5 Ways to Maximize Your Time Off Work for Travel

People are always asking us “how do you have so much vacation time off work to travel so many places?”  And the truth is…we don’t!  Like most Americans, we also get the shaft when it comes to vacation time (as compared to other developed nations).  For whatever reason, America hasn’t figured out that the key to a happy, healthy life is an adequate work-life balance; including time off work.

By nature, I’m an efficient person.  Seriously, I cannot stand wasted time; and that extends into the way that I plan vacations.  Since most of us are working with scarce vacation time, making efficient use of that time is critical.  Below are some of our tips for helping you to maximize your allotted vacation days at work so that you can travel more and see more while you are traveling!

1. Leverage Holidays & Weekends for Maximum Time Off

If there is ever a holiday that creates a 3 day weekend, you know we’ll be going somewhere!  I inherited this from my parents – who are always on the go traveling (the apple didn’t fall far from the tree now did it?).  Further, see what you can do about leaving work a bit early on the day your are heading out of town.  That way you can beat traffic and arrive at your destination as soon as possible.  Arriving at your destination early Friday evening as opposed to super late (or even on Saturday morning) can make a big difference in your total relaxation time!

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Radio City Music Hall during Christmas

For longer trips, “book-end” your travel with weekends.  Assuming that you work a standard Monday – Friday job and you want to take 5 days of vacation, why would you travel Wednesday to Tuesday?  That is only 7 days.  If you travel from weekend to weekend (leaving Saturday and returning the next Sunday), then you can technically get 9 days out of it instead of 7.  That means 2 extra days of vacation for the same amount of time off work.  Granted, you may pay more for the itinerary, but if you are traveling a good distance, then an extra 2 days on your trip may be worth it.

2. Direct From Work to Vacation


This piggy-backs off of #1 because if we’re going on a trip, then we want to get out of town ASAP.  So we will typically pack and bring our gear with us to work so we can leave directly from our jobs – regardless of the day of the week.

We can’t stand the idea of leaving work just to go home for the evening and wait in anticipation; in fact, it’s the anticipation about a trip that kills us!  Why wait longer then you have to for the fun to begin? Or worse, going home just to sleep for 8 hours and leave the next morning – how good is that sleep really going to be?  If you are anything like me, you won’t sleep a wink!  So to us, this is at least 12 wasted hours!  In that amount of time we could be nearly halfway around the world.

3. Coordinate Travel Time With Sleep (if possible)

While not recommended when traveling by car, sleeping while you are traveling can be a huge time saver if you are going by plane, train, or even bus.  If you are traveling by plane East then you have plenty of opportunities to schedule an overnight / red-eye flight.  While sleeping on a plane is not the most comfortable, it does maximize your vacation time!  For example, if we’re going to Europe; we might as well be sleeping on the plane so we can wake up the next morning in Paris; having a café au lait & a warm croissant for breakfast!  So suck it up: get comfortable in your sweats, drink some wine, kick off your shoes & put on your fuzzy socks, turn on your iPod, and don your eye mask.

Liz on Train 2

In some parts of the world they have night trains or buses.  These options may be more comfortable because they often provide you with the option of a sleeper bed or even a private room, at a much more affordable rate than a sleeper on a plane!  Not only is it a fun little adventure, but it’s a wonderful feeling to wake up refreshed in a new destination. And it’s a much better use of your time because it feels like adding a whole extra day to your trip (not to mention saving money on a hotel).

4. Time Is Valuable While Traveling, So Research!

Since you only have so much time off work for vacation, you want to make the most out of every minute!  That doesn’t mean you have to run yourself ragged during the trip, but it does mean that you shouldn’t waste the precious time you have.  Having a Vacation Planning tool helps!

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Nothing makes you more like a tourist then fussing with your map – and it wastes time!

Have you ever fumbled around the airport when you arrived at a destination, trying to figure out how to get to your hotel?  Have you spent so much time trying to figure out how to use a train system and buy a ticket that you missed your intended train and had to wait 3 hours for the next one?  What about arriving at a site that you’ve been dying to see, only to realize that it’s closed on that particular day?  Moments like these that can really add up to wasted time on a trip.

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Figure out how public transport works and the best route to take in advance. Will save you lots of time!

Our advice is to do your research in advance and plan accordingly.  Research things like operating times / days for sites you want to visit, how to get from point A to point B (whether it is driving, walking, or taking public transportation), and how to use public transportation are all things you can easily figure out well in advance of your trip.

Josh Riding the Train in Thailand

Also, map out a plan for larger cities where there are lots of sites that you want to check out. You don’t want to be zig-zagging or backtracking all over town wasting time (and money) on trains or buses. You would be amazed at how much you can see if you put a plan together in advance (don’t believe us, check out how much we saw during our 18 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!).

Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t relax on your trip…that’s a must!  But doing your research and having a plan preserves that time.  Don’t lose that afternoon you dedicated to napping in the park under the Eiffel Tower because you took the wrong train and ended up in Versailles!

5. Flex Working Schedules & Unpaid Time Off

Not everyone has this luxury, but if you do then be sure to take full advantage when you can (without compromising on your responsibilities).  Some organizations will let you take  extra time off work here and there without pay, especially around slow times of the year.  For example, the time around Christmas and New Years are great for taking 2 week vacations – because often times, so many people are off work that productivity slows for everyone.  Many companies are happy to save a little cash and let you have the time off work.  Also, if you can earn “comp” time off by working extra hours – then take full advantage!  This is a great way to earn lots of 3 & 4 day weekend trips!

Josh relaxing on the train between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. An easy and very comfortable 2 hour ride.
Josh relaxing on the train between Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. An easy and very comfortable 2 hour ride.

Another perk to look into is working remotely when possible.  For some jobs, all you really need is a computer with internet connection, and a phone.  While you may not be able to “telecommute” all the time, perhaps your employer will let you do it every now and then.  And with wi-fi becoming more prevalent on airplanes, working while you are flying is a great way to save time and not lose productivity.  Or possibly your boss will let you work from the beach or the lake for a couple days?

Josh riding on the back of the motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Josh riding on the back of the motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand

So that’s it; that’s how we do it.  As you can see, we are all about squeezing every last minute into that trip – and why not?  It’s better than being at work!  The key concept to keep in mind is that it is possible to travel more often, and enjoy longer vacations simply by planning and making an efficient use of the time you have.  Using these tips, you will be surprised how much more you are able to see and do.

Do you have any tips to add?  Share them with us below!

Happy Travels!


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