It's that time of year again, it's still cold out there but it's time to start thinking about summer! We've been getting some really good questions about the summer au pair programme, so we wanted to take the chance to share them with all of you, au pair candidates and host families. If you're considering becoming, or hosting, an au pair in the summer, please contact us to chat!

For au pairs

1. When should we sign up to become a summer au pair? Please contact us as soon as you know you are seriously interested and have a clear(ish) idea of your dates. Most contacts are made in the January-April period, though it's never too early or too late to find a great host family. Scratch that, maybe September is too late, unless you're looking for the following summer!

2. What is the minimum stay? While there is no official minimum stay, we recommend around 4 weeks, so as to get the most of the experience. The longer you can stay (eg. 6, 8 or 10 weeks), the easier it will probably be to find a host family.

3. What are the key differences between the summer program and the year-long or scool-year programme? Short answer: the duration ;-). No, seriously. As an au pair joining a host family for the school year, you might hear it takes two or three weeks to gently settle in and get to know your new home, host kids and host family. As a summer au pair, you won't necessarily have this luxury, so you need to use all the tools in your toolbelt to hit the ground running. How? By preparing ahead of time. Enlist the host parents' help, ask them a bit about their children, so you know what they like, what they dislike, basically take the time to learn about them before your arrival, so you don't have to discover everything as you go along. Another big difference is school, as kids don't attend school in the summer months. Depending on the host family, the kids might be going to a day summer camp, or might be at home in the mornings, so you need to check with host families you meet, so as to understand their day to day in the summer months, and what your working hours will be.

4. What are the best and worst parts of the experience? We like to ask summer au pairs this question at the end of their stay, and love the many different answers we get. Here's the top 3 on both ends:

The worst
a) It's over too quickly. As soon as you've gotten the lay of the land, gotten to know the host family, and made good friends, it's time to head back home.
b) If you're expecting your host kids to instantly bond with you and look at you as an older sibling, you need to manage your expectations, as this might, or might not, happen. It takes time for this kind of bond to develop, and the host kids might see you as some far-removed cousin who is joining their family for a few weeks.
c) If you're taking care of the host kids in the morning, attending a language school may be more complicated, or you might need to choose from among evening or weekend programs.

The best
a) It's an adventure. You set off with your suitcase to discover the world, explore a new place, meet new people... and don't have to spend any of your own money while you're there!
b) If you're au pair stay coincides with the host family's annual holiday (which, in Spain, it well might, as most people take at least some of their vacation in the summer months), the host family may invite you to join them on a cool summer holiday getaway.
c) You'll see your language abilities soar, if you compare it to learning Spanish in a classroom.

For host families

1. When should we request an au pair? Same answer as above, please contact us as soon as you know you are seriously interested and have a clear(ish) idea of your dates. Most contacts are made in the January-April period, though it's never too early or too late to find a match.

2. Can the au pair join us whenever we like? Yes, there are no formal programme start or end dates. Some host families provide us general guidelines as to when they would like the au pair to join them, others provide extremely detailed dates, as in "between the 8th of July and the 14th of August". While it's good to know your ideal dates, please keep in mind you're trying to match them with those of an au pair candidate, so a bit of flexibility goes a long way. We want to be able to match you with an au pair candidate who is a really great fit, and date availability is only one part of a more complex equation.

3. Can the au pair travel with us? Yes, he/she can join your family on their summer vacation, and probably will enjoy doing so. It's important to bring this up at the interview, so the au pair knows where you will (or could possibly) be going, what his/her duties will be there if they're different from what they are at home, etc.

4. We're going to be hosting a summer au pair, how can we prepare for success? As we wrote above, a summer au pair won't have the luxury of getting to know your kids slowly over a period of weeks. Take the time to get to know the au pair a bit before she arrives, and prepare your family for the au pair's arrival to ensure a smooth stay and a successful cultural exchange. You can see some tips for how to do this in our article, Welcoming a summer au pair.

If you think au pairing or hosting an au pair may be right for you this summer, please reach out to us, we've got some great host families and au pairs already for this summer, and one of them might be a great fit for you!