In 2012 I took my mom to Belize, my dogs and I took a road trip through Canada to Alaska, I spent a weekend in Portland, I thoroughly enjoyed a bucket list trip to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu, and I still had time for other smaller adventures.
I gather, based on the questions I’m asked, that the amount of vacations I take is more than the average working person in the United States. The number one question I’m asked is “How do you get to travel so much?” The short answer is…TRAVEL IS A PRIORTY FOR ME. It sounds too simple to be true, but that’s it.
There are a few tips I use for maximizing vacation time.
Use Weekends Wisely
Think you don’t have enough time off? Most employees in the United States get the weekends off or at least two days per week off even if they don’t fall on a weekend. You’d be surprised what kind of travels are in your back yard. One of the goals of my 2012 Adventure of the Month series was to prove that not all adventures require long travel times.
- Try a City Pass (available in New York City, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Southern California, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Hollywood, Seattle, or San Francisco).
- Spend a weekend in a neighboring town (like I did when I took the train to Portland).
- Watch for unique experiences, on Groupon, Living Social, Travel Zoo, or Tippr, in or near your home city (like a ridiculous ghost tour in Seattle).
- Visit local animal parks or museums.
Add On To Holidays
The easiest way to get the most out of your time off is to always schedule vacations around paid holidays.
- Take advantage of three day weekends like Memorial Day and Labor (in the US).
- Add a day or two to those three day weekends and all of sudden you have a decent amount of time off.
- Some companies offer both Thanksgiving and the Friday after it off, that’s four days in a row without taking any vacation days.
- Depending on the day of the week that Christmas and New Years fall on, you can really take advantage of them both on one vacation.
Extend Business Trips
I’ve occasionally had the opportunity to go on business trips in some cool places…Orlando, Hawaii. In both cases, I stayed longer. I spent the weekend after my week’s conference in Orlando and I spent an extra week in Hawaii. The airfare was already paid for and in the case or Orlando it didn’t cost me any additional time off.
Ask For Time Without Pay
Most companies don’t advertise the option to take time off without pay, but I’ve always found that careful negotiation works. There are a few steps that I’ve taken which have helped me in the past.
- I found it best to combine unpaid time with earned vacation time.
- I worked with both my immediate supervisor and HR. Our company requires a paycheck large enough to pay our portions of benefits (like health insurance) otherwise something like Cobra would have to kick in and that would be a bad thing. There may be other rules that HR can help navigate.
- I worked out a very detailed coverage plan that included spreading my duties among several people so one person didn’t end up being too tasked.
- I made sure that the time off I wanted was after the end of a large project and that they knew it was coming up before assigning me another large project
I also did one other very important thing personally.
- I made sure to slowly pay ahead (one to two months) on all my monthly bills so that the missing pay wouldn’t be as noticeable.
I realize time off without pay isn’t possible for everyone, but with careful planning you might be surprised.
This tip is a bit harder for some. I’ve worked for the same company for 10 years. Because of my longevity and the fact that our company uses Paid Time Off banks (PTO…combining all time off…sick and vacation) I will get approximately 5 1/2 weeks of paid time off this year (plus holidays).
As a substitute for longevity, consider negotiating in more time off when you are hired. I haven’t tried this yet, but a good friend works in the HR industry and she said I’d be surprised if I knew what people ask for and what they end up getting. This will be on the top of my “ask” list for the next job.
Make it a Priority
As you can see, it all comes down to travel being a priority. It’s amazing how easy it can be when travel is a priority.
Any Other Ideas?
I know there are plenty of other ways to get the most out of your time off. I’d love to hear other suggestions. How have you been able to maximize your time off?