“Don’t travel to escape life, travel to enrich it.”
I constantly aim to identify ways to think outside of the box when it comes to using my vacation days and making my travel dreams a reality.
Lacking a bottomless cash flow and endless vacation time, I have become savvy to tricks and tips to make the most of my time off. Most people I know with 9-5 jobs want to travel more than they do. I encourage you to get out from behind your desk and experience the world firsthand! Travel and a 9-5 job can exist in harmony together; but it will mean you have to travel differently.
I work a traditional 9-5 and started a new position as a consultant last May. As we corporate people know, there is a process to building up vacation time. While building up my vacation time, I strategically mapped out my travels. After all, without work I wouldn’t have the funds to travel.
Here are four tips to maximize your vacation days while working a 9-5 office job.
1. Create a travel budget lifestyle.
Traveling takes intentionality. It’s all about priorities and how you choose to spend your time and money. If you really love traveling it will naturally become your priority. Prioritize your everyday spending, penny pinch where it counts and make a financial decision that helps you save more for your trips by allocating your money towards your goals. – Travel!
Although every person’s financial situation is different — family obligations, student loans, kids and/or healthcare — there are creative ways to make travel work for your budget.
Cut off unnecessary expenses to save money for travel. If not having enough money stops you from traveling, sacrifice. Skip happy hour with coworkers, make coffee or smoothies at home, bring lunch to work, slow down on brunches every weekend and cut down on shopping. The reality is that small purchases add up, so be careful when you tell yourself its only $10. Take advantage of coupons, shop on the sales rack, even go as far as hiding your money and pretending you don’t have any. I am still a work in progress but over time, I stopped wasting more and more money on needless spending to put the funds towards traveling.
2. Keep an eye on travel deals.
Flights are the biggest expense for travel so you don’t want to miss out on a good deal. Search by month instead of exact dates and you increase your chance of finding cheaper flights. Check travel sites and airline websites continuously. I am no fan of paying full price for ANYTHING, flights included. So, I keep an eye out on daily travel deals from traveltrinitytai.com. Click here for a list of other travel resources I use to save money.
Flight prices fluctuate each day and many sites track and save your browser history. When searching for flights directly on the airline website remember to delete your browsing history. Prices can increase based on the number of times you reenter particular destinations. I saved $125 dollars on my Delta flight from Washington DC to Miami just by deleting my browsing history and searching in the private browser mode.
Consider opting for red-eye flights and, more importantly, consider traveling during off season. If you have the choice to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday go for it. As a rule of thumb, those days are less expensive and save you more money than leaving on a Friday or Thursday evening.
Budgeting for a trip doesn’t stop at saving money. You will have to execute where and how to save; and if that means planning to travel when most people simply don’t want, to then so be it.
3. Take all of your annual leave!
Sometimes it’s the guilt factor of requesting time off. Other times, the destination doesn’t seem worth the trip. How much can you really see in Italy when you only have 7 days off? Simple, just go! It is better to go than saying you’ll go one day, and one day never comes. So often I hear people say they don’t use their vacation days or sick days, when in fact one reason you went after the job was because of that benefit package. Again, take all of your annual leave; you have it for a reason.
In the US many people have 8 to 10 paid holidays plus two weeks’ vacation. Maximize each vacation day off. Find out the best season to take time off and ask for your time off in advance. Open communication with your employer is beneficial. Look at your calendar and identify the company holidays your employer provides and plan your trips ahead of time. You will be able to ask for days off before your colleagues and getting approval from your boss will be easier if requested in advance.
When maximizing your time off, planning your trips around holiday’s means you can save vacation days and travel longer. For example, in 2016 I spent Thanksgiving in South Africa. Why? The company I worked for at the time had floating holidays and provided three paid days off. I spent 8 days in South Africa, and only had to take four vacation days. For holidays that fall on Monday, take off Tuesday and Wednesday, now you have a five-day trip, and you only had to take two vacation days. This certainly helps with stretching those vacation days further.
Maximize weekends to your advantage. Plan a flight that leaves Friday after work and consider flying direct to cut travel time down. Evening flights allow you to maximize a full day of work and sleep on the plane. When I went to Guatemala, I had an 8pm departure flight, meaning I worked a full day then went straight to the airport from the office. Learn to sleep on planes; luckily I am one of those people that can sleep anywhere, even before the plane takes off.
4. Strategically work hard then play hard.
Be willing to work harder, longer hours and don’t let travel interfere with your work. Consider working overtime hours. Working longer hours isn’t fun, but the benefits will be worth it when travel is a priority. Overtime hours might mean that you can take additional days off, build a cushion for your utilization for the consultants out there, or get paid more. Also, volunteer to cover a teammate’s workload when they are on vacation, making it easier for someone to fill for you when you are off.
For those that have jobs that meld both interests and travel for work, consider adding onto a work trip or conference. Use one or two days to tie into the weekend before or after your trip to explore. When traveling frequently for work, you also benefit from travel reward programs which will help your travel budget in the long run. Sign up for rewards programs for each service you use, hotel chain, airline and rental car company. Consider programs that have partners that allow you to transfer points such as Hilton Honors and Marriott. Once you’ve acquired a certain amount of miles or points you’re eligible for Club lounge access, free checked bags, priority check-in/ boarding and status upgrades. Make the most of your money and earned rewards by building up a solid travel rewards program, it can only help you.
Consider working remotely. Often times, work can be done outside of the office, even for those who do not work for a global company. Working remotely can increase the length and frequency of your trips. Whether you will be working for 2 hours on your trip or the day you return from your vacation, this will allow some flexibility when using your time off. As a last resort, ask for the option of unpaid time off. This is not a bad trade off if you are in financial position to do so. Remember to talk with your employer and explore all the possibilities.
Pro Tip – create a healthy lifestyle, eat clean, exercise and take your vitamins daily. I wouldn’t want you to use your vacation time because you are always under the weather. Another tip is to schedule doctor appointments early in the morning or late in the afternoon that way you can still work majority of your day and not blow through your vacation time.
Be creative with your vacation days and research to find the best deals. You can live a “normal” life and make time for the travel life you want. Realize that there’s no right answer, or right path. Travel at your own pace to make your travel dreams a reality. How do you travel while working your 9-5? What tips do you use?