Cherry Hill native Julie Melnick recalled an in-flight experience of trying to manage her restless two year-old child--- "He wanted to get off the plane, then go to the bathroom. It was really stressful."
Her husband was unavailable for that California-to-Florida flight, nearly two years ago.
An extra set of hands would have helped her on her trip, she said. "It seemed like a natural that something would have already existed" to help parents traveling by air with small children.
After that solo trip to Florida with her bouncing toddler, Melnick did some brainstorming.
"It was like a light bulb went off in my head," said Melnick.
Melnick leaned on her entrepreneurial spirit to fill the gap of a husband, partner or another parent not available to travel. Nanny in the Clouds was born.
Nanny in the Clouds pairs traveling cross-country families with babysitters or nannies who are already booked to travel on the same flight(s). Nanny in the Clouds charges a $10 matching fee and the family and babysitter work out the payment terms for the trip. The recommended fee is $20 per hour for one child, $22 for two and $24 for three.
"It could be handy. I wouldn't have thought of it," said Frugal Philly Mom Linda Vertlieb, who is a mother of two small children and local parenting blogger.
"I think I would be open to it because you use a babysitter in your home why not in a confined space like an airplane? It would be nice to have someone to help you in the air," said Vertlieb.
A potential nanny creates a profile that includes a biography and references. Melnick intends to have a background check service up on the website by the end of this month.
"I take my kids everywhere. I want them to see the world," said Angela Bennett-Golk of North Jersey.
Last June, Bennett-Golk booked a trip from New York City to Los Angeles with her two small children, without her husband. She knew she'd need help. An admitted frequent traveler, she travels for work and visits her family in LA on a regular basis. She talked with her friends in her mommy-circles and heard about Nanny in the Clouds.
She reached out to Julie Melnick to learn more about the service hoping to find a "nanny" match.
Airline policies have upset parent travelers, such as United's decision to discontinue family boarding last year.
Bennett-Golk said, "The airline industry is anti-child right now. It's not like they are luggage. Children are expected to not be children when they travel."
Nanny in the Clouds fit right into Bennett-Golk's travel needs. She said things worked out so well with her nanny that she keeps in touch with her, sharing photos of her children a year later.
"The service is just amazing. But, it doesn't abdicate your role as parents. It's just an extra set of hands," said Bennett-Golk. "I would promote it to anybody."
"This is a situation where the mom is going to be there. It's not like dumping your kids off with someone you don't know. It's a good opportunity for a traveling babysitter, grandmother or college student," said Melnick.
Melnick hopes to partner with an airline as she grows the business. She reports 2,300 travelers have signed up for Nanny in the Clouds as either a traveling family or an available nanny.
According to Melnick, the service is not intended for families who can afford a full-time nanny or babysitter to go on the trip. "(Nanny in the Clouds) sounds posh, but it's not. There's a very real need for this," said Bennett-Golk.
To date, Nanny in the Clouds has had two clients with a third match pending. Melnick, now a mother of two, describes the service as making travel more manageable for moms. "We're moms helping moms."