How to Travel And Work Full-Time

(This is part two of Life-Travel Balance Week. Check back all week for more tips!)

Long-term travelers have all the time in the world, but not necessarily a ton of cash. When you’re working full-time, however, it’s easy to watch your bank account fill up but feel as if you don’t have the time or ability to travel. Sometimes it’s the guilt factor: that you don’t feel as if you can really “leave” even when on vacation. Other times, it just doesn’t seem worth the effort: how much can you really see in Thailand when you only have 10 days off and that (expensive) flight requires two whole travel days?

Since I moved to New York City in 2012 and started a full-time position in marketing (with 15 allotted vacation days per year), I’ve visited my hometown in California twice and traveled to the Bahamas, Las Vegas, Jordan, Iceland, Portland, San Francisco, Montreal, Miami, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It’s not always easy, but I’ve made travel a priority without sacrificing my beloved fixed life. Here are my tried-and-true tricks on how to travel and work full time.

Make it a true weekend escape

A Girl Standing in Front of the Golden Gate Bridge - How to Travel and Work Full Time

There’s a reason why The New York Times has a travel column—and now a book series—around 36 hours in a new city: that’s usually just the amount of time you have in a new city on a weekend away, once you factor in travel. While I usually read those columns with a grain of salt and a chuckle—the itineraries are notoriously over-scheduled—it’s still a good reminder that you can have a great experience away without taking too much time off work.

To really enjoy it, look for new places close to home. I recommend staying within four hours travel time (factor in rush hour traffic when driving and getting from your front door to the airport gate when flying) or opting for Thursday night travel or a Sunday red-eye. Splurge on a fancy boutique hotel to get that feeling of escape and luxury without going too far when you travel and work full time. Go on a weekend yoga or meditation retreat to truly relax and recharge.

 Take advantage of holiday breaks

Christmas Liquor on the Beach - How to Travel and Work Full Time

I’m super grateful that I have a small family that is understanding of my unquenchable desire to travel. My parents told me that if I was going to spend the money on a plane flight around Christmas, I might as well go somewhere with a beach—and so I did! I spent the week around Christmas in Puerto Rico last year, and it was wonderful to get a vacation without using up all of my vacation days. Flights around this time are notoriously expensive, but you can save by going on off-hours or traveling on the holiday itself. One tip: book early, and stay somewhere with Wifi so you can FaceTime into the family celebrations to not feel so far away. Better yet: talk your family into celebrating somewhere tropical!

Add onto work trips when you travel and work full time

The View of the Sea and a City from the Plane - How to Travel and Work Full Time

My job doesn’t require much travel, but whenever the opportunity comes up: I take it! I have to travel for trade shows, and whenever possible, I add in a couple of extra nights. The flight costs the same for my employer, and I pay for my extra nights in a hotel or expenses once my “work” is over. The flight is a big financial expense and time spent traveling is often difficult to justify with work; this is a way to reap the benefits without the negative so you can travel and work full time. Now I’m always looking for new cities that it makes sense for me to visit on my company’s behalf—especially ones I want to visit myself!

Don’t be afraid to negotiate

A Girl Standing at Horseshoe Bend - How to Travel and Work Full Time

Sometimes, a weekend just won’t cut it. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer for extended unpaid leave so that you can head to more far-flung destinations or spend some time deep-diving into a city or country. Pitch it as personal development, and time it during the slow season. I’ve had a few friends who have taken five weeks off to explore Europe, and have the luxury of returning home to a waiting job and apartment. You never know until you ask!

Treat every day like a vacation

The Travel Section of the New York Times and a Cappuccino - Treat Everyday as a Vacation When You Travel and Work Full Time

One of my favorite parts of living in New York City is that there is always something new to try. One of the urban myths that floats around—I’m not sure just how correct it is—is that you can eat at a new restaurant in Manhattan every day for 12 years and still not have tried every one. There is always a new restaurant, a new exhibit, a new show: it’s impossible to get bored here. Because of that, I try to treat every day here like I would in a new city: walk a different route to work and pay attention to the architecture, duck into a coffee shop to drink a latte and people watch, take a food tour in a new neighborhood.

Granted, this isn’t as easy in small towns or even other big cities. But I find that it’s more of an attitude than anything else: an eagerness to try new things instead of getting sucked into a routine, an appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you, an ability to enjoy the here and the now instead of wistfully daydreaming for another place at another time.

 

Do you have any tips on how to travel and work full time?

