Maximizing Travel with a Full Time Job

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Let’s be honest. It’s not that easy to quit your 9-5 job and go travel, (though many travel bloggers will suggest otherwise!). Not only that, but many of us don’t even WANT to leave our 9-5’s. There’s a lot to be said for the stability of a predictable schedule, familiar, friendly coworkers, and a reliable paycheck. For the vast majority of people out there, working a steady job is a necessary part of life. But your full-time job doesn’t need to stop you from seeing the world. No, in fact, there are countless ways to maximize travel with a full time job.

We’re lucky enough to know a lot of fellow travel bloggers, and surprisingly, a huge number of them work full time, 9-5 jobs. Yet, they travel an AMAZING amount each year. And fortunately for our readers, they’ve shared their secrets below. Read on and you’ll see that it’s not only possible to travel far and frequently with a full time job, but you’ll get some ideas on how to travel more yourself!

Lena from Travelletters:

I have a full time job, two super active teenagers and a husband, and I just finished my three year Masters while I was working full time. And just for the past three years I went to five new countries, seventeen new cities and at least 10 places I have been to before. So you don’t have to quit what you do (unless you don’t like what you do) to be able to see the world.

How we are able to do it?

In Norway we have 5 weeks paid vacation and up to 9 days bank holidays. If bank holidays fall on ordinary work days you get in total 34 days off with pay. Add weekends to these days and you can have many short and few long trips. We always travel with SAS and Star Alliance to collect mileage points – because even if you pay with points you still collect points. My husband has had Diamond card and kids and I Gold card for the last two years. If you can take your vacation on short notice and don*t have any preference for where to go you can book your ticket the day before and get a 30% discount (for a Gold card member at least). Me and my 15 year old daughter chose the cheapest tickets last year for our girls’ trip. Luckily for us it was Hamburg, Germany, which was amazing and which we hadn’t visited before. We always use a third party provider like for our accommodation booking. But we read any payment and cancellation rules very carefully.

We use SAS MasterCard or AmEx to pay for everything from our trips to our groceries and this way collect tons of points. But you got to pay your credit card bills quickly, otherwise you will end up paying more than you save.

To get most out of our time off we choose to go on many short trips and only one “long” during a year. With the above tips you can travel a little bit cheaper, use your time off more efficiently and visit many more places.”

Jessica, My Feet Will Lead Me:

I am a (almost) full-time pharmacist (kill me now). I get 218 hours of PTO (paid time off) each year. I maximize it by trying to group my work days together before I go, so for example I try to leave for vacay at the end of a pay period, and work as many days in a row the week before I go so I use less PTO. I also never call in sick (unless I’m desperate) so that PTO can be used for vacay only. I don’t take paid holidays, and don’t take vacation during holidays so I can use that PTO to travel instead. I try to only use PTO for long trips, like a week or more. If I go somewhere local for a short trip, I try to swap shifts with others so I can get more days off in a row. Somehow, I managed to visit 10 countries last year and take about 7-8 weeks off just by using my PTO wisely. I’m also a fairly fast traveler, so I usually have a max of 2 weeks in one country or one week for a small country. I research heavily to make sure I see the most I can in short time and don’t waste time trying to figure out transportation or where to stay.

Hannah, Hannah Henderson Travel:

I’m lucky, I am able to buy extra holidays, which gives me 30 annual leave days, and 9 public holidays.  I often base my longer trips around public holidays, which means that I save on using my annual leave.  Another favourite tactic is to take a Friday and Monday off, and travel somewhere within a 2-3 hour flight time.  Get an early flight out on the Friday, and a late one back on the Monday and you have a full 4 days to explore a city!  Another tip, which depends on your work environment, is to switch to working a flexible working pattern.  I work a 9-day fortnight, and get every other Friday off – yes, it means working longer each day, but the 26 extra days off a year totally make up for it!

Miranda, A July Dreamer:

I work for a pharmaceutical company and I travel frequently, an example 2016 I traveled at least 1 weekend a month to somewhere abroad plus had 2 ten day vacations to South Korea and Zambia, 2017 I traveled a mixture of home {UK} and abroad and completed my 30 countries before 30 plus extra countries. In terms of how I do it;

I am fortunate to be based in the UK making mainland Europe and Northern Africa my playground because flights are frequent and sometimes cheap. Working 9-5 I am limited on when I can travel without taking vacation time off work so to maximise my travels I take weekends abroad. I search websites like Skyscanner for deals on flights and book hotels via and sometimes I search for deals on Expedia.

Because traveling during school holidays is most expensive, I travel when school holidays are over and take lots of winter escapes as that’s when flights to most places are cheapest. To give an example, I have 6 upcoming trips between January 2018 and March 2018 and the cheapest ticket is £10 return to France and most expensive is £30 return to Athens. When it comes to long distance travels, again I travel during school term and bought tickets to Bali for £300 return and same for South Korea and Zambia/South Africa. It is totally doable if you search and don’t limit yourself to when you can travel. Weekend budget travels and city escapes will become your best friend.

Nicole from Travelgal Nicole:

Finding time off of work to go everywhere you want can be difficult. I’m lucky to live in New Zealand where we value work life balance and people use most of their 23 vacation days per year.

There are a couple of times a year when the public holidays line up that you are able to take quite a few days in a row without using all of your precious leave. Most companies have a mandatory shut down period of Christmas and the New Year of two weeks. This is a great time to use a couple of your vacations days to go away. I also like to book the week off before Easter as we have a four day weekend for Easter and if you take the week off beforehand you will not only find cheaper fares but you can also get 10 days off for the cost of 4 vacation days.

And of course if your wanderlust is extreme like mine you talk your boss into giving you six months off unpaid so you can travel the world. This is a popular option here as it allows them to backfill your position while you are away and you can go explore!

Suzy, Wunderlander:

I have only been employed for 2 years and before that I was always self-employed. The limited time to travel was a big change. In my full-time job, I try to optimize vacation days as much as possible by including holidays. This saves vacation days. ; -) I have a little bit of luck, because sometimes I have to fly to customers in Germany, Austria or Switzerland in my job. Sometimes I just extend it by one day or even put my customer appointments on a Monday or Friday (if possible) and stay there for longer.

Since I have been working full time, I travel more frequently during the year but not as far away (Europe and surroundings) and also only in low season. The limited time and long flights to and from a far destination, including jet lag, contradicts my efficient nature. I’m saving money for this kind of open world trip and will get out of my job to travel from country to country.

Mar, Once in a Lifetime Journey:

I am slightly obsessed with squeezing out as much value as possible from my time off which allows me to be on the road for around 40% of the year. How do I do that now that I have a full time job at Google that requires minimal travel? For 10 years I had a job that required me to travel long-haul every week. I was typically away for most of the month, maybe spending one or two weeks at home.

In 2014, I joined Google in a role that did not require me to travel anymore but I still wanted to explore and continue traveling as much as I could, so I came up with all sorts of tricks to make the most of the 130+ days available to travel in a year (52 weekends, public holidays and vacation days). At the core of my principles lays the foundation: I prioritise travel over everything else: time with family, friends, going out, sleeping, shopping, the gym, you name it. So at every decision point I ask myself: Will this allow me to travel more? It is worth noting that I have little budget limitations as, with travel, time is usually a trade off of cost.

Here are some ways I make the most of the 130 days and increase that number further:

-Overnight flights. People usually think of extended weekend destination as those which are within a few hours. I don’t. I fly overnight and connect via other cities to reach far away places and to make the most of the days. That means I prioritise travel over sleep and I may head somewhere like Djibouti for four days, even though that means a 7h flight to Dubai followed by an overnight layover and an early morning 3h flight to Djibouti.

