How to travel when you don’t have much time

Last week at work my contract got renewed and I breathed a lovely sigh of relief as I saw next year’s holiday allowance appear in my HR account. However, two minutes later it immediately disappeared as I booked off my honeymoon in April…

And this is the constant battle for full-time workers who also love to travel – how to make the most of your holiday time.

After coming home from my career break in 2012 I had to return to full-time work (bills to pay, shoes to buy etc) but I still wanted to be able to fulfill my love of travel. So, like so many other travellers, I have had to find a way to achieve both.

There’s two ways to approach this: either take lots of short holidays and spread out your allowance over the course of the year, or blow it all on one big trip. And, like a kid in a candy shop, I’m usually in the latter camp. As someone who loves to travel slowly, I usually use most of my allowance on one big holiday a year, like our road trip in the USA or our honeymoon to Japan next year.

US roadtrip

Having the time of my life on our US roadtrip

So this leaves me with the dilemma of how to fit in any other trips during the rest of the year and here are a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way:

Make the most of your weekends

Since returning to full-time work I have become a big fan of the weekend break. If you set off straight after work on a Friday and get home late on Sunday night, it’s actually amazing how much you can fit into a weekend. In the UK we’re lucky enough to be able to be in another country within a couple of hours and when you’re sitting eating dinner in Paris on a Friday night it’s hard to believe that just a few hours ago you were at your desk in the office. If a trip abroad isn’t an option, even just travelling to a nearby town or city can feel like a holiday. In the summer we spent the weekend in Haworth in Yorkshire and it was so relaxing I felt as though I had been away for a week. It’s amazing how much exploring you can get done when you don’t have household chores or the food shop to get in the way!

Haworth West Yorkshire

Checking out the view in Haworth

Use your bank holidays

In the UK we have eight bank holidays and public holidays a year and these are a great way to extend your time away. Take Good Friday and Easter Monday for example, perfect for a four day break or, if you’ve some holiday allowance spare, you can take off an extra three days and have a full week away.

Save up those lieu days

Company policies on lieu days vary, but some organisations allow their employees to work flexi-time which allows you to build up extra hours which can be taken back at a later date. My company will also occasionally ask for volunteers to work a weekend in exchange for lieu days. If you’re free these are always worth building up, because who knows when you might need that extra day or two?

Take a microadventure

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it’s absolutely impossible to get away from the office; you might have a big project due, a meeting you must attend or maybe you’ve just used up all of your holiday (these things happen). So that’s why I absolutely love Alastair Humphreys’ microadventures concept. The idea is that while many of us are living the 9-5, what are we doing with our 5-9? Alastair’s site has loads of ideas of fun things you can do with friends during the evenings while you’re not at work. And even if you don’t fancy sleeping out on a hilltop, then go out for dinner with friends, check out a late night opening at a museum or just go out dancing! (You can always sleep tomorrow.)

Sugar Loaf Mountain Wales

The view from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Wales

Ask for unpaid leave

Again, this one varies between companies. But some organisations will let employees take unpaid leave as it has the two-fold effect of helping them to save money and keeping their employees happy. If you know that you’re entering a quiet period at work you could always discuss this option with your boss or speak to your HR department to see whether this is something they offer.

And, if all else fails, you can always ask for that sabbatical!

For more information about how to ask for a sabbatical, check out this post. You can read more about my weekend break to Haworth here and find out more about our US road trip here.

If you want some inspiration from other full-time workers, then check out these fabulous blogs: Ayla, from Mrs Ayla’s Adventures, has nailed using the most of her holiday time and Shikha, from Why Waste Annual Leave?, doesn’t have that blog name for nothing! Both of these ladies show just how easy it is to max out your holiday allowance.

Do you have tips on how to make the most of your travel time? I’d love to hear them!

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7 responses to “How to travel when you don’t have much time

  1. Great tips! I’m in the same situation after my year away and trying to find a way of fulfilling the travel bug. This year I’m making the most if my Christmas leave – going away straight after Christmas gives me the chance to have three weeks travel time for just 2 weeks of annual leave 🙂

  2. Love this Emily and I totally agree. It can be difficult to travel as much as you like when you have a full time job but I always make the most of bank holiday weekends and would rather take my overtime in lieu rather than getting paid. Great tips!

  3. Only just read this Emily and wanted to thank you so much for the mention! So kind and I am so glad to find there are so many other travel bloggers who travel the way you and I do by squeezing out the most of our leave. I know it’s a shame when most of your allowance gets used up as quickly as it arrives but honestly when you arrive in Japan for your honeymoon, I don’t think you’ll have any regrets! And I have only recently started to utilise weekends for mini breaks – great way of seeing more of this country too ☺

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