We pictured ourselves sitting in a living room on a couch. It’s around 8 o’clock at night and the kids have just been put to bed. I’m looking at something on my laptop and Amanda’s reading her Kindle. We mention possibly renting a movie or watching a show on Netflix. This scene is very typical for our current life phase with small children.
While we were getting out of debt we had a lot of time to think of what slow travel as a family would look like. When we pictured our typical evening routine, but moved the living room couch from San Antonio to London or Paris we didn’t like it as much. With a new and exciting city waiting to be explored sitting on the couch sounds more like a penalty than a perk. I would ask Amanda, “Is it worth all of the trouble and expense to travel around the world only to have an 8 o’clock curfew?”
One problem with slow travel
In our thought experiment we ran into the same problem many traveling families run into:
When traveling far from family, friends and community what do you do about childcare?
Sure it would be exciting to be in another country with our family, but when the evenings came we’d be sitting in our flat and only able to explore solo while one of us is home with the kids.
This didn’t settle well with us because we want to experience everything that our host cultures have to offer including nightlife. Plus, we knew that sometimes we need time away from the kids in order to be the best parents we can. Some nomadic parents have let go of the dream of a date night alone with their spouse for the dream of travel, but we thought there had to be a way to have our travel cake and be able to eat it kid-free too.
With that goal we started thinking of ways to solve the problem.
Possible solutions for childcare on the road
We started brainstorming ways to answer the question of childcare on the road. One answer would be that we could take our kids with us everywhere – including out at night. Although I admire this parental bravado I don’t think it works. Our toddler isn’t going to be welcome at a place like a live music venue, and a meal at a fancy restaurant wouldn’t taste as good with kids dropping glass stemware on the floor.
Another solution would be to make friends quickly and ask for referrals. This seemed in line with our goal of connecting with local ministries, but the ‘quickly’ part doesn’t happen so quickly.
We could possibly meet up with other expats or travelers and swap childcare, but again this requires prior connections with travelers (we don’t have any), coordinating schedule and trust. There are services that offer childcare with “licensed” individuals, but I couldn’t bring myself to even research what these are like.
All of these options came down to trusting the person you’re having care for your child and trust is something that takes time to build. I wasn’t able to bring myself to be comfortable with trusting a stranger to watch my kids.
What we decided as the best solution or us was to bring help along. We have a regular babysitter at home and so Amanda and I started thinking through what it would be like to travel with a nanny. I’m a numbers guy so I ran the numbers on extra costs for food, lodging and travel. I also added in a salary that I thought was a good fit for the role.
As we thought through the pros and cons the added cost and logistics was well worth the bonus of being able to explore our host culture kid-free and have added time to work while on the road.
Benefits of traveling with a nanny
The first benefit to traveling with a nanny is that you have someone to watch the kids to free you to do other things. While on our current trip our nanny has watched the kids while we went to see a movie, went to the groceries, worked at a local coworking space, and went out to buy take away food.
We have three young children so when I’m working Amanda is outnumbered 3 to 1. The second benefit is that with a nanny she has an extra set of hands. Having a second adult makes taking the kids outside to a shop or a playground possible instead of an overwhelming challenge.
Having someone else along when you travel also means that you have someone to talk to. Two of the places we traveled use languages we don’t speak. It’s been nice having someone else around to talk and share stories with.
Finally traveling with a nanny is a great opportunity for your nanny. This trip is our nanny’s first time outside of the country. She’s getting to experience tons of new experiences while in Europe.
What does it include?
When we asked our regular babysitter if she was available to travel with us for two months we outlined what the job would include. We paid for all travel expenses including airplane tickets, train and subway tickets. We also paid for lodging and made sure she always has a private room of her own. Finally we covered the cost for meals and some snacks. We also chose to pay for the cost of some museum or attraction tickets. Any souvenirs or other expenses would not be covered.
Things to consider
Here are some things to consider when deciding to travel with a nanny or not.
Do you and the kids like the person?
You and your kids will be spending a lot of time with this person so it’s a good idea to make sure your personalities click. We didn’t have a problem with this. Leading up to the trip our daughter would record videos talking to our nanny saying how excited she was about the upcoming trip.
Age and maturity
The age and maturity level of the nanny is important to consider. You will want someone who can not only take care of the kids, but can handle themselves in the case of an emergency. Also, if you are traveling internationally it is easier to have someone that is older than 18 years old.
Are they a traveler?
Does this person like to travel? Have they traveled before? Do they see the trip as an adventure, or a burden. Make sure you choose someone who is excited about the trip and excited to be a part of the experience.
What’s the cost?
Finally make sure your budget can handle the cost. Plane flights are normally the highest cost, but remember that adding a person to the trip will also require a certain type of accommodation. It’s possible for our family to squeeze into a two bedroom apartment, but with a nanny we were needed at least three bedrooms in each the places we stayed.
We’ve enjoyed our time traveling with a nanny. For families with young children traveling with help is a great way to share the experience of travel and also have more flexibility and opportunity for the parents.