-Extend work travel with personal time off. I combine work travel with vacations and weekends. I do not need to travel as much as before for work but I have the occasional short trip every 6 weeks. I will make sure to extend that and explore the destination or a nearby place.

-Remote work. I am fortunate to work at a company which encourages flexibility and at a job that is global so it is not essential for me to be based in Singapore all the time. My boss is in India, my team and stakeholders are spread across the globe. I make the most of this by working from other offices often. In the weekends and evenings, I explore the destination. For example, I went to Vanuatu for the second time on a weekend trip from Sydney while working from our office there.

-Shifted working hours: When I am abroad, I make the most of the 24h in the day and the flexibility I am afforded to explore the area. I may even go to work really early so I can get out at 2pm and have the afternoon free, or come in late. When I was in San Francisco once, I went on a hot air balloon over Napa at 5am and arrived at the office at 11am.

-Take half days off. If I cannot shift my work hours, I may take half of a Friday or Monday off to travel to or from a destination I was at during the weekend.

-Unpaid leave. I have not done this as much as I could but have sometimes extended a trip with unpaid leave since I only get 17 days of paid vacation a year.

-I always book private tours and travel. When I am at a place, I try to make the most of every hour and that means I rarely take time-consuming public transport but instead hire private guides, drivers and tours who may pick me up from the airport and drive off to explore straightaway. I may sleep in cars on the way somewhere if the flight was a red-eye and I got no rest.

-Days in lieu. I may work on a public holiday I am not traveling on to take a day in lieu in the future. Or travel back from a work trip in the weekend to take a day at a later stage.

If you want to read more about my tips, tricks and clever ways to make the most of your time off, check out my detailed post How I travel 40% of the time with a full-time job.

 Lauren, The Down Lo:

Back when I had a full-time job in marketing, I would travel a lot to conferences and sales meetings. If I liked the destination, I would ask to extend the trip for a few days. If the flights were about the same price, they usually didn’t care or I’d cover the difference on my own. I would try to schedule these work trips at the beginning or the end of the week so I could spend the weekend in the destination without taking any time off. Similarly, if you’re allowed to work from home occasionally, your office doesn’t need to know that your home for the week is actually a hotel room. I’ve often worked from a beach or the ski slopes and had my co-workers none the wiser (as long as you’re not posting about it on social media!)

Julie, Eat Well Explore Often:

My husband and I both have full time jobs, but we definitely try to travel every chance we get. We always plan at least 1-2 longer trips, which we will use more leave for. This year, we went to Hawaii for about 11 days, while last year we went to Asia. I took 7 trips myself this year with most of them being smaller trips (3-5 days). My husband and I travel together with our toddler son, but we also do separate trips so that one of us stays home with our son.

We try not to travel peak times such as leaving on Friday and coming back on Monday to save on airline fares. We love finding good travel deals so usually its better to leave on Saturday vs Friday and come back on a weekday. For my job, I actually work Tuesday-Saturday, which helps with finding cheaper flight deals and my husband has a more flexible schedule, where he can work from home a few days if needed. Timing flights after work or doing half days can definitely help extend your leave and vacation time. We love using Google Flights to help find the best travel dates and fares. Finding out if you are able to telecommute or how much leave is accrued annually at your company is important, and don’t forget to negotiate the amount of leave you get when starting a new position! We are lucky to have flexible work schedules that allow us to travel as much as we do.

We do struggle with if we should take so much leave to travel at times, but honestly sometimes you just need to pack up and go! So if you are thinking about if you should really take that vacation, you should! You won’t regret it!

