“Where are you guys off to next? It seems like you’re always traveling!”
I hear that a lot. Too much. From some, it’s genuine. From others, however, it’s condescending. Judgmental. Snide.
I’m not always sure what they’re implying. Perhaps they think we’re all play and no work? Or maybe they think we blow all our money on travel and have nothing in the bank? Although neither of these assumptions could be further from the truth, I think what people are really saying is …
“I wish I could find time to travel as much as you guys!”
Ah, if only they would just come out and say it! Then I could tell them the great news — they can!
My husband and I both work full-time and still manage to travel the world. I’m here to help you do so, too. Having a family, a mortgage, and a career doesn’t have to be a travel dream killer. If we’ve managed to see more than 20 countries each, then you can, too! Here are some of the time-saving tactics we use to maximize our time to travel:
1.) See more than just one country at a time.
Most Americans only have two weeks available for vacation each year (and most don’t even use it!). If you’re from Europe, well, good for you. Most of our trips are just two weeks long. Although we don’t want to pack too much in (let’s face it, you’ll never see everything), we do try to see and do as much as possible in a country or region during the limited time we have. If we’re visiting a region of smaller countries, we try to visit more than one country. Other times, we spend two full weeks in one country, but travel around that country as much as possible. For two weeks, we mean business.
2.) Buy an extra week of vacation time.
If you can afford it, take an unpaid week of vacation time every few years. Although this will not usually be necessary, it can be a useful approach if you are visiting a region that is quite expensive to reach (i.e. the U.S. to New Zealand) and you are unlikely to ever travel there again. We have done this before, though it’s not something we plan to make a habit of. It has helped us be able to take our annual two week trip, as well as to spend a week visiting my parents at a later point in the year. Just remember as you are planning your travel budget for the coming year, calculate in the amount of money you will be losing from taking an unpaid week. This way you will make sure you do not over-spend on your trip if you really cannot afford to.
3.) Broaden your definition of travel.
Stop defining travel in terms of how many miles your destination is from your home or whether or not you can only get there by flying. Travel is about exploration, adventure, and learning — and you can experience that just down the street from your house. Be a local tourist. Our home base is New England — one of America’s most beautiful regions. We have it all — beautiful coastline, beaches, historic sites, and stunning wilderness. No matter where you live, there are places waiting to be discovered and explored. We just have to learn not to turn our nose up at them just because they are close to home!
4.) Use your 3-day weekends wisely.
The key to cramming in some quality travel over a three day weekend is to plan in advance. Do you plan to fly or drive? How long will that take, and what will the holiday weekend traffic be like? Leave the night before your holiday begins, if possible. Take advantage of flight deals offered by some airlines like Southwest. You may end up finding it’s not that much more expensive to fly somewhere farther away than it is to drive somewhere close. Use these long weekends to travel to places you couldn’t reach on a normal weekend.
5.) Invite family and friends to join you on your travels.
One drawback to traveling on the weekends is it diminishes your opportunity to spend time with your friends and family. Often it can feel like you have to choose between your two loves — travel and people! Why not bring them with you? Make it a group event. Split gas money. Book an apartment, suite, or large camp site and share the cost. Cook together at your accommodations rather than going out to eat. Bring beer with you rather than going out for drinks. This not only allows you to travel and socialize — but it also saves you money!
6.) Try expat life for awhile.
This option isn’t for everyone. As you know, we recently relocated to China, where we’ll be living for the next year. We’re able to do this because of Justin’s job. If your current job does not provide you with this opportunity, there are plenty of jobs that will. Try teaching English overseas for a few years. Or, is there a way you can perform your job remotely? If you really want the experience of living overseas, get creative and be willing to make the sacrifices required to make it happen.
7.) Leverage business travel opportunities.
Does your job provide you with opportunity to travel? Lucky you! Consider staying through the weekend and paying your own lodging to allow yourself time to explore. Is your job sending you to a country you might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit? Consider taking your spouse! This way you both get to explore the destination, but at less than half the cost in terms of airfare, food, and lodging! Last year, we were able to travel to Spain because of Justin’s job and it cost us 1/3 of what it would if we had gone on our own!
8.) Combine holidays with your vacation time.
Pretty much every country offers holiday weeks or long-weekends. Take advantage of this free time off and combine it with a vacation day or two. Turn your three-day weekend into a four or five-day getaway. Or, plan your trip during a time when you get a holiday off so that you save one vacation day for a future trip. If you get a week off from work at Christmas and New Year’s, why not take your two weeks of vacation time, combine it with your holiday, and give yourself a three week trip?
Finding time to travel doesn’t have to mean abandoning the rest of your life to do nothing but travel. These tips, combined with some tricks of your own, will help you maximize your opportunities to travel.
Although we used to find ourselves pining to just travel the whole world in one go, we’re finding that desire has waned. We’re learning we prefer to travel in smaller doses. We actually like being home. We like having a routine. We like knowing that there are endless places out there that we have yet to explore. It gives us something to look forward to.
Travel at your own pace. Travel to your own places. But don’t let time be an excuse not to travel at all.
What ways have you found to make the most of your limited time to travel?