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Taking a nanny on vacation

The question:
I want to hire a nanny to go on vacation with us to take care of the kids. If we’re taking her on a nice vacation, shouldn’t that offset the cost? And how much time should she have off?The Childcare Expert Answers:

You’re asking me if it is okay to not pay a nanny to watch your kids because you are taking her on your vacation — right? While I do understand that you are incurring extra costs in bringing along a nanny, and an exotic setting may be a fun benefit, you need to keep in mind an important fact: childcare providers are doing a job. This is your vacation, not her vacation. Caregivers deserve and expect to get paid, even if they really like your kids and enjoy spending time with them. And this is true even if they are doing their jobs in wonderful places like Hawaii or Paris or Disneyworld. If I had a job I loved in a really fun place, I would still want to get paid for it and you would too! The same applies to your “vacation nanny.”Before you can determine what is fair compensation for the vacation nanny, take a minute to figure out what you are expecting her to do. It is very important that you do this before leaving home — trust me, don’t “wing it” once you get there. Do you want her to sleep in the same room as your children so that she begins works when they wake up? Will she watch them every evening while you go out for a nice quiet dinner? Decide how many hours a day that you want the nanny to work, and then determine the specific schedule and days for her to be on-duty (and off). We once took a beach vacation with a vacation nanny who agreed to alternate working mornings and afternoons, plus every other evening, for five pre-specified days out of seven. It averaged out to eight hours a day for five days. (We also kept our kids out of her hair when she was off-duty; you must try to do this, too.) Make sure that you and the nanny both understand and agree to the work schedule before anyone packs a suitcase.

Now, what should you pay the “vacation nanny”? Well, you are providing all her meals, transportation, lodgings and, presumably, taking her along for fun excursions so it is really tempting to think of all of this as compensation. However, even though it can come to a lot of money, it is not as material to the salary as you may hope. The nanny will still be responsible for minding your children (i.e. doing her job) while you are enjoying the sights and getting out for some fun evenings without people who use the kiddy menu. Remember that just because everyone is in bathing suits doesn’t mean it is not hard work. After all, if the nanny were on her vacation, you and your kids wouldn’t be there!

If you have a live-in nanny joining you, I recommend that you pay her regular weekly salary — unless the working hours on holiday are a lot more than usual, in which case you should adjust the salary upward on a pro-rata basis. Please note that if her hours are less, I still recommend paying her regular salary in order to preserve goodwill (if this gesture breaks the bank, think about if you can afford to go away at all).

If the nanny is someone you have hired just for the purposes of this vacation, your best bet is to ask co-workers and friends what they have paid in similar situations. I can’t really tell you a specific dollar amount, since that can vary by region. However, a good guideline is to figure out what you would pay a babysitter to work a comparable number of hours at your home, multiply it by the number of days and offer that amount for the salary.

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