When Chelsea Perks applied to become a Kid Rep for the leading package holiday firm TUI, she imagined her time there wouldn’t last beyond that summer. “I always wanted to travel and this was a way to get childcare and travel in one go,” she recalls. “I was only ever going to do one summer for the experience but I fell in love with it.”
Four years later, Chelsea is still there and has risen through the ranks to become a TUI childcare team leader. This summer she is on the sun-kissed Greek island of Zante, overseeing two TUI Kids Clubs as they provide childcare for families on holiday.
Zante is just the latest destination in a childcare career that has taken Chelsea around the world. Since her first placement in Majorca she’s done seasons in Gran Canaria, Thailand and beyond. She’s even had the opportunity to work in the French and Austrian Alps during the winter through TUI’s winter holiday division Crystal Ski.
And with 70 TUI Kids Clubs around the globe, there’s no shortage of new places to go next.
Creative, fun and educational
“It’s completely different to anything you will ever, ever do in the UK,” says Chelsea, who worked at a number of UK nurseries and play schemes before joining TUI. “It doesn’t feel like work because it’s so much fun.”
The activities at TUI's Kids Clubs run on a two-week cycle that matches the maximum stay of any child. It’s a rota that encourages creativity, says Chelsea: “Because you run the same sessions every two weeks for six months, you need to mix it up so that it doesn’t become boring for yourself. So each time you’re finding ways to make it better or fresher.”
Making the sessions fun is paramount – the children are on holiday after all. “Where else can you pretend to be a pirate with face paint and a costume on for a whole day? But beneath that it’s still educational. We still follow the Early Years Foundation Stage and want the children to learn while they are with us. We make sure we have a varied programme that hits all those milestones in a child’s life while also making it fun.”
Less paperwork, more childcare
Chelsea says the holiday vibe means TUI Kids Club Reps get to spend more quality time with the children. “Because the children are on holiday we don’t have to document everything. In a UK nursery you get choked up on all the observations and paperwork. You spend time with the children but you’re not actually there because you’re thinking much more about all the documentation you have to do afterwards.”
Working in a holiday environment also has its challenges. “The children that come into your care may not speak your language – we have children from Scandinavia, Germany, France and elsewhere,” says Chelsea. “Since our teams are international we might have someone who, say, speaks Swedish but sometimes you won’t have someone who speaks the child’s language. So you have to overcome that and it’s good because it teaches you how to find different ways to communicate with children. We often use really expressive body language and communication cards but through this I can now speak Swedish to a level that a child can understand.”
Friends for life
A big reason Chelsea loves working at TUI is the camaraderie with your colleagues. “You live and work together so it become like a big family,” she says. “You really connect with each other. You may go months without seeing each other because they are in a different destination but when you come back together it’s like you were never apart. I’ve made friends for life through this.”
It’s a very supportive work environment, she adds: “TUI makes sure there’s always a good balance in the teams. You get people who might never have lived away from home too but you also get experienced reps who can reassure them. We just help each other. Even if you have someone who’s 18 and has never used a washing machine before. That was me!”
The days off have left Chelsea with a long list of amazing memories too. Thailand, she says, was especially memorable. “The days off were so much fun,” she recalls. “Visiting different islands, washing elephants, swimming with turtles and days at the water park.”
Making a real difference
But the reward of making children’s holidays special is just as important.
“You 100 per cent get to make a difference to children’s lives,” she says. “You see the children grow even in just a week. It’s a lot more challenging than working with the same children every day because they come to you as complete strangers and you have to win them over.
“On the first day they might come in screaming but by day five they’re running in and hugging you. By the end of their holiday you’ve made a real connection with them. Some of them will be crying when they’re leaving on the coach and you’re waving them off because you become like a little celebrity to them. They love you.”
The TUI offer
- The most competitive package for Childcare Reps in the travel business
- Free accommodation and meals
- Private medical insurance for working abroad
- More than a week of training every season including NSPCC safeguarding
- Flights and uniforms included
- Fun, adventure and friends for life
- Learn more about what TUI can offer you