How often do you scroll through Instagram or Facebook and turn green with envy when you see a photo of your friend who travels for a living? Tons of people post about how they have quit their job to explore the world. And that’s great! (For them.) But not everyone can do that. Not only are there monetary and familial restrictions, but some of us might like working our 9-to-5 job and don’t want to quit.
So how do you become the avid traveler of your dreams without giving up your day job? It takes hard work and dedication to travel while working, but you can do it—and we’re here to help you figure out how.
1. Set Some Goals
First thing’s first, you need to decide what your goals are and what you’re willing to give up to achieve them. You can’t just snap your fingers and have the time and money to hold down a steady job and travel the world. Instead, you need to take a look at your schedule and finances and set some realistic travel goals. What is the maximum amount you are willing to spend on a last-minute flight?
Next, ask yourself what you’re willing to cut back on so you can afford to travel. How important is that daily venti latté? What about that premium Hulu subscription without commercials? Take stock of your current spending habits and choose some areas where you can cut back, and reallocate that spending toward your travel savings fund.
Are there any places you’ve always wanted to visit during a certain time of year? Maybe you want to see the cherry blossoms in D.C. or ice skate at Rockefeller Center at Christmas. Mark these destinations and timeframes on your calendar as reminders of your goals. Finally, prioritize your travel bucket list—where do you really want to go?
2. Make a Plan
The key to traveling with a full-time job is to set up a process that will allow you to be flexible with your travel. This will give you the opportunity to take advantage of last-minute travel deals and squeeze in travel when it makes sense for your lifestyle. It takes some up-front planning, but it’s worth it.
Travel doesn’t always have to involve flights, but when it does, it pays to have a plan. Set up alerts in platforms like SkyScanner and Scott’s Cheap Flights to monitor flight costs. Select the entire month, as opposed to specific dates, and let it tell you when it will be cheaper to fly.
If you don’t have an airline or hotel credit card, now is the time to consider one. Use your everyday purchases to rack up points to help pay for your travel or to get some sweet perks at your destination.
When you pick your travel destinations, make sure to plan out your trip in advance. There’s nothing worse than getting to France and having to wait on unbearably slow Wi-Fi while you search what to do and where to eat. And don’t even mention the hassle when your credit card company freezes your account because you forgot to tell them you were traveling. Make a list of things to do and see, and have a checklist ready for what you need to accomplish before leaving on vacation.
3. Extend Work Travel with PTO
Some people refer to this as “bleisure travel.” Are you already booked for a work trip or conference? Take a look at your calendar and start making a case for extending your trip for a few days. Sometimes employers will allow you to extend work travel with personal time off. Just make sure you bring this up in advance instead of springing it on your boss at the last minute.
4. Travel Around Holidays
It may seem counter-intuitive to book travel around the holidays. After all, prices are generally higher during that time. Luckily, it’s rare for American holidays (like Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day) to overlap with international ones. Take advantage of your holiday PTO by traveling internationally.
If you want to take advantage of your vacation days but can’t find a good deal, save money in other parts of your trip. Skip the fancy restaurants and cook meals for yourself in the hotel suite or rented apartment. Book a room in a centralized part of town so you can walk everywhere instead of paying for Uber or taxi rides. Take the local’s approach instead of hitting up the tourist traps, and save some hard-earned money. Plus, the trip is typically more memorable this way.
5. Take Long Weekend Trips
Not every trip needs to be a big affair. Take Friday and Monday off and turn it into a three- or four-day weekend. Travel somewhere within driving distance or with a one- to three-hour flight to reduce travel time. If you plan your travel correctly, you can leave home early on Friday morning and return late on Monday night, giving you four full days to explore your destination—and you’d only have to take two days off work.
If you play your cards right, you can sometimes book an overnight flight to a faraway destination. This will still give you plenty of time to explore—just be prepared for the inevitable jetlag.
You’ll get more bang for your buck (and more frequent travel opportunities) if you take shorter trips more often. In fact, studies have shown that short breaks may make people happier than one long vacation. Think about it: the more often you are out of the office and following your travel passion, the happier you will be. Also, the fewer days you’re gone, the fewer emails you’ll come back to (hopefully, but no promises).
6. Negotiate a Strong Vacation Package
When starting a new job or discussing your annual review, you should let your employer know what’s important to you. If travel will help you stay motivated and inspired to do your best work, tell your boss when negotiating your benefits. If you feel you need more vacation time than you’re currently getting, talk to your boss about getting additional time off instead of a monetary raise.
Now that you have a vacation package, make sure to use it. These days, it seems like a brave statement to say you’re using vacation days for an actual vacation. Unfortunately, at some companies, it’s becoming the norm to avoid vacations and instead hoard PTO for emergencies or mental health days.
A study by the Project: Time Off Coalition found that 52% of Americans ended 2017 with unused vacation days. Excuse us? You worked hard for those days—don’t let them go to waste! Using your hard-earned time off for things that make you happy is important for your mental health, attitude, productivity, and work performance.
7. Travel Alone
Coordinating your schedule to fit in travel is hard enough. Sometimes you have everything lined up for a last-minute trip, but your travel buddy can’t take the time off. In that case, why shouldn’t you go alone? Take a step out of your comfort zone and spend some time with No. 1 (that’s you). Imagine: you’ll get to pick all the meals, hotel room, spots to check out, etc—you are in total control. There’s nothing more freeing than that.
So, there you have it. It is possible to travel the world and hold down a full-time job at the same time. It just takes some planning and flexibility. No matter where you decide to go on your travel adventures, let us help you find a great place to stay. All you have to do is plug in your destination and travel dates, and we’ll help you find the best deals at your favorite hotel chains.