The part-time traveller’s guide to maximising your travel time

Part-time traveller's guide

When you read as many travel blogs as I do, it can start to feel like everyone else is either working remotely as a long-term digital nomad or is about to give up their job and home to set off on an indefinite round-the-world trip. But back in the real world, most of us have to combine our passion for travel with a whole lot of other priorities in life – whether that’s a career, a partner, a family or a mortgage. So how do you make the most of your travel time when it’s a limited commodity? Although I work for myself now so get to be a bit more flexible, I spent ten years mastering the art of squeezing as many trips as possible out of a limited holiday allowance. And with a husband who still has a full-time, nine-to-five job I’m still putting those techniques to use now. So what are my top tips for making the most of your annual leave?

Turn any trip into a holiday

Any trip away from home can potentially be turned into a holiday. Work trips are the obvious example – your travel is paid for and you may have time free in the evenings or be able to extend your stay over a weekend so you get a couple of days to explore. My husband normally works a trade show in Las Vegas each spring, so we try and add on a US holiday afterwards as his flight out there is already paid for. It doesn’t have to be a trip abroad though or even overnight – when I have to go up to London for work I often book a later train home and use the extra hours to do some sightseeing while I’m there. And even if your job doesn’t involve travelling to anywhere more exotic than the stationery cupboard, you can use the same principle to tag a holiday onto a wedding or a trip to see friends or family.

The Las Vegas Strip

Turning a work trip into a holiday in Las Vegas

Use your Sunday nights

If you work within easy access of an airport, you can maximise your trip by staying over on Sunday night then flying back on Monday morning and going straight into work. Or if you don’t have an airport nearby, you can still travel locally. Hotels tend to push up their prices over the weekend then discount them on Sunday nights. So why not look for somewhere not too far from home where you can spend the Sunday exploring and have a night in a hotel, but still be close enough to get home in time for work on the Monday morning. Recently I’ve done Sunday overnight trips to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon and have the Cotswolds coming up soon, all of which are within about an hour from my home in Cheltenham. Try looking at websites like Secret Escapes for good Sunday night hotel deals.

The Malmaison Hotel in Oxford

A Sunday night stopover at the Malmaison hotel in Oxford

Make the most of public holidays

In the UK we get eight public holiday days each year, usually on top of our annual leave allowance. Often they’re on a Monday so are perfect for a long weekend away – or you can use the extra days over Easter or Christmas to get a two-week holidays for just eight days’ leave. The only problem is that everyone else has the same idea, so if you’re going to do this you want to book as early as you can. Or otherwise be flexible on destination – use tools like the Skyscanner to find out where there are cheap flights on the dates you’ve got available and plan a trip around them. I’ve ended up with weekends in cities like Venice and Belfast in the depths of winter after finding bargain flights between Christmas and New Year.

The Titanic museum in Belfast

A winter trip to Belfast to see the Titanic exhibition

Get to know your local area by showing it off

Technically this isn’t so much of a holiday for you as it is for them, but having friends to stay can push you out of your normal routine and get you trying new things close to home. When I lived in London pretty much the only time I ever visited a museum or saw a show at the theatre was when I had visitors staying. Or you can go even further and invite other travellers to stay through Couchsurfing or make extra cash by hosting people through Airbnb. It’s a great opportunity to find out more about things to see in your local area, but don’t just limit that to when you have visitors staying – follow your local tourist boards on Twitter or check local papers to find out what’s on near you throughout the year.

Tintern Abbey, England

Exploring places close to home, like Tintern Abbey

Gain extra holiday

If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that lets you buy extra holiday, then you’ve got this one made. But there are other ways of earning extra travel time. At one of my previous jobs you could earn time off in lieu for working evening and weekend events, so I’d volunteer for anything, especially on Sundays when you got double time off in return. It’s also worth checking out whether your company has a policy on sabbaticals. My old employer let you take up to a year off as an unpaid sabbatical once you’d been there for five years. Even if there isn’t an official policy, if you can make a good case about why it would benefit (or at least not inconvenience) the company you might be in with a chance – I managed to get two months off to travel around New Zealand during a quiet time of year for my job.

Wellington in New Zealand

In Wellington on my New Zealand sabbatical

So those are my tips as a ‘part-time traveller, full-time travel obsessive’ trying to make the most of a limited travel time – do you have any of your own?

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The parttime traveller's guide to maximising your travel time

Comments

  1. says

    This is such a great blog – it’s so easy to forget how much there is on our doorsteps, especially in the UK, which is pretty small and easy to get around really! As an employee I’m a bit biased, but I also love being able to pop into National Trust properties and the like – great add on to a trip, or way to break up a long journey (and the cafes are better than a service station too!).

    You’ve inspired me to plan a few Sunday stays, too – why not start the week with a Full English breaky?!

