Vacation Ideas for Au Pair: Fun, low cost, not too lonely?

by cv harquail on May 23, 2014

I need some helpful advice about vacationing ideas for our AP.

Together, we had coordinated vacations, but now her plans have fallen through.

4986603305_cdbd2ce3b8_mOur au pair is coming with me and the kids on a cross country trip to Seattle.  I suggested to her that she take a week off on the west coast once my husband joins me on August 1. She’d have until August 10th before she needs to be back on the East Coast.

Here’s the challenge: I’m not sure in what to suggest to her. 

We have looked at a couple of organized options. One,, costs $869 for a week-long “West Coast Tour”. It includes some of the major stops –Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, — as well as ground transportations, most food, camping gear for 4 nights, 2 hotel nights, and 1 hostel night.   It still seems expensive, she won’t know anyone she is traveling with although they say it is for au pairs, the girls are grouped together, and only for ages up to 29.

She had planned a vacation in June with other au pairs. Those plans fell through, leaving me to scramble to cancel our backup childcare plans in June. And our au pair has tried to coordinate with other au pairs, but none she knows have the same vacation window open.

So I am reaching out for advice… She is like any typical aupair: She doesn’t have a lot of money, is saving for a vacation, but the $869 of a group trip (not including extra spending and plane tickets that will cost about $300-400) feels like a huge amount for her.

Are there any other suggestions for vacation on the West Coast?   Ways she could meet up with other au pairs during this time? Ways she can connect with au pairs before they take a trip together?

All ideas welcomed!  NChostmom


Image: Bixby Bridge by Daniel Peckham


JJ Host Mom May 23, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I know an au pair who did that AuPairAdventures trip and absolutely loved it. I’ll be interested to hear what other au pairs say too. But scheduling vacations around changing schedules and changing minds is a constant problem for vacation, so it seems like a great idea.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 23, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Most of my APs have done AuPairAdventures trips without knowing any other au pairs in the group. You could suggest it to your au pair, but you can’t force her to take the trip.

It can be a struggle to get au pairs to take vacation time. I assume you don’t want her around once DH arrives, but if she doesn’t make other plans, could you use the help? You could also choose to tell her she’s on vacation even if she chooses to stay with you (once an AP is on vacation, then I think it’s okay to ask her to pick up part of the tab of paying for her room or make other arrangements).

It seems like we only have part of the story. Have all of her vacation plans fallen through? Where is she in her year? Is she likely to finish her year without having taken vacation days.

I state in my handbook that all vacations must be taken when the kids are in school and when The Camel attends sleepaway camp. I also ask for 6 weeks notice, as I need to adjust my time off to that of my colleagues at work. When APs have come down to 3 months before the end of school without a day off (and it has happened more times than I care to count!), then I threaten to schedule them for days off at my convenience (meaning non-contiguous). Every AP has managed to make plans.

Finally, is this AP a “more of a sister to your kids” than “another adult in your house”? It’s okay to book her a flight home when DH arrives and let her figure out how to spend her time off.

NoVA Twin Mom May 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Can you have her contact the LCCs for your agency in that area to get in touch with au pairs there? The more direct way would be to use one of the “au pair forums” or facebook groups (I don’t know what they are as I’m a HM not an au pair, but i know they exist :)) to get in touch with au pairs there. Then ask them to get together with her when they’re not working. If she uses the Facebook option, she may even find other au pairs vacationing in the area at the same time, which would be ideal as they’d have the same kind of free time she would.

We’ve had au pairs do this in Hawaii, the midwest when visiting my parents, and other locations. My husband usually instigates it by contacting our LCC and asking for a list of au pairs in ____ location to be given to our au pair. Then she could spend a week or so at a hostel in Seattle, or check out what kind of low-cost bus options there are from there to see another city (around here it’s Megabus, but there are others too) to pair with Seattle – maybe Portland or even Portland then San Francisco? Using a low cost bus line and hostels she can likely come up with an interesting vacation that will *likely* cost less than that group trip. Then end wherever the flight connections (via Southwest/Airtran or something else that sells low cost one way flights) are good for your hometown.

Also, my understanding from hostelling through Europe eons ago, and from talking to our current au pairs about hostels here, is that often the “front desk” of the hostels know a lot of budget options for their area, and often a group of people interested in seeing a certain sight all staying at the same hostel will band together and visit all at once. So even if she doesn’t know anyone in advance, she may know someone soon!

And once she decides on a plan, consider buying her a paper guidebook for her locations. I’ve started giving our au pairs a guidebook about where they’re going (yes, a “dead tree” version) and it’s been well-received. Find a more budget-conscious guidebook that might give her ideas of free or cheap things to do in the city she’ll visit.

AussiePair May 23, 2014 at 3:30 pm

I would encourage her to travel on her own, she’ll meet people and have a blast, especially if she’s staying in hostels. It can be super super scary, but once you start traveling on your own you realise that you can do so much more than you ever thought you could. Traveling on your own allows you to “find” and surprise yourself. I’m trying to convince more of my au pair friends to embrace traveling on their own, it’s actually really hard to find au pairs with vacation and travel months that match up!

HRHM May 23, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I may be in the minority here, but I don’t think it’s your responsibility to put a lot of time and energy into arranging your APs vacation time. You told her when she needs to take it well in advance, you already had to alter your plans once because her plans changed, now you need to come up with good ideas that she likes in order for her to be able take a trip.

If you are taking her to Seattle on your dime and she can’t seem to find anything she wants to do, then I would pay for a ticket back home and let her spend the week as a “stay-cation” there. At this point, she sounds a little needy, indecisive and slightly flaky. I understand sometimes plans change, but it shouldn’t be your responsibility to make sure she has a great vacation, you’re her HM not her travel agent.

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm

My first AP was like this and I think it’s a lack of independence and initiative more than a lack of desire to see the US. OP has given the AP ideas of what’s possible, but I wouldn’t sweat making it happen.

I also saw a group called Trek America that offers a 20% discount for APs on their group trips.

Should be working May 23, 2014 at 6:16 pm

I’m with HRHM and WSM. Unless you have a lot of extra time and energy, let her figure it out (you could quickly mention Facebook au pair groups and other things referred to here). If you urge her to do any particular plan and she doesn’t like it or it doesn’t live up to expectations, she might be resentful to boot. This happened to us–we talked up a particular trip to our AP, she did it and didn’t like it and was annoyed with us for being so encouraging. It’s her vacation, she should figure out what she likes and do it, or try things and discover what she likes and doesn’t.

Amelie May 23, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Au pair here…

I agree with both commenters that it’s not the host parents job to find something for the AP to do during her vacation.

I would even feel patronized if m host parents thought I wasn’t able to organized my own trips.

Skny May 26, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Unless it is a case where Au pair has to take her vacation while in a different area (meaning she has no option of staying at home).
My first family did a car trip (2 days each way) during which they wanted my help). Once there they did not need me anymore (hds mom was there). Therefore they wanted me to take my vacation there (so they would have help on the way back, but wouldn’t have to pay for my hotels or meals for a week).
I had no interest in spending a week in that area.
LCC ended up saying that family had to pay a ticket home for me in order to be considered vacation.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 26, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Wow, trapping you in an area and then making you pay for your hotel and meals sounds like punishment! I’m glad your LCC was supportive. I know expensive it is to pay for an extra room for an AP while on holiday, but most AP budgets do not permit financing rooms in hotels where HFs want to stay.

Skny May 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I actually did not travel. Agency rematched me (initiated by them) before the trip and removed them from program (other reasons not related)

NoVA Twin Mom May 24, 2014 at 9:45 am

I agree – HM shouldn’t do all the planning, and I don’t think she is. I do think there’s a place for a *little* host parent input, though. For instance, about American geography. One of our au pairs had a friend (early in vacation planning stages) that planned to tack a quick visit to Hawaii on to a trip to Texas. Because Hawaii is “right by Texas”. Our au pair, from the same country as the one that wanted to visit Hawaii, pointed out that Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean- why did her friend think Hawaii was right by Texas? The friend showed her on a map of the US – where Alaska and Hawaii were printed over Mexico in order to show all states on one piece of paper. A little host parent (or good friend) input was helpful there.

So input on what cities might be good to pair together would be appropriate Host Parent input. Or the name of bus companies that might run between various cities. Or the tidbit that no matter how good train travel in Europe is, Amtrak might not be a plausible way to see the US outside the Northeast Corridor. Or a tip to check to find local (or vacationing) au pairs wherever they’re going because that family’s past au pairs have had good luck finding people to hang out with by doing so. I’ll even give recommendations to see certain sights in a location – like if you go to Oahu, don’t miss Hanauma Bay or a luau. That, to me, is appropriate friend/host parent input.

But as to the overall when to go or where to go – that’s up to the au pair. Unless the HP has to finally declare the “when”, in which case the where/what is still up to the au pair.

WarmStateMomma May 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm

The possibilities and logistics in the US are so different from Europe or Asia that I agree the HPs should be ready to provide some friendly guidance of this nature.