After living in France and Australia and backpacking through Europe and Southeast Asia, Christine Amorose “settled down” in New York City where she works in marketing, is training to become a yoga teacher and still racks up plenty of frequent flier miles. She writes about travel, fashion and creating an intentional lifestyle at CestChristine.com. 

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How to Travel and Work Full Time

66 thoughts on “How to Travel And Work Full-Time”

  1. Interesting and good article. I like the positivity: There is always an opportunity to travel, if you want to. (And you should.. !)
    On the other hand, for a European like me, it is almost incomprehensible that you Americans have accepted a meager two-week paid vacation a year, for so long. If you want more, it’s because your employer is “nice” to you. You’re being f…ed, you acknowledge it, …. and you agree with it.

    1. I actually work in New York City and I feel like I have a pretty good deal: 3 paid weeks off, unlimited sick days, I leave at 5pm ever day and I work from home every Friday. I have a rough time with the standard American vacation policy too–especially when it’s so ingrained in the culture to not even take the meager two weeks we have!–but I think that’s an article for another time 🙂

    2. I also have a pretty good deal for being in the US: 4.5 paid weeks of vacation/year, a ridiculous number of sick days, I work from home two days a week, and I rarely work more than 8 hours/day. I actually don’t know too many people with only 2 weeks of vacation – it seems after you work for a couple years, 3 is more standard. Regardless, more vacation would always been an awesome thing, and there are definitely places were it is frowned upon to actually use your vacation (which, seriously? that is just not ok).

      1. Curious where you live? I think vacation attitudes might be regional. Most of my friends in DC have 2 weeks, and at my old job it was 2 weeks for the first 5 years or something crazy.

  2. This is super useful. I’m in my first job of my career and I definitely feel a vague sense of guilt whenever I ask for leave, and that a lot of bank holidays etc are wasted. Plus I live in Europe, so much is only a short flight or train ride away!

    One of the ways I’ve been trying to maximise travel is to take Saturday night breaks. From London, it’s cheap and easy and FAST to get to a tonne of gorgeous places. I just blogged about being in Margate for a night and I’m just back from touring Oxford colleges. There’s so much at our fingertips if we put some thought into it! 🙂

    1. Yes! I’m always so envious of Europe because there are so many completely different cultures and places just a quick plane ride away. I love exploring more in the States, but it’s tough to get as excited when so much of the landscapes look the same.
      Also: start good habits now! One of the things I’m so grateful for is that I’ve established a pattern of taking time off at each place I’ve worked–people know that I travel, and they respect my commitment to it! (And they know I still get my work done!)

  3. Great tips here. Even though I live abroad, it can still be hard to find time to actually ‘travel’ as I have a full time job out here. Luckily I get decent holidays and Beijing is so big, I still have a lot to explore here on weekends anyway. I enjoy reading the NYT 36 hours in…I agree- some of the itineraries are basically impossible but they are a fun read and a good starting point for inspiration for a short trip.

    1. Totally agree! I love reading 36 hours, especially when it’s a city I’ve never considered–but I also love just trying to contemplate how I would visit so many cafes/restaurants/shops in such a short span 🙂

  4. Very useful. I started traveling during Grad School years. Every weekend was a new escape. Now with a fulltime job, I still make almost every weekend a new travel destination. It doesn’t have to be expensive, as long as you see a new place and experience the way locals do it. I am also a health addict, so I try to make a trip with healthy options.
    Last thing I learned, when you write down a bucket list and share it with others, you actually end up doing it.

    Best wishes,

    Lina with SmileandTravel

  5. That’s great that you found balance. Preferably that is what I had hoped to do (and was doing with travel nursing/breaks in between assigments) but meeting someone in India & moving here changed that! I have all the travel, and none of the 9-5 , but kind of miss the 9-5! The grass is always greener 🙂

  6. The idea of really trying to experience your city as a “new city” often is brilliant. It is hard for me, because I try so hard not to eat out or splurge on coffee shops, since I am saving for my big RTW trip – but I can’t miss the chance to appreciate the place I am currently living. It is all about balance! And right now, I need a bit more splurge in my life!

