Don’t take your Au Pair on vacation during her first 3 months!

by cv harquail on February 8, 2009

Okay host moms- I’m coming out with a pretty specific "Don’t":

Don’t, I say DON’T, take your au pair on a vacation the first 3 months she is with you. Gnome Eiffel Tower

Why? Because:

1. It sets up inaccurate expectations about how she will be treated (e.g., as a guest and tourist vs. as a ‘working’ member of the family).

gnome skiing

2. It makes it look like you’re just another rich American family with lots of money to spend on entertainment. Can you say ‘deep pockets’?

3. Without the experience of ‘regular life’ to compare it to, it’s likely that your au pair won’t fully appreciate the vacation.

4. Taking her away from home this early interrupts your au pair’s ability to get settled in to her new home and establish her social life.

gnome nevada 5. If you take your au pair on vacation this early in her stay, you lose the opportunity to have the vacation trip be kind of a reward for a great year.

6. Often, an au pair’s English is so rough when she first arrives that she feels a little estranged and tired — both problems will be exacerbated by traveling.

7. Vacations take you and your kids out of your family routines. Thus, it is hard for your au pair to learn how you like to do things, what your rules are, etc. (My kids watch more videos during a week of vacation travel than they do in 3 entire months at home. They also eat at Mc Donald’s, something we only do when we travel.)

lv gnome

8. On vacation, you and your kids may not behave "normally." You may give your au pair unrealistic or incorrect impressions who you are and of what being with you will be like.

9. You might waste spend a lot of money and effort taking on vacation an au pair who is either a bad fit or planning to ditch you as soon as she can anyway.

Your thoughts parents? I’m putting on my flame-proof gear. ….

{ 44 comments }

Dawn February 6, 2009 at 8:40 pm

No flames here! I think that this is a really good rule/suggestion. Of course, there may be situations where you have “no choice” but to take your AP on a vacation in the first three months, but for all of the reasons you listed, I agree that it’s something to be avoided if at all possible. Honestly, I agree with all of your reasons above, but numbers 1, 7, and 8 were the ones I nodded at most vigorously! :)

Angie February 9, 2009 at 1:07 am

Thanks for the info! We are planning a Florida trip to visit Disney World & attend the launch of the next flight of the Space Shuttle this summer and plan on taking our au pair with us for the week. She will have been with us for a little over 4 months by that time, so I’m hoping she will be nice and settled in by then and appreciate the travel and the change of scenery! :)

I definitely don’t want her to think we are just another rich American family, because we are not! We budget our one big family vacation a year and spend a lot of time and effort into the planning. The logistics of traveling with 4 small children will be a new experience for all of us this year and I really hope it will be a pleasant one! :)

Maya February 9, 2009 at 6:59 am

After reading the previous vacation post and now this one, I honestly say that when we took out previous AP on vacations with us we did everything wrong. As a result, we rematched right after the vacation, which in retrospect what we should’ve done long before, but I was glossing over the problems and my husband kept telling me that I am being too hard on her.

Anyway, we booked the vacation before the AP even arrived to our house and we booked it for 5 people to include her. We told her about the upcoming vacation almost right away after she arrived. By the time we all went on vacation she has been with us for five months. We never really provided very specific expectations to her, but at the same time when we were addressing some issues that have come up while we were on vacation she was not responsive to that at all. As a result all of the issues that we were glossing over previously came up and we had a confrontation while we were there and then once we came back home.

I must say we learned a lot from that experience and even more from the previous vacation posting here. If and when we take AP with us on vacation next time, I will be a lot more careful of setting up expectations and limits.

I also agree with all the don’ts in this post. Definitely a lot of food for thought for me for the future.

Calif mom February 9, 2009 at 7:03 am

It’s already a hard-learned rule of ours, and this entry rationalizes that rule better than I could myself. All points are right on target. 1, 5 and 9 should be bolded. And 9. And 9. Especially 9. Nothing says sucker more than buying a glass of red to go along with her steak. OH my we were naive! : )

Tex February 9, 2009 at 8:56 pm

I hadn’t thought of this before, but can definitely see where early vacations could set up confusing expectations. We’re following a modified version of this recommended policy. Our current au pair arrives on a Thursday and the kids’ spring break starts the following Monday. We thought any major vacation would be too much so soon, so we planned a low key long weekend getaway the weekend before spring break ends (leaving Thursday night, back home Sunday afternoon). We live in Texas and are driving to the Hill Country, staying in a town we know well – where we lived for many years. We will stay with friends instead of fancy hotels, do outdoor activities and state parks, and eat many of our meals at home with our friends. We will go to a few of our old favorite restaurants (we’re talking burgers and fries and big texas breakfast type places). We figured this would give our au pair a glimpse of a very beautiful part of Texas, expose her to other people, and give all of us a little change of scenery without spending much money or making it too huge of a deal. I should add that English is our au pair’s first language and she has read the following travel/vacation guidelines from our au pair manuel:

