It can be hard to travel when you work full-time. Especially if you’re American.
After all, the United States is the world’s only advanced economy that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time. Thanks, (rampant, unchecked) capitalism.
However it is still possible to travel with limited paid time off. During my first year of working full-time, I only took off 15 days. In that time, I squeezed in trips to Jordan, Nicaragua, Las Vegas, and several trips around Colorado.
Here are some of my tried-and-true tips for traveling as often as possible while working full-time.
1. Extend a long weekend.
President’s Day weekend in Mexico City
If you have Monday off for a national holiday, extend your long weekend by taking off Friday or Tuesday (or both!). That way you will have a three- or four-day vacation, which is plenty of time for a trip – even an international trip.
How I did it: I had Monday off for President’s Day, so I also took off Friday. This allowed me to spend three glorious days in Mexico City.
2. Add a few days onto a work trip.
Champagne-tasting in Napa on Monday before a conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Wine not?
If you’re going to a conference, take a day off before or after. Odds are you won’t have much time to sight-see during the conference, so it’s nice to have an extra day to explore.
How I did it: My former company sent me to a conference in San Francisco. So I took Monday off and spent it winery-hopping in Napa and Sonoma, and then spent the rest of the week at the conference.
3. Travel over the holidays.
Thanksgiving in Nicaragua
Though it can be tough to be away from family over the holidays, taking a vacation during the holidays is a great way to maximize vacation days. For example, if you have off Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, you can take off Monday through Wednesday to have the whole week off.
One caveat – flight prices are often higher over the holidays, so book as far in advance as possible.
Related: How to Plan an Awesome but Inexpensive Trip Abroad
How I did it: My last company gave us Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. So I took off Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and spent the week in Nicaragua.
4. Travel somewhere for the weekend within driving distance.
Hanging out in Breckenridge, Colorado, one of my favorite ski towns.
You don’t have to go far to travel! All you have to do is road-trip to a nearby town for the weekend. There is nothing better than cramming your friends into a house to cook, drink, and hang, even if you’re only a town away.
Pro tip – rent an Airbnb. Airbnb rentals can be inexpensive when you split the cost between 10 or more people. Plus, you can cook your meals at home, which saves money.
Bonus – here’s a $40 Airbnb coupon code for your next stay!
How I did it: When I lived in Colorado, my friends and I took tons of weekend trips to places like Wyoming, Breckenridge, Aspen, and Telluride. For weekend trips, I recommend driving somewhere less than three hours away if you only have a two-day weekend.
5. See where your local airport flies direct.
A five-day trip to Iceland over Memorial Day weekend
Everyone knows that direct flights are (obviously) less hassle. But they’re also usually cheaper.
Pro-tip – you can use Google Flights to see where your airport flies direct. In the “Where from?’ box, type in your local airport. In the “Where to?’ box, input a region or continent, i.e. Central America or Europe.
Underneath in the ‘Stops’ menu, select non-stop.
Google Flights will then generate a map of where you can fly direct.
As you can see, Denver flies direct to four airports in Europe:
- Reykjavík, Iceland
- London, UK
- Frankfurt, Germany
- Munich Germany
Flying direct saves you money, time, and headache. To see more of my tips on getting cheap flights, check out my Travel Resources.
How I did it: I used Google Flights to find direct flights from my home airport, which is how I found out Denver flies direct to Iceland. This allowed me to spend five days road-tripping in Iceland.
6. Try to fly somewhere (somewhat) close.
Somewhere not like Jordan, ha
When you have limited vacation time, it’s easier to fly somewhere close. This is due to several factors: time, jet lag, and cost.
If you only have two weeks, don’t fly twenty hours to Thailand and spend your vacation popping melatonin. Head to somewhere closer that offers a similar experience, like Belize or Nicaragua.
How I did this (poorly): Two years ago, I flew to Jordan for an eight-day trip. While I had a fantastic time, I was absolutely wrecked after my trip – the jet lag was brutal.
7. If you do want to travel somewhere far, save up all your days.
My big trip to Paris and London
If you really want to go to, let’s say, New Zealand, save up all your days for one big trip. This way you’ll have plenty of time to explore your dream destination as well as recover from the jet lag.
How I did it: I wanted to spend two full weeks in Europe, so I didn’t take much time off before that. Then I was able to spend two guilt-free weeks in France, Belgium, and England.
8. Get shit done at work.
This is possibly the most important tip on the list. Work hard and become known in the office as a high-performer. If your boss and coworkers know you get shit done, they won’t bat an eye when you take a few days off.
A few other job-related tips:
Look for a company that offers flexible paid-time off (PTO).
Flexible PTO means that you can take paid-time off as long as it’s approved by your manager. When I worked in marketing for a tech company in Colorado, I took off 25-30 days a year.
More and more companies are offering flexible PTO (especially tech companies), so while you’re job-hunting, keep that in mind.
Related: How to Find a Job after Traveling
Negotiate your paid time off before signing your contract.
Stress that it’s a priority – many companies will be willing to meet in the middle.
Check into your company’s policy about remote work
Working remotely is another great way to extend your time in a destination.
9-5ers – how do you manage travel and working full-time? What are some of your tips for others trying to do so?
Note – this article was originally published in May, 2017, but didn’t go out to my RSS or email subscribers so I decided to republish it.
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4 thoughts on “How to Travel A LOT While Working a Full-time Job”
Hey! My advice that half days are your friend. If you’re only traveling a few hours away (either by plane or car) leaving Friday at noon allows you arrive in time for dinner and not just drinks. At the same time, come back as late as possible Sunday night. Take the 9pm flight or leave at that time while driving. If you’re a night owl getting home at midnight isn’t that late, and you get the full day on Sunday. Plus you beat traffic. Something about doing weekend trips that way, adding a few more hours on each end, make it seem longer to me. Then you have that other half day for another long-ish weekend.
I totally agree. Though I do like to come back around 6 p.m. on Sundays so I have time to relax before the work-week.
I agree with everything on your list, but most particularly #8! If you get things done and squared away before you leave, your supervisor/manager shouldn’t mind you taking off for vacation and your return to work won’t be as overwhelming. I work as an engineer so I ensure my calendar is up-to-date with when I’m out of office, and I have two sets of back-up contacts for each project I’m working on so people can contact them while I’m away. Only a small select number of people have my person phone number, so if there is a true emergency at work, they know to call me if I’m needed. So far, never had a phone call!
Anyway, it’s nice that there’s people out there inspiring others to still travel even when you have a career!
That sounds like a really good system! Always good to have several back-up contacts.
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