Is it possible to travel while working a full-time job if you’re not a digital nomad?
But you’ll need to shake up your mindset and beliefs around work and travel.
Most people typically take one, maybe two big vacations a year.
This is especially true in the US, where paid vacation time is seriously lacking in general. The negative stigma around taking time off from work is, unfortunately, more than just a myth.
Up until recently, I was someone that planned only one long-haul trip a year (at most) and never really considered any other possibilities outside of that.
Traveling multiple times a year was just something that was never within the scope of my reality, to be honest.
But not long ago, in 2019, I had a complete shift in mentality. So much so that I ended up going to 15 different destinations in 12 months, all while maintaining my full-time job.
To be clear, I have a pretty good job that allows me to do this. I can take unlimited PTO (paid time off) within reason, and I can work remotely once in a while, too.
That said, I didn’t go rogue last year and take 15 straight trips to far-off places like Bali or Seychelles.
I’d have probably gotten fired that way.
What I did instead was take full advantage of every possible experience I could get my hands on to go somewhere new – to cities as close as Palm Springs (a 2-hour drive) and as far as Bryon Bay in Australia (a 14-hour flight).
In 12 months, I didn’t turn down the opportunity to go anywhere – driving distance, short flights, long flights. Whatever I could get my hands on and whatever opportunities came my way, I jumped at!
As I did this, I quickly found myself in the middle of some interesting conversations with my friends and coworkers:
“How are you traveling so much while holding down a full-time job? You live such a fairytale life!”
“How did you manage that? Didn’t you just go to so-and-so two weeks ago?”
“You’re leaving again? So soon?”
After one year of hustling and juggling on duty responsibilities with off duty (hey hey) dreams and ambitions, I can say with absolute certainty that incorporating more travel into your lifestyle is NOT easy, but it is 100% doable.
If increasing your travels is your goal, put aside any excuses you might have – your PTO benefits, finances, comfort, and schedule.
Dispel all of those mental roadblocks right now and hear me out.
Here are some of my biggest takeaways, learnings, and tips that you can start implementing right NOW to travel while working full time!
How to Travel More With a Full-Time Job: 13 Actionable Tips
1. Prioritize Travel, and You’ll Travel More
This might seem like I’m starting with a bit fat’ duhhhh,’ but if you want to travel more with a full-time job, it needs to be a major priority in your life.
We all have the same 24-hours in a day. We only make time for the things we care about. Everything else gets moved to the never-ending “I’ll do that later” list.
You may think you don’t have time to travel, but I promise you do.
Going out on the weekends, buying lunch instead of cooking, shopping… collectively, these things add up (I know because I’m so guilty of buying things I don’t need. I’m looking at you, Trader Joe’s & Zara).
Unless you have a decent cash flow and zero social life, you will need to make some sacrifices and reevaluate your life choices a little to open up your schedule to traveling more frequently without quitting your job.
For me, this meant:
- Not being home as many weekends
- Missing out on gatherings or friends’ birthdays
- Resisting the urge to whip out your credit card
- Practicing more frugal ways to travel
- Finding alternative ways to make money for trips
When you’re 100% committed to finding more time to travel, it will shift your perspective, bank balance, and schedule.
2. Travel More By Planning Weekend Adventures
Kill the idea in your head that ‘travel’ = a 3+ hour flight, a hotel, or even multiple days away from home.
In the past 12 months, several of my trips were road trips, day trips, and camping trips. Plus, I had time for a couple of weekend flights and long-haul getaways.
Travel doesn’t necessarily mean going somewhere far for an extended period of time. It means experiencing something new and getting out of the little bubble that is your life.
If you work a Monday to Friday job and think that this prevents you from seeing the world, you’d be so, so wrong. Unless you live on an isolated island that’s hundreds of miles away from land, then I’d give you a pass.
Saturdays and Sundays are prime opportunities to get out and explore, even if you just hit the road or hop on a 1-hour domestic flight. If you only have weekends off and a minimal PTO package of 10 days vacation, that’s still 114 FREE days at your disposal each year.
More than one-third of the year! Ever thought about that?
RELATED: How to Hack Your Company’s Vacation Policy
3. Map Out Your Public Holidays, Weekends, and PTO Package
With those 114+ days, which weekends are the best to plan travel around? Do you have any long weekends this year (courtesy of federal vacays) that are already baked into your PTO?
Start each year by mapping out all the public holidays and zeroing in on opportunities where you can turn an ordinary weekend into a 3 or 4 adventure.
Does a federal holiday fall on a Tuesday? Put in one day of leave for Monday, catch a flight straight from work, and you have at least 72-hours to explore someplace new.
When you map out key dates, you’ll space out your travel plans in a way that makes the hurdle of saving money and planning your itinerary much less daunting.
