In one of my assistant roles I started traveling with the family I supported right at the start. It was exciting, however, it was something that I was thrown into and wasn’t sure how to properly prepare for since I was relatively new to the field.
Over the years I have learned so much about preparing for work trips. If traveling with the family you support ends up becoming part of your role at some point, here are my tips to make sure it goes smoothly.
Find out exactly how you can help with the planning
I’ve supported families who worked closely with me on planning entire trips top to bottom, some who don’t want to deal with any of the planning and some whose preferences are in between. Find out exactly what you can assist with (hotel bookings, excursion bookings, car rentals, grocery pre-stocking, etc.) and gauge how involved they want to be in the planning process as well.
Know the accommodation situation in advance
You might not always be the one booking the accommodations. In one of my roles I started out having separate accommodations and made the assumption that in future trips it was always going to be the same; that was not the case. If sharing a room with the family’s children, for example, is something that doesn’t make you feel comfortable, then make sure you know the exact set up they have in mind in advance so there is time to make adjustments if possible.
Understand different travel styles
Traveling can be stressful. Although you know the people you support well, sometimes there are other guests joining the trip that can shift the overall energy and flow of the trip. Keep an open mind, be flexible and always keep your positive attitude. If any arguments happen, politely distance yourself from the space if you are able.
Keep a stash of energy bars
Keep prepackaged healthy energy bars (or another healthy favorite packaged snack of yours) stashed somewhere accessible, such as your purse. This has saved myself (and some of my fellow assistants whom I’ve traveled with) on numerous occasions. You are traveling for work and will be running around and expending more energy than others. In addition, not everyone you are traveling with will be on the same meal schedule. I’m telling you, a simple Luna bar has saved me from becoming a hangry girl so many times. Traveling can also be emotional since you don’t have your own home to go to at the end of the day so the last you need is the feeling of hunger to bring out the worst in you.
Bring your essential work tools
Think through the tools you rely on to do your job well. Most likely the basics will be something along the lines of a laptop, cell phone, hotspot, notepad, pen and wallet; just make sure you don’t leave anything behind that will make you feel less efficient. For example, typically notes need to be written down when making sure a trip is being carried out smoothly so don’t set yourself up to be in a situation where you are scrambling to find a notepad and pen.
Wearing the nanny hat
If the person you support has children and no nanny will be present during the trip, there might be an expectation for you to shift gears and provide that support at times. Bring this up as far in advance as possible so you know if you will need to arrange childcare (ex: kids’ club at the hotel) or if the expectation is for that to fall partially or fully on you.
Once you have a gauge of how the kids’ time will be spent, take the time to research fun activities in the area as well as restaurants that have foods they would like. I also recommend researching fun games that can be played in the spaces that you will have available (ex: pool games, games that can be played in the sand, etc.) and making sure you have the toys necessary to play those games. Your research is something that the parent(s) might also use if they decide to go off and have family-only time, so take the time to make it organized in case they decide to flip through it for ideas.
Structuring the travel work schedule
Often times when you travel with someone you support there can be long hours involved. If you are worried about working long hours, not having breaks, or not having a set time you are off at the end of the day, then I recommend discussing the kind of structure you need in advance.
In addition, you might want to consider discussing the possibility of having a half day or a full day off. If the trip is short (3-4 days), this might not be necessary or even appropriate to ask. If it is an extended period of time (5+ days), this is a different story since you would normally have a weekend to recharge. Be sure to ask for whatever time you need to keep your optimal balance and re-energize since weekends aren't always kept as normal days off during work trips.
Checking in with other assistants
If you are traveling with another assistant, be sure to meet with them often. There might be a preset itinerary in advance, but plans sometimes change along the way, especially when children are in tow. All of my work trips were with children, so gears were constantly being shifted based on their needs. What worked great is that the other assistant(s) and I met at the end of the day about the plan for the next day, and even came up with a few back up ideas as well. We would check in often via text if we were not together during the day. Working together was key in helping the trip to run well. I recommend getting time with the other assistant(s) for pre-planning and generally keeping lines of communication open if you really want to succeed.
If you and the person you support haven’t discussed how compensation would work in a travel situation before, then I recommend covering your bases and bringing that up before the trip. I would come up with an agreed upon rate for overnights, what constitutes travel time (ex: the flight, travel time to and from the airport, etc.) and any reimbursements that you normally wouldn’t have (ex: car services, meals, etc.).
Although work trips add a whole other set of responsibilities on your plate, thinking through the details of the overall journey in advance can help to make it play out more smoothly. At the end of the day, you are an instrumental part of executing an array of life experiences, which is quite fulfilling. Work trips can be enjoyable and I hope these tips help set you up for some great travel memories.
How do you prepare for family work trips? Please share in the comments below!