Flying with Kids? How about an In-Flight Nanny?

Air travel with children, babysitters on airplanes, Nanny in the Clouds

Every now and then, some enterprising person bangs his or her head against the same wall we've all encountered time and again - and comes up with a totally new and inspired solution. Meet Nanny in the Clouds. If you've ever flown alone with small children, or avoided flying because you couldn't face flying alone with small children, your head will start to buzz when you find out what this company does. You may even check your frequent flyer balance before you go to sleep tonight - because these folks have an easy, affordable way to take the stress out of traveling with toddlers. Skeptics, read on!

Nanny in the Clouds does something so simple, it's potentially perfect: connecting families in transit with nannies in transit. Just imagine the luxury of having a nanny traveling with you - helping with bags, staying with the kids when you go to the restroom, changing a diaper while you sneak some sleep, playing sheepdog while you find out why your connection is delayed, and even helping with the debacle of getting a pair of kids with car seats and a double stroller through security - without the expense of an extra airline ticket. Because the simple fact is that nannies and babysitters travel, too. There might even be one sitting three rows back, wishing she had more cash for her trip, while you plead with your toddler to stop kicking the seat of the cranky lady in front of him.

It's a match made just slightly below heaven.

Here's how it works: Childcare professionals register with Nanny in the Clouds, providing two references. Once in the system, the nanny or babysitter simply registers upcoming flights on which he or she is available for hire, then waits. Families can use the website to find out if there is a registered nanny already booked on their flight. In fact, they can even check while choosing a flight, since the difference between that United flight and that USAir flight might just be the knowledge that the former has a cloud nanny registered on it. And even if no nanny is registered when you first check, that could change in the weeks or days before travel; Nanny in the Clouds will let you know automatically.

If a match is made, the family pays a fee of $10 to Nanny in the Clouds. Then it's up to the parties involved to negotiate a price and a schedule. You decide on an hourly rate or a flat fee for the whole trip (that avoids paying extra for flight delays), where and how to meet, etc... You can get help from the airport shuttle through to the hotel, or just assure yourself of a friendly helpful person in the seat next to you - the sky's the limit!

Families can request more references from the nanny if two references seem scant, though hiring someone to help with childcare while you're present - and who presumably passes a TSA screening - doesn't sound quite as stressful as hiring a regular sitter or nanny. (You will need to make seating arrangements directly with the airline, though, if you want to be sure that your new hire is actually sitting with your children.)

There is really only one thing this new service needs to be perfect, and that is all of us to take it viral - not so much among parents, but among babysitters! So far the nannies seem a bit thin in the sky; it takes a little luck to find a flight with babysitting options. But I'm thinking that once our babysitters start forwarding this link among their thumb-dexterous friends, the options will broaden exponentially. This is a great way for anyone who enjoys working with children to turn wasted air time (on an expensive flight) into extra cash. There could even be times when a teen traveling begrudgingly with her parents might be thrilled to act like she's traveling with you instead for $10 an hour! I can just see the status updates: Mom says yes I do have to come to that bar mitzvah in Boise; guess I'll register with nannyintheclouds and at least make some $$..."

I vote we give this plan some traction: go ahead and forward this post to your babysitters, college student friends, and parents of responsible teens - then reap the rewards next time you travel and would like some help wrangling your toddling crew through security and onto the plane!