Travel/Family Vacations
We will always include you in our vacations, general travel, and holidays. Think of these as business trips. Bob and I always enjoyed a bit of “goof off time” on business trips and we will make sure that you get some too. We will however need you to provide au pair care to the family during trips, albeit on a much more relaxed and unstructured schedule.

This post as me thinking, though . . . Still a bad idea?

Dawn February 9, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Tex, I like that language about family vacations in your au pair manual — mind if I copy it? I’d also welcome any other last-minute tips you or anyone else has on what to include in the AP manual — our new au pair arrives this Friday, so I am putting the finishing touches on our AP manual! I’ve already made a lot of changes based on lessons learned from past APs and tips from this blog, but I’m always open to more suggestions!!

Calif mom February 9, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Tex, that sounds like a reasonable approach to spring break. It’s not over-the-top, and I too am going to borrow your approach to vacation coverage.

One potential down side — by saying in the manual that you will “always” include your au pair in travel kind of locks you in. You may end up one day wanting to get away without her, and that could be awkward, especially since you don’t know for sure whether this new au pair is going to stick. I think I’d hedge a little more to give our future selves some wiggle room.

(I can’t wait for my kids to both have the same spring break schedule!) Enjoy the break!

Tex February 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Dawn (and anyone else) – feel free to borrow or steal. I’d actually love to trade manuals with someone. Mine is about 95% done. I had only one example to model mine after. I am so not a micro manager so this was a hard project for me, but I do appreciate the of getting everything spelled out nice and clear in the beginning.

Rayann February 10, 2009 at 2:57 am

I think Tex is right on with the early vacation being more laid back. We took our au pair on “vacation” about a month after she arrived. We already had plans to go, and offered to her that she could either stay home or go with us. Our “vacation” though was a trip back to Nebraska to visit family, camping out in a cabin at a State Park, attending a college football game (Go Huskers!), and family dinners with the extended family. Not exactly a luxurious vacation by any stretch of the imagination, but she would tell you that she had a blast, and I think it gave her a chance to really experience a taste of Middle America.

We laid out our expectations for her ahead of time, and made sure she knew she’d be sleeping in a bunk bed in a room with the kids. She pitched in, helped with dinner, took the kids on hikes, and enjoyed herself. It also helped that I knew my extended family would welcome her with open arms and make her feel like part of the family. She now has a wonderful, ongoing relationship with them.

Since then, we have taken some more luxurious vacations, including a week in Vegas at New Year’s where she got her own suite at MGM Signature and got to go out with us on New Year’s Eve (my husband’s parents acted as babysitters that night). It was a great trip for all of us, and we wouldn’t ever hesitate to take her on a trip with us. But I think getting it started with the family vacation to Nebraska set the tone and showed her what our family was all about.

cvh February 10, 2009 at 2:58 am

Hi Tex (and everyone)-
Note that there are pages of “AP Guidelines” and also “AP Handbook” in the list of pages in the right sidebar (mid-way down, after the categories and the search box). This is one place to look for Family Manual & Handbook ideas.
ALSO– we’d love to share manuals… if you’d email them to me I can post them on an aggregated page as a resource. You’d need to remove any identifying details to protect your privacy. You could email them to mom at aupairmom dot com….

renee February 11, 2009 at 8:02 pm

We are going to have to travel to FL for a wedding during month 2 of our au pair being with our family (we are a 1st time host family). We were planning to take the au pair so that she could watch our daughter while we attend the wedding. Of course, she will also have some free time during the long weekend trip. Any suggestions on how to approach this trip given that it will be soon after she arrives (we will have to buy the plane tickets VERY soon after she joins our family, so will need to likely discuss it with her then).

Dawn February 11, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Renee, make sure you read cvh’s awesome post a couple of posts below this one, “It’s YOUR vacation, not hers. Okay?” There’s a lot of great advice in there. If you are going to need your au pair to care for your child while you attend the wedding, then this sounds like one of the unavoidable “exceptions” to the “rule.” While ideally, maybe you shouldn’t ever take an au pair on a vacation so soon, sometimes circumstances will dictate that you have to.