    1. Yes! I have a super hard time with that when I’m saving to travel, but I also like to think that it’s important to enjoy the moment. You can’t spend all your time waiting to travel and “enjoy life”–you should be finding a little bit of joy every day! I LOVE going to a cute cafe and enjoying a latte and reading the newspaper–and so often I deny myself that joy to save money. And then, I’m like–$5 and an hour, and I’ll be so much happier! It’s worth it 🙂

  7. Awesome tips for finding ways to travel! I have a great (but sometimes frustrating) seasonal career. Since it is seasonal, I move every 6 months! Luckily since I work for the national park service, I usually move to the prettiest spots in America, so its not all bad. But my point is, I play tourist in the towns/places I live and really take advantage. My saying is “life is a vacation.”

  8. Great tips, Christine!
    After finishing my Master’s last year, I started working only a few months ago. In the beginning, I was really worried that I couldn’t travel “enough” anymore. Obviously, having 20+ vacation days and being based in Europe (where a new country is often only a three hour train ride away), is a big advantage, but I’m still struggling with finding balance between work and travel. This month however, I already spent a few days in Berlin and a long weekend in Rome (and have even more trips coming up!), so feel like I’m making progress… I’ll keep rereading your tips though!

  9. Great tips! I would stress that being able to balance work with travel (or with your life in general) is all about setting boundaries at work. You have to be able to turn off work and not feel guilty getting away. My previous employer was terrible about this. There was a strong expectation that you were always available and taking vacation was frowned upon. (Our division boss bragged about how many vacation days he lost every year by not taking time off!) Needless to say, I do not work there anymore! 🙂

    1. Yes! One of the things I’m most grateful for is that I established really clear boundaries very early in my career. I left my first job at 5pm every day, and I still do that. I’ve realized that my employers all respect the fact that I get my work done efficiently and they know that things will be in line when I’m out of the office. You can’t equate doing good work with just being in the office!

  10. I relate to this article a lot. My work actually has a policy of unlimited days off as long as you get your work done. However, since I’m pretty essential to all of my agency’s functions, taking time off is extremely difficult. In 3 years of employment I’ve probably only “taken off” 3-4 days when absolutely necessary (i.e. doctor appointment, sister’s graduation, weddings). But I’ve still managed to travel a lot on holidays. We usually have 2 weeks off around Christmas and a couple around July 4th. In the summer we have “Summer Fridays” and get to leave at 1PM if it’s a really slow day. I maximize my holidays and take a lot of red-eyes and 5AM buses/trains on Monday morning! But I have my first “real” vacation where I’ve taken off a week coming up next month. Fingers crossed it’s not a disaster!

  11. Great tips Christine! I can be really hard when your working full time to get away. I really try to use my weekends, especially the long ones that have public holidays surrounding them to have extended breaks.

  12. This is a great post and I particularly like “treat every day like a vacation”! I am setting off to travel to Southeast Asia this summer and I realise that at some point my money will run out and I will have to return to work, for a while at least. So it is nice to be reminded that you can strike balance between work and travel 🙂

    I’m lucky that I’m based in Glasgow, and within a one hour drive I can escape the city to enjoy the beautiful Scottish coast.

  13. As I finish my college degree and work comes quickly around the corner, I definitely needed to read this article. I’ll probably be working a job that enables me to travel, thankfully, but I will definitely need to find time to travel on my own too. Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  14. I LOVE this post, and it’s right on the money. I’m now trying to work full-time from home with myself as a boss, but up until this point I have always had to fit traveling in around either a full-time job or being in graduate school. It was admittedly easier when I was in school, with a month off at Christmas, a week off in the spring, and nearly 3 months off in the summer, but I made it work when I was working full-time at a newspaper and only had 10 paid days of vacation per year, too.

    I would work holidays and save up extra days off. I would travel around holidays. And I asked for 2 weeks of unpaid time off once in order to go to New Zealand. My boss was incredibly supportive of all this traveling, as was the guy in our payroll department (who was only too happy to learn that he wouldn’t have to pay me for a couple weeks).

    When I was in grad school, I skipped 2 weeks of class – one week when I got invited to go chase the Northern Lights in Manitoba, and another week in order to go to World Travel Market in London. It helped that I was studying for a degree in tourism, but my professors were happy to excuse me for both of these things.

    It never hurts to ask, especially if a great opportunity to go somewhere arises.

  15. This is a challenge that unfortunately keeps many people from traveling at all. But it most definitely is doable if it’s a priority for people. I use my three weeks of vacation time, weekends and holidays to the max to work a regular job, have a family and travel frequently. It can be done! Great tips.

