How To Become An Au Pair And Travel The World

Today, I have a great post from my sister about how to become an au pair. She is currently an au pair in Italy, and she also writes about healthy living, traveling, and money at FITnancials.com. I recently asked her to cover the topic of how to become an au pair on my blog because it…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: October 19, 2020

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Find out how to become an au pair with tips from a real au pair! #aupair #travelabroadToday, I have a great post from my sister about how to become an au pair. She is currently an au pair in Italy, and she also writes about healthy living, traveling, and money at FITnancials.com. I recently asked her to cover the topic of how to become an au pair on my blog because it sounds so interesting. Enjoy!

Hello! I’m Alexis, Michelle’s sister, and the writer at Fitnancials.com. I have been traveling about once a month for nearly 2 years.

Currently, my traveling has led me abroad to Bologna, Italy, a town of about 400,000 residents.

You have probably heard of Bologna being the food capital of Italy, which means every dinner is amazing and aged wine is abundant.

Traveling is not always cheap, especially for a college student who lives on her own. However, learning about new cultures and seeing the world is very important to my happiness, so I make traveling work no matter how much money I have.

Last summer I lived in Peru, where I volunteered at a local special needs orphanage and lived off of only $20 a day. I recently decided to go an even cheaper route and become an au pair, which costs me no money at all.

Related articles on how to become an au pair:

Below are some common questions I’ve received about becoming an au pair. If you have other questions about how to become an au pair please leave a comment below.

How to become an au pair:

 

How much does an au pair expect to make monthly?

In Italy, an au pair can expect to make approximately $250-$350 USD per month.

If you decide to become an au pair somewhere such as Australia or New Zealand, you can expect to rack in that amount weekly. I’m not sure why the pay is so different, but seeing Europe was more important to me than seeing Australia, especially since I went to eastern Australia during winter break.

 

What are the benefits of becoming an au pair?

Traveling is extremely easy and efficient in Europe.

Last week I went to Florence, Milan, Padova, Zurich, Munich and even had a little pit stop in Austria.

How much did I pay? This is a common question I’ve received lately. For six cities in four different countries I paid exactly 75 euro, which equates to $85 USD.

All of my expenses are pretty much paid for as an au pair. With my host family and I’s agreement, I’m getting the following:

  • An iPhone with texting, internet, and phone calls.
  • Groceries entirely paid for, as well as reimbursement for special vegan groceries.
  • I get free trips wherever the family goes while I’m here as an au pair (they have a beach house on the Adriatic Sea that we visit regularly).
  • I get to drive a cute little Fiat if I need a car. However, I refuse to drive in Italy unless I absolutely need to, because the driving here seems so different.
  • I get my own room and bathroom, free laundry, and I can use anything in the house. Obviously, I get free room and board, which is in a home very close to the downtown center of Bologna.

Learning the native language is much easier when you are fully immersed in the culture, and there are usually free language classes offered if you look hard enough. I am currently taking Italian classes four hours a week for $0, and tandem meetups are offered every week at local pubs. If falling in love sounds interesting to you, you are in luck with plenty of single Italian men and women in Bologna, which houses the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere.

 

What are the negatives of becoming an au pair?

While being an au pair is great and can be a lot of fun, there are some negatives as well:

  • You’re suddenly living back with parents again.
  • You essentially live at work.
  • The kid, or kids, could end up being a royal pain in the butt.
  • You could end up working extra hours with no say, unless you are courageous enough to have an uncomfortable conversation and complaining to the parents that you LIVE with.

 

How do you find a host family and become an au pair?

My family was found through AuPairWorld. This is the most popular website to use when finding a host family.

The site is completely free, and I did all of the work myself, which is extremely easy by the way.

I have met a few people who used agencies and usually regretted it afterwards. Agencies cost a lot of time and money. You have to send in a bunch of verifications such as your passport, drivers license, background checks, etc. I ALMOST went through an agency and seriously sent in 15 different forms of identification, references, and other forms that they asked for. The agency was also charging ME over $500 to become an au pair for a mere three months. Many outsiders suspect that agencies are the smart way to go, but I would disagree (from what I have heard), as they are not much help and essentially choose the family for you.

I found my Italian host family entirely by myself, and it only took three days to finalize our contract. I did a simple Skype interview with the parents, and then had two more interviews to get familiar with their son, Tomasso.

