If you’re looking for ways to travel more with a full time job, you’re in good hands.
Last year, I spent 4 weeks exploring the world even though I only get 2.5 weeks of vacation per year. The math doesn’t seem to add up, huh?
Well there’s several tips I’ve learned that have made my adventurous lifestyle possible and I want to share them with you.
Traveling has brought more happiness into my life than I care to admit. Some days, it’s all I think about. I find every aspect of it incredibly inspiring.
If you feel that way too, this list will help you get on the right track as quickly as possible.
Continue reading to learn how I spent 4 weeks exploring the world even though I only get 2.5 weeks of vacation per year.
Is there really a problem with limited vacation?
Hard yes. Even though Americans average 2 weeks of vacation per year, we hardly know how to use it! According to a US Travel Study, American’s left a record 768 million days of vacation unused in 2018. Brutal. Here’s the saddest stat from the article:
Of the unused days, 236 million were forfeited completely, equating to $65.5 billion in lost benefits. More than half (55%) of workers reported they did not use all their allotted time off.
What in the world? Vacation days are part of our salaries and with a mere average of two weeks per year, we shouldn’t let this happen!
Listen, I get it. I really do. Pair limited vacation days with the expense of travel and you have a recipe for heartbreak. But there’s hope.
With these 10 tips, I’ll cover how to take advantage of your limited vacation days and how to save money on travel, so let’s get to it!
Our honeymoon in the Dolomites
How to Travel More with a Full Time Job
First things first: I know this probably goes without saying, but WORK HARD! If you’ve racked up a reputation in the office as a hard worker, your supervisor while be willing (and even eager) to allow you time for vacation. With that said, let’s get to the tips.
Tip #1: Request a flexible work schedule
Hear me out. I work 80 hours bi-weekly, but I get every other Monday off because I work a flexible schedule. I requested a flexible work schedule three years ago and there’s no going back! To read about how my specific flex schedule works, read: How a Flexible Work Schedule Changed My Life (& Can Change Yours Too!).
Here’s the thing, I still work 80 hours bi-weekly, so it’s not like I work any less than the average American- I simply work 9 hours a day instead of 8. A flexible schedule is NOT an unreasonable request because you’ll still work 80 hours per week.
Tip #2: Leave the office early the day of your trip
Seems like a no brainer but leaving the office early on Friday can be the difference between starting Saturday in Rome or starting Saturday at the airport. I usually leave 4 hours early the Friday before I take off for a big trip because it (a) makes the day fly by and (b) it conserves precious vacation days while giving me more time to work with on vacation!
Tip #3: Take advantage of long weekends
This is especially true if you work for the government and get most/all federal holidays off. Bonus, if you are on a flex schedule and your day off falls on a holiday because you will automatically get the next day off. Long weekends are great for out-of-town trips or even exploring your own city.
For example, we spent a long weekend driving from Oregon down to California and exploring Sequoia National Park in winter – unbelievable winter wonderland!
Tip #4: Sandwich trips between weekends
Speaking of weekends, use them to your advantage! Here’s an example: If you leave the office early on Friday and catch a red-eye, you will have 9 full days (Sa, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa, Su) to explore while only using 5 vacation days!
Compare that to leaving on say, Wednesday and returning the following Wednesday – you would use 6 vacation days to get 8 days off.
You might say that saving one day doesn’t make too much of a difference but look at it this way – with two weeks of vacation per year, you only get 10 full days to play with! Every little bit counts.
Tip #5: Catch red-eyes
Whenever I fly to New York City from the west coast, I ALWAYS try to catch a red eye because it gives me an entire day in the city upon arrival. I know how tiring that can be. If you can just try to hold out until the evening or take a quick nap once you get there!
I know that red-eyes can a drag, but if you can hold out you’ll have more time to explore. If you’re one of the lucky few that can sleep on a plane more power to you!
If you’re like me, there’s ways to make your flight more comfortable — like this travel pillow, this ingenious eg swing (you’ll never be the same) and these noise cancelling headphones.
