How to Travel More While Working a Full-time Job
Work and travel don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Though I quit my day job back in 2014 to have more control of my schedule and improve my health, my traveling life started long before that. I traveled for years while maintaining a full-time career.
Not everyone is able to/wants to leave their job. If you are one of these people, it is totally possible to keep your workplace sanity and still travel more. Here are my best tips on how to travel while juggling your full-time job.
1. Learn how to take smart vacation days
Despite having a job where I worked long hours, I learned to use my paid vacation days wisely. It was essential for workplace wellness, as I would burn out quickly (thanks to my lupus).
Instead of saving vacation days for a big trip, I’d take only 1-2 vacation days at a time (Thursday, Friday, Monday, or Tuesday) and linked it to the weekend. This allowed more adventures for double the time.
During the summers, for instance, I created my own “summer Mondays”. I knew that higher ranking colleagues hardly ever came into work on Fridays, and the workplace environment was more relaxed because of it. Mondays, on the other hand, were high-strung and stressful.
So I often took every other Monday off during the summer, giving myself long vacation weekends twice a month. Because no one was in the office on Fridays, it was easier to get permission to leave early and catch a flight/bus/train, and even easier to return to work on Tuesdays once everyone weaned off their Monday anxiety.
2. Maximize federal holidays
Taking my paid vacation strategy further, federal holidays are the jackpot of vacation day bliss.
Regardless of what day a federal holiday lands on (usually a Monday), I like to use a paid vacation day to extend the holiday further.
Most people would create a Fri-Mon vacation with a federal holiday (if it lands on a Monday), but I liked to take advantage of empty offices and avoid the first day back. Besides, following the Fri-Mon vacation schedule is a surefire way to break the bank on your vacation budget, as holiday prices are the highest on these days.
Instead, I’d maximize federal holidays by embracing the empty office on a Friday, and book a more budget-friendly trip through Tuesday, using just one vacation day.
3. Take 2-day weekend adventures
At some point, your vacation days will run out before the end of the year and you won’t know what to do with yourself. Now you’re left with a five-day work week like everyone else (oh the agony!) and you'll start to notice your workplace sanity dwindling…
But the regular weekend still exists, so make the most of it. Spend some weekends relaxing and unwinding with a staycation, and other weekends taking a two-day mini adventure.
Weekend adventures are the best way to see places within a 2-5 hour distance.
From NYC, take a weekend trip to Washington, DC to explore the free Smithsonian museums; visit Boston for charming architecture; or head down to Philadelphia for an artsy weekend getaway. A flight down south for sunshine during dreary winters can be an affordable 3-hour flight, too.
What destinations are less than five hours from where you live?
4. Try a red-eye flight (but only if you can handle it)
If you want to take those strategic vacations and weekend adventures to the next level, consider booking red-eyes instead of daytime flights. While I personally have never left a red-eye flight well-rested, every person is different and some travelers can totally handle it.
Not only will you save money by booking a red-eye, you also save a ton of time and can visit a destination farther away. Have a hotel hold your bags while you book one last tour. Squeezing in that last bit of adventure can help tire you out in preparation for sleep on the plane.
If you are concerned about wellness and know you cannot sleep on a plane, skip this suggestion. You’ll quickly regret it if you need to walk into work immediately after landing (been there, done that; my body hated everyone for eight hours).
5. Book business & professional development trips
The best part about my last conference planning job was all the domestic business travel we had to do. Other colleagues hated it because they had families and pets, but little ol’ single me had the time of my life visiting new states and cities on the company’s dime.
But what if you don’t have a job that requires frequent travel? It requires a little bit of extra research and convincing, but you can still try to book travel on your company’s dime without using your paid vacation days by highlighting the benefits of professional development events.
I once went to St. Louis for an entire week, all expenses paid, to an awesome conference that was hosted by a software company we used. If you’ve ever been to a tech or training conference, you’ll know that these events are about 60% learning, and 40% fun activities, so much food, and sometimes even partying.
So a colleague and I made the case as to why we just needed to go to this conference, and our boss said if we could present a plan and return with great takeaways on how we can improve our processes and efficiency, we could go.
I returned with a presentation of all the things we learned and had plenty of stories of all the fun we had too. I gained an adventure, new industry contacts, and knowledge — and didn’t have to pay for it!
Are there systems, platforms, or softwares your company uses / heavily relies on?
Start searching the web for conferences that can teach you how to better master a product in your industry. You’ll strengthen your professional development and cross a new destination off your travel list.
6. Extend business trips
Since I traveled a lot for work, travel did become exhausting after a while (truth is, business travel is not a relaxation vacation). I became tired of 6am wake up calls and being on my feet all day, all while having to be “on” with clients and customers all the time. I needed a relaxation trip to offset my business trip!
Extending business trips are key to business travel wellness.
Since business trips are usually taken during the week (most commonly, Tuesday or Thursday) it is the perfect opportunity to extend into the weekend.
