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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?