When a host family takes their au pair with them to work during part of the vacation, what should they provide for her during her off-duty time? Especially, what should you provide on a ski vacation, where costs are relatively high and your au pair can’t afford to pay for her own skiing?
A European Host Mom Ann asks:
Our au pair from America is a nice girl. She has been here since start of January. In two weeks we will be going on a wintersports holiday. She will travel with us to the hotel (so travel expense is covered) as is the hotel including dinners and breakfast. She will stay in a room that she shares with the boys. We will make sure she will have privacy there.
My question is: who should pay for what? Skipass, ski lessons and a rental of skis & helmet will be necessary (also she needs glasses, a warm jacket and snowpants) if she wants to go skiing. She is supposed to work this week, but if the kids are in ski-lessons, she is off-duty, so she could use this time for skiing.
I would appreciate your advice very much–
Let me start of with some general principles for taking your au pair on vacation:
- Anytime you take your au pair with you to work, when you are on vacation, you should provide her with comfortable lodging, and all the same kinds of food, etc. as you would your kids. (However, don’t let her run her own bar tab on your room account!).
- Make sure she knows that, while it’s vacation for you, it is largely work time for her.
- Set aside some off duty time for her so that she can explore wherever you are and spend a little time vacationing too. Also, make sure you’re giving her a decent chunk of time off (like, an afternoon to sight-see, not time after dinner when it’s dark and everything is closed).
- Make sure she has things to keep herself busy not bored.
- Make sure that she has a way to stay in touch with family and friends (e.g., internet access).
You are already planning to do much of this, and thinking about the other details now is definitely good.
The hard part is always whether you can afford to have your au pair vacation in the same style as you parents or the kids are vacationing. After all, it’s your vacation and not hers.
In an ideal world, you’d have enough money (we all would) to be able to pay for your au pair to ski during all of her off duty time… However, given that it costs around $100 per day to have your au pair ski, this may be out of the question for you.
You’ll want to talk with your au pair about how much it actually costs to pay for each skiing adult. Here in the US it’s horribly expensive– maybe it is less so where you are going? But you want to make she that she knows whether or not it’s easy for you to afford. Not that you want to make her feel beholden if you can afford to treat her, but you also don’t want her to misperceive the extent of your generosity. To imagine that two days of skiing equals a week of pocket money sure puts that into perspective.
You might consider how much you can afford to spend to entertain your au pair… and then offering her the opportunity to chose how to use this budget. She might prefer two days of skiing, or maybe she’d prefer extra time off to do something less costly (skating, movie marathons, hiking).
Make a special effort to identify some interesting and less expensive activities that she can enjoy, and make sure she packs what she needs for those activities. For example, your hotel may have a pool, whirlpool and fitness room. Or, you might bring a laptop and a video camera and encourage her to make a few movies. You might identify historic sites near to your hotel and get her tourist information. I know this may seem dorky and unglamorous compared to skiing, but everyone can remember that this trip is part of her chance to see other areas of the world, and she could take advantage of that regardless of the skiing.
Keep in mind that, when you take an au pair with you on a ‘fancy’ vacation, she may thing that you have a lot of disposable income and that if you aren’t paying for her, too, you’re simply being cheap. It is hard for au pairs, kids, relatives, anyone but the adults in charge, to know how a vacation fits into the family’s overall budget.
My personal opinion is that you should try to spring for two days of skiing… maybe her two off duty days, or a few half days while the kids are busy. It would be hard not to come off as mean to take her to a ski resort and not help to make it possible for her to ski a bit too.
Talking about all of these issues is difficult, and with an immature au pair it can be impossible. But, you are starting with a good foundation.
Remember, and mention this to your au pair, that being able to talk about money, about privileges, about role differences, and so on is not easy, but it is the only way we can make sure that we are correctly understood — in both directions. This is part of the life lessons for host parents and au pairs.
What else should Ann think about? What do you advise??