Unfortunately, American companies make it hard for us travel-lovers to actually travel. In fact, traveling when you have a full-time job in the United States can seem impossible.
Unlike workers in most other countries, Americans only get around 2 (maybe 3) weeks of paid vacation a year. It’s ridiculous in my opinion! Given this less-than-generous PTO culture and my desire to still see the world, I have figured out how to make the most of vacation days.
With my vacation days, I will have traveled to London, Scotland, the Berkshires, Boston, Paris, Alsace, Normandy, and Beacon (and possibly more) in the past year.
How to travel with a full-time job
Take advantage of company-wide holidays
Do you get Thanksgiving off? What about the day after? Are you one of the lucky ones who get the week between Christmas and New Years off? When you already have company holidays, take advantage of them and use a couple of your vacation days to take a longer trip. If you can’t take off an entire week, just add a couple of days to your already-included vacation and there you go—a decent-length vacation.
This Thanksgiving, I’ll be taking time off after the holiday, essentially allowing for a 10-day vacation at the cost of only 5 vacation days!
Consider weekend and day trips
Travel doesn’t have to take you to faraway places. Weekend getaways to a neighboring state or town can be just as fun (and much less draining) than a long distance flight to a foreign country. If you want more than two days, take off a Friday or Monday to give yourself a long weekend.
Be flexible with your dates + add days to your weekends
Along similar lines, if you know a general time you want to travel but don’t have exact dates nailed down, be flexible. Perhaps it’s cheaper to take Monday and Tuesday off. Look at other combinations of days to take off Thursday/Friday, Monday/Tuesday, or Friday/Monday. Some could be much cheaper than others.
Travel for work (if possible)
Does your company have multiple offices? Are you able to work out of one temporarily? Are you able to travel with a spouse or friend who travels for work?
I had never been to Boston before and was able to work out of my company’s Boston office for a week while using lunch breaks and evening strolls to explore the city for the first time. While I would have much preferred to have spent an entire week (full time) exploring Boston, I took advantage of what I was able to get and was very happy with my trip!
Travel in the off-season
If you aren’t set on or locked into a certain period of the year during which you can travel, I urge you to travel during the offseason. Not only will you save money on reduced rates for air travel and accommodation you will also experience fewer crowds.
For example: Flights home to Florida were more expensive than flights to Paris for me over Thanksgiving. First off, how crazy is that? Second, while most Americans are traveling home throughout the week, I’ll be taking advantage of cheaper flights and heading out of the country.
Don’t overdo it
If you get one week off, don’t try to see seven different countries, Instead, pick one country, city, or region to explore and get a better understanding of your destination.
I always want to see all the places. I love to travel—how could I not want to visit everything? But, it’s better to be realistic about how much you can see in a short amount of time. On our family trip to Scotland, there was so much more of the country I wanted to see but I reminded myself that I could always return and that I would be miserable rushing from one place to the next for 10 days.
Do your work before you leave
I try to leave for vacation with as little as possible work for other people to do for me while I’m out. I also make a point to forewarn my immediate team members as far in advance as possible about my trip so we can start planning for when I’m out. This decreases the stress on everyone and makes it so that when I do want to take off a full week my supervisor isn’t hesitant to grant it to me.
Unplug (if possible)
I don’t check my work email when I’m traveling. Unless it’s a work emergency, I trust that my coworkers have my back and that they would get in touch with me should I be needed. It’s impossible to enjoy a vacation when you’re constantly worried about work—which is not how a vacation should be!
On your next trip, unplug from your work responsibilities as much as possible. If you can’t let an entire trip go by without checking your email, I totally get it! Instead, get caught up on everything in the morning or evening but don’t waste your valuable paid time off refreshing your mail app.
As you can see, us Americans really have to hack our PTO to keep our love for travel. It can be difficult to travel while working full time, but it is possible!