Ways to travel cheap as an Au Pair

Bode Museum Berlin (photo property of BestAuPairGuide)

It’s no secret that most au pairs pack their bags and move to another country to live and work with strangers for one reason: travel. Right? As we have discussed before, there are several reasons to be an au pair. And traveling cheaply is the main reason au pairs put up with all that comes along with the au pair job.

For starters, au pairs are already living in a foreign country and their room and board are free. That’s a major expense taken care of right off the bat, especially in expensive cities where the cost of living is high (think New York and Paris). Au pairing makes it possible to see and experience the pricier places to live without the hefty price tag that comes along with it.

But even though expenses are covered, it’s no secret that au pairs don’t exactly make a lot of money. So how do you travel cheaply when working as an au pair? Here are a few ways:

  • Travel with friends – sharing travel expenses with others is a major way to cut costs. In many European countries, for example, you can purchase a group train tickts or even weekend tickets to various places, making transportation super cheap. In the United States, where public transportation isn’t as readily available or affordable, you can join up with a few friends and rent a car for a fun – and cheap – road trip. Sharing hotel and food costs with friends also means a much less pricey vacation
  • Consider camping – if your budget is low, camping is an affordable way to see new places. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the outdoor lifestyle, the money you save by camping might mean you get to visit places that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Camping made it possible for me and a couple other au pair friends to enjoy several days in Italy, and we had a blast “roughing it” in one of the world’s most gorgeous countries
  • Look into last minute travel deals and deal sites – to get the most bang out of your travel buck, you either need to book way in advance or last minute, and as an au pair with limited cash, travel is overn a spontaneous decision when you have a free weekend. Visit last minute travel websites and be sure to subscribe to services such as Groupon, which often have great deals on holiday packages, hotels, and flights (just be sure to read the fine print).
  • Travel with your host family – if your host family is going somewhere interesting on vacaction and they invite you, consider joining them even if you technically do not have to go. Although you may get suckered into doing a little more babysitting (and then again, you may not!), a free trip would likely be worth it.

What about you? Any ideas for cheap travel when working as an au pair and living on a limited budget? Share your thoughts and tips below!

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Three ways to guarantee you keep your Au Pair job

Young woman (photo courtesy of dreamstime)

During my time as an au pair in Germany, I had an unnerving fear of losing my job. Seriously. I imagined myself homeless on the streets of Stuttgart, wondering where to go next. It isn’t something I obsessed over daily, but randomly throughout my stay with my host family, fear of losing my job – and therefore my temporary home – would come to mind.

It was probaby an unfounded fear founded more in paranoia than in reality, but I know that I was not the only au pair I knew who was afraid of losing her job. Because when you live where you work, which au pairs do, your job is not just your source of income, but your room and board as well.

With that in mind, I have three tips for au pairs who want to keep their jobs. From my experience with au pairs and host families, if you follow these three rules, you are very likely to keep your job and have a great time as an au pair.

  1. Work hard – A good work ethic and willingness to go the extra mile is priceless and will win you respect with your host family and help cement your position with them. If you put effort into your job, even if you aren’t perfect, your host family will most definitely want you to stay.
  2. Be reliable – Host families need au pairs whom they can depend on. Be ready for work at the scheduled time, get done what is needed, and be sure to be honest about your expectations and what you can do.
  3. Don’t hit on your host dad – This one is obvious, but I thought it worth mentioning (because according to a 2009 poll in Au Pair Mom, over 40% of those who answered have heard of this actually happening). Even though most au pairs wouldn’t think twice about their host dad in that way, some out there do, and I can’t think of a quicker way to lose your au pair job.

What about you? I would love to hear from au pairs and host families on this one. What do you think helps make an au pair someone a host family would never, ever want to lose? Please let us know in the comments field below.

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Be careful, because you just might fall in love

love photo(photo courtesy of dreamstime stock photos)

When you take the chance and move abroad to work as an au pair, there is a pretty good chance that you will fall in love. And I don’t just mean with the adorably cute foreign guys and girls you will meet, although there will likely be plenty of them, with all the drama a foreign romance entails (more on that another day … ).

