Vacationing at DisneyWorld with your Au Pair in Tow: What’s worked for you?

by cv harquail on March 5, 2012

I have a confession to make. My kids are 11 and 13, and I have never taken them to DisneyWhere. I probably never will.

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I know, it doesn’t count that I *have* taken them to see WIcked on Broadway– I’m still a bad mom.

Worse, I don’t know much about the excitements and demands of a few days at Disney.

How can I offer any advice to the host mom who wrote us for advice specifically about taking her au pair with them on the family vacation? I have a lot to share about vacations (and I’ll do that in the next post) but this mom need advice from experts — you moms, dads and au pairs who’ve been there.

Here’s what I know:

  • DisneyWhere is expensive. You’ll pay a lot of money for a ticket to bring your au pair if s/he’s on duty.
  • Food is expensive, and you’ll have to pay crazy prices to keep your au pair and the kids hydrated and happy.
  • Your au pair will have rides and attractions only s/he wants to see, and there will likely be times when your au pair wants to go of on her/his own.
  • One or more of your children will have meltdown.
  • One or more of the adults will get a headache, have terrible cramps, be afraid of the very rides the kids want to do twice, wonder if the bathrooms really are clean, and/or will worry about whether even DisneyWhere is a safe place to let go of the kids’ hands.
  • In an effort to maximize the fun, there will be pressure to rush, compromise, and/or stay too long.
  • You’ll have a wonderful time anyway.

If you have taken an au pair with you to DisneyWhere, and had him or her be ‘on duty’ while you are all actually inside the park, what has worked well for you?

If you’ve been to DisneyWhere without an au pair, when would you have wished for another adult’s help?

What Disney-related wisdom do you have to share?

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{ 47 comments }

Taking a Computer Lunch March 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

We’ve done Disney both with and without APs, but always with grandparents. APs make it easier for us, because we have The Camel, our beloved special needs child, who gets to jump the queue on It’s a Small World but cannot go on Space Mountain. It allows us to divide and conquer.

It helps to purchase a Disney Guide book beforehand and read it – there are tricks to maximizing your stay. Have an open family discussion about who wants to do what, and figure out where good meeting places might be when you go off in different directions.

We pass off duty with The Camel among all of the adults, so no one feels like they’re missing out completely. Personally, we only spend one day at Disney when we’re in Florida or California – there’s so much else to see and do, but we have friends who stay on the grounds and make 3-4 days of it.

My advice – don’t feel that you have to treat the AP to every meal if you’re putting her up, but be explicit about when she is expected to purchase her own meals and how much they might cost. We usually pony up for our AP unless she is not working that day or has gone off to explore on her own (but we also stay in hotels with kitchens, so we are able to eat breakfast and some lunches & dinners in).

Should be working March 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm

This has nothing to do with APs, but I recommend a software program called RideMax, I bought it pretty cheap on the internet a few years ago. It is produced by some Disneywhere fans who study the length of lines and came up with algorithms so that you pick what you want to do and the program suggests a schedule for what to do when to minimize time spent in line. It works amazingly well, and after playing with it for awhile the principles of how to schedule my day became clear.

I would schedule the day at Disney as work time, except for 2-3 hrs where she can be ‘off’ and do what she wants to do. If she has been a good au pair, maybe discuss with her which stretch of the day she would prefer for that time off.

NoVA Twin Mom March 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm

We’ve done it – we took our first au pair to Disney World with us (in about month 10 of her stay). She’d been on a few vacations with us previously, which helped.

So in no particular order, here are my thoughts:

COST – we qualify for military discounts, so while the tickets were expensive to us, the four day park hopper military deal cost us probably less than half what it would without the deal. Still a large number, but not what other families would pay. In addition, we were able to stay at Shades of Green, which is walking distance from the Polynesian. We were therefore able to combine the Shades of Green transportation with the monorail we could get from the Polynesian and didn’t need a rental car.

When we brought up the trip to our au pair, especially since it was over Thanksgiving and we didn’t feel right leaving her home without at least giving her the option to come along, we told her that we would be getting one room to share – three adults (2 HP and AP) and year old twins. Host Mom and twin one in one bed, Host Dad and twin two in another bed, AP on (surprisingly comfortable) pull out couch bed. We said she could decide to stay home if she wanted (we felt comfortable leaving her home, and genuinely liked her friends, so if they were over we were fine with it). She decided to come along.

My parents met us there, so we were able to make a grocery run, and there was a minifridge in the room. We did breakfast in our hotel room, supper at the hotel (or once or twice at the counter service place at the Polynesian), and lunch (gulp) in the parks. We did pack LOTS of snacks.

We had four park days but were there for eight days, so we alternated park/non park days (she knew about this in advance, and for those that know Disney tickets, we couldn’t add extra days to the military tickets the way you “usually” can so letting her add days on her own wasn’t an option). Nonpark days we hung out at the hotel pool, celebrated Thanksgiving, went outlet shopping, etc. Park days we went in the morning (never made rope drop despite my efforts), ate lunch, returned to the hotel around suppertime. We let her stay at the parks when we left if she wanted to see the parades/fireworks, which she generally did.

We had her “on duty” at the parks in the morning with me when my husband had to work “from home”, then generally off duty, but she pitched in when she was around. She did meet a friend of a friend on day in Orlando, which was nice. We tended to have her “on duty” only part of the time on every vacation we went on so that she could explore on her own and we could have some “family” time, though.

I will say, we were surprised at how many rides the babies could go on – anything without a height limit! One evening my husband kept the girls with the grandparents and AP and I went back to the parks to hit the “big kid” rides – though all week we encouraged her to get fast passes for the rides she wanted and to go on them alone if the babies couldn’t/shouldn’t go.

I will say, the AP did seem to have fun on the “little kid” rides too – It’s a Small World is corny to us because of the song, but if you don’t know it’s supposed to be corny, it’s cute. She also enjoyed the princess and Mickey and Minnie meet and greets (and got pictures of “just her” and each of the characters too!

One thing we did was pre-buy the photo pass CD, so that all of the pictures the “Disney” photographers (and some of the ride pictures) could be added to a CD and we would get the rights to the pictures – it’s cheaper if you buy the deal in advance. Then we told her to get her “own” card to collect the pictures, which we added to our prepaid account – so she got a collection of pictures of herself at Disney too.

Other things – we paid for her food if she was with us, if she went off on her own she paid. We didn’t buy her souvenirs (other than offering her access to the Photo Pass CD).

momto2 March 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm

We did Disney World with our AP who had only been with us for about a month, and it did not go well. We had 2 small kids, (ages 4 and 7), so we had in mind short leisurely days at various parks during the week of our stay. We also had in mind to retreat back to the condo for relaxing evenings by the pool and the occasional date night for the adults. We communicated this plan to our AP, who seemed on-board at the get go, but not once we arrived. She seemed irritated that the kids’ legs grew tired and we had to take frequent breaks. We packed lunches and brought them with us to save money, but the girl was a big eater and got grumpy when we ran out of food and she had to go buy something on her own. When we decided to return to the condo, she pouted and said it was not fair that she had to miss out on Disney b/c the kids were tired. She put on her iPod and ignored the kids the rest of the evening. After the 2nd or 3rd day, we just let her stay at the park when we went home and we told her she had to find her own way back to the condo. By day 4, we realized that we had made a mistake by bringing her along since she was not willing to see the attractions with the kids from their point of view. She saw the trip as her own personal vacation (at our expense) and was not remotely invested in working or spending time with the kids. There were no date nights, needless to say, and it really set the tone for a tough relationship with this au pair which we never recovered from. We ended up in rematch about 2 months later.

If we were to do it again, we would definitely be more strict about making expectations clear as far as what we considered her job expectations, and when we considered her to be on and off duty. We would have let her spend a sun up to sun down day on her own at the parks at her own pace, but would have made it clear that she was responsible for her own meals and transportation. We did not stay on campus, which was our mistake, and we would definitely find lodging on the park next time.

OB Mom March 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

We have done both DNW and DNL with multiple AP’s. We live in SoCal, so we have taken mulitple AP’s to Disneyland for 1-2 days. With one AP we went to Orlando for a week long vacation. We always pay the entry fees and meals, but any souveniers are their own responsibility. We have had AP’s since our kids were 3&6 and they are now 8&11 so have been through various levels.

For accommodations, in Anaheim, we stay in a cheapo hotel and get adjoining rooms … the kids can play in either room (giving us all more space) but at night she gets her privacy. The hotel is really inexpensive and right across the street from the park, so we don’t really spend much time there. Our tradition is to go to Goofy’s kitchen for dinner, so we get a nice (yes expensive) meal and all relax. In Disneyworld, we stayed in the Grand Floridian, but given the high price tag for that we all shared one room (the AP slept on the pull out couch). We had late nights in the pool with the kids, so everyone went to bed pretty much right away (or DH and I sat and enjoyed wine on the patio while the kids and AP went to bed).

WHat did we do in the park? We all catered to the kids desires of course. By having 3 adults we could divide an conquer if necessary (I cannot ride the teacups, but the AP loved it while on other rides, we took the AP on the Winnie the Pooh ride while my hubby and older son rode Splash Mountain). Disney is really for the kids and if your AP can’t enjoy seeing it through their eyes, then she shouldnt’ be an AP!

Re spare time … when does one have that at a place like that? Even if one of the kids needs to nap, just experiencing the “magic” of Disney should be good enough for an AP (especially if you are footing the bill).

Re gratitude … every AP that we have taken to a Disney experience has been extremely grateful and helpful. In fact, she even babysat for us one night so DH and I could have a special dinner at the fancy restaurant in our hotel. She played with them in the pool and then they all watched the fireworks in their PJ’s while we had a nice bottle of wine and talked about how wonderful they all were and what a great time they had.

Yes, at least one child will have a meltdown, but sometimes the APs have a special way of extracting them from it and giving you a few minutes to figure out what to do. Yes, it will be hot and someone might feel exhausted from waiting in lines. Yes, you will be frustrated that Ariel or Woody or Mickey leaves the viewing area just as you walk up with your signature page, but if you all go there with the right attitude you can have a great time. Remember the AP is part of your family so treat her with respect and see the park through her eyes as well.

Enjoy!

Taking a Computer Lunch March 6, 2012 at 8:03 am

I was thinking this morning about what a friend with a special needs child once said to me – “It’s a vacation if you don’t take the children and just a trip if you do.” Don’t use the words “family vacation” with your AP – perhaps it will evoke memories of vacations with her own family where she might have had influence on activities. Instead, “You’re going to a special place, but you’re going with children. It will be different than if you had gone with your friends. We will not be staying at the amusement park until it closes, but will respond to the children’s needs.”

While I wouldn’t expect 11 and 13-year-olds to react in the same way as a 3 and a 5-year-old to the exhaustion of being in an amusement park all day, they still cry “enough” — and perhaps earlier than a 22-year-old for whom this might be the one visit. Lay out expectations – and make it explicit – that if she wishes to take a vacation day from your family and return to the park on her own, she may — at her expense.

On the other hand, for the AP who rises to the occasion, pitches in, and understands that it’s not her vacation, but the kids’ – I would reward her with letting her choose one of the family activities — as long as it’s appropriate for the children.

cv harquail March 6, 2012 at 10:16 am

“It’s a vacation if you don’t take the children and just a trip if you do.”

What a great insight! It’s really all in the framing, because that sets up expectations for everyone. thanks tacl. cv

Former au pair Raquel March 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

There are two common mistakes when taking an AP to Disney or to any other vacation: the au pair doesn’t realize she’ll be working 24 hours a day just to get to know a different place without paying; and the parents don’t realize the AP will be working 24h a day, so if she’s not mature enough, she’ll behave like momto2 reported. After a while, the AP is grumpy because she didn’t realize it would be a WORK week and not a vacation week and the parents, of course, always think they are doing an amazing thing and increase the pressure on her. A pair of inexperience people.

So, my advises would be:
- make sure she understand the rules, that she will NOT be able to go on rides on her own; that she’ll be there to work and that’s why she’s being paid for. It can be harsh, but it’s better than regrets later and then you won’t be accused of not being clear. The blame will be on her later.
- not only that, KNOW YOUR AU PAIR. She must be mature and responsible, not an 18 y/o who’s never traveled before in her life.
- be prepared to pay for all her basic expenses, THAT INCLUDES FOOD WHEN SHE’S HUNGRY. We all, at some point in our life, packed lunch to save some money. That’s valid. At Disneyworld, when our energies can be drained quickly, that might not be enough. She’s there for you and the kids, she cannot be hungry and it is really not fair that she feels that way. Nobody is asking to pay for a rental car, or loads of ice cream. But if a meal is necessary in the middle of the afternoon, more than an apple, you’ll be buying it.
- try to give her some space. The only friend of mine that was really happy vacationing with his HPs had a rental car just for him and a separate bedroom. I understand that’s not necessary, but try to create an environment where she doesn’t feel trapped.
- how would YOU feel if you transformed the experience of a girl who’s never been at Disneyworld and always dreamed about it since she was a kid, in a nightmare?

Meet her in the middle.

anon ap March 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm

just wanted to chime in and say, not every au pair (or ex au pair for that matter) thinks this way. I think the point is in setting expectations clearly and early on. If you are the au pair, and if they are taking you as such, then you are expected to help with the kids, because…well, because that IS your job after all, right? At least that’s what I think. You are not working 24h, that’s just being dramatic, and immature, you are just pitching in and doing your job as best as you can in a different setting, is all. Just be happy you’re getting out of your routine and don’t complain. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” right?? :)

OhPleaseNotCaliforniaOrFlorida March 7, 2012 at 12:07 am

This is indeed a little over dramatic. As a current au pair I have been fortunate to visit Disneyland with my host family a few times. I was never on duty but always helped out and usually taged along. Then again, I don’t consider getting napkins and straws for everyone or letting one of the kids sit on my shoulders so they can see the parade work. This might be just me, but going on vacation with the au pair (or with the host family for that matter) is a give and take relationship regardless of whether the au pair is on duty or not.

momto2 March 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Yes, we were inexperienced, but we are very generous and fair, too, and maybe we were just caught being too “nice.” We ended up staying off campus so that we could provide a private AP suite at the condo w/in our budget, when we could have stayed on campus and given her a sofa bed and let her share a bathroom with the kids. We set aside time each day once we arrived at the parks for her own exploration, but asked her to join us a couple of hours per day working and helping supervise the kids on rides. Unfortunately, she was just not interested in Tea Cups and couldn’t appreciate why the Tower of Terror was not on our list of attractions with kids our boys’ ages, and sometimes she just “forgot,” or “lost track of time,” and just never showed up.

We have never been stingy on food, but this girl could seriously eat more than our family combined! We had breakfast at the condo, and hauled backpacks filled with sandwiches and snacks–(and again, we were only spending 5 or 6 hours a day at the parks), which held everyone over until dinner except the AP. And then we paid for her dinner at a restaurant–if she chose to join us. So if she needed more than that, then the reasonableness factor has to kick in.

And making it sound as though this AP was being expected to work 24 hours per day is a bit of a stretch……she didn’t even work 24 hours that WEEK, and she still copped an attitude at the suggestion that she spend any time with kids.

After this experience, it has been our practice to have our AP’s take their own trips while the HF is on a trip. It has seemed to work better for us.

MommyMia March 7, 2012 at 11:55 pm

I might add that if it’s the AP’s lifelong dream to visit Disney, she is free to visit on her own or with friends and experience the “magic” her own way. But if she agrees to go with the HF, relax and enjoy the fact that they are paying outrageous sums for your entry, food and lodging, and THaNK them for including you and not just expect that they will feed you all the exotic treats you’re dying to try, but consider offering to treat the kids to a Mickey Mouse ice cream if you just have to try one while with them! I’m guessing that your dream didn’t necessarily envision going on rides with cranky, tired kids in tow?

5kids=aupair March 6, 2012 at 11:19 am

We’ve done WDW with all of our APs, I have a self-admitted Disney addiction. We have never had a problem with the APs. I’m a rope drop to park close person, too. I have the APs “work” the whole time, but I basically treat her like one of the family. We pay for tickets, meals, etc. Souveniers are on them. We trade off who goes on the rides and who stays with the smaller kids. We always get a rider switch pass, so the second set of adults can go through the EZ pass line or up the exit, this works really well. Since the Rider Switch pass accommodates up to 4 people, some of us get to ride the rides twice. If there ever is any free time, the APs usually go to Downtown Disney by themselves.

Calif Mom March 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

Am I the only cheapo who brought backpacks with serious amounts of actual food? We didn’t buy a meal on site, but did buy drinks/ice cream type snacks so we had a chance to sit and take a break.

Our au pair returned to the park in the evening with my SIL to do the big rides and see the light parade and fireworks.

