Most people typically take 1, maybe 2 big vacations a year. This is especially true in the US, where paid vacation time is seriously lacking in general, and the negative stigma around taking time off from work is, unfortunately, more than just a myth. Up until recently, I was definitely someone that planned only one long-haul trip a year (at most) and never really considered any other possibilities outside of that. Traveling multiple times a year was just something that was never within the scope of my reality, to be honest.
But last year, I had a complete shift in mentality. So much so, that I ended up going to 15 different destinations in 12 months, all while maintaining my full-time job.
To be clear, I have a pretty good job that allows me to do this. I am able to take unlimited PTO (paid time off) within reason, and I can work remotely once in a while, too. That said, I didn’t go rogue last year and take 15 straight trips to far-off places like Bali or Seychelles. Yeah, nope (though a girl can dream!). I’d have probably gotten fired that way. What I did do instead was take full advantage of every possible experience I could get my hands on to go somewhere new – to cities as close as Palm Springs (a 2-hour drive) and as far as Sydney (a 14-hour flight). In 12 months, I didn’t turn down the opportunity to go anywhere – driving distance, short flights, long flights. Whatever I could get my hands on and whatever opportunities came my way, I jumped at!
As I did this, I quickly found myself in the middle of some interesting conversations with my friends and coworkers. How are you traveling so much? You live such a fairytale life! How did you manage that? Didn’t you just go to so-and-so 2 weeks ago? You’re leaving again? So soon?
I’ll start out by saying that I didn’t win the lottery or amass a ridiculously large fortune. I didn’t quit my job or become a digital nomad. In fact, in the ‘digital nomad’ and backpacking worlds, I’m sure 15 trips is pretty modest. But for a full-time job owning, not-a-trust-fund-baby earning individual such as myself, I was still able to get out of my bubble and go on an adventure around 1.25 times each month for 12 months straight, which is pretty fantastic in my opinion! After one year of hustling and juggling on duty responsibilities with off duty (hey hey) dreams and ambitions, I can say with absolute certainty that incorporating more travel into your lifestyle is NOT easy, but it is 100% doable. If increasing your travels is your goal, put aside any excuses you might have – your PTO benefits, your finances, your comfort, your schedule. Dispel all of those mental roadblocks right now and just hear me out. Still with me? Good! We’re ready.
In one year of travel, in one year of going on 15 trips on top of a Monday-through-Friday job, here are some of my biggest takeaways, learnings, and tips that you can start implementing right NOW to make this year, next year, and the next one after that your BIGGEST year of adventure yet.
How to Travel More this Year, Even if You Work Full-Time: 11 Actionable Tips
1. PRIORITIZE IT
This might seem like I’m starting out with a bit fat ‘duhhhh,’ but I can say one thing with absolute certainty: if it’s not the biggest priority in your life, you won’t do it. It’s that simple. You may think you want to travel more, but there will always be life’s distractions along the way. Going out on the weekends, buying lunch instead of cooking, shopping… collectively, these things add up (I know, because I’m so guilty of buying things I don’t need. I’m looking at you, Trader Joe’s & Zara). Unless you have a decent cash flow and zero social life, you will need to make some sacrifices and reevaluate your life choices a little in order to open up your schedule to traveling more frequently. For me, this meant not being home as many weekends, and sometimes missing out on gatherings or friends’ birthdays. It also meant that I needed to watch my credit cards more closely, because I would drop a significant amount of money to book a trip, and then work extra hard to pay it off as quickly as possible by being more frugal, selling things on Poshmark, and saying no to drinks (and guac) at restaurants.
2. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Kill the idea in your head that ‘travel’ = a 3+ hour flight, a hotel, or even multiple days away from home. In the past 12 months, several of my trips I’m telling you about about were road trips, day trips, and camping trips, in addition to the weekend flights and the long-haul getaways.
Travel doesn’t necessarily mean going somewhere far for an extended period of time. It means experiencing something new and getting out of the little bubble that is your life.
If you work a Monday to Friday job and think that this prevents you from seeing the world, you’d be so, so wrong (unless you live on an isolated island that’s hundreds of miles away from land. Then I’d give you a pass). Saturdays and Sundays are prime opportunities to get out and explore, even if you just hit the road or hop on a 1-hour domestic flight. In fact, if you only have weekends off and a minimal PTO package of 10 days vacation, that’s still 114 FREE days at your disposal each year. More than one-third of the year! Ever thought about that?
