A New York to San Francisco weekend trip is totally doable, especially if you fly on Thursday night and head back on the Sunday night red-eye. (Photo: Christine Amorose/C’est Christine)
By Christine Amorose for Yahoo! Travel
Here’s one of life’s biggest ironies: Long-term travelers have all the time in the world, but not necessarily a ton of cash. When you’re working full-time, however, it’s easy to watch your bank account fill up—but feel as if you don’t have the time or ability to travel. Sometimes, it’s the guilt factor: You don’t feel as if you can really “leave,” even when you’re on vacation. Other times, it just doesn’t seem worth the effort: How much can you really see in Thailand when you only have 10 days off, and that (expensive) flight takes up two of them?
Traveling when you work full-time is possible, though. I should know, because I do it myself. Since I moved to New York City in 2012 and started a full-time position in marketing (with 15 allotted vacation days per year), I’ve visited my hometown in California twice, and also traveled to the Bahamas, Las Vegas, Jordan, Iceland, Portland, San Francisco, Montreal, Miami, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. It’s not always easy, but I’ve made travel a priority without sacrificing my beloved fixed life. Here are my tried-and-true tricks to incorporate more travel into your 9-5 grind.
1. Make it a true weekend escape.
Sometimes all you need is 36 hours in a new city, which is the amount of time you have on a weekend away, after you factor in travel.
To really max out your time without overbooking your schedule, look for new places close to home. I recommend staying within four hours of your homebase (and don’t forget to factor in rush hour traffic when driving and getting from your front door to the airport gate when flying). If you prefer to go further, then opt for Thursday night travel or a Sunday red-eye. And then splurge on a fancy boutique hotel to get that feeling of escape and luxury without going too far. Or go on a weekend yoga or meditation retreat to truly relax and recharge.
2. Take advantage of holiday breaks.
I’m super grateful that my small family understands my unquenchable desire to travel. My parents told me that if I’m going to spend the money on a plane flight around Christmas, I may as well go somewhere with a beach — and so I did! Last year, I spent the week around Christmas in Puerto Rico, and it was wonderful to get a vacation without using up all of my vacation days. Flights around this time are notoriously expensive, but you can save by going on off-hours or traveling on the holiday itself. Pro tips: Book early, and stay somewhere with WiFi so that you can FaceTime into the family celebrations to not feel so far away. Better yet, talk your family into celebrating somewhere tropical!
3. Add onto work trips.
My job doesn’t require much travel, but whenever the opportunity comes up, I take it. I have to travel for trade shows, and whenever possible, I add in a couple of extra nights to travel around the chosen area on my own. In the end, the flight costs the same for my employer, and then I just pay for my extra nights in a hotel once my “work” is over. Since traveling is often difficult to justify with work, this is a great way to reap the benefits without making your trip a big deal. Now, I’m always looking for new cities that it makes sense for me to visit on my company’s behalf — especially ones I want to visit myself!
4. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
Sometimes, a weekend just won’t cut it. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer for an extended unpaid leave so that you can head to more far-flung destinations, or spend some time deep-diving into a city or country. Pitch it as personal development, and plan for it to happen during slow season. I’ve had a few friends who have taken five weeks off to explore Europe, and have the luxury of returning home to a waiting job and apartment. You never know until you ask!
5. Treat every day like a vacation.
One of my favorite parts of living in New York City is that there’s always something new to try. One of the urban myths that floats around — though I’m not sure just how correct it is — is that you can eat at a new restaurant in Manhattan every day for 12 years, and still not have tried every one. There’s always a new restaurant, a new exhibit, a new show, or a new whatever else. Because of that, I try to treat every day here like I would in a new city. I walk a different route to work and pay attention to the architecture, I duck into a coffee shop to drink a latte and people watch, or I take a food tour in a new neighborhood. Just because you live somewhere doesn’t mean you can’t explore it like you explore other cities when you’re traveling.
Granted, this isn’t as easy in small towns or even other big cities. But I find that it’s more of an attitude than anything else. It’s an eagerness to try new things instead of getting sucked into a routine, an appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you, and an ability to enjoy the here and now instead of wistfully daydreaming for another place at another time.