I’m in a few awesome female travel groups on Facebook. Everyday I see posts that start off something like this “I want to travel full time, what job should I apply for?” In theory, how amazing does that sound? There’s a ton of ways to become a digital nomad but unfortunately, that doesn’t work for all of us. The average American has a full time, 9-5’ish, job/career that gives them 10 vacation days a year. YUP, that’s it.
I get asked pretty frequently how do I travel so much and that I must get a lot of vacation days at my job. WRONG! I too only have 10 vacation days a year. The difference is how I use them to my advantage to maximize my time away.
To all my NON digital nomads, here’s a few tips to help you make the most of your vacation days this year.
1. Go on short & extended weekend trips. – Yes, a 2 week vacation sounds luxurious but when you have ONLY 10 days per year, do you really want to use them all at once? Look into destinations that are only a few hours away, either by car or plane. You can leave Thursday night which will guarantee 2 full days at the destination of your choice before heading back home on Sunday. Planning this way will allow you to go away 10 times throughout the year, only taking 1 vacation day each trip. If you need a little more time, leave Wednesday night and that will give you 3 full days at the destination of your choice and a total of 5 trips for the year. If you live on the East Coast like me, that can mean a trip to Europe!
2. Plan around a holiday. – This goes hand in hand with the advice above. Planning a trip around a holiday weekend will help you extend that 2 or 3 day trip by a full day but without using a vacation day. For example, Memorial Day always falls on a Monday. Head out of town Wednesday evening and return Monday and you’ll have a nice little 4 night trip.
3. Take advantage of 2 weekends for a longer trip. – Some people just don’t like short trips and that is understandable. A good tip to have a longer vacation, while only using 5 of your vacation days, would be to plan a trip between two weekends. Catch a flight after work on Friday and return the following weekend on a Sunday. That sounds like a perfect 8 day / 7 night getaway to me! Plan this around a holiday weekend and you will only use 4 of your vacation days.
4. Ask for unpaid time off – Ok, so technically asking for this won’t literally maximize your accrued vacation days but rather extend whatever trip you want to take that you might not have enough vacation days for. I know for me this year, all of my vacation time will be used up by the first week of September and a little winter get away will absolutely be on my mind before Christmas time. What I can do is just get approval from my boss to take 2 days off, unpaid, and make a short weekend trip to the islands.
I think the main thing to remember is that if you genuinely love to travel, going somewhere for a few days is better than never getting to experience that place at all. So many of us tend to make bucket lists of things we want to do and see but then never execute those plans because we are so tied up with work. Last year a study came out that said over 50% of Americans don’t use all of their paid vacation time. The main reasons being fear of losing their job, falling behind while away or simply thinking that by not missing a day of work – it would lead to a promotion. I want to tell all of those people to RETHINK their lack of vacation. Taking time off can help your mental health, stress and overall productivity.