I am a creature of habit and routine, so just the idea of quitting my job to spend 4 months (or forever) traveling the world gives me anxiety like you would not believe. I also really enjoy having money magically show up in my checking account twice a month. So props to all of you out there who have made the jump from desk job to professional nomad, but that life is not for me. I do however love to travel and for every new place I see I add about 7 more to my list of places I want to go. Since I have limited vacation time at my job, I have to get creative. I also am not a millionaire, and I have some pretty big life changes coming up (Weddings and houses cost money. A lot of it.) so while I’m still making travel a priority, I have to be careful with my budget. I have by no means figured it all out yet, but below are some tips I have figured out along the way that work for me. Not all of these tips will apply to everyone, but I hope you find at least something useful for your future travel planning!
Take advantage of holiday weekends – I spend the vacation days I get for Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family every year (even though that sometimes does include a little bit of travel), but I really try to cash in on my long holiday weekends. I work for a private company and get a few long weekends a year. I try to pick a location to visit that is fairly close/easy to get to so I don’t use most of my weekend getting to and from.
Extra Tip: I used to extend my weekends with a Monday off by taking the Friday before off to give myself a 4 day vacation while only having to use 1 vacation day. I learned it’s so much smarter to take the Tuesday following my Monday off instead, if I plan on flying somewhere. Friday is an expensive day to fly, but Saturdays are often much cheaper. I save money by flying Saturday and Tuesday instead of Friday and Monday.
Be flexible with your destinations – I want to travel… EVERYWHERE. This makes it really easy for me because I can choose a destination based on my schedule/budget/convenience. Instead of deciding where I want to go, then being at the mercy of flight prices; I can decide when I can take time off, how much I have to spend, then choose a location that fits within my limit.
Make the most of business trips – My job doesn’t require me to travel a lot, but there are the occasional conferences and client meetings that will send me somewhere for a day or so. I ALWAYS make the most of these trips, trying to plan them next to a weekend if possible, or taking an extra vacation day or two if necessary. My company pays for my flight and hotel (at least for the days I’m working), so a mini-trip ends up costing me very little out of pocket. I’ve transformed trips to Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington DC, and Colorado Springs all from “business” trips into “business/pleasure” trips.
Check flight deals regularly – I have not mastered cheap flightology just yet. I know there are probably a million things I should be doing to earn more miles faster than I am now. But here are some things i DO do: 1) Fly Southwest as often as possible. I love Southwest, and by flying them as much as I can, I earn more flyer miles all in one place. 2) www.kayak.com/explore This link is so cool. You set your home city, and it brings up a map showing the cheapest recent flights searched for and found to locations all over. This has helped me find some locations that are surprisingly inexpensive to fly to. 3) I subscribe to e-mail notifications for several sites/airlines so I get e-mails letting me know when different flights/destinations are on sale. 4) I check flights and prices frequently, making sure to clear my cache each time so my searches are not remembered on different sites.
Find adventure in unlikely places – You don’t have to cross an ocean, or even another state to experience travel. With a little research I think you might be surprised to find out there are some pretty cool things to see and do close enough to you for a quick getaway. For example: I was looking on UNESCO’s website one day and was shocked to find there is a UNESCO World Heritage site only 2 hours from where I’ve lived for over 10 years. The perfect distance for a quick weekend or even day trip. I also discovered that about 40 minutes from where I live, in a small town of about 13,000, resides the National Churchill Museum. Not only is it a fantastic museum, but there is also a sculpture on the grounds created by Churchill’s granddaughter out of pieces of the Berlin Wall. Spend a little time on Google and I would bet you’ll be surprised by what is right in your own backyard.
Staycation – Read more about this here.
What are ways you balance traveling with a “typical” work life?