Angie host mom May 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

There are a ton of tours and packages out there, there are facebook pages for au pairs in different cities, etc. Let her figure it out for herself.

AmericanAP in Germany May 23, 2014 at 4:19 pm

That aupairadventures trip sounds like a lot of fun, but honestly I’ve never understood why so many people come to the States to see our big cities. Yeah, Los Angeles, Las Vegas are alluring, but there are big cities everywhere. There’s only one Grand Canyon. This will depend on your AP’s interests, but I would encourage her to maybe pick just one or two places and really get to experience the natural beauty of America. Honestly, I think it’s our greatest treasure. Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion National Park…I think these are well worth experiencing.

Repeataupair May 23, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Aupairadventure has a great trip planned around the national parks. The thing about big cities an au pairs: it is accessible without a car and you can book hostels in major cities which is fairly cheaper than hotels.

If that seems like a lot of money she might not be ready for such a trip, my last week of vacations costed me 2000$ from the East Coast (well it was Hawaii, the plane ticket is half of the total cost). Otherwise from Seattle she could go spend some time in Vancouver and take the train down to SF or a plane, I remember getting a direct flight SF / Seattle for 50$ on a trip (not round trip of course). She can also stop in Chicago on her way back to the East Coast, there are many options

Seattle Mom May 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

My first au pair did that west coast trip and she had a GREAT time. She did go with a friend but ended up meeting other people that she became friends with. She had some complaints about the trip but overall I think she was really glad that she did it. I do know one other au pair who did it at a different time and complained a lot more about it- she went alone and the girls that she ended up traveling with were mean and cliquey (they were all au pairs).

NChostmom as you can tell from my name I live in Seattle, and I would be willing to put my AP in touch with yours if that would help. She might meet up with your AP or give her suggestions about how to meet other APs. Your AP could try the different facebook groups though to find out who might also be on vacation in Seattle during that time. The problem with my AP is that she’ll be on duty during those days- although my parents are in town then so she’ll probably have a little more free time than usual. Also my AP is not super social- she seems to go out with the same 2-3 french girls all the time (she is French). She is nice and friendly though and I’m sure she would at least email with your AP.

I do agree with others that you shouldn’t stress about your AP having a fun vacation though- give her suggestions and help where you can, but really it’s all on her. Seattle is amazing in August, so that is a great opportunity.

WarmStateMomma May 23, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Good to know that it’s a great trip for the right AP. I will let my AP know about it – she’s looking into lots of options and would like to see the west coast.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 23, 2014 at 8:17 pm

My previous au pair took the west coast tour and loved it also. She was exhausted at the end, but was really glad to have done it. Current AP planned to do it, but changed plans at the last minute, largely because of the expense.

JenNC May 23, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I’m the original poster… Just a little more info… Her 7 year boyfriend had planned to come and he has decided not to make the trip leaving her in a lurch…. The stress of the distance has become too much for him I think… And she is handling it great, but that means completely changing her plans……Great thanks for the responses… I only suggested the week off at the end of our travel because she wants to see the west coast and the first leg of her trip is taken care of. I am in contact with another aupair from San Francisco but she will be traveling with her host family during that time.

I wanted to see what people had thought of some of these aupair travel excursions or what some of their aupair experiences had been, ultimately it is her decision, and she has decided now to continue on taking vacation during June instead , thankfully I still have child care lined up and available.

Thanks Jen

Seattle Mom May 23, 2014 at 11:14 pm

I’m glad it’s working out! If my au pair backed out of her June vacation plans we’d be pissed… I’ve already spent money on all-day camp for the kids that week, and I can’t get it back! The next vacation is the first week of school.. that is easier.

Kelli May 24, 2014 at 3:12 am

I did the west coast tour with Trekamerica and loved it. Small group so we ended up becoming very close. Lot of time in the van on the road but very much worth it. Those are pretty cheap also but it doesn’t lack quality at all :)
I would definitely suggest your Au pair those. She could go camping or staying in hotels. I went the hotel route and loved it.

German Au-Pair May 24, 2014 at 5:20 am

Friends of mine started their trip to Hawaii from Seattle because the flights are pretty inexpensive from their. The paid less for their entire vacation (including Seattle) than the tour would cost.
Might be worth considering.
I took a similiar tour around the West Coast except on mine people were around 50. I was the only 20-somtheing year old. Of course it wasn’t a party trip but I loved it. You’re not there for the people but for the sights and actually it was a good experience of stepping out of my comfort zone, meeting new people and learning how to be okay with just being by yourself.

