When Things Go Wrong: True Tales Of A Travel Nanny




Being a travel nanny is really one of the best jobs I have ever had. The opportunities and experiences are endless. It’s not often that the average person (maybe I’m not that average after all?) gets to watch the sunset on Ile De Re, hike in the Scottish Highlands, or be able to “find their way home” via the Eiffel Tower. But then there’s reality!


Throughout the past two years of being a travel nanny, one thing is always consistent: the universe is rarely on your side. The moons and stars aren’t always going to align for you and Mercury is perpetually in retrograde. So strap in and be ready to: miss a flight, run into itinerary issues, forget who you are from jet lag, get puked and peed on, sleep on your boss’s hotel room floor, and to live forever in the Amsterdam airport. 


After a treacherous day in multiple international airports, there was a long moment of silence before my employer and I made eye contact only to burst into a fit of laughter. We had started out in several other European airports before we found ourselves touring Heathrow via a shuttle. A shuttle that stopped for a full five minutes on the tarmac, at a stop sign, with no rhyme or reason as to our delay. We sat there in defeat after running marathons, re-booking flights, and silently wondering if we were ever actually going to get home. 





We did finally make it home, but this particular trip really encompassed the “Mercury in retrograde” effect. One morning we found ourselves with only one hotel room to work with while all three of us needed to sleep, were both covered in urine and vomit whilst delirious from jetlag. My boss — being one of the kindest people I know — offered the other side of her bed, but alas this is work and that is unprofessional. So in true creative-nanny fashion, I made a bed on the floor next to my charge’s crib out of cushions, blankets, and pillows. We all got a whopping 45 minutes of bliss, staring at the ceiling before my charge decided rest time was over. 


The night before the ‘one hotel room’ debacle, we were assaulted by numerous flight delays both on and off the tarmac, and at various points, my employer and I were both assaulted by our small person’s bodily fluids (as mentioned above). I have to say that being soaked in pee and puke for 8+ hours on an international flight really builds character. It truly makes you worry less about if you packed deodorant or not. Baby puke somehow smells distinctly worse than adult puke.


Upon this arrival home, I went to grab my backpack from the overhead compartment only to be met with a similar bag that was clearly not mine. A mysterious person had grabbed my bag without looking and apparently vanished into thin air. As I wandered off the plane, I came to the realization that I had a crucial decision to make. I could either spend the next 30 minutes trying to locate my bag or miss the last train home for the evening. To this day, my bag was never found and I am now down some random diapers, a pair of my favorite leggings, and anti-nausea medication that might as well have been gold in the hours I spent traveling home after nearly 24 hours in transit without the only bag that had granted me any comforts for the last few weeks of traveling across Europe as a travel nanny. 





Everything I’ve shared has been entirely work-related, but I don’t want to give the impression that, as a travel nanny, things only fall apart while on the clock. On an evening off, I had taken myself out to a nice dinner, oh-so-bravely navigating the Paris metro. Filled with delicious food and exhausted easily from a rare night off, I watched as the train passed my stop, thinking about how I had 5% battery left on my phone. Of course I had not packed a portable charger – after all, it was my sole time off, the only time in several days I had the liberty of being un-prepared for anything that could happen. My guard was down, I was sleepy, and I was enjoying a night without responsibilities – that now included a dead cell phone in a very large foreign city in the middle of the night. I managed to get off a couple of stops later and tried (and failed) to read a few maps. I hopped on one train, and then another, and finally a third, all of which seemed to be going towards my stop but in actuality transported me to some other station, some other place which was always, magically, equidistant from my destination. Eventually, I succumbed to walking back to my hotel room, with only the Eiffel Tower and my boss’s main place of work as direction. This is not a super interesting end to a story, but I did get back safely that evening. Side note: never forget your landmarks. They can come in very handy!


I could continue to list — in detail — the hilariously “when things go wrong” as a travel nanny, but this could easily turn into a novella. I hope this small blurb was relatable to you other travel nannies, nannies who have traveled with their families — or heck, just household employees in general. Thanks for reading along!




Adapted from the diaries of a professional travel nanny.


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