Last year, I took a 3-week trip to Australia towards the end of the year (my only long-haul trip) but did so during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
I did this because I knew that my company takes off on Thanksgiving and the following Friday each year so that those days wouldn’t be counted. In total, although I was gone 21 days, once you factor out weekends and paid vacation days, I was only out on 13 days of PTO.
And another pro to being proactive? You can request PTO before anyone else in the office and get your leave approved first! Say goodbye to getting stuck in the office because Susan beat you to HR and hello to finding more time to travel.
4. Get Into Last Minute Weekend Trips
If a travel opportunity comes-a-knocking, get into the habit of saying yes.
- A friend won a 2-night stay in Las Vegas and wants you to come with her? Do it.
- Got an irresistible flight price drop notification from Skyscanner for next weekend? Book it.
- Bored in the house bored? Grab a last-minute deal on Booking.com and explore.
Working and traveling isn’t only for fully-fledged digital nomads. It means you seize travel opportunities no matter how big and small.
Last-minute trips are fun, spontaneous, and give you little room to talk yourself out of not going.
If you have the funds, and an open social calendar, say yes when travel opportunities come your way. You’ll see more of the world faster, even with only 10 paid vacation days a year.
5. Take Advantage of Red Eye Flights to Cut Down on Travel Time
You can either love or hate red-eye (overnight) flights, but you can’t deny their practicality when it comes to traveling more with a full-time job.
There’s something magical and completely disorienting about going to sleep in one part of the world and waking up in another.
I take red-eye flights whenever I need to:
- Maximize my time in a new city.
2. Minimize my time away from work.
As a bonus, red eyes are often some of the cheapest flights you can book.
The extra cash you saved can go towards booking your dream hotel or splurging on an experience like a hot air balloon ride.
6. Tap into Workcations: A Rising Travel Trend
2020 was a wild year.
While most of us spent 12-months in lockdown amidst a global pandemic, there was one silver lining.
Companies had no choice but to experiment with the remote work model.
It showed even the die-hard traditionalists that people don’t need to be in an office to be productive, and the trend of workcations has begun.
What’s a workcation?
It’s when you go to a destination like Quebec or Mexico and work from your hotel room or a co-working space. You’ll still clock in your 9-to-5 hours, but when you’re done, you get to explore new destinations.
Hotels and resorts are starting to hop onto the trend, with many offering exclusive packages to remote workers.
The best part? It doesn’t take a single one of your PTO days.
Being from Hawaii, I was able to go to Hawaii twice in 2019 and worked remotely both times.
While this meant I needed to start working around 6:30 or 7 am each morning to clock in on time in Los Angeles, it also meant that my afternoons were free and that I could spend more time with my family and friends in the evenings.
And in 2021?
I am planning some new, massive long-term road trips and workcations to international destinations like Mexico and Croatia!
7. Extend Your Work Trips
Do you have to travel for work? This could be great grounds for finding ways to travel more while working.
If you have to go to a new city or state for a work trip, and you wouldn’t mind some extra time there to sight-see, do some research.
See if it costs around the same price to fly back immediately after your meeting as it would if you flew back a few days later.
If the costs are similar, and you have a good relationship with your boss or with HR, make a case for allowing you to extend your trip, even if just for a day or two.
Obviously, you will most likely need to pay for any accommodation outside of workdays on your own dime, but having your company cover your round-trip flight can be huge cost savings.
Hey, who doesn’t love free flights?
Last year, I went to Salt Lake City for a work trip on a Wednesday morning and asked my boss if I could fly back on Friday. That gave me the entire day on Thursday and Friday morning to experience Utah for the first time!
I wandered the streets of Salt Lake City, hiked, did yoga (in a crater), and explored Park City all in less than 48 hours!
8. Find Time to Travel By Exploring Your Own Backyard
If you want to travel frequently while working full-time, the secret lies in your backyard.
I don’t know what it was about my mindset growing up, but I only thought about foreign countries when it came to wanting to go places.
But when you think about it, the odds are that where you are is a place that tons of other people flock to visit every year, too.
There’s so much beauty that can be found in your own city, state, and country that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
Being in California for the last eight years, I can happily say that I’ve fallen in love with traveling around this state – my favorite places to travel to so far have been Big Sur, Solvang, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, and San Diego.
In fact, in the last few years, I fell so deeply in love with California that I made a resolution to focus more on US travel.
The result? I’ve ticked off eight different states in the past year alone. Rethink where you’re from and look at your hometown or home country with new eyes. There’s so much that can be seen without having to travel too far!
9. Use Your Friends in Far-Off Places to Book That Plane Ticket
Do you have friends and family in far-flung places?
Grab your passport or hop into your car and go for a visit!
Visiting your nearest and dearest means you might score a spot on the couch or the spare bedroom, which means more money for adventures!