Cvh says it much better in the post below, but I think the main thing you need to do is to lay out all of the expectations in advance, so that your AP understands that this is a WORK trip for her, not a vacation. Make sure she knows ahead of time what hours she will be expected to work, how much free time she’ll have and when, what the sleeping arrangements will be, etc.

njdad February 13, 2009 at 3:14 am

While I understand the downsides you’ve listed re: taking an au pair on vacation in the first three months, the bottom line is that your family has a life, and the au pair has to fit into it, not the other way around. Three months is a long time, way more than necessary to become acclimated to your family and hopefully flexible enough to travel.

We did once take an au pair on a family-oriented weekend trip her second weekend with us. She did seem a bit overwhelmed, but that’s the weekend we could go.

One thing to point out on a related topic…if it’s convenient for her, it makes sense for your au pair to use HER vacation days when you’re on vacation, that is, if you’re not taking her along :-)

Abby February 13, 2009 at 11:31 pm

We decided not to take our au pair with us to a recent trip to Disneyland – we said she was more than willing to join us, but that we were not going to pay for her flight or passes, and that she could be on a cot in the hotel room. We felt that this was our family vacation, not a chance for her to see California at our expense. She seemed to only want to be part of the family when it suited her (ie if we were taking eveyone to a movie or lunch or dinner, not when we were going to the beach or to the duck pond or for Halloween or our extended family function etc). Basically, we did not feel she was “vacation-worthy” and we didn’t feel it would be an asset to us (the host parents or the kids) to have her there. We are having another au pair start next week (that’s another story) and hopefully she will want to be part of the family, in which case hopefully my comments will be different :-)

Angelica February 19, 2009 at 4:13 am

It is a hard call..I think…about taking an AuPair on vacation. On onehand they are away from their families and trying to be part of yours. Leaving them at home could be uncomfortable and make them feel left out if it isn’t discussed in advance. The first AuPair that I had was 20 years ago…and we are still in touch. We took her everywhere and treated her like a daughter. She was appreciative and grateful..maybe she took advantage a little..but they are young girls! And we were all young once. I currently have 2 yr. old twins and an AuPair leaving this week and the new one just arrived..we took the current one on all vacations and she was great. I think I did have a higher expectation for her…but she was doing the best she could…

Franzi March 4, 2009 at 4:46 am

i disagree with you on that (at least partially). i was taken on a mini vacation during my second week. my host family made it very clear that this is no “party, time off, be as far away from reality as possible” vacation but rather an opportunity for me to get to know the parents and their attitude towards raising kids. it was especially helpful to see and learn how the parents (thus, i should) behave when the kids did something wrong (or right for that matter), how much they can be trusted in an environment that is new to all of us, how independent the kids are and where they needed help etc.

the parents had rented a cottage on a lake in PA – so nothing fancy and certainly a good setting to get to know everyone while still coping with being on the other side of the atlantic.

trips to disneyland or other places that are not similar to a regular family life are certainly not appropriate for such a trip.
oh, of course it is important to set the facts right – in my case, it was clear that i have to work so i knew i would not have off all the time but was expected to babysit in the evenings and not to “zoom out” during the day.

what do you think?

Audrey April 2, 2009 at 1:43 am

We are going to Disneyworld in May and our new AP started mid-March. Oringinally I had planned on not taking her along, but now I’m not so sure. It would be on her vacation time (I can’t afford to have her off during weeks when I need to work) but she can’t afford to pay for the trip (>$1000. including room, plane tickets and park ticket, not to mention food). I wouldn’t want to share a room with her (5 people is a little too crowded for me) . So it ends up being a choice between leaving her at home alone (sort of depressing) or taking her along and footing the bill. I’m not sure how to strike a balance here.
It will be a great bonding experience and certainly something that she would never otherwise be able to see on her own. Any input would be appreciated.

Ann April 2, 2009 at 2:11 am

If you can afford it, what an “American” treat for her and yes a great bonding experience. But you could say that since this will be one of her two vacation weeks, and especially since she is getting a private room, which she otherwise would have been expected to pay for, maybe she can reimburse you for part of it (what she thinks she would have spent had she traveled somewhere else).

Alternatively maybe you can make this a working vacation for her – have your kids share the au pair’s bedroom and ask her to occasionally babysit during the week so you get a break with her spouse- and give her the equivalent time off over a series of weekends this year?