American Host Mom in Europe May 24, 2014 at 6:18 am

I’m astonished at the OP even being involved in trying to sort something for her au pair. Nearly all of my APs have travelled, and I’ve certainly shared travel tips and maps and guidebooks when I have them, but have never been involved in planning. In several cases, as a gift we’ve arranged the hotel for an AP (easy way to use up our hotel points that otherwise often go to waste), but that’s it. Nearly all of my APs bave travelled alone, staying either in hostels or couchsurfing, and those who have both travelled alone and with friends always preferred their trips alone.

JenNC May 24, 2014 at 8:56 am

@american Host mom in Europe, I am trying to get info for her to help In her decision of what to do, what companies maybe good to travel with or find ways for her to meet up with other aupairs, I would call this social networking , what she chooses is her choice she didn’t want to travel alone, so she didn’t really want to choose a travel thing without knowing someone else who was going. I think this has provided good information for us and hopefully for others .

I thnk she has made a decision on her own but I gave her information. Thanks. Jen

3kids1dogHM May 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

Our first au pair (last year) took a trip to the West Coast with her parents as one vacation week, and I know she ended up staying at some hotels out of the major cities because of expense, but they were also already factoring in rental cars. Her second vacation week she took a pretty inexpensive cruise to the Bahamas and had a blast with a friend.

Then she did an organized tour with a friend on her travel month to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, etc. and had a wonderful experience after spending some time in CA.

If she can just hook up with one other au pair for travel independently and they split hotel cost or do a cruise or see a place they’d never see elsewhere (Grand Canyon), she’ll have a memorable time!

I think starting from the place you’ve already flown her to is a great idea so she can cut down on her vacation expense.

Always Hopeful HM May 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I would absolutely help my au pair figure out his travel plans. I know the US, geography, history, hidden gems, etc. far better than he would, and can offer suggestions for how to get the best travel deals, etc. That’s not the same as taking over the reins, which it doesn’t sound like OP wants to do. It sounds like she just wants to be a helpful friend– makes perfect sense to me!

AuPair Mom in Bay Area May 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Our Au Pair has had a lot of success connecting with Au Pairs that she met at the AP Training School and visiting them at their homes and then exploring that area. Might not be an organized vacation, but it could be an opportunity to see a few places over the course of 9 days. Her expenses could be limited to air/ train and food if she is staying with a friend. I’m not sure that this helps.

German Ex-Au Pair May 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

The Facebook groups are great to get in touch with others and there’s a high chance she’ll find someone who is off during the same time. I used it a few times when I went back to visit my HF. The kids were in camp throughout the day so I reached out to other APs in the area, as most of my friend had returned back to their home countries as well. I also used it when I did my internship in another state and it was sooo easy to get in touch with other APs. She should see if there are any AP in SF, LA, Las Vegas groups (I’m pretty sure there are).
As for the expensive tours….there is a company called TakeTours ( and they have really cheap tours, including the major cities, theme parks, national parks…whatever she’s interested in. It’s mainly used by Asian tourists coming to the states who want to see as much as possible within a few days. I did it with a friend and we were the only non-Asian people on the tour but it was still fun!!! If she manages to find someone to do the tour with I’m sure that would be something for her to do.

WarmStateMomma May 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm

@German: The TakeTours programs are crazy cheap. What year did you use them? I want to share it with my AP but I’m a little worried about how they can offer these tours for such a low price. Was camping involved?

German Ex-Au Pair May 29, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Well, I think they are able to offer those tours that cheap by only using budget hotels that are further outside the cities? For example, in LA we stayed at the Quality Inn & Suites in Fairway, which is like 25 miles away from downtown LA. Same for SF, where we stayed outside the city. In Las Vegas we stayed at the Riviera Hotel & Casino. It was right on the Strip but most hotels are pretty cheap there anyway. Those TakeTours trips are great if you want to see a lot in a short time…..Depending on what trip you wanna do it is on a pretty tight schedule. I would have loved to spend more time in Las Vegas e.g. but then again, we did a 10 day trip and went to LA, Universal Studios, Disney Land, San Diego Sea World, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Stanford, Monterey…It was a lot of bus riding and food wasn’t included. We usually stopped somewhere along the way for a lunch break, most times it was some sort of chinese buffet all you can eat for $10 – $12, and McD or Burger King were never too far away ;-)
Oh and you have to tip the tour guide every day, it’s mentioned somewhere on the page what is included and what not.

German Ex-Au Pair May 29, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I went last summer btw

WarmStateMomma May 30, 2014 at 7:40 am

Thanks! This is good info to share with our AP.

Comments on this entry are closed.