But a recent article about an au pair working in Rome reminded me how the loves you gain while living abroad can be many and life-long. The story was a short one about a New Zealand student wanting to travel abroad before beginning her university studies and moving to Rome to work as an au pair for one month.

She ended up falling in love with a new country and family. And although her experience is recent, I would be willing to bet that ten years out she will be just as fond of her experience as an au pair. Although no host family or host country is perfect, there is a good chance that your new home and family will become very dear to you. So consider yourselves warned!

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Pending tax on Au Pairs working in the United States

US Congress

Although this news is a couple of weeks old, rumor has it that the U.S. Congress is considering levying a new tax on au pairs. The tax would be a 7.65% FICA tax that au pairs would be responsible to pay.

The programs that the tax revenues would support would be Social Security and Medicare, social programs for the aged and ill, neither of which the average au pair (who stays in the U.S. only temporarily), would ever benefit from. Of course, a tax on au pairs ultimately means an added expense for host families, as they will have to foot the bill in the long run.

Host families – you can oppose this tax by contacting your representative in Congress or by signing the petition on Alliance Exchange’s website. Be sure to tell them that you oppose any tax on au pairs or other holders of the J1 Visa.

Au pairs – make sure that your host families know about this pending legislation and act accordingly!

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Staying Safe Abroad

happy womanPhoto by dreamstime

Safety is a concern for nearly every traveler, especially au pairs, who are typically young women traveling solo. And even if the au pair herself (or himself) isn’t overly concerned about their safety, there are probably parents back home who are! Below are a few tips for staying safe overseas:

Make sure you are healthy before you leave

It’s important that you start out your au pair journey healthy. Adventures Abroad recommends seeing your doctor at least three months prior to leaving your home country in order to check your overall health. Not everyone is organized enough to plan a doctor’s visit that far in advance, but the important thing is that you do get a physical exam and check up with your doctor before leaving for your trip. The last thing you want to do is get to your new country and have a health issue that could have beeen prevented or treated beforehand.

Another benefit of visiting your doctor is that you can get prescriptions of any medications you will need to have for the first little while overseas. It can take some time to get health insurance coverage through your host family, so you will want to have several weeks of any necessary medication that you take regularly on hand.

Remember dental and eye health as well. Visiting your dentist and/or opthamologist to check for any problems will also help ensure that you arrive to your new home in as good a shape as possible. If you are a contact lense wearer, be sure to take a copy of your prescription with you, as well as extra lenses.

Get travel insurance

Even though your host family will provide you with health insurance while working as an au pair, it can take several weeks for coverage to start. Even when coverage does start quickly, it often will not be in effect until you actually start your job. Having travel insurance will ensure that you are covered in the event of an emergency during the first weeks of your journey. It is usually not very expensive and is worth the small investment.

Safety while en route

Use your street smarts when travelling to and from your home to your new destination, and while you travel during your stay. The U.S. State Department suggests traveling light, dressing casually (affluent-looking tourists are more likely to be victims of theft), and keeping as few valuables as possible with you while traveling. The State Department also has the following recommendations for being out and about abroad, and the list is pretty complete:

  • Don’t use short cuts, narrow alleys or poorly lit streets.
  • Try not to travel alone at night.
  • Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
  • Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.
  • Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
  • Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices.
  • Beware of pickpockets. They often have an accomplice who will:
    • jostle you,
    • ask you for directions or the time,
    • point to something spilled on your clothing,
    • or distract you by creating a disturbance.
  • Beware of groups of vagrant children who could create a distraction to pick your pocket.
  • Wear the shoulder strap of your bag across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid drive-by purse-snatchers.
  • Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. Try to ask for directions only from individuals in authority.
  • Know how to use a pay telephone and have the proper change or token on hand.
  • Learn a few phrases in the local language or have them handy in written form so that you can signal your need for police or medical help.
  • Make a note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your hotel, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • If you are confronted, don’t fight back — give up your valuables.

In the end, using common sense and paying attention to your surroundings will help ensure that you stay safe during your stay abroad. Use your head, be careful, and have fun!

If you have any other good safety tips for au pairs/travelers, please comment below!

 

 

 

 

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