2017 Travel Schedule
January – San Francisco: 5 days
February – Hawaii: 11 days
April – Dallas: 3 days
May – Arizona/LasVegas (Antelope Canyon/Grand Canyon/Zion NPS): 5 days
Cartagena, Colombia: 5 days
June – Seattle/Vancouver: 5 days
July – St. Thomas Virgin Islands: 5 days
September – Santorini, Greece: 6 days
November – Los Angeles/Palm Springs/Joshua Tree NPS: 5 days

Julie = 7 locations
Duy = 5 locations

Veronika, Travel Geekery:

For years I’ve worked as an online marketing specialist. While the nature of the job is quite location independent, I’ve always had to work from the office for most of the time. However, with my current and previous bosses we’ve had a deal that I can travel, but work must come first. So while I do manage to travel quite a bit (about 3 months on the road per year), it’s not on vacation time and my travels are planned for times when nothing big is happening at work. I’ve been lucky enough that I didn’t have to cancel trips because of work.

I managed to mold my job into something of a hybrid: being a ‘normal’ fulltime 9-5 employee when I don’t travel and living a digital nomad life while on the road. In the last 4 years I didn’t take a fully offline vacation where I couldn’t get things done. I don’t think my recipe is universal, but if you have a tolerant boss, you might be able to make a similar arrangement work. Good luck!

Jenny, TraveLynn Family:

My husband works full-time, yet as a family of four we have travelled to a different place at least every month over the past year, including Thailand, Sri Lanka, Qatar, UAE, UK, Denmark, Belgium and India. This is partly because we moved to Bangalore, India, with my husband’s work, meaning that travel to much of Asia is now more accessible (shorter journey time and cheaper airfares). But mostly it is down to maximising his time off. Some people say we have it down to an art form!

At the beginning of the year, we work out all the public holidays for the year and then map his annual leave around that. We then book travel to depart as soon as he has finished work (predominantly that evening) and we often arrive arrive home from trips at 6am, sometimes 9am, and my husband goes straight back to work that morning! We often also ‘buy’ a couple of days annual leave from the year ahead. It also helps that our kids aren’t of school age yet, so we’re not limited only to school holidays. That will be a different beast to manipulate next year!

Jonathan, Everybody Hates a Tourist:

I work a full-time job in a field that can be done remotely, but for a company where remote work is not common. Despite this, I manage to take about 3 trips per year that last for about 4 weeks each. During these trips, I generally work half days remotely, using my PTO for the other half of the day. This allows my work to be covered (useful to the company since I am the only person in my company doing my job & otherwise I couldn’t take PTO) & allows me to travel for as long as possible (useful to me for my sanity). While some jobs will never be able to be done remotely, if you have a job that lets you work from home from time to time, then you can start to get creative. For example, if you want to travel to visit family for weekend, ask if you can work remotely to extend your trip for a couple of days. Sure, you’ll have to work, but your evenings will be free. Over time, as you prove that you are still getting your work done, you can then begin to leverage this for longer trips.

Nana, Patagonia Dreaming:

Having seasonal work allows me to travel full time four months a year.  I have the same job, but my contract is for the season, and when I come back, we start up with a new one. I work within tourism from September to May, and it is a lot of hard work because the season is intense and we need to save up money for the offseason. But I think that is the luxury of the hard work that I have around four months off to leave the place where we live and go somewhere else! Last offseason we went to Europe to visit my family and then we went 2.5 months to Asia to do backpacking in different countries. This year we will explore a little bit more of the North of Chile, probably crossing the borders to Peru and Bolivia.

Heather, Conversant Traveller:

In 2017 Hubbie and I travelled to Kenya, Sri Lanka, Peru, Columbia, and the Caribbean, as well as having several jaunts around the UK, where we live. I’m not saying this to brag, but to show that having a full time job doesn’t hold us back from travelling frequently, and shouldn’t stop you either. How do we do this? Our top tip is to shed the mentality that long haul trips need to be long length trips. We used to say we needed at least 2-3 weeks if travelling long haul, but after visiting Laos for just 5 days a couple of years ago, we realised that actually it’s possible to still feel like you’ve had a decent holiday with much less time. This year Kenya was just 8 days and Sri Lanka was only 7, yet we still saw a lot and came home feeling we’d been away much longer. The trick is to plan each day carefully and cram as much as you can into the trip.

Cathy, Nothing But New England:

Local exploration has been our favorite way to travel and adventure while working full time.  In a weekend we can visit a few states in New England or explore one in depth.  Despite living here our whole lives we still find new adventures and places that surprise us.  Exploring locally like a tourist gives a trip close to home a vacation experience.  We read local guides, check out tourism sites and of course get recommendations from fellow travelers.  Hit the road and explore your home state and see why local travel is incredible!

Vicki, Make Time to See the World:

No matter where you are in the world, if you work full time you are entitled to a set number of annual leave days a year. You can pick when you use them, but to get the most out of them, at the start of the year open a calendar and note down when all the public holidays fall. If you start thinking of these days as extra annual leave and plan your trips to incorporate them, you’ll find you can increase your leave allowance by up to 50%!

And if your company offers you the option to purchase additional annual leave – take it. Buy as much as you can, it will decrease your taxable income and so save you money on tax, and -obviously- give you extra leave. It’s a win win!”

Constance & Jimmy, The Adventures of Panda Bear Blog:

If you’re unable to take much time off, the best way to travel is to maximize your weekends and if possible, get to work early on Friday so you can leave Friday night available for travel. Since it’s generally cheaper to fly on Mondays, try to get Monday off and return later at night, this gives you a total of 3 days and only 1 day of paid time off (PTO)! If you roll it into a major public holiday, such as Memorial Day in the U.S., you’re looking at taking zero vacation days!

For longer trips, we consider where we want to go, what we want to do, and how long we want to stay. Once you figure it out, let your boss know ASAP so they can plan around your vacation schedule. It’s really easy to feel bad about traveling a lot, but once you book this in your work calendar, it’s set and you have something to look forward to! Plus if you do this and sprinkle in some long weekends, it’ll satisfy a good amount of the wanderlust without getting you fired.

Barbara, Jet-Settera:

After traveling for 2 years full-time, I realised that it was important for me to have a base and enjoy the benefits of a full-time job. A couple of years ago, I moved from the USA to Europe, because here people are allowed to take more time off and they have a better lifestyle. Also, there are many flights across Europe and we can easily access any city anywhere in Europe. Ever since I started working, I take one weekend trip every month. These are usually city breaks to nearby capitals. Last month, I was in Edinburgh, before that I was in Copenhagen and in Lisbon. I do longer trips every 3-6 months to sunnier destinations usually outside of Europe. These trips usually last for a week or two. It is ideal to be on vacation and get a full-time salary at the mean time. This way, I can afford to travel to more expensive destinations and stay in nice hotels and enjoy expensive hobbies.

Markus, The Roaming Fork:

I use a combination of methods to increase my travel days throughout the year, above the 4 weeks’ leave I am entitled to take from my job.

I book trips around public holidays and use as much of the weekend either side to allow a longer trip. For example, if a Monday is a public holiday, I can arrange the flight to leave on a Friday night, with a return the following Sunday. This can result in 4 trips each year of 8 or 9 days in length.

I also try to extend the days “on the ground” by flying overnight to and from the destination. As live in Australia, and generally travel to Asia, I can travel overnight in both directions. And as I use Airbnb, I can usually arrange for an early check-in to avoid the long wait for the room as can happen with hotels.

In addition to the above, I will sometimes take “leave without pay”, if I find I need an extra day or two to round out a trip.

Ruby, A Journey We Love:

 I work in the financial/banking industry, and currently have 22 paid vacation days every year. I’m an immigrant to the US, and so is my husband, but we were both from different countries so in order to find time to travel and to visit our relatives, we use the following techniques:

1. Use the weekends wisely – there are long holiday weekends that you can utilize, and by willing to fly out on the evening of a Friday and coming back on Monday evening, you get 3 full days of exploring a city or a destination as a weekend getaway.

