(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
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
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
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
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
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?