3. MAP IT OUT
With those 114+ days, which weekends are most ideal to plan travel around? Do you have any 3-day weekends this year that are already baked into your PTO? Do you know you’ll want to go somewhere for your birthday or for the holidays? Start each year by mapping out some goals you have for your travels, based on the time you have available. Opportunities don’t always jump out and slap you in the face – you have to be proactive to make things manifest. And, when you map out key dates, you’ll space out your travel plans out in a way that makes the hurdle of saving money and planning your itinerary much less daunting.
Last year, I took a 3-week trip to Australia towards the end of the year (my only long-haul trip), but did so during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I did this because I knew that my company takes off on Thanksgiving and the following Friday each year, so those days wouldn’t be counted. In total, although I was gone 21 days, once you factor out weekends and paid vacation days, I was only out on 13 days of PTO.
4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RED EYE FLIGHTS
You can either love or hate red-eye (overnight) flights, but you just can’t deny their practicality when it comes to making good use of your precious time. There’s something kind of magical and completely disorienting about going to sleep in one part of the world and waking up in another, and although I don’t necessarily ever manage to fall asleep on flights, I do take red eyes whenever I need to if it helps me to 1. maximize my time in a new city, or 2. minimize my time away from work.
As an added bonus, red eyes are often some of the cheapest departures you can book. The extra cash you saved can go towards booking a hotel with a nice bed so you can catch up on Zzz’s once you get to your destination.
5. TAP INTO WORK TRAVEL
Do you have to travel for work? This could be great grounds for a vacay! If you have to go to a new city or state for a work trip, and you wouldn’t mind some extra time there to sight-see, do some research into flights to see if it costs around the same price to fly back immediately after your meeting as it would if you flew back a few days later. If the costs are similar, and you have a good relationship with your boss or with HR, make the case for allowing you to extend your trip, even if just for a day or two. Obviously you will most likely need to pay for any accommodation outside of work days on your own dime, but having your company cover your round-trip flight can be a huge cost savings. Last year, I went to Salt Lake City for a work trip on a Wednesday morning, and asked my boss if I could fly back on Friday. That gave me the entire day on Thursday, as well as Friday morning, to experience Utah for the first time! I wandered the streets of Salt Lake City, hiked, did yoga (in a crater), and explored Park City all in the less than 48 hours!
If you’re lucky, you might also work at a company that has a work-from-home / telecommuting policy. Well, working from ‘home’ doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be in your living room. In my opinion, as long as you have WiFi and can work during your company’s standard business hours in the local time zone, then I don’t see why you can’t leverage this policy to work remotely from anywhere else in the world. Being from Hawaii, I was actually able to go to Hawaii twice last year because I worked remotely both times. While this meant I needed to start working around 6:30 or 7 am each morning to clock in on time in Los Angeles, it also meant that my afternoons were free, and that I could spend more time with my family and friends in the evenings.
6. THINK OF YOUR VACATION TIME LIKE YOU THINK OF YOUR SALARY
While companies in the US seem to be getting increasingly more ‘hip’ and flexible about benefits, our country is still somewhat far behind as a whole when it comes to the number of days off most people average. But have you ever considered treating your vacation days as an extension of your salary? By that I mean, have you ever thought of negotiating for additional PTO like you negotiate your take-home pay? This might not always work, especially if your company is a bit more traditional or strict, but if travel and time off are important to you, perhaps consider bartering for more PTO days in exchange for other things you care a bit less about, like stock options or base salary. Obviously, these things are all very important, but if during your next performance review you could get 2 additional days off with a just little strategic negotiating, that could be a huge win!
Think about this tactic if you’re applying for new jobs too. Rather than just going back and forth with a potential new employer over money, consider making a strong case for why you feel you deserve additional vacation time as part of your compensation package in order to accept their offer. Depending on their capabilities, they might just be able to give it to you.
