We primarily travel with our toddler because our work takes us to different parts of the world. Often, both my husband and I are both working and we need childcare. This has been a challenge at times, especially when we’ve found ourselves in places where we don’t know anyone, or rather don’t know whom we might trust with our most valuable asset, our daughter.
Some parents also choose to hire child care for leisure travel so that they might enjoy a night out on the town while baby or child is sleeping peacefully at home. While we haven’t done this yet, we certainly understand that sometimes it’s nice to have a couple of hours to be a couple rather than parents. Although, we’ll readily admit that when we are alone we spend most of our time talking about our baby, anyway :).
Whether you have to work and bring your nursling along with you, or you want to enjoy nightlife with your spouse or partner on a family vacation, there are child care options you might consider. If you are willing to be flexible and creative, and have a little extra dime to spare, you might consider several child care options to allow baby to travel along with you on a work or leisure trip:
1) If your partner is flexible, he/ she could accompany you to care for the child on a work trip. Is it possible for your partner to arrange a work-from-home or telecommute situation with his/ her work? Would he/ she be able and willing to take vacation time to accompany you and baby? Would you be able to combine work with pleasure and make your business trip a semi family holiday?
2) Do you have a close family member or a close friend that you can trust with your baby while you work or enjoy a night out? Is your mother retired and adventurous? Is your sister on summer vacation from college with some free time? Do you have a close friend in between jobs? Is the trustworthy high school student on summer vacation? Think through close people in your life that you can trust with your baby. You can pay for their ticket, and they’ll at least have some time to explore a new country.
3) Do you currently have a nanny or caregiver that cares for your baby? Would he/ she be willing to travel with you and baby? This might actually be a win-win situation for you and the nanny who might welcome the opportunity for a free international trip while you get the bonus of having childcare that you already know and trust.
4) Do you know anyone you trust in the country where you are traveling to that might be willing to help care for baby/ supervise care of baby with the help of a local caregiver that he/she can help to recommend? Do you have friends with their own small children in your destination country that have a child care provider that could help to watch baby along with the other children?
5) Do you have work flexibility where you could wear your baby on you while you work? You might be surprised by how accommodating your employer/ people in the field might be to this option. I found that most other countries outside of the United States are incredibly accommodating to mothers with babies and breastfeeding. I took Veda with me on a field trip to the desert in Jordan to talk to some sheep herders. They loved it and asked that I bring her back the next time (along with a Michael Jackson cassette tape). Especially in the first three months, baby spends an awful lot of time sleeping. I also considered baby wearing when I took Veda to Paraguay with me when she was 6 weeks old; she was sleeping nearly 20 hours a day, pretty much just woke up to feed and back to sleep, and my work involved going out to talk to female farmers that were bringing their babies along with them as well. The only reason I did not choose this option is because I was traveling long distances in a car, which would have meant baby in a car seat for long stretches (sometimes 10 hours), which was not ideal.
Every time I decide what child care option is going to work best when I have to work, I do the math. How much will I earn for this job? How expensive is it going to be: 1) for baby’s ticket and a care giver’s ticket; 2) visa costs associated with baby and care giver; 3) hiring a local care provider to help the primary care giver; 4) reserving a hotel room big enough to accommodate everyone or reserving a second hotel room; 5) potential payment to the primary caregiver and 6) increase of daily travel expenses for everyone.
Travel costs for baby and a caregiver can add up. However, for work trips, at least, I always at least come out ahead. Sometimes it’s not a lot, but it’s enough, and I have made the decision that continuing to work and move my career forward is worth the expense. Having a baby costs money, and providing care for baby if you plan on continuing to work costs money.
However, I also subtract from the equation costs where I will be saving if I travel with baby and a care giver: 1) food generally costs less so I’ll be saving money there as well as on other general living/ entertainment expenses in the U.S.; and 2) foregone child care costs in the U.S. In general, you can save money by finding the cheapest flight possible for an accompanying caregiver. When my husband is required to fly a U.S. carrier for his work and Veda and I are accompanying him, we have sometimes opted to fly separately on a significantly cheaper non-U.S. carrier (not ideal, but has been worth saving $3K). If you are traveling with your partner, sharing a hotel room isn’t an issue, but if you are traveling with a caregiver that might not be as close, you might save the additional cost of getting an extra hotel room by finding a room that has a couch that folds out into a bed. I have been able to find hotels with rooms/ suites with various sleeping arrangements that are still within my hotel per diem.