Having another person along to staff a few bathroom visits was so wonderful! (Don’t worry, they are IMMACULATE.)

Be sure your au pair SEES the ticket price at some point. That will ‘buy’ you a lot of help. Honestly, I wouldn’t take a Princessy au pair because the chances of it going south are just overwhelming; but I see it as a reward for the hardworking ones.

There’s an iphone app that gives current wait times for rides. Definitely follow advice of those guides that others have mentioned The Disney fans are obsessed but generous, and there are blogs with travel tips, as well. Fastpasses were great for the popular rides. Arrive as early as possible, run around getting the passes you want, then putter around.

Don’t forget to have conversations with your KIDS about expectations, as well as with your au pair. A family meeting several days before you get there and another refresher at the hotel will save a lot of preventable disappointment. Talk about how Walt Disney was a master of marketing. Yes, seriously. Make a game out of how many ways the kids can discover that The Mouse tries to separate you/them from your/their money. (I can hear the mouse lovers groaning at me, but honestly, this approach does not suck the joy out of the day, because Snow White will still wave and wink *right at* your little girl, and the Mermaids and fairies will still beam at your kids and pose with them for photos. Playing ‘participant observers’ will make your kids feel really SMART while they enjoy the day, and will keep the clamoring for more more more or the “I want to spend hours at the beauty shop” to a minimum.)

Give your kids a budget for souvenirs. (And be flexible enough to bump it up when you see that there really isn’t even any cheap crap that will break in two days available at the $10 price point.) Consider getting the souvenirs out of the way early-ish so you don’t end up spending all day fending off gift shop lust. Or get the souvenirs at nearby stores instead of DisneyWhere and save a bundle.

And yes, you really will have fun, but probably not when you expect to. Don’t be afraid to edit — don’t tell the kids about the fireworks if you know you will all be exhausted by then. Or go back to hotel for rest and an early dinner, and then go back. Even if you are “just” there for one day. You cannot possibly see it all. And you don’t need to. Fight the marketing machine and you can have a great time and not totally hate yourself for overspending.

Just Being Helpful March 6, 2012 at 11:59 am

I’ll offer the perspective of a host family that decided to “do Disney” without the Au Pair. We always tell our Au Pairs that “you need a vacation away from us.” And we mean it sincerely. We discuss in the matching process that we want our Au Pair to have her own adventures in America, and not feel obligated to spend every moment with us.

HM and HD both work full-time, so our one family vacation week over the summer is a special time to spend with just us and our two kids. We adore our fabulous Au Pair, but if she joined us, it would be a different dynamic. I can imagine the children fighting over who would get to sit next to her on the rides . . .

We ask the Au Pair to select any week during the summer for HER vacation week. She made plans with another Au Pair (coordinated with her host family), and we then planned our Disney vacation for that week. The Au Pairs traveled to Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston. (Our Au Pair can take her second vacation week any other time of the year.)

We made a point of purchasing several nice Disney souvenirs for the Au Pair, one selected by each host kid and one from host parents.

Not a perfect solution, but it worked for us. Also, I took some small measure of comfort when one of the kids completed melted down at Disney before noon and we had to return to hotel for the rest of the day that at least the Au Pair didn’t have to witness it . . . I recall that the total meltdown was the result of an argument over ketchup . . . . .

Host Mommy Dearest March 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm

We had an experience closer to OB Mom than momto2. We are really quite anal about providing a weekly schedule ahead of time, but for the Disney trip (7 park days!) we did not. We told her that we would be all about the kids with a random roller coaster ride here and there for the adults (which included AP & HD as much as, if not more than HM). We told her that she could go off at almost any time she wanted, as we wanted to see the kids enjoy the “magic” and if she had things she wanted to do or see while we were there, we wanted to make sure she was able. We kept offering for her to go off on her own, but told her we enjoyed having her with us and weren’t trying to get rid of her. She said that in all honesty she was having more fun with us & the kids than she would alone. Only an awesome AP would feel that way – meltdowns and all.

Most days we attempted to get to the park early and left by or before dinner. I found that was more than enough tiime at the park – although we had 7 days to explore the 4 parks. General notes: 1) I think park hoppers are a waste of $ – you can save $ if you stick to one park per day – and I did not find the need to park hop within the same day (the only extra thing a park hopper allows). 2) The more days you buy, the cheaper it is per day. Originally I was thinking 4 days at the park was enough, but HD pointed out the $ dif to add 3 more park days, which allowed us to do a few shorter days and not feel like we needed to do it all in one day. 3) My biggest regret is not doing the photo CD ahead. We would have scanned that card everywhere we went – even without realizing they still had some really good shots of us that they hose you for after if you didn’t pre buy the CD. Ugh. 4) We got the Disney iPhone ap which has some really great features. Besides a map with gps of where you are with arrows pointing the direction and distance to attractions, food and whatnot (bathrooms!), it also had the fairly accurate wait times for all the park’s attractions listed real time. We also used the ap to decide where we would eat lunch since you could look up the entire menu and pick what you wanted. AP & I would take the kids to find a table, clean it off, etc, then she would go back to line where HD would be ordering by then, and help him carry food back to our table. 5) We didn’t buy software to figure out a plan (although in retrospect it is not a bad idea), and I originally didn’t think we would be quite as militant about getting out the door in the morning early, but after one day where you wait in long lines for everything (there are very few, if none of the attractions that I consider worth one hour wait) you can see it is much more enjoyable with a solid plan of attack to the park. Learn how the fast passes work, which attractions have them & when you can get your next ones, and then maximize their use. We went early to the park b/c lines were shortest first thing in the morning AND because the popular things would run out of fastpasses by noon sometimes. When we got into the park, we would give all our park passes to HD, he would run to the fast pass machine for a popular attraction to get one for each of us, then meet us at a different most popular attraction for a 10-15 minute wait that was growing longer by the minute and would soon be a 50 minute wait and climbing. As soon as you are able, get fast passes for the next thing and plan snacks and lunches and other fun diversions around the fast pass return times. It sounds like over planning, but I would rather spend a few hours at the park, hit 6 attractions, and spend the hottest part of the day at the hotel pool (a good promise to get the kids to leave the park) rather than stay all day at the park and wait in hour long lines and hit 4 attractions all day with worn out kids.

We paid for meals and snacks for our AP when she was with us – which was all the time – of course it helped that it didn’t feel like she was only with us for the free food. We didn’t pay for souvenirs but there was no expectation that we would.

She did dinner at the hotel restaurant with the kids one night while we did date night, and there was one night where we did a daycare/movie night for the kids while we took our AP out to dinner. She never had a bad attitude or was a mope about anything that came up, and she pitched in quite a bit whenever she could, and the trip required quite a bit of togetherness for an extended period of time.

Forgot to mention that we shared a room for all of us, with her on the pull out. We gave her the choice to join us on the trip or stay home during that time, as I would much rather no AP on the trip than a miserable AP.

LuvCheetos March 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

We just went on a short (4 day) trip to Disney. We did not take AP. I know she was disappointed, but we had told her prior to match that we were going and simply could not afford to take her. We do take our APs on our summer beach vacation (assumeing they want to go –otherwise, they can have an extra vacation week as it doesn’t count against them). I don’t anticipate that we will visit regularly. This was a once in a lifetime trip and we wanted to enjoy it with our children and stay on park grounds, etc. If we had taken AP, we would have had to stay off the park at a cheaper hotel, etc. Our AP ended up getting 4 extra days off by staying at home and we gave her money to buy the food she wanted on those days so she could buy the things she likes that we don’t necessarily buy at the grocery store.

It sounds like we’re in the distinct minority, though, in not including AP.

PhillyMom March 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Ha, ha, we are in Orlando while I am reading this. I am here for a convention I am attending and my husband is working while we’re here, so we had no choice but bring the au pair. It was a good choice. We are staying in a VRBO apartment near the convention center. While the au pair (and her au pair friend – who also came with us) went to universal studios independently and on their on cost during the weekend, they took the kids to Disney on Monday. Yes, it was an expensive trip, but my husband and I did not have to go to Magic Kingdom (we are both not exactly fans of kiddie rides and long lines…) – but we still got to enjoy sometime with the kids in universal studios.
So, I would say for us it was great to have the au pair(s). And I made it clear what their schedule would be…they had enough time to hang out at the pool and meet some local guys….

Mom23NJ March 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm

I think that when we go to Disney, I will be preparing a rough outline of what we plan on doing and when. I will make a note of then I “Need” her to work, which I believe will only be one night that my husband and I meet some friends for drinks. Maybe I will specify that she should choose either the morning or the evening each day that she will be with us, helping out, as any family member would. Other times that will be up to her as to go on her own or stick with us.
After reading these posts, I think that the maturity of the Au Pair is pretty important. My Au Pair is mature which will work in our favor! And that expressing that this is a Trip and not a Vacation will also be key. The Disney tips have been helpful too. I am not a fan of kiddie rides and long lines either, but I am a fan of trying to see this thru my kids eyes. Hopefully that will be enough to make me go off the deep end when we are there!

PA AP Mom March 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm

We took our first AP to Disney World for our then 7 year old’s 8th birthday celebration. My mother also went along. We paid for everything, except souvenirs. She did have to share a room with my mother, but it had 2 queen sized beds and she had lots of private time.

We did the park hopper passes (well worth it for us). We would go to breakfast at our resort and then head to one of the parks or water parks. We would stay till early afternoon, around 2pm and then head back to the hotel. At that time, our oldest son would read, play DS or relax and youngest would relax and/or nap. AP could feel free to lounge by the pool or nap or read or shop. Then dinner and usually to another park until closing time. After that my mom or Hubby and I would be in charge of the kids and AP could do whatever she wanted. Transportation came right to our hotel so getting a ride was never an issue.

One of the days we were doing the watermark (2nd one) and I told AP if she wanted to do something else she could but all she wanted was to hang out by the pool. She was the “watcher” of all of our things while the rest of us enjoyed the slides, rides and wave pool. Everyone was happy.

Overall, it was a great trip. She did get an attitude once when I told her we weren’t going to SeaWorld. Tickets were another $75 each and for 6 of us that really added up. I offered to give her one day off and she could go but she didn’t want to go alone so she passed. Other than that, it was great.

We did have a long discussion before we left about “working”. She sat with one of the boys and my mom on the plane and Dave and I sat with the other. I told her she was expected to help out in the airports and on the planes. We also let her know that she was expected to pitch in and help in the parks. It was never an issue because I think everyone had realistic expectations about what would happen.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 6, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Your comment reminds me of the first time we took a plane trip with the kids and our AP. Because they were both little at the time, they had window seats, and we parents sat in the middle. Our AP decided she wanted a window seat (we were flying Southwest) and sat far away from us. Two guys sat next to her and hit on her for the entire flight. After that, she always sat with one of us!

OB Mom March 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I have to giggle at the comment about your 7 year old’s 8th birthday … doesn’t that make it your 8 year old? :-)

My 2 cents March 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm

We’ve done it with 2 different au pairs and it went just fine. But, as with all vacations, you need to make your expectations clear. Let them know what will be expected of them. We usually have a few date nights, but in exchange they get off a few days entirely or at least get half days to spend at the park away from the kids and their drama and demands.

If you want their help at the park, obviously you must pay for their ticket and food, but not souvenirs or other personal merchandise. I would give them some time to spend on the rides they want to go on and attractions they want to see. This will show them that you value them as a person and colleague and not just as “the help.” We’ve always had one of the kids share the room with the au pair as well. That was fine as well since they knew ahead of time. They are all interested in going to Florida for free and to Disney in particular so it was just not a point of objection.

Carrie March 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm

This post showed up in my email just as we were leaving DL. :)

First, I will say the trip to DL with the family was a Christmas present for our au pair, but we only have 1 almost 1 year old, so we didn’t need her to work at all. We stayed at the Anabella, so the the park was in walking distance and she had her own “room” (in the sense there is a “kids room” attached to the main room).

Since our daughter is young, it was really less important to get her on rides and we basically did fastpass and rider swap for all the big rides (rider swap is a blessing if you have one in your party that can’t go on). So our au pair went on all the big rides at least twice. We paid for everything except her souveniers and she wanted to use the internet at the hotel, so she did that on her own (it wasn’t free). Our au pair loved watching our daughter’s reaction to stuff, she really helped out and pretty much stayed with us the whole time (except when she went to go meet the princesses and do a little shopping while our daughter was taking a nap in her stroller and my husband and I were resting our feet).

Now, if my husband and I have more kids or maybe even as our daughter gets older and wants to ride the tea cups over and over, trips like this would be different (where we may have to have more of a schedule), but with our current au pair, we have already taken a few trips with her and she’s always treated like one of the family. This may also have to do with maturity, but she also just seems to want to hang out with us anyway, so it does make for nice trips.

DarthaStewart March 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm

We’ve done it several times(a dozen?) . It’s really no different than other trips… We talk about working/not working. And honestly, the last couple of times, the older kids have RUN the au-pair into the ground while I take the youngest, and dh takes the 3rd. It really works out quite well.

sweetheart March 7, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I was there with my host family and my own family all together (my parents have travelled all the world so their english is really good), it was the best week of my life we all share expenses and had a great time. There are moments when happiness and great memories go over money :) I love my two families

OB Mom March 9, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Two families … that’s a great way to think of it. :-)

DarthaStewart March 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm

We went once with our au-pair’s family, and all of us crammed into a condo. TONS of fun for everyone. We seriously had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat. BUT, I think it depends on how you approach it.

fluffy March 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm

We have taken 2 /4 aupairs to Disney World. For the cost of bringing the aupair and the no happiness we got from the aupair it wasn’t worth it. It cost an extra $300 airline, $300 tix, $200 food, plus of course the week’s stipend for a total of $1000 to have her there. We gave her a schedule which was 32 hrs for the week. It wasn’t like having a friend or a nanny. It was like having another niece or nephew. If the kids got dirty or needed the bathroom, I had to specifically ASK – can you take x to the bathroom. Never mind she is on duty, nothing was done other than walking near us without asking. i am not sure exactly how to communicate what helping a family out is , but it is more than just sitting next to a kid on a ride or walking next to us or pushing the stroller. The real help was 2 nights we got to go out on our own, but for $500 a pop, I think I should have hired the disney baby sitters for that. One aupair we did rematch after that. The other one, it was near the end of her stay and we just ended the vacation feeling like we wasted money. I felt more put out that I couldn’t enjoy my time bc we were looking out if she wanted to go on x ride and I’d watch the little one. I was trying to treat her “like a family” and instead I ended up feeling like the hired help. Just my experience. I think it works out better to bring a real family member and pay their way.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 10, 2012 at 12:18 am

One of my favorite FL memories was AP #2 spontaneously jumping into the surf after touring Cape Canaveral with extended family, and dragging my then 6-year-old along. Both had a blast (and the rest of us wished we had suits). But then again, this was the AP who begged us to book time with him so she could justify going to G-rated animated movies on a Saturday. (Every AP has had different strengths, but I’m grateful for the ones that went out of their way to make him feel special, given that The Camel get so much of everyone’s attention.)

HP – went you’re on a trip it really helps to be explicit. “I’d like you to feed X and then we’ll discuss what to do this afternoon.” “I’d like you to spend the next hour with X on the kiddie rides and then we’ll give you an hour off to go on adult rides.” If an AP sticks around without pulling a face and helps out, then thank her openly – having read horror stories about long faces, having someone who wants to be part of the family seems like a gift!

DCMomof3 March 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm

While not Disney, my AP and I did do Legoland Orlando together this year. We were in Florida anyway and having a rough visit with my family, so she and I did an impromptu drive to Orlando (4 hours from my parents’ house) on New Year’s Eve. We did not have a plan other than to take my 3 kids to Legoland. When we got to the park gate and she saw that it was $85 per person, she whipped out her bank card and paid her own way. That said, she still did all the rides that my kids wanted to go on all day. Or stood outside the line with the stroller and all the stuff so I could ride a few rides with the kids (although I let her do most of them). I did have to ask her to do a few things with the kids so we could divide and conquer based on age-related interests, but for the most part, she was just willing to do whatever it took to let them experience this dream place for them. At the end of it all, she thanked me for driving the 4 hours, paying for the hotel the night before and just giving everybody a really fun surprise New Year’s Day. I know that I am lucky and I also realize that some au pairs I’ve had in the past would not have behaved this way. Although, the one I know truly would not have risen to the occassion I sent home early because I could not tolerate her general lack of gratefulness.