If staying with them is not an option, you still get a built-in adventure buddy to show you around.
It forces you to get out of the house and explore the world, even if it’s to your cousin’s house in a neighboring state.
Last year, I went to Scottsdale and Baltimore to visit my best friend and stayed with her in her apartment the whole time. When I studied abroad in college, I would plan trips around international friends’ hometowns in Prague and Madrid.
These ended up being some of the best experiences from my entire semester in Europe and the top reason I explored so much!
10. Start a Remote Side Hustle to Grow Your Travel Fund
Are you stuck on how to travel while working because of a lack of funds?
We don’t all have spare cash lying around to fund traveling in between general living costs like rent, food, and insurance.
The solution? Starting a remote side hustle.
If you have skills you sell online, you can start generating a second salary to pay for your hotel stays and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
In addition to my job, I also freelance and create content for brands on the side, which allows me to help finance my trips, savings account, and penchant for craft beer and fancy coffee.
In addition, I also audit my closet and my possessions every so often to sell things on Poshmark and LetGo for extra cash.
11. Open a Travel Credit Card and Travel More for Less
Does your credit card reward you with travel benefits?
No? Time to swap it out!
With the right credit card in your wallet, you can use your swipes to earn discounts on hotel stays and flights.
Over the last year, three of the trips were paid for with my credit card points.
And, while I’ve only just begun to dip my toe into travel credit cards, I can say that they are a great move if you’re serious about traveling frequently while working full-time.
What travel card should you use?
I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and I’m already considering upgrading to the Reserve!
But before you say yes to the card, make sure you read up on everything you have to do to earn the sign-up bonus!
When I signed up for Chase Sapphire Preferred and spent a certain amount within the first three months, I was awarded 50,000 bonus points, redeemable for $700 towards flights purchased through Chase’s rewards center.
If you don’t have a good enough credit score or sufficient credit history to get either of the Sapphire Cards, you can do what I did when I was still in college and start with a Chase Freedom Card (another great points card and easier to qualify for).
I had the Freedom Card for 2 or 3 years and worked on growing my credit score to qualify for Sapphire eventually. Now, I have both cards, and I can’t recommend them enough.
12. Start Negotiating Your Vacation Time
“Negotiating your vacation time? Is that even a thing?!”
Treat your vacation days as an extension of your salary, and you can get more time off to travel.
By that I mean, negotiating for additional PTO like you negotiate your take-home pay.
This might not always work, especially if your company is a bit more traditional or strict, but if travel and time off are important to you, perhaps consider bartering for more PTO days in exchange for other things you care a bit less about like stock options or base salary.
These things are all very important, but if you could get two additional days off during your next performance review, that could be a huge win!
Think about this tactic if you’re applying for new jobs too.
Rather than just going back and forth with a potential new employer over money, consider making a strong case for why you feel you deserve additional vacation time as part of your compensation package to accept their offer.
Depending on their capabilities, they might be able to give it to you, and you’ll have more room to travel with a full-time job.
13. Take the Plunge into Solo Travel
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to go somewhere only to find out that no one was available to come with me.
Can you relate?
While I love traveling with Jacob, I realized that I’d have to expand my horizons and explore other options if I wanted to travel more.
This can shake out in different ways – traveling with friends, family members, people you’ve met on previous travels, coworkers, or even friends of friends.
Or you can take the plunge into solo travel.
When you only have to worry about your schedule, it’s 100% easier to travel with a full-time career.
Last year, I went to Australia with my parents for two weeks and then took a detour to spend an incredible five days in Tasmania by myself.
While eating at restaurants alone and planning a solo itinerary can be a bit stressful, it can reap serious rewards if you find yourself faced with an opportunity to go somewhere new, and none of your friends can tag along.
Suppose full-on solo travel is just not your thing. In that case, group travel can give you all the benefits of solo travel with more peace of mind and the opportunity to expand your network with like-minded, adventure-loving people along the way!
RELATED: 6 Best First-Time Solo Female Travel Destinations
Start to Travel While Working Full Time
I get it.
Traveling can seem really daunting and impossible sometimes, especially if you’re working a full-time job.
The time off, the costs, the effort it takes to plan – all of these things can be hard to pull off when you’re gone for 8+ hours a day Monday through Friday.
But when you consider how much of an impact travel has on keeping you happy and motivated throughout the year, the time you dedicate to making it a priority has a significant return on the overall quality of your life.
Start small with your travel goals and change your mindset towards what it means to seek out adventure.
Odds are, it might be easier than you think (even if it’s just a day trip somewhere 2 hours away from your home!), and the only thing standing between you and your goal is a bit more proactive planning and some creative thinking.
Tell me below – which of these work and travel tips will you be putting into practice this year, and where in the world will you go?