Most of us have limited time off work. With so much world to see, the last thing you want to do is squander your vacation days.
Being a writer, I’m always looking for creative inspiration. Travel is a window to the world, unleashing my enthusiasm and refreshing my zest for life. But like most people, I started out at my current job with only three weeks vacation from work. I like to get out of town every three months on average. So, I had to learn how to manage my time carefully. These are my top three tips for stretching your vacation days throughout the year.
Thinking of weekends as vacation days gives you an extra four days for every trip (Saturday/Sunday before your week off and again after). I’m always amazed y the number of people I talk to who don’t take advantage of weekends as part of their vacation. Many people like to pack on the Saturday before they go or have a few days to relax after a trip. When you’re working with limited days off and a huge world to see, there’s simply no time for such luxuries. As my mom says, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Words to live by for a budget traveler like me.
The minute I punch the clock on my last day before leaving on a trip, I’m in vacation mode. I make every minute count. Instead of only having five days off work, I now have nine. And I try not to waste a minute of that time. My preference is to catch a late-night flight on a Friday if I’m heading overseas or the Saturday-morning redeye if I’m staying within North America (I hate spending money on a hotel if I’m not going to arrive early enough to enjoy it.) This means there’s no time to chill or prep following your work week. But it does give you more time to spend at your final destination.
Pro Tip: Long Weekends
I plan every vacation around a long weekend. Instead of taking five days off work, I only need to take four, saving me an extra day each trip. If you have three weeks off each year, and you plan to use one week per trip, you’ve got three days in your back pocket. Tack those days onto another long weekend, and you’ve got almost an entire extra week off. Hello trip number four!
Tag on to Other Trips
If you travel for work, consider tagging on a few vacation days. My former company sent me to Frankfurt for a conference each year. I wasn’t expected to be at “work” until the Tuesday afternoon, and there was always a three-day weekend leading up to it. I would fly to Frankfurt after work on the Friday night, arriving in Germany Saturday morning. From there, I would pay my own way to another place in Europe. I would arrive Saturday afternoon, spend all day Sunday and Monday in the other city, and fly back to Frankfurt Tuesday morning. Often, I would snag a flight between the two cities for as low as $50. And since the conference ended Saturday, I would spend the weekend in Frankfurt to see the sights there. Win-win.
I’ve also done this in US cities, such as Chicago. I was asked to give a presentation on a Thursday afternoon. My company paid to fly me in on the Wednesday night and covered my accommodations through Friday. I took one of my vacation days, giving me a long weekend to enjoy the city on my terms. I paid my own hotel accommodations for the next two nights, but my flight home was covered by my company.
You can use the same tactic for leisure trips as well. Two years ago, my husband and I did a Christmas market river cruise through Germany and Switzerland. The tour ended on a Thursday, so rather than fly home and waste away the weekend, we looked for nearby places with cheap flights. We ended up on a private tour of Istanbul for the next few days.
Similarly, earlier this year, my mother and I were departing from Barcelona on a cruise that started on a Wednesday. Since we had to take the Monday and Tuesday off work to accommodate flight time, we decided to take advantage of the weekend as well. We flew out on the Friday night and had four full days to enjoy Spain before setting sail. Why not?
In this day and age, most jobs let you work from home if needed. If you have a flexible office atmosphere, you can be creative with your vacation plans.
If I know I have a long connection between flights, I make arrangements to fly out early on a Friday morning. Rather than use one of my vacation days, I work remotely from the airport during my layover. My office still gets what they need from me, and I’m able to make the most of my vacation days by not wasting a whole day on flights.
Some workplaces may even allow you to work from your final destination. If you’re a writer, like me, all you need is a decent laptop and Internet connection, and you can do your job from anyplace in the world. If you don’t mind being tied to a desk for eight hours a day while on the road, you can take advantage of the evenings to enjoy the locale and not have to dip into your vacation days.
These are just a few of the ways you can make the most of what may seem like limited time off from work. Have more ideas you’d like to share? Head over to the Facebook group, and let us know how you stretch your vacations days.