Some people always seem to be on the road, in the air, on the go…savoring new experiences. No, these people aren’t what you would call slackers. Au contraire, to travel often, you have to be planful, organized, and creative in terms of budgeting your time and money, both of which are finite resources. Essentially, you need to find an approach that allows you more time to travel.
I recently tripped over one such couple, Justin and Ellen Billard, who blog at The Time Crunched Traveler. “Having a family, a mortgage, and a career doesn’t have to be a travel dream killer,” says Ellen. “If my husband and I both work full-time and still manage to travel the world, then you can, too.”
Here are Ellen’s tips on how she (and you) can maximize the time you have to travel:
1) Visit more than one country at a time
Most Americans only have two weeks available for vacation each year — and most don’t even use it! Most of our trips are just two weeks long. But for two weeks, we mean business. Although we don’t want to pack too much in (let’s face it, you’ll never see everything), we do try to see and do as much as possible in a country or region during the limited time we have. If we’re visiting a region of smaller countries, we try to visit more than one country. Other times, we spend two full weeks in one country, but we travel around that country as much as possible.
2) Buy an extra week of vacation time
If you can afford it, take an unpaid week of vacation time every few years. Although this will not usually be necessary, it can be a useful approach if you are visiting a region that is quite expensive to reach (e.g. the U.S. to New Zealand) and you are unlikely to ever travel there again. We have done this before, though it’s not something we plan to make a habit of. It has helped us be able to still enjoy our annual two-week trip while also spending a week visiting my parents at a later point in the year. A word of caution with this approach: as you are planning your travel budget for the coming year, calculate in the amount of money you will be losing from taking an unpaid week. This way you will make sure you do not over-spend on your trip if you really cannot afford to.
3) Broaden your definition of travel
Stop defining travel in terms of how many miles your destination is from your home or whether or not you can only get there by flying. Travel is about exploration, adventure, and learning — and you can experience that just down the street from your house. Be a local tourist. Our home base is New England — one of America’s most beautiful regions. We have it all — beautiful coastline, beaches, historic sites, and stunning wilderness. And we’re less than two hours from New York City, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world! No matter where you live, there are places waiting to be discovered and explored. You just have to learn not to turn your nose up at them just because they are close to home!
4) Use your 3-day weekends wisely
The key to cramming in some quality travel over a three-day weekend is to plan in advance. Consider logistical questions like: Should we fly or drive? How long will that take, and what will the holiday weekend traffic be like? Leave the night before your holiday begins, if possible. Take advantage of flight deals offered by some airlines like Southwest. You may end up finding it’s not that much more expensive to fly somewhere farther away than it is to drive somewhere close. Use these long weekends to travel to places you couldn’t reach on a normal weekend, but that are not so far away that you spend the majority of the time traveling there and back.
5) Invite family and friends to join you on your travel
One drawback to traveling on the weekends is it diminishes your opportunity to spend time with your friends and family. Often it can feel like you have to choose between your two loves — travel and people! So why not just bring them with you? Make it a group event. Split gas money. Book an apartment, suite, or large campsite and share the cost. Cook together at your accommodations rather than going out to eat. Bring beer with you rather than going out for drinks. This not only allows you to travel and socialize — but it also saves you money!
6) Move overseas
This option certainly isn’t appropriate for everyone, but for those who can take advantage of it, the rewards are plenty. If your current job does not provide you with the opportunity to relocate overseas, there are plenty of jobs that will. Try teaching English overseas for a few years. Is it possible to perform your current job remotely? Or, if you’re in the final years of your career, can you begin planning to retire overseas? Retirees often flock to tropical locations like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama. If you really want the experience of living overseas, get creative and be willing to make the sacrifices required to make it happen.
7) Leverage business travel opportunities
Does your job provide you with opportunity to travel? Lucky you! Consider staying through the weekend and paying your own lodging to allow yourself time to explore. Is your job sending you to a country you might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit? Consider taking your spouse! This way you both get to explore the destination, but at less than half the cost in terms of airfare, food, and lodging!
8) Combine paid holidays with your vacation time
Most companies offer holiday weeks or long-weekends. Take advantage of this free time off and combine it with a vacation day or two. Turn your three-day weekend into a four or five-day getaway. Or, plan your trip during a time when you get a holiday so that you save one vacation day for a future trip. If you get a week off from work at Christmas and New Year’s, why not take your two weeks of vacation time, combine it with your holiday, and give yourself a three-week trip?
Finding time to travel doesn’t have to mean abandoning the rest of your life to do nothing but travel.
These tips, combined with some tricks of your own, will help you maximize your opportunities to travel without completely altering your lifestyle or draining your bank account.
About the Author: Ellen Small Billard first traveled overseas at age 15 when her father insisted upon sending her on a school trip to Germany. And that’s when it happened: high atop Switzerland’s Mt. Pilatus, she was bitten by the travel bug and has never quite recovered. Since then, she has traveled to more than 20 countries on five continents. She shares her travel tips and experiences at The Time-Crunched Traveler. In addition to her travels, she serves as President of Xenith Creative, a content marketing agency specializing in internet marketing, copywriting, and copy editing. Ellen currently resides in Tianjin, China and continues to hold her father responsible for all the money she has spent on travel since that first trip to Europe.
Other articles on More Time To Travel that suggest ways to find more time to travel: