There are many different excuses people make for not traveling, but one of the most common is definitely: "I don't have enough vacation days". Having a limited number of vacation days (this is an especially big problem in the US) will definitely make it more challenging to travel for longer periods of time or to far away locations, but that doesn't mean that it has to hold you back from seeing all the awesome places you have on your bucket list. As individuals who have been holding full-time jobs in the United States for many years, we have typically only had about 10-15 days of vacation per year at any given time. However, during that time we have been able to visit multiple countries per year. Do we wish we could have stayed for longer periods of time in each? Of course! However, we, and most likely many others out there, still like the stability and continuous income that come with a more traditional full time position. So in this article, we are hoping to offer some tips for people who don't want to leave their jobs to become a full-time digital nomad, but still have dreams of traveling the world.
Take advantage of long weekends and holidays
This may seem obvious, but it always surprises us how ineffectively people use these free days off. Last year, we organized a 10 day trip to the UK, Portugal, and Spain. We made sure to plan this during Thanksgiving week, which means that we were able to take our 10 day trip while only using up 3 of our vacation days! So even if we only have 12 days a year, that still leaves us with 9 that we can use to organize additional trips throughout the rest of the year. The key here is making sure to plan a little bit ahead so you know when your holidays are and you can make sure to use these to make the most of your paid vacation days.
Book direct flights
Even though this may seem obvious, sometimes the allure of saving money by having a stop over or two will add a surprising amount of time to your traveling. When vacation days are especially limited this can eat up valuable time you could be spending at your destination, so make sure to take the time to find the flights that are most direct to help you squeeze out some extra time.
Rollover vacation days
Some years are busier than others or sometimes there just isn't enough money in the bank to take a long trip. Thankfully, if there are vacation days that go unused these will typically rollover into the next year. If you are unable to take a trip one year or there is a particularly long trip you know in advance you want to take, save some of your vacation days for the next year. Waiting is never fun or easy, but if it means you can take the trip you've always wanted it may be worth it.
Everyone has different opinions on remote work (personally, we think it is awesome!). Even if you are a fan of remote work, there is a good chance your company or maybe just your boss is not as big of a fan. Or maybe it's a concept they are just not too familiar with. Remote work makes many companies or managers very nervous as they believe their workers will not be attentive to their work, unavailable, or just lazier when they are not being watched over or surrounded by other people working. This can be overcome, however, gradually and by building up trust with your superiors. In order to get started, the best thing is to make sure that you show that you can work effectively and independently while you are in the office. Show your bosses they don't have to worry about you getting your work done even if they are not paying attention to you. Once a good amount of trust has been built, ask if it is possible to work from home on a Friday or Monday in order to give yourself a longer weekend somewhere. If this goes well you can gradually ask for more days at a time. Some bosses or companies will never be completely comfortable with it, but if you take the time to build trust most will likely find some way to compromise with you and let you work remotely at least a few days every year.
Unpaid time off
During the time I have been in the corporate world, whenever I would receive my offer letter there would always be the section stating how many paid days off I would be receiving when starting. I would always look at this number sigh, remember I was grateful to be getting any job offer at all and then move on. What I never thought to question was the word paid. I was fascinated to realize that if I was willing to sacrifice a paycheck or two, I could add some more days or even weeks to the amount of time I could travel! Different companies may have different policies around unpaid days off, but if you plan ahead and you can afford to sacrifice the pay while you are traveling, then definitely talk to your HR department to find out how you can request unpaid days off.
Leverage business trips
Last year we were able to travel to nine different countries and multiple different cities in the U.S. (our home base) within a matter of months. The only reason we were able to make this happen is because both of us had multiple business trips. Whenever we had a business trip to somewhere we thought was cool to explore, we would always make sure to extend our trip through the weekend so that we wouldn't have to take additional days off and to help save on travel costs. As long as the price in flights isn't too much higher for flying out on a Sunday night or Monday morning or for flying out of a different city, most companies won't care when or where you book your return trip home from. Even though this would usually only leave us with a weekend to explore a particular city or country, with proper planning this is still enough time to see most of the major sights that a new place has to offer.
This could be a little bit riskier or more controversial. For people who rarely get sick or who are willing to take the risk of not having sick days leftover for the day an actual sickness comes, you may be able to get away with using your sick days to add a few days of travel to your trip. Some companies have policies against this and if that is the case then the risk is even greater and may not end up being worth it. However, if your company does not really care how you use your sick days or if you have a pretty open or comfortable relationship with your manager (if possible, it's better to discuss with them ahead of time so they don't get the impression you are misleading them and so that if you ever do get sick they know that you aren't just trying to take an extended trip) this can be a good way to get that extra one or two days that you need for your trip.
Having a limited number of vacation days is never ideal, but it shouldn't stop anyone from pursuing their travel goals. Using some of the tips from this article will hopefully give people a starting point for getting their travel plans on the move. Are there any tips we missed? What are the best ways to make the most of your vacation days? Let us know in the comments below!
We are excited to share our thoughts and (hopefully) helpful tips on traveling, exploring, and dancing around the world!