Alternatively, leaving her home is fine, although it’s a bit early in her year. I have left au pairs at home alone for a week for three years, but it was usually at least 6 months into their stay so they had friends to visit (or visiting them) and we are on public transportation. If she stays, can you give her some suggestions of things to do – set up a week of entertainment/cultural activities – maybe get a public transportation tourist pass or museum coupons and some nice food (a bunch of decent frozen meals and desserts) and check out a bunch of books and movies from library or video rental store so she can enjoy relaxing around the house. My agency’s handbook says that you can also ask the AP to take some responsibility for the house while you are away (some basic tasks – watering plants etc). And you can ask her to use the time to work on her au pair skills – assign her some reading from parenting books, or maybe there’s a fun course at your Community Ed center she could take, or book group at the library. Have her look through your city’s event calendars for the next few months and plan what she will do with your kids when you get back. Or have her organize your kids’ digital photos.

Ann April 2, 2009 at 2:19 am

BTW we took our current au pair on a long weekend (to Maine seashore, we live in New England, it was a road trip rally for an old group of friends of my hsuband’s) just one month into her stay and it was wonderful for all of us. For her to see the countryside at a nice season; to bond with us as a family away from the stresses of our daily schedule and small (relatively) living space; to get a quick tour of her new country; and to see us more as people, how we interact as parents and adults and with friends. It was a “semi-working” weekend for her. And it was nothing fancy – we had a small rental cottage without heat, she in one room, the three of us crammed into another, with lots of sleeping bags for everyone.

Especially since she is here for just one year (our previous AP was here for two) it was a great way to “jump start” our relationship. I always find that the AP/host family relationship improves or at least evolves after time away together away from the daily grind. Whether its a day trip or weekend trip or just ice cream out (or the equivalent luxury at home, say “breaking the rules” – inviting your AP for movie and popcorn in the living room on a weeknight), something non-standard that shows that you care for them as a young person and tourist not just an employee and childcare provider.

So I disagree that it’s bad advice to take your au pair on a trip early in her year, as long as expectations are clear, i.e. that she knows when she’s on and off duty and how many and what kind of trips to expect and who pays for what. In my host family profile letter to AP candidates I always tell them that I can’t afford to fly them to Europe or Disneyland but that they can expect at least a couple of nice long weekend regional car trips with us each year.

Marav April 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm

I recently took our Aupair on a weekend trip to visit the extended family in VA. I told her before hand that she is expected to work and help us with the kids. I also gave her an option to stay at home. She decided to come with us.. did not help us at all during the trip. We ended up dropping her to the nearest train station[30miles from my brother’s house] so that she could do some sight seeing. She did not help us in preparing any meals, or taking care of the kids. Is that expected? She had previously completed her scheduled hours of work but are we expecting too much from her when she joins us on a family weekend trip and lives like a guest at our expense? My daughter had a minor accident on this trip and she was the closest adult around her when that happened. Our Aupair did not even console her ..just sat there watching the whole incident. Again, are we expecting too much? please advice

Calif Mom April 15, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Hmm. How long has she been with your family?

There are a few possibilities here: 1) she didn’t understand that she was on duty (even though you had told her she would be) or 2) she thought that once her hours were maxed out for the week, she was done or 3) being away from regular routines and/or being around new adults affected her a lot and she didn’t know what to do or 4) she’s one of those people who say ‘yes’ to everything even if they don’t quite understand it, because they are embarrassed to ask for clarification. Is she a quiet type? I have found this to be the case more with quieter girls.

I do know that it’s awkward when my kids’ favorite aunt is around during the week when our AP is on duty… the AP and aunt have to work out who’s going to do what, or it leads to confusion amongst all of them.

Also, if you’re staying with family, I know i would feel awkward about helping in someone else’s kitchen. I think food prep is probably above and beyond the call of duty in this situation.

But in my book, an AP — whether off duty or not — should always have the instinct to console an injured child when they are the closest one! This scene brought up memories of an awful AP we had one time.. That’s a yellow flag for me to pay more atteniton to what’s going on.