To take advantage of the flights already covered by your job, treat yourself with a bit of R&R (rest and relaxation) by using a vacation day to link this business trip to the weekend. You’ll have to pay for the extra hotel nights, but the perks are totally worth it.
7. Make a case for remote work
When I realized how much work I did via computer, a light bulb lit above me. I thought, “Is it possible to do all this from the comfort of a hotel bed in a relaxing destination?”
Remote work wasn’t really an accepted concept yet, so when I suggested telecommuting to my boss she looked at me like I was crazy. But the idea never left my mind, and I often suggested friends ask their bosses about working remotely.
Now, remote work is widely accepted and not some radical idea. There is even plenty of research that shows employees can work more efficiently when working remotely.
Employer benefits of remote workers include:
Less micromanagement and more efficiency
Less distraction and more productivity
Gain action-oriented / self-starter employees who take initiative
Improved employee retention, personal wellness, and morale
Decreased office expenses
If you want to travel more and take your laptop along with you, talk to your boss and make a case about the employer benefits of remote work.
8. Dust off your benefits package
Remember the company welcome packet you first received when you were hired at your job? Most people don’t. The pages of overwhelming information are hardly memorable and you’re just happy you have a job and can pay your bills.
That’s how I felt, at least.
It may take a while to realize this job you need a vacation from may actually be able to help you take one… and it is all mentioned in your welcome packet or benefits package.
Many jobs offer a health and wellness program that rewards you for prioritizing your health. You might earn points for completing your annual check up or earn money for meeting new fitness goals.
Some jobs will pay for you to volunteer (including internationally) and may even have an incentive program for taking a wellness vacation! So go dust off your benefits package and see what sort of travel your company can help you experience.
9. Don’t wait for others - fly solo!
The biggest hurdle I notice with people who have a full-time job but want to travel is the lack of reliability from their friends and family. No matter where you are in life, you are going to encounter people who want to do what you are doing but not be willing to commit or do the work.
Full-time employees don’t have the time to wait around for someone to commit to taking a trip. Your free time is limited, and juggling travel planning with work deadlines, projects, and life itself isn’t fun.
The sooner you realize waiting for others will prohibit you from traveling more, the sooner you can get on your way.
Solo travel is scary, and no matter how many Instagram influencers post gorgeous photos of them on a solo adventure, it isn’t an easy decision for everyone — especially females.
Here’s a short list of places I’d feel totally comfortable traveling to as a solo traveler (that I’ve been to before). It’s not even close to my official list but a good place to start:
Peru, Aruba, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Iceland, Italy, Amsterdam, Thailand, Laos, Taiwan
10. Take a sabbatical
Sometimes you just need a break. And not a 4-day getaway. Like, a break-break. A break to learn. A break to grow. A break to breathe. A break to just, be.
That was my thought process when I quit my job. I just wanted to travel a bit, work remotely for a year or so, and come back to “the real world”. It didn’t exactly work like that for me, as I found new passions along the way, but I know plenty of people who took a sabbatical from their full-time job and returned an even better employee than before.
Sabbaticals can be taken anytime during your career (especially in line with life milestones and challenges) but I think one should have at least 5-7 years of work experience before their first sabbatical. That way, you’ll have gained enough experience to strengthen your resume for your return, and will only amplify your professional growth with international experiences.
How to prepare for a sabbatical?
Start saving money to travel more, create a thorough plan for your time off (what do you want to gain from it?), and communicate with your boss — offering plenty of notice. A sabbatical will be unpaid, but offers plenty of other professional and holistic benefits. Plus, if you communicate effectively you’ll have a job waiting for you when you get back!
11. Make a career transition
If all else fails and your job simply isn’t one that offers the vacation time, pay, or flexibility to travel more, consider making a transition toward careers that let you travel.
This isn’t quitting, it’s moving forward.
There are tons of jobs across the world that may offer remote work, require frequent travel, provide travel benefits, and more. The search is hardly easy; travel-friendly jobs are very competitive. But if you have a specialized skill or are flexible with your hours and location, you can rise above the competition.
Travel-friendly careers include:
Travel industry: airline / airport employee, hotel employee, travel agent, event planner, tour guide, cruise employee
Remote work: writer, web designer, programmer / coder, customer service agent, virtual assistant
Other: retreat leader, software trainer, consultant, salesperson, ESL teacher or tutor
Where would you go if you could travel while working a 9-5 job?
I hope these tips gave you some ideas on how to make the most of your time and work benefits to travel more. Now all you have to do is take care of your body and get better with your money so you can see the world more!
Remember: no adventure is worth compromising your health for. Listen to your body first, don’t take on more than you can handle, and avoid sacrificing sleep.
Share this article if you found it helpful!
You must know plenty of people itching to travel more but unable to just quit their job and go.
This article should give them lots of ideas!