365 days in a year, 52 weekends. If you’re like me, you look at those days and weekends as a lot of time to travel.
Often, people ask me how I travel so much with a full time job. The sub-questions always lurking after someone asking that question: How can you afford that much travel?; How do you get so many days off?; How do you find the time to plan so many trips?
So many people see travel as an escape to their every day reality. I don’t. I like my job, a lot. As much as I love traveling, it’s not because it’s a break from that job so much as it is because travel energizes me, it inspires me, it educates me, it ultimately makes me better at my job.
I’m fortunate to currently work for a company with a flexible holiday policy. If your vacation days are limited, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel- it just means you have to be a bit more creative about how you use that time.
3 Tips for Traveling Often, With a Full-Time Job
Budget for Travel
The best way to commit to traveling more is to create a dedicated budget for it. I put aside money for trips the same way I do for my bills, rent, gym, groceries, going out, and so on. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, even $25 per paycheck adds up over the course of a year. But, set an amount and stick to it.
The only key to saving money for travel is make travel a priority. There’s no way around that.
The top tips that’ve helped me save for travel over the years?
- Meal prep instead of buying lunch out (healthier too). Be smart about where you buy your groceries- I’ll buy fresh produce from a farmers market and dry staples (chickpeas, beans, eggs, spices) from the cheapest grocery store that’s an option
- Limit eating out or meeting friends for drinks. This is tough, especially living in a city. But, I try to only eat out or grab drinks on Fridays or Saturdays. And, if I can, I try to eat at home before meeting friends for a cocktail- every spare dollar counts
- Try having a ‘zero day’. A ‘zero day’ is when I don’t spend any money- zilch. I try scheduling a zero day once a week. Sometimes, the closest I come to spending zero money is paying £2.50 for a tube ride, but that’s still much better than the alternative. And, during an average week, Monday-Thursday when I’m meal prepping, I try to only spend money ($3 daily) on cold brew. It’s something I’ll cut if I truly need to pinch pennies, but a small extravagance that makes the other sacrifices I make seem easier
- Being more mindful about buying things. I try not to buy things (clothes, accessories, home goods, etc.) unless it’s something I truly need. I also don’t buy anything that’s a significant expense without thinking about it for 24 hours
- Automate saving. I automatically set aside money each month for travel, and use apps like Digit or Cleo to save pennies I never seem to notice leaving my account
- Track your daily expenses: You’ll be shocked at how quickly things add up. This is the easiest way to identify where you’re spending too much money and can trim expenses
Understand Your Vacation Policy
If you plan your trips around national holidays, you’ll often get more bang for your buck. The trick though is always booking early enough since so many other people travel during these dates.
Embrace weekend trips or day trips as well. It’s so much easier to fit in a few regional trips each year than bigger cross-country or international journeys. I’ve written about how stay-cations are one of my favorite ways to explore more of what’s around me. Both in the States and U.K., often, I’m inspired by simply visiting a new neighborhood or part of town. Even a few hours spent experiencing something new can be refreshing.
If you’re taking a lot of weekend trips, consider packing a ‘weekender’ bag that’s always ready to go. I’ve found 2-3 day trips are often harder to pack for than a week or two away, and I’ve been frustrated by how long it can take to prepare for these short getaways. My pre-packed ‘weekender’ bag includes:
- Toiletries kit with airport compliant versions of shampoo/conditioner, face wash, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrush, make-up and hair brush/ties
- Medicine bag with anti-allergy meds, as well as flu/cold tablets and band-aids
- Pouch for me to put small jewellery in as I’m packing
- Bag with adapters, back-up batteries and charging plugs for my phone/Kindle
Then, the night before a trip, I’ll grab my passport, wallet and whatever clothes I need. Quick and easy.
If you’re traveling with a full-time job and your time is limited, you can’t do everything. Focus on what’s most important to you.
Planning ahead also helps you lock down the best flight/lodging deals.
Before any trip, I invest time in planning when it comes to:
- Flights: I use Google Flights to identify the cheapest flight routes/destinations for the dates I have open to travel, and then set a flight reminder on Hipmunk so I know as soon as prices drop. Skyscanner is also great if your travel schedule is flexible and you’re just trying to find the cheapest options. These are my top 10 tips for finding cheap flights
- Also, keep in mind flying may not always be the quickest option. Especially in Europe, look at buses and trains may get you somewhere you want to visit a lot sooner. The Rome2Rio app is my go-to for mapping destinations in un-familiar countries
- Lodging: Yes, you can stay somewhere central without spending a ton of money- Airbnb to the rescue. In Europe and Asia, Airbnb is a game changer, I’ve stayed city center in so many places for a fraction of what a hotel would cost
- Researching the Destination: I don’t like to have every day planned in advance, but I do enough research to know what kind of activities I want to, as well as where I may want to grab coffee/eat lunch or dinner/have a drink. This kind of planning not only ensures I make the most of my time in a new city, but also means I’m able to stay within a trip budget if I’m thinking about what I’ll do each day in advance
Planning for a year full of travel? Consider airline rewards programs or signing up for a points based credit card. If you’re disciplined to pay your balance in full each statement, a credit card shouldn’t cost you anything, but can help you get airport lounge access, free flights or free foreign transactions. The Points Guy is an incredible helpful resource.
Bottom Line: If you really want to travel more, you need to make travel a priority and stop making excuses.