Five great ways for Au Pairs to travel on the cheap

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As we all know, travel can get expensive. And for au pairs getting by on a relatively small budget, spending a lot of hard-earned money on travel isn’t an option for most. So here are a handful of practical ways to help you travel affordably during your time as an au pair:

  1. Book travel EARLY – Planning ahead is not a core strength that all of us possess, but really – the sooner the book the more you save. It’s just that simple. Especially with discount airlines such as EasyJet – if you book weeks – or even months – in advance, you can find flights for ridiculously low prices. And chances are that your host parents will want you to plan your trip in advance anyhow, so as soon as you decide when and where to go, go ahead and book any flights or train tickets. You’ll be glad you did!
  2. Shop around – Don’t book the first offer you find. Travel comparison sites such as Kayak, my personal favorite, will list a variety of offers to help you compare and see which would work best. Keep in mind, however, that budget airlines, such as EasyJet aren’t normally listed on the larger travel sites so you will need to check them separately.
  3. Find a travel buddy – Not only can traveling with a friend be a lot more fun than solo travel, but you can save a lot of money. Splitting costs on everything from hotels and rental cars to food can save you a lot of money, so if you’ve got one or more good friend you can travel with then look into it for sure. Sharing expenses might mean that you can had a little bit more luxury to your trip too – think splitting the cost of a decent hotel room 2 or 3 ways, rather than slumming it in a youth hostel on your own.
  4. Look beyond hotels – Gone are the days when hotels, guest houses, and hostels were the only places for travelers to lay their heads at night. Websites like airbnb and couchsurfing make it possible to stay in private homes and apartments for cheap or even free. Totally worth checking out both.
  5. Try car sharing – Many countries have ride-sharing organizations where you pay to ride with private people traveling to specific destinations. This can be more affordable than public transportation, as well as more enjoyable and faster at times. Prices vary, of course, but are very reasonable. One one German ride sharing site, for example, you can catch a ride from Berlin to Prague for as little as 16€.

So! I hope this is helpful, and that you are able to enjoy what is left of the dog days of summer this year … as well as plan ahead for the fall and winter that lie ahead. And I’d love to hear other ideas and ways you travel without spending a lot of money. Please leave your tips in the comment section below!

 

Enjoying the Christmas season with your host kids

kids at Christmas (photo courtesy of dreamstime stock photos)

The Christmas season is officially here, and this is a great time of year to have a lot of fun with the kids you take care of. Even though the days are shorter, colder, and rougher than the rest of the year, there are lots of things you can do to keep the children you take care of occupied.

Depending on where you live, there are probably a lot of different kid-friendly activities being offered in your local community. For au pairs lucky enough to be working in Germany, Christmas markets abound and a trip to one would be a great afternoon outing with kids, both younger and older. Most Christmas markets do not have an entrance charge, and the games, rides, and snacks are not all that expensive.

Other fun activities centered around kids can be found at theathers and museums. Many theaters, even smaller community theaters, offer special programs for children at Christmas. Matinees of the Nutcracker, puppet shows, and other offerings, such as theather workshops, could be a lot of fun to go to with your children. Local museums may also have special exhibitions centered around the holidays, so be sure to check out what they have to offer.

Another great way to have fun with the kids during Christmas is baking. You can never go wrong with Christmas sweets, can you? Baking treats – or even preparing a festive meal – can be a lot of fun with kids, and your host parents will likely not complain about having something yummy to sample. Take this time to introduce your host family to Christmas traditions from your home country.

And if you need some inspiration, check out these kid-friendly Christmas cookies. Enjoy!

 

Happy Halloween!

pumpkin picture (photo by dreamstime)

If you’re an au pair working in America, you are probably celebrating Halloween today. And if you’re an American working abroad, you might also be celebrating Halloween with your host family. Halloween is a great holiday for kids (as long as you keep the scary stuff at bay).

If you’re working this Halloween, be sure to enjoy it! Dress up with the kids, carve a pumpkin, and bake some yummy Halloween treats. This time of year the weather is still bearable (unless you happen to be on the East Coast in the snowstorm!), so enjoy the cool crisp fall air with the kids as well. It may be one of your last chances to be outdoors without freezing, so make sure you take advantage of it.

So what are you doing this Halloween? Are you trick-or-treating with the kids? Or heading to a party yourself?

Happy 4th of July!

Fireworks

“[Independence from Great Britain] Ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the  other, from this time forward forever more.”      John Adams

Happy 4th of July! It is the 235th birthday of the United States of America. And it is one of three days of the year that I actually experience homesickness (the others are my birthday and Thanksgiving). I live in Berlin, so today was a normal work day for me, but I am celebrating in spirit, as may be many others living abroad.

If you are working in America as an au pair, enjoy the holiday, including all the fun that the 4th typically offers – sun (hopefully!), picnics, fireworks, and friends. Even if you have to work, you can probably celebrate the holiday with your host family and still have a great time.

And if you, like me, are an American living overseas, find something to do to commerate the holiday, whatever that may be. If there is a local American club nearby, there will more than likely be some sort of celebration. I will be heading to an Indepence Day party next Saturday by the German-American club. And yes, there will be a band, food (hopefully hamburgers!), and fun – no fireworks unfortunately (those are being put on by the US Embassy tonight), but we are still looking forward to it.

And as always, God bless America! (Sorry, but I have to be patriotic for one day out of the year … I hope that’s ok!).

Au pair warning – please be careful during the holiday season!

(photo by dreamstime)

Blame it on the fact that I am a now mother of three children, but when horrible things happen to people, an alarm goes off internally that simply forces me to warn others. This was the case when I read about a German au pair who lost her life in a car accident in New York state this week. The young woman apparently lost control of the vehicle she was driving on icy roads, crashing into an oncoming car. How my heart breaks for the parents of this woman!

Now no one wants to focus on the bad, especially during the holidays, but it is important, especially with harsh winter weather conditions in many places around the world, to remember to be careful. Au pairs (as well as other international travelers) need to be especially careful, as they are living in surroundings that may be unfamiliar, even if they have been in their new home for some time.

As we approach Christmas and the New Year, please remember to be especially cautious. Be safe when driving and traveling. Enjoy yourself during this holiday season, but don’t take any unnecessary risks. Make sure you do everything to ensure that you stay safe!