2. Group several cities close together on your trip. If you want to go to Europe, skip flying from Amsterdam to Rome. Instead, group Amsterdam together with other cities in the Netherlands, or visit Belgium or even the UK. They’re adjacent to your original destination and if you’re a die hard traveler, you won’t resist that chance.

3. If your employer gives you time in lieu when you work on holidays, take it. There are certain holidays that may fall in the middle of the week. Work that time and pick another date that you’ll take your vacation day that works for you!

Mohit, Jaunting Journeys:

I am a full-time civil engineer and just as my work has no fixed timings so are my travel plans. There are hardly any fixed holidays for me and all depends on the site status. This has made me a spontaneous traveler and some are so immediate that I leave within few hours from the moment the thought evoked in my mind. Though I try to gather as many friends as possible but on such a short notice hardly someone manages to come along and that’s when I head out accompanied with my own soul.  Most of my trips circulate around places that are at 6-8 hours of travel from my workplace and longer trips are possible for only 2-3 times in a year which includes road-trips or traveling to the other corner of my country. All in all, I enjoy the way I travel because I intend to travel within my own country which is not only possible but also more adventurous to do without any prior plannings.

Wendy, Empty Nesters Hit the Road:

I absolutely love to travel, but like many people I have a 9 to 5 job and I am not wealthy.  So how do I get to see the world?  Well one way is to extend business trips.  This has been particularly effective for me when traveling for business to Asia.  I am based in Southern California, so airfare alone is typically $1,000-$1,500.  Since my employer pays for the airfare this immediately stretches my travel budget.

When I began to make annual business trips to South Korea I decided to add on days before or after each trip to explore Asia. For my first trip I arrived three days early and spent that time exploring Seoul.  My next add-on trips were to Hong Kong, Tokyo and Beijing.  Sometimes I traveled solo and other times I traveled with my daughter or husband.  Traveling this way has not given me nearly enough time in each country, but it has afforded me the opportunity to see the Great Wall, Victoria Harbour, Harajuku and much more.

Kallsy, Pages of Travel:

Since starting my career as an elementary teacher and my husband, Logan started his medical school program we’ve constantly been on the look-out for travel opportunities that fit with our busy schedules. One thing we’ve done to maximize our travel is by searching for opportunities near our current home in St. Louis, Missouri. When we moved to St. Louis we fell in love with the number of fun breweries, posh brunch places, and the bottomless free things to do (even the zoo is free!). But we tired of exploring our own city and craved something more. That’s when we started discovering local camping sites and hiking trails. We decided to try tent camping in a few Missouri State Parks and found that some of the best natural beauty we’ve seen is right here in our own backyard. For those who grind the 9-5 and are looking for a little more adventure, unwind at a state park in your area that offers scenic beauty.

Essential Takeaways

#1 Tip: Maximize your time off

You can’t be lazy with your days off if your goal is to travel as much as possible! You can wisely use every last bit of PTO, holidays, and long weekends to travel not only to new cities, but to new countries!

#2 Tip: Live somewhere with plentiful vacation allowances

The US, on the whole, is unfortunately not as generous with vacation time as many European countries are. If you’re open to relocating internationally, living in a country with plentiful paid time off could be a great solution.

#3 Tip: Be flexible and creative

Many of these travelers admit to taking flights at unusual hours, or heading straight from the airport to the office! This type of approach could be tough, but it will certainly maximize your travel opportunities.

#4 Tip: Don’t forget to explore locally

You can travel and have adventures wherever you are! Dive into your neighboring towns, states, and countries as much as possible. There’s not only a lot to find in these places, but the travel time will be reduced greatly, giving you more hours to explore.

#5 Tip: Make it a priority

It’s easy to not take advantage of your vacation time, or to stay home on a day off. But if you prioritize travel as an important part of your life, it’s amazing all that you can make time to see!

What other tips do you have for traveling more with a full time job? Share your best advice in the comments below!

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