Franzi April 16, 2009 at 12:22 am

marav, the incident with the hurt child would also make me wonder. have you talked to her about the situation?

i actually think during the trip your AP did not understand that she was on duty as her hours were already up. were you aware that this was the case? if so, was it mentioned when you talked to her about the trip?
i think you there were many misunderstandings involved.

whenever i was visiting relatives of my host family, someone always said “oh no, you don’t have to help, it’s alright” and when you have heard that 3 times you do think you should not be helping out. after all, you don’t know where the things are in the kitchen anyways.
could it have been a situation of mixed signals sent (you expecting her to help while everyone else truly saw her as a guest)?

only after meeting relatives several times i started to pitch in and help despite the “oh no it’s ok” talk because i got to know the relatives better and their households

Dawn April 16, 2009 at 12:46 am

Marav, this does sound like a bit of a miscommunication/misunderstanding with your AP, at least with respect to the “not helping out” on the trip. Since she had already worked all of her hours, I don’t think it would be reasonable (or even allowed) to expect her to “work” more on the weekend, just because she chose to accept your invitation to join you. However, I also don’t think it would be UNreasonable to expect her to “pitch in” here and there on the trip. The problem is that you probably needed to be a bit more clear IN ADVANCE about what the expectations were — the line between “work” and “pitching in” is kind of fuzzy, so that’s really the kind of thing that should be discussed in advance, so that everyone’s expectations are realistic. Does she “pitch in” when not on duty at home? (If not — and if you haven’t asked or expected this of her at home — then it’s not that surprising that she’d expect the same bright line between “on” and “off duty” would exist while on vacation.)

HOWEVER, I’ll echo Calif Mom in saying that the fact that she didn’t make any effort to help or console a hurt child raises red (yellow?) flags for me as well. Whether on or off duty, I would expect any decent au pair to just instinctively want to help a hurt (or even just sad) child. (When my AP’s friends are over, I know that any one of them would help/console my child in a heartbeat if they happened to be the closest one — no matter that they are all “off duty” and it’s not “their” kid anyway.) The fact that your AP didn’t do so makes me wonder whether she cares about your kids at all! (Obviously, you know the situation better than the rest of us, so maybe this was an aberration, or there was some other circumstance that would explain her lack of concern/empathy for your child — but this is definitely something that would make me examine her relationship with the kids more closely.)

Lurker April 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Marav – As an au pair I can answer you, if her hours for te weekend were up she was not suppose to work PERIOD.

I would surely help the host family like you would help a friend with their hands full, but when the hours are done, they are done.

The incident with the kid for me it’s a proof that our au pair is probably aloof since she didn’t help you at all and didn’t console your child.

Lurker April 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

As for the post, here is an au pair POV:

I don’t recommend taking an au pair on a vacation with you that early either.

She will probably not like it at all… And that’s prabbly where the issues will begin.

And here is why:

She will not see you as other american rich family, she will get bored and probably weird and out of place. Instead of getting high expectations she will then start to feel uncomfortable around you because of the experience. (that settles the future issues you might have)

All that because, she is a young adult that wants to travel sure, but it will be no fun for her to go on vacation without people on her own age to talk to, go out with and all that jazz. She might think otherwise when she accepts it but I can assure you as soon as she is back she will regret every going.

All the au pairs think the same way I already saw a lot of communities where they say this is one of the biggest mistakes you can do. If they want to visit somewhere they will save money get a weekend off and go there with their friends. They will be more than glad of not being “vacation-worthy”.

About things like McDonalds and Videos… Yes, you’re absolutely right on that one but the thing is, TELL HER: “Hey you, the kids are eating junk food right now because they are on vacation, but they can’t and won’t do it at home, okay?”

And I know that some au pairs are just leechers waiting for a family to give them THE “great life” but they are 3% of us that don’t know better.

Theresa April 26, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Lurker,
I’m a former au pair and don’t agree at all about what you said about au pairs not wanting to go on vacation with their hostfamily. I’m sure that there are au pairs who don’t want to go on vacation with their host family or spend any time with them at all, but there are also au pairs who enjoy going on vacation with their hostfamily.
I loved going on vacation with my hostfamily, even though I didn’t really have a schedule during vacation and never really knew if I was on or off, but I didn’t even care, I just helped with the kids (usually all three of us took care of the kids on vacation). One of the reasons I enjoyed going on vacation with my hostfamily was that I got to spend time with the kids without rushing from one activity to another, school, homework, ballgames, … just fun quality time. And I got to spend time with my hostparents, for a whole week, which was great and I always really enjoyed it. During the week, they were mostly working. It was just great to spend so much quality time with the entire family, in a very relaxed atmosphere, it was just fun.
To get back to the topic, my hostfamily took me on vacation within the first month, and I think we all enjoyed this time, it was a great opportunity to get to know each other and to bond.
But as with many other things, I guess this always depends on the hostfamily and the au pair. Everybody is different and I think it’s hard to give advice. One of the most important things is probably to communicate the expectations up front, so that everybody is on the same page.

lily December 19, 2010 at 9:57 am

As a current au pair I agree, I enjoy going on vacation with my hf. Yes sometimes I don’t know if I am “off or on” but we all watch them its often their time to bond with their children also. I went on many beach trips over the summer and they included me as a member of the family not an employee. We also take short weekend trips to the mountains etc too then I have the kids for the evening and they go out. I have the 2 yr old share my room for the night and the baby sleeps in the parents room. Then we all go to breakfast in the morning.