My position and expectations from the family: I’m solely there to speak English, and that is all I have to do. I am not in charge of any kind of chores, house cleaning, or errands.

 

What questions should a potential au pair ask a host family?

Before you just jump on an au pair position, you should ask the family several questions. These questions include:

  • What is the work schedule? According to Europe’s rules and regulations you should not be working more than five hours a day and should have at least one full day off of work per week.
  • What are the au pair’s expectations?
  • Is the au pair more of a “big sister” (or brother), who will become a part of the family, or a babysitter in charge of cleaning and doing chores/errands?
  • How is the English in the family? This is a good question if you’re not familiar with the native language.
  • Will you be paid extra if the child is sick or if the parents decide to have date night?

 

Other tips on how to become an au pair:

Of course I have more tips on how to become an au pair than just the above.

  • It’s best to choose a family with past references, but don’t let that totally control your decision when choosing a family. A few of my au pair friends chose a family with zero references, and their families ended up being great. All families have to start somewhere.
  • If you decide to become an au pair for a short amount of time, choose a city that is in close proximity to efficient transportation. If you decide to live in a small city understand the possibility that going anywhere outside your city during a workweek might be quite impossible. I live in Bologna, which is the 7th largest city in Italy, making transportation very easy, especially since I am in the center where most trains meet and branch off to other cities and countries.
  • My last, and by far most important, tip is to take what the current au pair reference is saying with a grain of salt. Current au pairs are still living with the family and are under pressure to say good things about the family. Why would the au pair tell you the family is terrible? Obviously the family will most likely find out that the au pair said something negative if future au pairs never respond again.

 

My au pair experience.

My au pair experience has been extremely positive.

I’m learning SO much about Italian culture that I would not have learned if I was only visiting the country for a vacation. Being fully immersed in a culture that is so different than mine allows me to think and live outside of the box. I have become more open minded toward different lifestyles and have the ability to live like a native Italian.

 

Would I recommend others become an au pair?

It truly depends on your current lifestyle and how much you enjoy being around kids. This may come to a surprise to most, but I do not want kids, yet I essentially spend all of my time with a kid. I love working and hanging out with kids, but I can never imagine having to care for my own. This job is not for everyone, especially since you have to live and follow certain rules and regulations being under another family’s roof.

If you are unsure, I would recommend becoming an au pair for three months and then extend from there if you think the family is a right fit for you. Becoming an au pair is surely one of the best ways to truly experience a culture without spending a large chunk of change.

Are you interested in learning how to become an au pair? Why or why not? 

How To Become An Au Pair - Becoming An Au Pair And Traveling!1

How To Become An Au Pair - Becoming An Au Pair And Traveling! 2

How To Become An Au Pair - Becoming An Au Pair And Traveling! 3

Becoming an au pair can allow you to travel the world and experience new cultures, on an affordable budget. Here are tips on how to become an au pair.

 


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Thanks for sharing, Alexis!

    Becoming an au par sounds like a very exciting opportunity. It’s a shame I’m in my 30’s and have a kid of my own, otherwise I would totally consider doing it ๐Ÿ™‚ You’ve chosen a great place to live! Italy is my favourite country in the whole world!

    If you haven’t done so already, I’d really recommend going to Siena in the region of Tuscany. It’s such a beautiful place. Cinque Terre is also amazing, it consists of 5 small villages and it’s just out of this world beautiful! Another part of Italy which I LOVE is the Amalfi Coast but it’s a bit of trip from where you are.

    I’ve been to Italy many times before and written a few articles about my trips. I’m not sure if you’ve seen them on my blog, but do check them out if you need some ideas, there are loads of photos too! Enjoy the rest of your stay in Italy!

    Are you planning to go back to the States afterwards or move to another European country for a while?

    1. Hi Eva! I’ll definitely be checking out your posts on Italy. I’m currently in Perugia at a farmstay in the Umbrian countryside. It’s quite magical here. After Perugia, I’m heading to France for a week. I’ll be visiting Nice and Paris. I’ll be in Paris for my birthday! Quite exciting! Thanks for the tips. I’ll have to make another trip to Italy soon. =)

  2. Awesome! I thought Bologna was a lovely place and would definitely be a great place to settle for a while.

    1. Bologna is so underrated! Which is kind of a good thing because it’s not overcrowded with tourists. It’s a large city, yet it feels like a real Italian city. Italians everywhere and many people don’t speak English, so you’re basically forced to learn basic Italian. =)

  3. This is so cool! I didn’t know opportunities like this really existed. I would have done this in a heartbeat after college. I’m not sure how my husband would feel about me doing it now ๐Ÿ˜œ What an awesome experience!

    1. Thanks Christine! It was such an awesome experience.

  4. Thank you for sharing this post from your sister. I’m excited to check out her blog as well. This is such a unique way of living and exploring the world, while saving money. The best of both worlds!

    1. It’s an amazing experience for anyone who wants to truly experience the culture while on a budget. =)

  5. What a cool opportunity! I’d be tempted if I didn’t have kids of my own now. Though I’m sure I’d feel a bit nervous taking a job internationally, it seems like the best way to experience the culture AND travel for free!

    1. It’s an experience I’m so thankful and grateful for. I will cherish these memories forever. =)

  6. Lindsey

    This sounds like an amazing opportunity! I would love to travel the world. But I don’t know if I could handle being around kids all day.

    1. It’s definitely a challenge.

  7. Valerie

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing! I too have kids, husband, mortgage, a steady job, etc. but I want (read NEED) to find a way to travel and be immersed in other cultures. Any ideas how that could happen for a family of four? I wonder if they’d take a 40 year old au pair (when my kids will move out)! ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. It’s definitely worth checking out on AuPairWorld. A family might be looking for someone in their 40’s. =)

      1. Valerie

        Thanks! I will keep that in mind!

  8. I really wish that I had done more traveling before starting a family. This type of arrangement is awesome. But there are other ways to keep costs low, once we are finally able to enjoy a little more freedom and the kids get older.

    1. There are many ways to travel and stay on a strict budget. =)

  9. Holly

    Hi! I was wondering about age considerations. Would someone in their 40’s be considered?

    1. I’m not entirely sure. You can check out AuPairWorld and see if anyone is interested for someone in their 40’s. It might be possible. Worth trying. =)

  10. Monica@wellideclare

    I think this is amazing! How cool that you are seeing the world and EXPERIENCING the world! I don’t think anyone would let my family of seven hang out but…;) You’re making memories that will last a lifetime. Good for you. No doubt, this post will inspire others to check out the opportunity.

    1. Hey Monica! I love the opportunities being an au pair brings. I get to actually EXPERIENCE an entirely different culture without paying anything. Living in the household of natives creates such a unique experience that is much different than simply staying at a hostel. I would definitely recommend it to someone who wants to truly experience a culture and lifestyle of another country. =)

  11. kereta sewa shah alam

    very nice sharing post Michelle!
    i’m glad your sister really enjoyed it.

    1. I love the Italian culture and more importantly the food! Haha.

  12. It’s a life changing experience. I’ve created so many memories that I will cherish forever.

  13. Traveling the world and blogging about your vacation experience is inspiration to aspiring and current bloggers because it gives them unique niche blogging and content marketing-video marketing ideas how they can turn passion into streaming online profit years to come.

  14. Natalie

    I live in Australia and we have hosted about a dozen Au Pairs from all around the world and it has been a great experience for us and our kids. Maybe we have to pay more here because we expect more…like 30 hrs a week solo care of the kids before and after school while parents workwork, plus light housework. We always used Au Pair World to find our girls and to the older ladies, there definitely is a market for mature au pairs with child care experience. Go for it!

  15. SoontobeAupair

    Hi
    I am currently planning to be an Au pair in Bologna, starting in September. was just wondering what language classes you are doing for $0 (coz that sounds amazing). And also what you get up to during the day? I’m worried Imight get bored or lonely whilst the kids are at school ? Would love to hear your advice ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Danielle Smith

    WOW!!! This was so interesting! If I wasn’t almost 29 and already helping out with my sisters children I would just drop some stuff to do it! Gosh I wish I would have known about this stuff when I was in college! I saw a movie on it and you know how movies are, you think they aren’t real! I love that you sound so practical and not like some hippie whose like I just go where the wind flows lol You tell people the practical way to do it the right way and get language classes and what to expect and how to travel to 4 different cities in a week and I really love that. I want to find a younger person and tell them go!!! Now with all my nephews I would feel like if I go there i would want to take them ๐Ÿ™ Girl live your life! Thank you for sharing!

  17. Lizzie

    Thank you so much for sharing! I’m about to embark on my own experience but I do have a question — did you get a bank account there, or use pay pal? Or did the family pay you in cash? What if you wanted to forward money back to the American account? I’m just not sure how this part works! Mine will be an extended position of over a year.

    1. Susanne

      Hi Lizzie,

      this answer might actually be too late, as I assume that you already started your Au pair job and by now will know. However, others might be interested to find out and that’s why I decided to reply to this question nevertheless.
      I am an Au Pair host Mum who used to work as an Au Pair herself in the past (in my late teens/early twenties).
      When I worked as an Au Pair myself in London in the late 1990s, I was paid in cash on a weekly basis and I believe that this is what still happens in many European countries.
      In Germany, where I live, families who can prove that they employed and regularly paid an Au Pair (or used any other form of having their children cared for that involves payment to the child minder/institution the child attends) will get a certain tax exemption. As the taxes here are anyway amazingly huge, most families want to make use of this great opportunity of actually saving money by paying for child care.
      This is why most German Au Pair families will pay the pocket money to their Au Pair’s German bank account (which means that you need one in the first place), as this is the only proof the tax authorities accept. The money will usually be paid either every month or – like in our case – every two weeks.
      Opening a German bank account, however, is not as easy for a US citizen as I had expected. Our Japanese Au Pair had her account within about 3 days or so, for most of the others from countries as exotic as Madagascar or Vietnam it took around 1-2 weeks, but our US Au Pair needed to wait about 4 months (!!!) till she could finally have an account. I believe it was actually the American side or much rather certain details that only apply to American citizens that caused the delay.
      Paypal will not really work for many European families, at least I have not heard of any who paid their Au Pair through Paypal.
      Sending money back to your US account doesn’t make much sense either because of the cost involved, plus you will really need the money for your spendings there.
      The pocket money you can “earn” as an Au Pair in Europe is usually just between 250-350 โ‚ฌ a month. In Germany it is 260 โ‚ฌ a month, which means 65 โ‚ฌ a week. (However, the other costs the family needs to cover for you are rather high, so in the end you cost the family about 800โ‚ฌ per month!)
      Now, how far do you get with about 70/75$ a week if you want to go out, meet friends, have fun and explore your host country or even buy some souvenirs to take home with you?? Right, not very far. So if you want to have at least some sort of life outside your host family, you will probably spend almost all of your pocket money.
      There are many ideas of how to save money while here, e. g. on travelling (OMG, why don’t I actually write my own blog about becoming an Au Pair in Germany/Au Pair tips etc.??? ;-)) but still: if you want to make the most of this experience your “income” will actually need to be invested in free time activities.
      Most of our Au Pairs traveled a number of European countries while here or traveled within Germany. Our last Au Pair rather opted for a fitness club membership and doing language certificates which turned out to be costly (and are NOT paid by the host family). Moreover in her holidays she flew to Italy three times to see her family and friends back home. Most of our Au pairs ended up with an empty bank account, haha :-))

  18. Stefany

    Hey it sounds amazing !! I am trying to become an aupair in germany but I don’t understand how to do this through aupairworld.com because they mention that you should get an agency… can you post the steps that you followed ?? please !

    1. Susanne

      Hi Stefany,

      not sure whether you are still interested or have come any further on this. I am a German Au Pair host Mom. We’ve had 7 Au Pairs so far from different countries, also from the U.S. You definitely do not need to go through an agency when you want to work as an Au Pair in Germany. (Only the other way round: German Au Pairs applying to US families need to go through an agency!)
      You need to find a family, e. g. on AuPairWorld (that’s where we found most of our Au pairs too) and once you agreed on an arrangement you basically just need to book your flight ticket. You are expected to cover the fare yourself but in some cases the family might reimburse you later if they are happy with you and your work ๐Ÿ˜‰
      You are allowed to enter Germany with a 90-days tourist visa. However – and here comes the tricky part about it – within 90 days you need to be able to prove that your German level is A1 (the first step of the Common European Reference Frame for Languages ranging from A1 to C2, which would be native level) to ensure that your visa can be renewed/extended to a maximum of a full year. So in the ideal case you already have these language skills when first entering the country and in the worst case you have to achieve them in a language course. Plus talking a lot with your host family and especially the children will also help a lot.
      Good Luck!

  19. Shann

    Hello I want to au pair in Amsterdam for a year. As an American what do you need to do with all the legal things with visas.