Finding Childcare & Hiring a Nanny when Traveling with Kids

Finding Childcare & Hiring a Nanny when Traveling with Kids

Kids can be a big hurdle to traveling in general, and a workation is no exception. They’re a major factor in all of your decisions, from the city you choose to where you stay in that city to how long you go. And of course, what do you do for childcare while you’re working?!

We started taking workations when our boys were 4 and 2. I really liked this age because they didn’t usually need naps, they could walk a lot (we never brought a stroller), and they could eat table food. This made traveling pretty easy. Diapers were not particularly fun – especially when your two-year-old has a full, smelly diaper in the Customs line at JFK and it’s hot and he’s crying and there are no bathrooms and you have to wait 45 minutes to get through – but they’re manageable.

When my kids were younger, I’d hoped we could find some sort of English-speaking childcare center in the cities where we workationed. But when I contacted childcare centers, I was always told they were full or didn’t take kids for just a few weeks at a time. Or they were really expensive.

So, I’ve always hired a nanny (side note: some agencies also offer “mannies,” as they call them). Here’s why that’s been a great experience for our kids and us:

  • Nannies are generally flexible and they come right to your house in the morning – no daycare drop-offs or pick-ups. That saves a lot of time!
  • Most will do some sort of light housework: Sweep up, vacuum, pick up a few items at the grocery store, etc.
  • They have all been more than willing to babysit occasionally at night, so Joe and I get to spend a few hours of child-free time in a new city.
  • They know the city inside and out, and the kids have a blast going to different parks, museums and play areas. My boys stay active and usually see more of the city than I do!
  • They are a terrific resource for random cultural questions like “How do you pronounce this word?” and “What side of the pavement/footpath should I walk on?”

But hiring a nanny is also a bit nerve-wracking: Who do you entrust your children to while you’re away? I have always gone with a nanny agency for a few reasons:

  • Agencies are plentiful in big cities.
  • I’ve always felt confident that they screen their candidates well and I’ve been provided with excellent candidates to interview (the trustworthy agencies will list the certifications their nannies are required to have, they interview the nannies personally, and the nannies must have references).

Some drawbacks to using a nanny:

  • Depending on your childcare situation at home, they can be more expensive (but not always!). For example, my oldest son attends public school, so paying a nanny to care for him and his brother is an added cost. But when both kids were younger and I was paying for daycare for both, hiring a nanny was about the same cost.
  • You may run into some minor language barriers, depending on the nanny. That happened to me when a nanny thought her contract ended sooner than it really did. But the agency I worked with quickly got us a new nanny who was wonderful.

I can’t say I have the perfect system, but here’s how I’ve found a nanny agency for our workations:

Barcelona: I had friends living there who asked their childcare center for recommendations for a good agency. The agency (which isn’t in business anymore, otherwise I’d link to it) sent us a few resumes that included a list of certifications and references, and we did video interviews over Skype. We were also able to choose a few qualifications, like language fluency.

  • Cost: €8/hour ($8.55/hour) + 20% of weekly total wages paid to the agency. I had to pay the nanny each week in cash (her wages + the agency fees), which was cumbersome.

Wellington: I had no contacts in Wellington, so I literally just did a Google search and emailed a few agencies that were highly rated and looked legit. KiwiOz Nannies was super responsive, had tons of great references, and provided us with great candidates.

  • Cost: 25 NZD/hour (about $17.60), which included all taxes/fees to the agency. I could pay online each week via credit card, which was extremely convenient.

London: A friend’s trusted friend recommended a terrific and affordable agency that she had used for years. Brilliant Nannies sent me wonderful candidates and we are thrilled with our nanny. She is extremely professional in the way she plans out activities for the boys, tracks spending (ticket costs or lunches out, etc.).

The only drawback in this instance is that we have to pay UK taxes and insurance on our own. I spent hours working with a UK nanny tax organization and others figuring out the best way to pay taxes, plus our nanny’s national health insurance, and our required employer’s insurance (that’s in case the nanny gets hurt on the job). On the flip side, I am happy to provide health insurance for our nanny and learn how nannies with permanent (one year) contracts are protected under UK law with required PTO, maternity leave, holiday pay, etc.

  • Cost: £13/hour ($16.50/hour) to the nanny, plus about £55/week ($70/week) in taxes/insurance, plus £88 total ($112) to NannyTax to help us pay our taxes, plus a £290 ($369) finder’s fee to Brilliant Nannies (their fee was based on how many days we used the nanny and the fact that she was temporary). I use TransferWise to transfer money to our nanny’s bank account – TransferWise gives me a better exchange rate than our bank and has very low fees (like a few bucks per transfer).
  • Although everyone was EXTREMELY helpful and I wouldn’t trade our nanny for anyone, this was the most complicated payment situation I’ve had. However, I still suspect it was cheaper than going with some of the flat-rate fee agencies I found.

Finding a nanny may be the most time-consuming part of planning a workation. But it’s totally worth it when you find a wonderful one.

People always ask me if we’ll continue to have nannies if we keep workationing. My answer is: I don’t know. It depends when we take our next workation, how old the boys are and how long we are gone.

Related: Here’s an example of a family with teenagers who lived and worked in Maui for two months and how their children spent their days and stayed on top of school work.

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