Everybody is different and there are different family situations, however all of my AP friends have similar experiences when they travel with their HF.

Franzi April 27, 2009 at 1:23 am

@ lurker, i think the point you raise is valid – spending vacation time with someone your own age is certainly different than if you are away with the family. but it’s just that, a family vacation. everyone needs to adjust and usually the fun activities depend on what the kids like.
but that’s what should be communicated when the vacation is being planned – how much family time is planned? can the AP do things on her own? does the location even enable her to spend time doing her thing?
eg my HF and i often went on short weekend vacations to a naval base. i could leave the base but could not enter on my own because i did not have an armed forces ID. that is something i was told so i could deal with it and subsequently planned “my time” of the vacation differently than i would have if i had been more mobile.

if the vacation destination is somewhat limited or there is only one car for the fam (eg rental) and AP is not allowed to drive it, she needs to know before she agrees to the vacation! it’s something that can prevent everyone from being disappointed or having to deal with an overly bored AP

MTR April 27, 2009 at 10:25 pm

This is not the exact topic for my question, but I was not sure where else to post this. Has anybody been in the situation where you have a vacation planned before matching with AP and it falls around AP’s 3rd month? This is a vacation my husband and I will take, kids will be with grandparents. We cannot change the dates of this vacation, but it will fall on the 3rd month of our next AP here. I am not sure how reasonable it is to ask her to take a vacation so early on in her stay (she may not have made close friends yet, saved enough money, decided where she wants to go). At the same time, we will be gone for almost 2 weeks, kids will be gone, and she will be home alone for that whole time. If she decides to take a vacation at that time too, I plan on only counting it as her 1 week vacation even though she will almost 2 weeks off. If she decides not to take a vacation, then she will just stay home. When is a good time to bring this up in the interview process? Before the match or after? How would you handle this? I know that in theory, family can pick one week of vacation and AP the other, but like I said, my concern is that it is so soon after her arrival. Any suggestions?

TMK April 27, 2009 at 10:41 pm

We will always be faced with the problem of traveling within the first month of our AP’s arrival as one of our two personal vacation weeks is the beginning of Aug and our annual AP arrives in late July. We approached it this way. This is a working trip for you, in a nice location, with a flexible and varied schedule, but nonetheless a working trip. We want you to spend time with us getting to know the children on a personal level so that when we return home and their real schedules begin you will have a greater insight into their personalities. In return we will pay for all your food and lodging expenses while you are traveling with us. If there is something you want to go off and see while we are there, we can talk about it and try to schedule it in for you. But your hours are varied and changeable for this trip, you must be flexible. Our next au pair will have to travel 1 week after arriving and we are having LOTS of conversation around this. Honestly I think they are so new to the situation they haven’t had time to build up resistance/ attitude so the trip goes well and our family and AP was able to bond.

Busy Mom April 28, 2009 at 6:58 am

MTR – I’d mention it prior to matching and tell her whether or not it will count as one of her weeks of vacation. We had a lot of issues over vacation with an au pair and I now realize that we should have been much, much more explicit about vacations during the interview process. It would have saved a lot of bad feelings/disappointment. It was all in writing in our handbook and we talked about it during her first week, but turned out that she hadn’t understood it at all.

M in NY February 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I have to give my POV:

I’m an au pair and (I’ve mentioned this in another post recently) my host family took me for a six-day vacation when I had been here for about 2½ months…and I loved it!
We took the car down the coast to another state and lived in a great resort by the ocean, very beautiful. I didn’t have to work during the week, and I took it as one of my vacation weeks. I received a lot of perks, they payed for my food, drinks and amusement park tickets so they were really nice.

But I didn’t love it for that, I loved it because I got a real chance to get to know my family, to spend some relaxed time away from responsibilities and do fun stuff with them. My host mom works A LOT and as it is right know I hardly see her, and that’s why I’m happy that I got to do a lot of fun stuff with her a while ago so I feel like I know her anyway. And kind of the same with my host dad even if I see him more during the weeks…

So please, try to feel how your relationship wih your au pair will be affected by your trip before you decide not to take them. Who knows, it might be delightful!

