My Next Big Adventure

For a very long time I have wanted to go to New Zealand and Australia, but I’ve never quite made it.  Given the opportunity, I always felt like I should see both at the same time and not short change either one.  I couldn’t quite figure out how that was going to happen in the two week vacations that are so common to us in the United States.  Several months ago I started to formulate a plan to see how much time I needed to see each country.  I quickly came  to the conclusion that I’d need over three weeks per country and maybe even four.

But…I live in the United States and as many people know we don’t get long periods of time off like many of our European friends.  Then I hit my 10 year anniversary at work, which bumped my earned time off to five weeks a year (25 days), and I started to think.  Even though it’s not normal for most of us to take all our time off at once, I doubted anyone would stop me.

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about maximizing time off and started to investigate how I might apply some of my own techniques to increasing the number of days off I could get.  I started digging further…not only will I earn five week (25 days) in 2013, but I can also carry over some of time off from 2012 which would bump my time off to 37.5 days.  Our company also has three floating holidays each year, which we can take whenever we want  And, if I planned the dates of my adventure properly I could also take advantage of my company’s paid holidays.

The Math

I decided the best way to take advantage of my companies time off policies was to end 2013 and start 2014 on vacation.  If I start around Thanksgiving, I could maximize the number of paid company holidays and get three floating holidays for each year as well.

Type of Time Off Days
2012 Paid Time Off (accrual carried over) 12.5
2013 Paid Time Off 25
2013 Floating Holiday 3
2014 Floating Holiday 3
Thanksgiving Holiday (November 28-29) 2
Christmas Holiday (December 25) 1
New Year Holiday (January 1) 1
Martin Luther King Holiday (January 20) 1
President’s Day (February 17) 1
GRAND TOTAL 49.5 DAYS OFF

Even that wasn’t quite enough time to do everything I wanted to do.  I started to look at how much time I could afford to take off without pay before.  I decided I wanted to three months off, so I planned on taking 20.5 days without pay.  Thinking the math doesn’t add up?…don’t forget about the weekends.

In the end, I’ll end up with 100 days to travel and will use 37.5 vacation days, 6 floating holidays, six holidays, and 20.5 days without pay.

It gets even better.  All of the above math assumes that once I start my vacation I won’t accumulate any more time off…not true.  On the days I get paid (vacation and holiday) I will actually earn more time.  The 20.5 days without pay will be slightly less.  However, I am not an Payroll Professional and that math still remains a little fuzzy to me.  As long as I plan on 20.5 days without pay I should be more than covered.

Getting Approval

As you’ve probably realized, I’ve been thinking about this for a while but I wouldn’t be able to start planning until my boss approved it.  I wanted to make sure I asked him at the right time, so I chose to wait until 2012 performance reviews, salary increases, and bonus payouts were complete.  I couldn’t image that asking for this time off would impact any of those things, but I wasn’t willing to chance it.

The day finally came.  Wednesday of this week I was handed my bonus payout summary (which will help pay for this trip) and my salary increase.  Friday I scheduled a one on one with my boss and dropped the bomb shell.  As soon as he realized I wasn’t asking for the time off right now and that we had several months to plan coverage he said “YES”.

I didn’t even have to dig into my bag of tricks and explain that “Women that have children at our company get three weeks paid time off and six weeks partially paid disability with each child.  I actually have known some women who have had two children since being with the company.”

Moms…please do not take offense…I know that maternity leave is not the same as having an amazing three month vacation.  My only reason for using this, was I expected to be challenged to get so much time off and the benefits are not balanced.  I will never have children, so those extra three weeks PAID are a company benefit I will never use.  Frankly, after a certain amount of time I think companies should offer paid sabbaticals (or even unpaid), but that’s a whole separate topic.

Next Steps

Now it’s all very real.  I have to start making some firm plans.

Not only do I need to finish saving for my trip, I also would like to pay all of my bills (house, car, utilities) at least three months ahead.  I know I’ll be getting paid most of the time I’m gone, but I don’t want to take any chances.

I also need to make sure my home and furry children are well taken care of while I’m gone.  Lucky for me, I have someone who has already agreed to stay at my house.  We just need to work out the final money details.

There are some Human Resource details I want to understand.  For instance, I know that I need to get some pay every single pay period, so that insurance can be deducted from my check (I really don’t want to end up on Cobra).  I don’t know if there are other “loop holes” around time off at the end of the year, which happens to be the period in which the “performance review, bonus payout, and salary increase” processes begin.  Finally, I just want to make sure there that my job won’t be put in jeopardy.  I believe that as long as my boss and I are on the same page, this won’t be an issues but it certainly won’t hurt to learn as much as I can.

The Plan

The overall plan is still a bit fuzzy, but in general here is what I’ll do with my 100 DAYS OF VACATION:

  1. Belize – 14-21 days – I’ve been there a couple of times and am in LOVE with the country.  I have a few friends who are trying to work out spending some time with me there.  I also want to get recertified to scuba dive while in Belize.  I’m choosing Belize because I already know I’m quite comfortable in the waters there.
  2. Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica) – 17-20 days – I’m currently looking at a tour through these countries.  It was important to me to visit more of Central America because I’ve enjoyed the parts I’ve seen so far and I really want to use the Spanish I’ve been struggling to learn.  Who knows I might even find a Spanish immersion class to take while there.
  3. Australia – 21 days – I’m also looking at a tour for Australia that would take me up the East Coast and then South through the Outback.  The problem with Australia is its size.  The best tour from a timing perspective would require three flights, which makes the tour a bit on the expensive side.  Right now I’m looking at other options.
  4. New Zealand – 24 days – I’ve found a tour that will allow me to circumnavigate both the South and North Islands.  It sounds amazing.  But there is another option…Magic Bus.  If I took advantage of Magic Bus, I’d have more flexibility and some internet access (which is hard to come by without spending some money).
  5. Fiji, Bora Bora, Tahiti, Cook Islands or some other tropical paradise – 7-10 days – Because I will be traveling non-stop and since I can’t see taking this much time off work and going back tired, I’ve decided my last week or so needs to be spent on a beach relaxing and soaking up the sun (with maybe a snorkel/dive thrown in).

Adventure

All of this is very loosely planned right now and it’s quite possible that some/most/all of this will change in the coming months.  It will be a balance of seeing as much as possible, having the best time I can, keeping expenses reasonable, and coming back to work energized and ready to take on the world.

Recommendations

If you’ve traveled to any of these places, let me know what you think.  I’ve got a lot of planning left to do and it can’t hurt to hear from some of you.

2 thoughts on “My Next Big Adventure

  1. Don’t apologize for comparing your leave request with maternity leave!!! You do have a valud point. I’m so excited for you 🙂

    • Thanks Cheri. It’s definitely a touchy subject with some people. I think parenthood is a choice…one I wish I would have been able to take, but it didn’t work out for me. And since it didn’t, I don’t think I deserve less time off because of a choice. I appreciate your “mom” take on the subject.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

CommentLuv badge