HRHM March 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm

We go to WDW 1-3 times per year. We took AP1 once and AP2 twice. In all cases, these trips ARE NOT working weeks. I don’t need an AP on vacation, I work too much and these weeks are my time with my kids. We tell the AP straight off that it is a family vacation and if they go, they will be using their vacation time. If they don’t want to go, they are free to make other plans for that week. Having said that, if they spend time with us in the parks during the week, we expect them to act like a family member. Helping at mealtimes, sharing bathroom break duties, splitting up the kids to age appropriate rides. We all get to do everything we want because DH (and now DD7) get to go on the roller coasters with AP (I won’t do it!) and everything else we can all go on. Sometimes DH gets to sleep in and AP and I hit rope drop (or they both sleep in and I go it alone – as I said, I don’t NEED the AP there, but it is nice to have the extra set of hands)
Yes, it is super expensive to bring her along. We too are military, so we stay at Shades of Green and get the cheaper tickets and don’t rent a car. But even so, adding our new AP this year will cost over 1100 not including meals (we will add a second room – more for us than for her). I will ask her to pay for her plane ticket (thereby reducing the price by approxiamately her stipend – it chafes my but to PAY her to let me buy her vacation! LOL) And we do pay for all her food for the time she is with us including drinks, snacks, and expensive princess dinners.
Our APs have both understood that this was an expensive gift to them and a chance to spend time together (all 5 of us) as a family. They treated it as such and both offered to spend the evening with the girls so that HD and I could have a date night.
I think with the right AP the trip can be fun, priceless and magical. With the wrong AP it can be (and will be) a nightmare. I would only bring an AP that I love hanging out with.

Angie Host mom March 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Easy answer – it totally depends on the au pair and what you are doing as a family.

First, we have a rule on trips that we establish early on – it doesn’t count as work time and it doesn’t count as vacation time. Some business trips the au pair will be working a lot and some vacations they will be barely working and it evens out or we’ll make sure it does in the end.

Second, we have a rule on trips that EVERYONE including au pair gets to do one thing that they really want to do. So no complaining about the rest of the trip!

I’ve done Disney with all 5 of our au pairs and it worked differently with each one. You just have to know your au pair and if they will enhance your Disney trip, bring them along. If they will make you miserable, leave them home or cut them free with vacation time.

And use RideMax and parent switch and single rider lines…

Family First May 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm

You are taking the au pair to a different place, and want them to work for you your standard 45 hours a week, then I absolutely think that you should provide food. Yes, it’s more expensive, if you can’t afford it, yet you are employing an au pair, and taking a vacation to disney world for a week, doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. Yes, you have to pay for their ticket, but this is for your convenience, not theirs. If you don’t like the idea of the additional expense, you should give her the option to stay home. I also would not charge her vacation days either, because you’re dictating the dates, they have no say in the matter. Or perhaps split the dates.

If she chooses to stay home, however, you can save on parking by having her drop you off at the airport and pick you up, thus no expensive airport parking, and you can be picked up and dropped off at the gate.

However your au pair is like family, and your responsibility, food and all.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I know I have said elsewhere that one need not pay for every meal. My exception to this is: If you expect your AP to work a 9 or 10 hour day during a family trip, then you should anticipate purchasing three meals – as long as she eats when everyone else eats (no showing up just as you’re heading out for the day and expecting a separate breakfast that would derail the kids at their prime time of the day). Personally, if I’m buying snacks for the kids, then I also ask the AP if she wants one. If I’m bringing snacks for the day, then I bring enough to share with my AP.

Jay May 1, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Sorry if I wasn’t clear, I meant if they eat with the family, if they aren’t working and decide to go out on their own, they’re on their own.

DCMomof3 May 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm

After vacationing a lot with au pairs, I’ve come to realize that I just need to be even more explicit than usual. While it would seem to me that when the kids are bouncing out of bed in the hotel room at 7 am that everyone should get up, that does not always seem to sink in with some au pairs who think that vacation means, well, vacation. So instead, I will now say something like – ok, tomorrow morning I need you to get up with the kids and get them dressed and take them down to breakfast. I will prepare the bags for the day and meet you down there. Please make sure that you eat your breakfast with the kids.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 4, 2012 at 11:37 pm

I’ve never had this problem when traveling with au pairs (I don’t call it vacationing with au pairs – see my comment on the difference between vacation and trips above). Perhaps if you don’t use the word vacation, she won’t think of it that way!

Most of my APs have been thrilled to visit a new place, have input on sightseeing, etc., that they really pitch in. I have had several APs feed my special needs child even when they are not scheduled to work (because they have finished their meal and see DH and I struggling to feed her and eat ours). I always feel a twinge of guilt, but my desire to finish my meal and move on wins out.

The key, I have found, is to honor down time when possible and let the AP escape and be by herself. I imagine next month as we tour the Mouse, that we will say to our AP, “DH and I will go on It’s a Small World for the 3rd Time with The Camel, please escape for an hour with Child 2 (who loves roller coasters as much as she) – phone us if you’re going to be late.” or “You have the next two hours off, you may stay with us or wander by yourself” and arrange a meeting place if she chooses the latter.

I have found that APs are much more likely to pitch in and take over as needed when they have lived with our family for several months than when they travel with us in their first 3 months.

DCMomof3 May 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Maybe I sound harsh because I too have gotten lots and lots of extra help from au pairs on trips. However, I also realize that I still need to provide a schedule and guidance after having gone on some trips without giving it and ending up really frustrated. Looking back, most of my frustration involved weekend getaways that were not regularly scheduled work time, but the AP joined us anyway. With one car and one hotel room, there’s really not the option for the au pair to get up whenever she wants (unless she is not spending the day with us). But, I’ve had au pairs think that they can sleep in like on a normal weekend at home and it ends up becoming a tense start to the day. Now, if they want to join on a weekend trip where they are “off duty” but will be stuck in a Hampton Inn next to the interstate unless they get with our program (or we will be waiting around totally annoyed), I just tell them up front: you are welcome to join, but you will need to get up when the kids get up, eat breakfast with everybody at the hotel, etc. If I have the ability to offer free time (like if we are in a place where she can be mobile on her own), I will do it. But, even then, some girls are too overwhelmed by being in a new city to do anything with that time. They’d rather just join the pre-planned activities with us. Which is fine, but it needs to be on our schedule.

