One of two travel questions we get all the time is related to getting time off work to travel. First off, I must say that we are lucky to work for employers which allow decent amounts of time off per American standards. This element of our benefits packages are very important to both of us. We carefully manage our vacation benefits in order to maximize our time away each year. We also believe that traveling frequently while working full time is something that is a matter of personal choice. Like almost everything else in life, there are trade-offs. At this point in our lives, travel is our passion. Many of our choices, both personally and professionally, reflect this.
From A Human Resources Point Of View
As an long-time HR professional, I’ll tell you it is very important to learn the policies at your place of employment. There are many policies and procedures you will need to learn, especially if you are new. Having a thorough understanding of your vacation benefits and company’s practices are paramount to traveling more while working full time.
Here are a few of the things you need to ask about and learn inside and out:
- How much vacation time will you earn each year?
- Is it “use it or lose it” or can you roll over unused time from year to year?
- What increments can you use vacation time in? One-hour at a time? Or full days only? One week every 6 months?
- What paid holidays or office closures does your employer observe each year?
- Can you use vacation time in conjunction with holidays or office closures?
- Does your office allow for things like flex time, compensatory time, or making up time?
- How far in advance do you have to request time off? What is the process?
- If you are sent on a work conference or training out of town, can you extend your visit a few days?
- Can someone (spouse, friend, sibling etc.) accompany you on work trips?
- Are you allowed to earn frequent flyer miles or hotel points for work trips which your employer is paying for?
Managing Policies and Procedures is Key
Trust me, each employer is different with these policies, and it makes a big difference in how you approach travel planning. For example, I worked for an employer where I had to be at work either the day directly before or directly after a paid holiday. If I was gone both days, I would have to also take vacation day for the holiday. This employer’s practice could actually have caused me to use more vacation time than I had planned. Knowing this policy nuance changed the way we planned vacations at the time.
As another example, in order to use less vacation time on a recent trip, I was able to work two 12-14 hour days at a festival my employer was hosting in exchange for using less vacation time. So again, learn your policies and workplace practices! Once you know these things it’s time to start planning.
Here are 5 tips to on how to travel more while working full time:
- Plan trips that maximize time away. This might include evening departures after work or return flights home as late as possible the day before returning to work. We can often be found on 5:45pm weekday departures, or crawling into bed at midnight on Sunday after traveling home. Find the options that allow you to maximize your time! Scheduling this way allows you to spend as much time as possible in your destination while minimizing time off work. For instance, plan a trip where you might depart on a Thursday after work, take Friday off, and have a paid holiday on Monday, and you can get a great 4 day trip in with only one vacation day used! Be sure to utilize those weekends, holidays, etc. Sometimes, an extended weekend away is all you need!
- Ask for time off. It really amazes me how many people just won’t do this. Yes, the reasons are varied. Taking time away from work can have many challenges. But trust me, on your death bed I’m sure you won’t go out saying, “I wish I would have worked more”. Generally speaking, the modern workplace is changing, and work/life balance is becoming more real. In my time in the workforce, I’ve never had a supervisor reject a reasonable request for time off.
- Make travel a priority. I know some of this is easier said than done and traveling comes at a cost. We make traveling a priority in many aspects of our daily lives. As a result, we oftentimes miss out on things like Labor Day BBQ’s or we leave town the day after Christmas. Making travel a priority also impacts our everyday financial choices, which ultimately allows us to fund our travels. We save on everyday expenses by shopping for deals, using coupons, and oftentimes, going without.
- Don’t waste precious vacation time. Again, a very personal choice. I will not use vacation time for things that do not include actual vacation. Yes, there’s been plenty of times I would rather sit at home and chill than report to work. Sure, sometimes there’s really fun things going on during the work week that I choose not to participate in because I won’t take time off for it. It all boils down to the fact that I will not waste vacation time for something that does not hold the same value as an actual vacation does. If I’m sick, I’m sick…and use my sick time. But if I just don’t feel like going to work, I suck it up, put on my big-girl heels, and head to the office.
- Find the best travel deals. We travel bargain hunt. All. The. Time. Oftentimes, the deal dictates the destination. There is a bit of contradiction in that holding down full time jobs allows us to travel. However, I simply cannot imagine not putting our hard earned money to work for us in the best way possible, even when it comes to vacation planning. By finding great travel deals and minimizing our expenses on the road, we are able to travel more. Again, we stretch our pennies every place we can! While you won’t likely ever find us couchsurfing to save a few bucks, you also won’t generally find us in the penthouse suite at the Four Seasons either.
Personally, I like to maintain a minimum of 80 hours of vacation time in my leave bank at work, but generally sit at about 110 hours of time or more at any given time. This allows the freedom to be able to go! I learned the policies, built up a decent allotment of time using the practices mentioned above, and have carefully planned and managed my vacation time ever since. My hubby has done similar things at his job.
By following these tips, we generally are able to go several places each year. Last year alone, we went on a variety of trips. With a thorough understanding of your workplace policies, setting your priorities, and planning in ways that maximize your time, it is possible to travel big while maintaining your normal 9:00 to 5:00. This has always been something we strive to showcase through By Land and Sea.
Do you have questions on workplace vacation policies that I can help answer? Are there tips you would add to this list? Comment below and let’s talk traveling big while maintaining your full time job!!