Time for a much-needed break, Mom. There’s a new caretaker in town and she’s ready to jet set with your kids. According to International Business Times, PANKs, or Professional Aunts (with) No Kids, collectively spend billions of dollars traveling with their nieces and nephews.
Melanie Notkin, CEO of Savvy Auntie and foremost expert on the demographic of childless women in North America, says traveling together has many benefits for both PANKs and their nieces and nephews.
“Some aunts set aside one day each year, often around a child’s birthday, to offer a mini-adventure in the city, at the beach, on a trail or wherever seems like fun,” she said. “The child gets that special ‘QualAuntie Time,’ to see the world through Auntie’s eyes and to learn something new and exciting. For the aunt, she’s got the opportunity to see the world through a child’s eyes again.”
As children get older, Notkin explains, some aunts are able to take them on longer adventures, perhaps their first trip abroad or a special birthday or academic milestone.
Anne McAlpin’s nieces and nephews, for example, get a passport and a trip to an international destination of their choice when they turn 16 years old. McAlpin, the Packing Expert and author of “Pack It Up, The Essential Guide to Organized Travel”, believes travel is the best education.
“When I was 16, my grandmother sent me on a trip and it changed my whole life,” she said. “The greatest gift you can give a niece or nephew is the gift of travel and international education.”
McAlpin took one of her nieces to Mexico, where she was able to practice the Spanish she was learning in school. She took her other niece on a Mediterranean cruise, which meant a different country every day. Her number one piece of advice to PANKs who are planning on taking their first trip with a niece or nephew is to talk to the parents first.
“Find out important things like allergies, medications and habits,” she said. “Do they like big groups or are they more of a one-on-one person? Do they like to stay up late? Also, if you live far away, email back and forth with your niece or nephew to get comfortable with them ahead of time.”
As for a type of trip PANKs should take with their nieces or nephews, McAlpin highly recommends cruising.
“Cruising is a really safe environment for an aunt who isn’t used to traveling,” she said. “You’re surrounded on board with people who can help you. Plus, there is so much to do and so much food – teenagers eat all day long!”
Royal Caribbean International in particular is working to accommodate the needs of family units like PANKs and kids. Their new ship, Quantum of the Seas, launching in November 2014, includes staterooms designed with modular rooms that can be connected in different configurations to give the group more space and flexibility. Plus with the variety of activities offered on board all Royal Caribbean ships, including surfing, rock climbing, cupcake decorating and even Broadway shows, no PANK will have to deal with the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored”.
Sometimes, however, being a PANK means traveling with both nieces or nephews and their parents. Christina Soriano of Christina Soriano Designs and her two young nephews have gone on local and long weekend trips along with her older sister. Her advice for PANKs who spend time with their siblings and nieces and nephews together is to be helpful, while at the same time bonding with the kids.
“Even an hour of activity with your nieces or nephews gives the parents well-deserved rest,” she said. “Recently over the holidays we were at a relative’s house and just having breakfast alone with one of my nephews was a great way to spend quality time together.”
Whether it’s day trips or international excursions on the itinerary, it may not be long before kids swap the term “aunt” for “travel buddy”.