HRHM May 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Since our APs are never working when they travel with us, I really don’t care if they attempt to sleep in, as long as they understand that if we have plans, they will miss them if they aren’t ready in time. We will not sit around and wait for her to wake, nor be late because she can’t get ready on time. I also am not likely to try to keep the kids quiet while the AP is trying to sleep in the hotel. But if she wants to bury her head under the pillow and tough it out until we leave, she is welcome to sit by the hotel pool by herself all day if she wishes

Taking a Computer Lunch May 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm

When we have traveled we have given the AP the opportunity to join us in the day’s activities — or not — on her off days. Most join us anyway and pitch in anyway (and get rewarded by us anyway). A couple have been very private and have needed down time and we have respected their needs. I must say, all have responded well to our get up and roll out early, but I admit we do give them a warning. (Most have wanted to maximize travel experiences and haven’t slept in.)

We do pay for a private room. The only time our APs have had a share a room with the kids has been when they have joined us in a visit to the home of one particular family member. Sharing a room with The Camel means getting a bedroom with a door, rejecting it means sleeping in the living room!

somebody May 8, 2012 at 11:26 pm

thanks you very much I called my LCC today as after the talk with my HF they seemed dissapointed that I am not “willing to be flexible” with them. As for the utah trip, well those were they vacactions not mine, while they were hiking at Arches National Park, I was doing kids laundry at the hotel, when I complained about it because I was also paying they told me we were gonna do something I like to do after that, but Gues what?? we got out of time :S …..

AFHostmom October 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I just reviewed these comments because they now pertain to my family. :) We are going to WDW in June, and though we do love our AP (and are extending with her, so at that point she’ll have been with us for 1.5 years), we have opted not to take her. The main reason is logistics and cost–with three kids (9, 5, 4), we can *just* squeeze into a room at a deluxe resort and if we added a sixth person it would push us into value–the new Art of Animation which seems lovely but, with our military room discount, our travel agent got us a better rate at the deluxe than the value. We do not get vacation often either, so this is our family’s catch up time (especially since my husband may have to move away from us in July, for an undetermined number of years). Our compromise is that we are taking her on a Caribbean cruise in December, and there is a port stop at Canaveral–so I’m going to offer her the Disney excursion, with my oldest for company–if she wants.

au pair October 31, 2012 at 12:21 am

I think thats fair. But tell her WHY you can’t take her. Not that she feels left out or something like that. We understand, its expensive and all that. ( and i am sure she enjoys some alone time at home;))

AFHostmom November 6, 2012 at 9:42 am

Thanks for your perspective. We do love her and I hope we send that message often enough–I will definitely plan to tell her my reasons.

HRHM May 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm

So this trip and the UT thing are 2 totally different cases. In the UT trip, it was a vacation week for you, you knew that when you decided to go and I presume they told you before you got to UT that you would need to pay your own way? As far as the HC sharing your room and you getting some money for that, I would assume that that was negotiated as well? I would say you had a choice to say no, I’ll pay for the whole room and have it to myself, or if you want HC to stay with me, we need to split 50/50 (or 66/33 if 2 kids with AP). If these things didn’t happen this way, it was likely due to you not asking for what you needed. I understand the imbalance of power in the relationship, but you can’t expect to get something unless you ask for it, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

As for the move, I agree that it is pretty lousy to tell you about this move after you’ve made final travel arrangements. Hopefully they really didn’t know about it until it was too late to accomodate your flights. If this is the case, and they can afford it, it would be nice if they helped you changed your flights and tried to cover the cost difference.

If they want you to work during this 5 week trip, they are obligated to provide you with a place to live. Not only do they have to pay for your hotel, but technically, the state department rules require that the Au Pair has her own room. I wouldn’t nit pick this detail normally on vacation, but 5 weeks is a long time to have no privacy. If I were you, I would also get a written schedule in advance since it is very easy to fall into the trap of not being on duty but being expected to help 24/7 because you are there.

Talk to your LCC

Taking a Computer Lunch May 8, 2012 at 10:59 pm

I agree with you – if they are asking you to work during the move, then they should pay for the hotel room. If they cannot afford to bring you along, then they should make other arrangements (e.g. pay for your flight from Colorado to Virgina). They absolutely cannot ask you to pay for your room and have you share it with a child!

Sit down with them after the kids have gone to bed and negotiate. Don’t whine, calmly explain that you do not have the resources to pay for hotel fees for 5 weeks (it would be an unreasonable request under any circumstance). While I personally would not ask an au pair to share a hotel room with one of my children (and have wedged DH, myself and 2 kids into a tiny room to prove it), I understand that not all HF can afford a separate room when they travel.

Negotiate. If you travel with them from Colorado to Virginia then you understand that you are trapped and do not have down time. You will be pitching in and helping on a daily basis (mainly because you’re trapped in the car with them) and because you’ll be sharing a room with at least one child. In return, you want them to pay for your hotel room and 100% of your meals.

This is a good time to negotiate down time. Obviously your 1 1/2 days off a week go out the window, but be good humored about it. Are there any places between Colorado and Virginia you would be interested in seeing? Now’s the time to put in a request. Is it possible that the kids could have a movie in their room for a couple of hours so you could have some quiet time to yourself, say 1 or 2 nights a week?

I am not telling to put cash into this trip, but to be flexible and adventurous. Also, don’t think of it as a vacation. That you get in your travel month. It’s a family trip.

What else can you offer? Think about your options.

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