Read: 10 Best Hikes in Bend, Oregon
Tip #6: Create prioritized itineraries
This is huge because limited vacation = less time to explore. So, prioritize what you want to see and tackle those things by creating detailed itineraries.
Fast vs. slow travel is a matter of personal preference but the more you can squeeze in, the more you will see. I know, understatement of the century – but it’s true!
My husband and I have created a system that works well for us, we take one big 2-week trip per year and break it down into two sections: fast week and slow week.
- During fast week we try to see as much as we can (like road-tripping through Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland), and during slow week, we stay in two cities max (like Lisbon & Barcelona). This works for us because we get to (a) see a ton of new cities/countries and then (b) come home relaxed and refreshed by making sure the slow week comes after the fast week.
A word on finances while traveling with a full time job
Why talk about traveling on a budget? Because if you assume travel is expensive, you won’t take advantage of your vacation days even if you have them.
Read: Complete Guide to Redwood National Park
Tip #7: Use Scott’s Cheap Flights
When you make traveling a priority, you’ll make it a possibility. You won’t look for excuses like “I don’t have enough money” because you won’t be out drinking or eating as often if all you can think about is lounging under the warm Tuscan sun.
Likewise, realize that traveling isn’t as expensive as it used to be.
We flew direct from Portland, Oregon to Tokyo, Japan for $560 round trip.
How’d we learn about the deal? We signed up for Scott’s Cheap Flights email list (completely free!). Using Scott’s Cheap Flights has helped us travel more often, even with limited vacation because it’s easier to justify a “quick” week-long trip to a far away place if the airfare is reasonable.
Other deals we’ve snagged: Round trip to Maui for $360 & round trip to the Virgin Islands for $360. And yes, I have my eyes peeled for deals to Peru.
Tip #8: Take advantage of credit card points
This is HUGE for us! The first time I visited Paris, I flew for free using miles earned on my Chase Sapphire credit card. When I signed up, the promo was something along the lines of “spend $4k in the first three months and get 60,000 sky miles.” Well, lo and behold, a direct flight to Paris was only 52,000 miles in April! Paris in the spring? Sign me up!
For rewards points, the two cards I love most are: Chase Sapphire and the Delta Skymiles Card by American Express. My husband and I both flew to Italy for free using about 40,000 points each from our Delta American Express.
Please note: I am not an advocate for foolishly “living for the moment” in a way that racks up credit card debt. We strive to use our credit cards responsibly in a way that benefits us, not in a way that leaves us with large payments and exorbitant interest rates. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but just wanted to mention it.
Read: Fall in the White Mountains
Tip #9: Travel in groups
It goes without saying that the more, the merrier! This applies to your travels and bank account. Splitting a hotel 4 ways makes the Ritz look reasonable (I jest, I jest), but it does make a difference. Additionally, a cab split 4 ways from an airport to the city is sometimes just as cheap as the train fare per person.
I personally love traveling in groups because I’ve been able to explore Europe for a reasonable price with my girlfriends in tow; and a five-day trip to New York with my sisters only ran $500 with airfare and hotel. Go figure!
Tip #10: Travel during shoulder season
Shoulder-season is the travel period between peak and off-peak seasons.
If you have traveled to any drool-worthy destination in the last five to ten years, you have probably noticed how popular/crowded some cities have become. Visiting charming towns during shoulder seasons greatly reduces both crowds and expenses.
Personally, we strive to travel during shoulder season because rates are so much cheaper, it has saved us a lot of money over the years. A week can make a world of difference on the old pocketbook.
BUT, be sure to check the weather for that time of year before snagging a deal that seems too good to be true.
We once booked a trip to Austria, Switzerland, and the Dolomites only to learn that many of the roads we planned to traverse would be impassible due to snow.
Luckily we were able to exchange our flights (thank you Delta) for a better month.
Read: 2020 Summer Guide to Washington DC
I hope you found this list of 10 ways to travel more with limited vacation days helpful. Travel is a necessity for a happy life and no one said it better than Mark Twain.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
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Until next time,
What do you think?