A couple of days ago, I was interviewed by someone from a personal finance site on how to how to maximize travel time even with a full-time job. When the interviewer asked me how many vacation days I have taken in 2017, including weekends and any days the office was closed for holidays, I realized it was 50.
50 days! In one year I traveled 50 days while holding down a full-time job, freelance projects as a travel writer, and still had a social life at the same time. Had someone presented this idea to me, I would have thought it was impossible in regards to both time and money. But I did it. Take also a look at this great video about how to be smart and work full-time and still find the time to travel the world:
Here’s how the days broke out:
- 3 days in January to see my in-laws (well, actually my fiance’s parents) in Cleveland over Martin Luther King Day weekend. No time off work needed.
- 3 day weekend in April for our engagement anniversary in Lake Placid, 1 vacation day taken.
- 3 day weekend in April to go to Boston, 1 personal day taken.
- 11 days at the end of May and beginning of June for Iceland and Norway. I used 6 days vacation days and received 1 day off for Memorial Day Weekend, plus 4 weekend days.
- 2 day weekend in Maine, no time taken off from work.
- 3 day weekend over 4th of July, no vacation days taken.
- 3 day weekend in Quebec City over Labor Day weekend, no time taken off from work.
- 8 days off to go to Atlanta and Cleveland. 5 vacation days used, plus 3 weekend days.
- 4 days off for Thanksgiving, 1 personal day off of work, the office was closed 2 days and used 2 weekend days.
- 10 days off for Cleveland and the Poconos between Christmas and New Years including weekends. No time taken off of work, our office is closed Christmas Eve, the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and New Year’s Day.
The eye-opening thing about breaking out how many days I traveled, is it’s roughly the same amount I traveled when I was self-employed and a full-time travel writer.
That means if you’re sitting around thinking you’ll travel when your self-employed – it’s just an excuse. There’s no reason you can’t do it right now.
The trips I took while self-employed were just easier to take and under my control. Now on staff at my job; I receive 10 days of vacation time, 1 personal day, and 5 sick days each year. However, our company inexplicably changed our fiscal year from January to July.
That meant we got a new wave of vacation time in July, suddenly giving us 10 fresh days plus another personal day to use until next July. Had we not received that unexpected bonus of vacation time; it would have cut our Atlanta-Cleveland trip short by just a few days. We probably would have traveled 45 days instead of 50. I also realize I’m fortunate my office closes the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s day.
But if I didn’t receive that time off, I would likely have off for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve (Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were on a Saturdays this year) plus weekends. Which would have adjusted my balance to roughly 39 days.
The idea is that even if you have limited days, you have upward of 52 weekends in the year providing ample time for getaways. Plus occasional holidays your office is already closed.
Before you start planning your 50 days of vacation, you need to do some organizing in advance.
- Print out your company’s yearly calendar and identify all paid holidays and time-off.
- Find out your company’s policy on time-off. How far in advance can you ask off? Are days after a paid-holiday ‘protected’ time off?
- Design your travel around weekends. Fly out on a Thursday night and fly back on Monday evening for a 3 to 4 day holiday instead of taking off Monday through Thursday. You’ll shave off 2 days of vacation time you can use towards another trip.
- Talk to HR. Will unused vacation time roll-over? Can you leave an hour or two early for a flight without getting docked for pay?
Once you have the creative strategy for time-off hammered out, the next issue at hand is money. We occasionally enjoy financial cushions between the day-job checks my fiance and I earn; as well as both of us earning freelance incomes on the side. Over the past year, we still saved 10% of our incomes in retirement funds, roughly $500 – $1,000 a month in our ‘regular savings’ for a big trip, emergency, a career change, or a house (though for the time being we are committed renters), NYC rent, utilities, and dinners out.
You might not have the same kind of financial cushions, but focusing on your financial priorities is the only thing that matters in realizing your travel goals.
Our financial priorities are keeping ourselves debt free, paying to live in a comfortable space we feel at home in, having a few creature comforts, and rich life experiences. We rarely spend money on clothes, DVD’s, new gadgets, or high-end entertainment.
We might go clothes shopping twice a year and invest in quality pieces that last or ask for anything we might need during gift-giving holidays. When we need to cut down on our spending; we cook in more often, use free theater tickets (I work for a Broadway marketing firm), and go on free excursions around the city to the wildlife refuges, beaches, old forts, trails, and over 1,700 parks NYC has to offer.
When I first moved to NYC, I made $28,000 a year and after paying rent, my bills, and subway card I had a mere $300 left over. And that was before I ate for the month. And I still went to Portland (twice), several trips to Atlanta, and San Francisco. The year I quit to go freelance; I made $39,000 and promptly went to Europe for almost 3 weeks.
I secured the lifestyle on a budget by eating breakfast and lunch at work (which my company catered for us because they worked us 10-12 hour days), often ordered dinner at work, saved what little I could, and saved every overtime check I made and put it into a travel fund. It is possible to have just about any lifestyle you want, travel or otherwise, with some prioritizing and compromising on the things that just aren’t that important.
Here’s a list of ways to cut expenses to put towards travel:
- Get rid of cable and your TV.
- Sell off your DVD and book collections on Amazon or eBay.
- Sell art and handmade goods on Etsy.
- Volunteer for (paid) overtime at your job.
- Save $2.44 a day for a comfortable week abroad.
- Get your usual haircuts or spa visits at professional schools like Aveda and Bumble and Bumble at a discount.
- Freelance on the side and offer services in tutoring, ghostwriting, proofreading, lawn work, focus groups, transcribing, or house cleaning.
- Downsize your apartment or home, or consider taking in a short-term tenant.
- Start living with simplicity.
- Unautomate your finances.
- Start a portable yet remarkable business.
Utilize weekends, occasional paid-holidays, the ability to downsize and prioritize, and techniques to earn more money. Where will you go during your 52 weeks this year? Or will you look back and realize you stayed planted, thinking your ultimate lifestyle is outside your reach?