  16. Great tips! When I had a full time job, I milked holidays and work trips for all they were worth! I once even volunteered to go to Appleton, Wisconsin in the middle of January simply because it meant I could travel somewhere.

  17. We get 28 days in the UK (21 of our own and 7 bank holidays, though in hospitality its a straight 28 days). Even that doesn’t seem enough. I’d give a lot to have more than one day a week off, though, would give me a lot more time to explore….

  18. Great tips! I must admit it’s hard to combine full-time job with travelling, but as you have proven it’s doable. I agree with going on short weekend trips. You can relax, do some sightseeing and charge your batteries till the next journey!

  19. I love this! Full-time travel and a nomadic lifestyle are not for everyone. It’s all about your personality and preferences. If you need some stability and routine in your life, you might be happier working a regular job and traveling occasionally.

  20. Yup, it’s tough going on trips when you’re into that 9-5/Mon-Fri work schedule. Your idea of maximizing week-end trips by staying close to home makes sense. I’m sure within a 3-4 hr. travel time there’s a resort or some exciting spot you could enjoy spending time in.

  21. Scott at VacationCounts

    Yes, we all can’t quit our full-time jobs and ditch the career path to travel the world. OK maybe once or twice in our lifetime, but for now the goal is to find, make, and even demand more time off work for travel.

    Everyone should at least try the employer negotiation tactic, especially when you are changing jobs. While you can’t always negotiate for a higher salary, you might be more successful asking for an extra few days off each year (paid or unpaid).

    Treating every day like a vacation day is another piece of smart advice. I call it “Work-Life-Vacation Balance.” Treat time not working and time not handling life’s responsibilities as “vacation” time. Balance all three to maximize your time off from both work and life for travel opportunities. Vacation time can be had close to home or even for only an hour or two during the work day if you get in the vacation mindset.

    -Scott, VacationCounts – Take More Vacation Time Off

    1. Love that last bit about work-life-vacation balance! I’m also huge on timing job changes so that you can squeeze in a nice vacation in between end and start dates 🙂

  22. Great tips! I always sum it up with “live within your means so you can travel beyond your dreams.” For those of us unfortunate souls on a limited budget AND limited vacation days (why can’t we be like Europe with mandatory 4 weeks PTO?!), asking for unpaid leave on top of PTO is necessary. But it can be done!

  23. Great tips Christine! I never thought of it this way. I try to do 1 overseas trip a year but then I’m budgeting and stressing all year to have money for the trip, and I cram so much into the trip that I never get to have a RELAXING holiday. I’m going to take one big 10 day trip and a few relaxing long weekends from now on. Luckily in Australia we get 20 days of leave, but it works out to 16 or 17 with Christmas closure.

  24. These are great tips on how not to let a full-time work schedule prevent you from traveling! Too often a busy schedule is used as an excuse to not travel, and it doesn’t have to be. It’s all about priorities and thinking outside the box. 🙂

  25. You are one of the few travel bloggers that I have ever read that suggests leveraging work trips for weekend getaways. I have done that a lot with my career within the past 10 years and have visited places that I might not have visited on my own, such as Atlanta, San Antonio, and Fort Lauderdale.

    If you travel 2 – 3 times for work, then consider signing up for airline and hotel loyalty programs. It costs you nothing to sign up and the points will add up over time. What a great travel hack to use to lower your costs on a future trip with either a free flight or hotel stay somewhere!

  26. Thank You for writing this article. I just returned from a two week vacation to Thailand and I was feeling depressed that I have to save whole year for a small vacation time and start all over again.
    Your article gave me positive vibes. I cannot leave full time job due to responsibilities towards my Mom and sisters so I believe I should try following your tips.

    :’)

  27. this was so good to read for me! I feel like I always make an excuse because I’m scared I won’t have enough time to see everything I want! I’m lucky to have a FT job where I only work 3 days a week. My vacation time is based on the hours a week I work ( 2 weeks of work equals 7 hours of vacation time. Meaning I don’t have a limit of how much time I am allowed to take…) HOWEVER in the back of my mind I am always thinking I can’t possibly take a vacation for only 4 days, what can I see in only that time? But I’ve definitely been coming at it from the wrong angle. Cheers!

  28. Interesting article. I’ve always got some excuse for why I can’t travel as much as I want to. Currently, it’s that I’m working 9-to-5 in a new job and my partner works different hours more precariously, so it’s hard to coordinate our schedules. But I agree that it’s a matter of attitude…and looking for what few opportunities we have, and going with them.

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