I’ll admit that sometimes I envy those who are able to quit their job and travel for months or even years. There’s just so many places in this world that I want to explore right away. Living in the United States, it’s not common to have an employer provide a large amount of paid vacation days. Side note: I currently receive 13 days PTO and 7 paid holidays annually. So, for the weird individuals (like myself) who actually love working in the corporate environment, I have to work with what I have. There are times where I think to myself that maybe a year off would be good to visit numerous new countries, but then I stop and remind myself how much I love stability. For some people the risk of quitting a job and starting a new adventure is perfectly okay and for some people it isn’t. There’s no right or wrong, it’s just figuring out what works best for you.
So, what it comes down to is figuring out how to work full time AND travel often, which is exactly what I have done the past few years. Now, my method may not work for everyone because we all have different travel styles and there’s no RIGHT way to travel. But, I’d like to explain to my readers how I balance my work life, my passion for travel, and most importantly my budget!
In 2016 I took 20 trips, of which 6 were international (see post details here). This year I purchased my first home, so my funds were a lot more limited with a mortgage and utilities to pay for. I had people tell me that I wouldn’t be able to travel any more once I owned a home, but I don’t think they realized how big of a priority it is to me. If I have to hibernate in my house every weekend that I wasn’t out exploring a new destination then so be it. I also told myself I would focus more on international trips rather than domestic ones. I’m determined to always incorporate traveling in my schedule because it’s critical for my sanity. Also a few things to note so you can understand that I don’t have any big advantages over others: I don’t get to travel for work and my income isn’t any more than the average salaried employee in the DMV area.
Okay, so how do I do it? It all comes down to FLEXIBILITY and PLANNING.
I’m positive I’ve emphasized this on all my “travel tips” posts. But let me reiterate just how important it is for your budget to be flexible with your plans! The biggest aspect of my travels that I’m flexible on is destination. For me, I’d like to see basically every country in the world. So, I don’t necessarily prioritize which countries I want to visit first. I book and plan my vacations based on the deals I find. If I have to hold off on visiting my “dream” destination because the price isn’t right then that’s perfectly okay with me.
A few websites I utilize for deals are The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, and Skyscanner. If a good deal pops up, I don’t hesitate to book. I find a date that works for me and I book almost immediately. The more you wait, the more likely you’ll talk yourself out of going or the price will increase. Most airlines allow 24 hour cancellation, so I say book first and give yourself the night to sleep on it to see if it’s doable for you. People often ask me how do I find good deals and my response is that I don’t go out there and “look” for deals, I let the deals come to me. I won’t choose a destination and THEN go find a good price, I see a great fare and then decide if that’s a place I’d like to go to.
Flight tickets are normally the largest expense when it comes to vacation planning, so if you can find an amazing deal on that then you normally won’t hurt your bank account too bad. And in my mind – the less I spend on one flight ticket means I’ll have more funds for another trip!
Now, this is where my method may not work for everyone. I’m always on the go (hence the blog name) during my trips. I like to wake up early and have a full day of activities. Some people like to take their time to relax during vacations, but that’s not really my style. For me, it’s all about planning in order to allow myself to travel often.
- I plan my trips around weekends and holidays: I hardly ever take long vacations. My usual plan is to fly out Thursday after work (based in DC area) and return on Monday. The most I’ve requested off from work is 5 consecutive days (allowing a 6 night trip to Europe). This allows me to plan different trips all throughout the year. I’ll add one or two PTO days to a long holiday weekend so I can travel out of the country. This year, I took a Monday off and flew to Copenhagen for a weekend. I chose that destination wisely since I knew I would be limited on time. I was able to do so much because all the attractions were close by (Copenhagen travel guide). In my opinion, I’m able to do and see plenty with just 3 nights in a new city. Of course, that may not be ideal for everyone and it can be exhausting, but I personally enjoy it. I can get a good feel of a place and decide if I would like to come back in the future and spend more time.
- I create an itinerary for all my trips: Having a clear plan on things to do and where to eat can be extremely helpful for trips where you have limited time. It saves me moments where I have to look up where to go next and how to get there. I always create a thorough itinerary writing down addresses, prices, hours, and transportation routes. Now, just because I have an itinerary doesn’t mean I need to follow it hour by hour. I can choose to spend however much time I want at each attraction and then move on to the next site.
Sure, it may take me longer to see the world. While some people take months to go backpack around Europe, checking off 10 countries at a time…I choose the different route. I love my career, but I also love to travel. It takes a lot of planning and budgeting, but it’s completely worth it to me. I don’t like seeing posts telling people that everyone CAN travel because we all live under different circumstances. I’m here to show you how I make it work for me and if you are in a similar situation then it can be feasible to you as well.
Don’t forget to check out my traveling on a budget post for more tips on how to make a vacation affordable!