Jennifer May 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I have a little different situtation I would like some advice on.

DH parents live in Florida in a 2 bedroom condo. They also have another 1 bedroom condo. Every year (4th of July) we take our boys (ages 13 & 9) to visit them. The boys stay with their grandparents and DH and I stay in the other condo. It is like a family vacation as we do spend time with the boys, but DH and I also have our alone time.

We have a new au pair and I would like to take her but honestly it is over $1000 to find her lodging. Plus she would not be in the same location as us. We would have to take 2 cars, etc. She would not be working at all.

She just arrived 2 weeks ago and I haven’t told her yet. Her birthday is the day we were planning on driving to Florida. DH 50th birthday is the day after hers (July 3). Any suggestions on how to handle?

anon HM May 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm

this is a tough one.. I would probably find a way to make it work if she wants to go; ie., offering her a sofa or air mattress and accepting the fact that I’d have to take two cars. Of course, I’m basing that decision on the relationship we have with our current AP, who really is ‘part of the family.’ Some APs would probably rather not go under those circumstances, and of course since she will just be getting adjusted and neither of you know each other well, it is harder to determine whether it is worth all the extra steps and whether this trip might actually strain your relationship since you’re still in the ‘getting to know you’ phase.
If you don’t take her, I think host mommy dearest has some great ideas on how to make her time alone more enjoyable. Also, as previously stated, it would not be fair to count this as her vacation time since she won’t have made friends or be in a position to travel at this early stage..

FormerSwissAupair May 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Do you really need her to work? My mom was a single mom with 3 kids who took us on all sorts of vacations, and never needed any help. If you don’t need her to work, then just let her stay home. It will be hard for her either way, since she doesn’t know anyone, but at least she will be in the comfort of her “own” home.

Taking a computer lunch May 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm

This is a hard one – mainly because her birthday falls during your family vacation. It could lead to hard feelings. Why does her lodging have to cost $1000? Maybe your in-laws could find someone else with a 2-bedroom condo that might be willing to host her? Is there a youth hostel nearby? A cheap motel? Do your parents have a fold-out couch?

We’ve always invited our APs to join us when we travel, although the cost of their hotel room does add up. We’re in a special situation, because my parents will often foot the bill for hotel rooms in expensive places (like the time we spent Christmas week at the Grand Canyon – they even foot the hotel bill for her friend). Our rule is if the AP will be working, we pay for everything except souvenirs. We’ve never had a situation when an AP didn’t work, but I imagine she’s not going to have the money to foot bills in the lifestyle to which you are accustomed. My mother has shared rooms with my AP when my father hasn’t joined us on family travel.

However, our au pairs have shared less glorious surroundings. When we visit my sister-in-law, they either sleep in the living room near DH and I, or share the study with The Camel while our son sleeps in the living room with us. Most would prefer more privacy, but when they realize that the entire family is in the same boat, they don’t complain (not all choose to return, however).

I think this is a situation where you and DH have to talk about what you want, then talk to his parents to see it is possible to arrange something, and then if there is no way to offer the family holiday to her, offer her something special for her birthday (like a pair of theater tickets, or a day at a spa for 2) that allow her to select a friend to join her. Arrange for flowers to be sent, so that she doesn’t feel left out and forgotten on her birthday.

FormerSwissAupair May 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Unless I knew your mother well beforehand, there is no way I would share a room with her. The children are one thing, the HF extended family, now that is another.

aria May 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm

:/ I sincerely doubt that Taking a computer lunch’s mother is all that threatening. No, it’s not ideal, and if I had a choice I would rather not room with grandma, but especially when you know the rest of the family is stuck sleeping in odd places? Sometimes you’ve got to deal!

Taking a computer lunch May 27, 2010 at 7:18 am

I think all of my APs have tolerated less-than-desireable sleeping accommodations at one time or another when given the opportunity to visit someplace new (especially on those occasions when my mother buys air tickets and hotel rooms for everyone, including the AP). When visiting family, our APs have often had to sleep on air mattresses in rather public places (although sometimes HD and I take on that role), or in bedrooms that aren’t perfect. Perhaps it’s the spirit of adventure that brought them to the US in the first place and the chance to see a famous city or do to a special family activity that makes it tolerable to them.