7. OPEN A TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
You already most likely use a credit card every day. Swap that for a card with travel benefits and you’ll essentially be ‘saving’ for a trip with every swipe. I’ve gone on at least 3 trips last year using points exclusively to pay for flights. And, while I’ve only just begun to dip my toe into travel credit cards, I can definitely say without a doubt that they are a great move if you’re serious about increasing the frequency that you travel. I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and I’m already considering upgrading to the Reserve. Before you sign up for any card, make sure you read up on everything you have to do to earn the sign-up bonus! When I signed up for Chase Sapphire Preferred and spent a certain amount within the first 3 months, I was awarded 50,000 bonus points, which were redeemable for something like $700 towards flights purchased through Chase’s rewards center.
If you don’t have a good enough credit score, or sufficient credit history, to get either of the Sapphire Cards, you can do what I did when I was still in college and start with a Chase Freedom Card (another great points card and easier to qualify for). I had the Freedom Card for 2 or 3 years and worked on growing my credit score so that I could eventually qualify for Sapphire. Now, I have both cards and I can’t recommend them enough.
8. START A (REMOTE) SIDE HUSTLE
Do you have any skills, projects, or opportunities that you might be able to work on remotely? Can you possibly do any of these for money? In addition to my job, I also freelance and create content for brands on the side which allows me to help finance my trips, my savings account, and my penchant for craft beer and fancy coffee. In addition, I also audit my closet and my possessions every so often to sell things on Poshmark and LetGo for extra cash.
9. VISIT FRIENDS IN FAR-OFF PLACES
Think about your circle of friends and relatives and where in the world they are currently living (or check social media if it’s been a while since you’ve last seen them). Odds are, you might know someone living somewhere you’d like to visit. If you know them well, this could mean a free couch or spare bedroom to stay in. If you don’t, you could still potentially have a good resource on the ground to meet up with and help show you around! Last year, I went to Scottsdale and Baltimore to visit my best friend and stayed with her in her apartment the whole time. When I studied abroad in college, I also have really fond memories of planning trips around international friends’ hometowns in places like Prague and Madrid, and these ended up being some of my best experiences from my entire semester in Europe.
10. EXPLORE YOUR OWN BACKYARD
I don’t know what it was about my mindset growing up, but I used to only think about foreign countries when it came to wanting to go places. But when you think about it, odds are that where you are is a place that tons of other people flock to visit every year, too. There’s so much beauty that can be found in your own city, state, and country that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. Being in California for the last 8 years, I can happily say that I’ve fallen in love with traveling around this state – my favorite places to travel to so far have been Big Sur, Solvang, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, and San Diego. In fact, in the last few years I fell so deeply in love with California that I made a resolution to focus more on US travel, which pushed me to go to 8 different states in the past year alone. Rethink where you’re from and look at your hometown or home country with new eyes. There’s so much that can be seen without having to travel too far!
11. BE OPEN TO DIFFERENT SITUATIONS
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to go somewhere only to find out that no one was available to come with me. While I love traveling with Jacob, I realized that if I really wanted to travel more, I’d have to expand my horizons and explore other options equally. This can shake out a bunch of different ways – traveling with friends, family members, people you’ve met on previous travels, coworkers, or even friends of friends. Or, if you’re feeling up to it, there are so many different ways to tackle solo travel these days too. Anything from true solo traveling (booking and doing everything yourself), to cinching a spot in a group tour, to backpacking, to hostel-hopping. Last year, I went to Australia with my parents for 2 weeks, and then took a detour to spend an absolutely incredible 5 days in Tasmania by myself. While eating at restaurants alone and planning a solo itinerary can be a bit stressful, it can reap serious rewards if you find yourself faced with an opportunity to go somewhere new and none of your friends are able to tag along. If full-on solo travel is just not your thing, group travel can give you all the benefits of solo travel with more peace of mind and the opportunity to expand your network with like-minded, adventure-loving people along the way!
I get it. Traveling can seem really daunting and impossible sometimes, especially if you’re working a full-time job. The time off, the costs, the effort it takes to plan – all of these things can be hard to pull off when you’re gone for 8+ hours a day Monday through Friday. But when you consider how much of an impact travel has on keeping you happy and motivated throughout the year, the time you dedicate to making it a priority has a significant return on overall quality of life.
Start small with your travel goals and change your mindset towards what it means to actively seek out adventure. Odds are, it might be easier than you think (even if it’s just a day trip somewhere 2 hours away from your home!), and the only thing standing between you and your goal is a bit more proactive planning and some creative thinking.
Check out more of Rachel’s tips and tricks at https://racheloffduty.com/