day, find that they drive each other mad on holiday.

As an alternative, you could consider hotel babysitters and kids clubs, which can be excellent. There are also specialist ‘travelling nannies’, worth checking out if your own nanny is unenthusiastic about the holiday. The downside is that the travelling nanny won’t be familiar with your kids and your family, but they’ll definitely be keen, and after all it’s their job to learn fast and make sure you all have a great time while you’re away. 

Holidays with children are never going to be the same as the ones you took pre-kids. They’re an entirely different beast, with their own delightful charms as well as the challenges. All too soon they’ll be wanting to holiday with their friends instead, and you’ll look back on those family holidays with enormous nostalgia—however you managed at the time.