We rarely ask APs to sleep with The Camel. She is feed continously by feeding tube into her stomach at night and the machine is noisy and beeps when the feed is over until it is shut off. If we change time zones, her sleep becomes incredibly erratic. (HD and I take the loss of sleep by night, and take a nap during the day while the AP minds her.) Occasionally when visiting family, sharing a room with her is the best option (meaning – having a door that closes). When we stay in hotels, HD and I usually sleep with both kids and pay for the AP to have a separate room.

Host Mommy Dearest May 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

One thing I would do if you can afford it is NOT make her count any of this time against her vacation. She is too new to have made friends and planned a vacation destination for herself, in my opinion.

I agree with you that it does not make sense for you to bring her, but you really do not want her to feel abandoned or like she’s getting a raw deal. You could let her know that you wish you could bring her, but it won’t be fair for her to stay on the couch in such close quarters with the family, so instead you want to give her the week off and not count it against her 2 weeks vacation. If you really like her and want to make sure she feels that it’s not her, you could put together a comprehensive list of fun things she could do during her time off. If there is an amusement park or water park nearby, consider buying her 2 tickets to that, or a professional or minor league baseball game, or give her a gift card to her favorite restaurant or to go out for ice cream with friends while you are gone. Include any free stuff she could do, like concerts on the town green, beach trips, 4th of July parades, fireworks displays, “field day” activities, etc., to show that you care about her having fun too. If you live in a suburban area, I think she needs access to a car while you are gone. This is in addition to her birthday gift (not instead of).

FormerSwissAupair May 26, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Those are really awesome suggestions!

Dorsi May 26, 2010 at 1:55 pm

This is really tough. I think it might set a very bad tone to leave the Au Pair on her birthday — and not include her for 4th of July. She might (rightfully) include that she has not gotten to be “part of the family.”

Having said that, solving this is somewhat dependent on the personality of the AP. Some AP’s may be able to easily generate a plan for their own time off. Is your cluster good? Do they have a large number of girls from the same country as your AP? Has she formed some good bonds? If this is true — you may be able to help her come up with a plan for the time you will be away that will be fun for her — spend time with another family, travel with another AP (hard, as many APs have their vacation time planned well in advance).

If you can’t come up with a mutually agreeable solution, I think you need to figure out how to include her. Or at least give her the option of being included (when you lay out the transportation and sleeping plans, you can give her a chance to say “no”. I get the sense you are driving — can you really not fit 3 adults, 2 kids in your car? Or you don’t want to? Is it possible she can sleep on a pull out sofa or air bed? Or the kids can? I do not believe that APs get their own room on vacation, YMMV. An air bed costs <$70. Depending on how the condos are laid out, she could share with the grandparents or with you. Or split the kids up. I think there is a sleeping arrangement that doesn't include a hotel. There are still significant costs that may be incurred, food, activities, etc., but less that $1000.

Dorsi May 27, 2010 at 3:33 am

I really think I would be a bitter AP if I was left on my birthday and 4th of July. You come to America to share cultural experiences and this would count on missing out on two major ones. If you decide you can’t take her with — set up a separate day that you are celebrating her birthday (cake, presents, singing, whatever you do for your kids) AND arrange 4th festivities with another family — you must know someone who has a party, goes somewhere to watch fireworks, etc (maybe your LCC could take her in?)

Have you thought about an air bed? It costs less than $100 for a nice one. Maybe the kids could sleep on one and give the AP a room. APs can certainly sleep in a common area or shared area when on vacation. Maybe if she knows that is what the set up will be, she will want to stay home.

HRHM May 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

My take on this is different than others. Our current AP3 has been with us since mid-March. In her first months, she has been to New York, DC, Williamsburg and already has a trip to Niagra Falls (June) and California (Oct) planned. So you really need to look at the individual AP. We are visiting family in June and told her straight out that we were not planning on her going because 1) there’s no place for her to stay 2) we don’t need her to work 3) there’s nothing there to do 4) she won’t have use of a car to go off on her own. She understood and rapidly made plans of her own. We live near the beach so a couple of her girlfriends from DC and NY are coming down for 2 days, then they are all going to Niagra Falls for the rest of the week. She was fine with using this as her vacation time, although if she wasn’t we probably would have just paid her and not made a big deal out of it.
We have also decided to not invite our APs with us on our family vacations unless they are willing to pay for their own travel and hotel. We paid a ridiculous amount of money for AP1 and AP2 and had variable experiences (on the trips) and the effort was definitely NOT appreciated. None of our APs have been interested in traveling with us unless we were footing the bill. Most 20 year olds want to hang out with other 20 year olds and I don’t blame them. I also think part of the reason for vacation is to get a break – for both sides.

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