    • says

      Thanks – yes I’m definitely guilty of overlooking the great places we have in the UK sometimes so hope this will sort me out! Love National Trust properties too, there are so many I’d like to see, even in my local area, so will have to get some day trips planned.

  2. says

    Great tips that I often use myself, especially about turning every trip into a holiday and exploring my local area. We really maximized our travel opportunities when I’d go along on my husband’s business trips and we’d add on a couple of days. When I would travel on my business, I’d do the same. And it’s always fun to show visitors around — familiar places and trying new places that I’ve heard about.

    • says

      Thanks Cathy, I try and tag onto my husband’s work trips too, though do feel slightly guilty when I spend the day by the pool and he did a 12-hour shift at a trade show! We do make sure we add on some holiday afterwards to make up for it though.

  3. says

    Great tips Lucy! I always try to have weekend trips when I was studying and on summer I would do longer trips (1-2 months). And it’s always fun to look for new places to hang out in your own hometown, the result can be surprising!

  4. says

    I worked for a company that allowed me to work a flex schedule – so I worked 9 hours M-Th and then got every other Friday off. It was perfect for weekend trips and also really helped for longer trips because I didn’t have to take as much time off. My dream is to eventually convince my employers to let me work remotely for a couple of months out of the year. Haven’t gotten there yet, but I feel like it would be a great compromise.

    • says

      Flexible working is perfect for long weekends, I used to have a job that let me built up time too so I got a long weekend once a month. Fingers crossed you can get your remote working sorted too – that’s a great middle ground between being nomadic and having a home base.

  5. says

    Great tips Lucy, maximising time off is something we’re committed to doing now we’re home. Using Sunday nights is a great way to make the most of weekends and I’m currently stalking all low cost airlines for cheap flights anywhere. I used to have to spend so much time in London for my last job but I never once thought of using down time to play tourist!

    • says

      Thanks Maddy. I go to London a lot but it only just occurred to me to actually go see something while I’m there – I still have a big London to-do list despite 10 years living there!

  6. paularociio says

    Great guide, very helpful for part-time travelers like me! 🙂
    I am lucky to work for an U.S. company that also gives U.S. holidays, so flights and transport are much cheaper if I take the opportunity to travel on holidays that are not local.

  7. says

    Good tips, Lucy! And practical for so many folks out there who are part-time travelers.

    When I had a 9-5 job, I learned to maximize weekends and holidays. E.g. Thanksgiving in the USA often means 4 days off (Thu-Sun), so all you need is take a few more and be able to travel for a week. Si se puede. 🙂

  8. says

    Some excellent tips, Luce.
    A husband with a yearly ticket to the States- definite bonus 🙂 He’s a keeper!
    Never heard of the Airbnb site so I’ll look that one up. Happy travels!

    • says

      Funnily enough he’s just found out he doesn’t need to go out to the US for work this year for he first time in ages, but we’re going anyway! AirBnB is definitely worth a look, I’ve just booked a couple of apartment rentals with them for trips later this year, especially good in Norway where hotels are so expensive.

  9. Hello, Cheerio says

    Really great tips; I especially love the one about Sunday’s and also traveling locally which I plan to do once my move to England is complete. Thanks for this!

  10. Liz says

    I’m late to the party here, but as one of those Americans with limited vacation time, I thought I’d add in a few tips.

    I used to run my own consulting business where I’d work on contract. Whenever possible, I would pursue international projects so I could tack on travel (and not pay for the plane ticket) – or short-term projects where I could take a month off in-between. Between projects, I managed to squeeze in Israel, Egypt, Turkey, France, Greece and more. But the constant job uncertainty started to wear on me and I eventually took a more permanent job.

    Here’s how I’m still traveling:
    – Negotiate vacation time up front and make it clear it’s your number one priority. I accepted the salary offer as-is, but scored an extra week of vacation time instead.
    – Use the government holidays for long-weekends. Sometimes I’ll just do the Sunday night of a Monday-off long weekend to avoid too many nights of hotel. 48 hours in Philadelphia, NYC and the Virginia countryside have been great – and affordable!
    – Look for paid holidays near each other that you can combine to extend your vacation days. i.e. Veterans Day to Dec. 1st is only 11 vacation days for me, but that’s 3 weeks of steady travel. Almost like I used to do.
    – I don’t say yes to every wedding. Terrible, I know – but maybe 1/3 of the invites I get are truly “can’t miss” friends or family. That’s a lot of money and travel time – and they’ll likely still have a lovely wedding without you.
    – I volunteer for every possible work trip – and have made it clear to my employers that I’m up for anything. I got assigned Alaska and Vermont trips this year covering for other people who has schedule conflicts.
    – Do the work of finding a great airline miles credit card and put as many purchases as possible on it to fund the flight for the “big trip” of the year. Sometimes the ones not tied to any one airline are the best – just dollars spent -> points -> buy a ticket on any airline.

    Good luck to my fellow travelers! And thanks for the terrific blog.

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