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8 shockingly simple hacks to maximize your vacation days!

8 simple hacks to maximize your vaction days

If you’ve been following our blog, you probably know that Kristof and I work full-time jobs. Though travel is our main passion in life, we’re a bit too ambitious to give up our careers. And somehow we have to pay for all our jet setting, right ;-)?

So how on earth do we find the time to travel so often? ‘Not having time’ is one of the most used excuses we hear for not pursuing travel plans. Both working regular jobs, we can totally vouch for the fact that you CAN make it work. You have plenty of time…. you only just think you don’t.

And you are wrong my friend. It all comes down to… maximizing your vacation days!


How much time do I really have to travel?

Let’s get some basic facts out of the way shall we? There are 365 days in a year, you have a minimum of 10 vacation days (can be higher, depending on which part of the world you’re from) and there are 52 weekends in a year.

We only needed to take 4 days off for our trip to Cambodia

Now let’s get some basic mathematics out in the open. Counting your vacation days (10 days) and every weekend (52*2=104 days) brings the total number of days per year you can travel to 114. That’s one third of the year that’s open to exploration (114/365 = 31%).

A THIRD!

That’s basically 4 whole months. That’s a lot of time to travel. Throw in some national holidays and you can add even more days to your annual total. It may not all be consecutive travel days, but you can do a lot with that much time. So, telling yourself you don’t have time to travel is fundamentally wrong.


How do I make good use of my travel time?

Okay, let’s be blunt. You’re going to need to stop associating travel with long, expensive trips to far flung destinations. Somehow we all got the idea in our head that travel is a long and luxurious escape from the tedious nature of our lives. We thus discount all the cheaper short-term travel methods.

We are wrong.

Having a smoothie during our 12 day trip through Laos
Discovering our hometown Tienen
To Kristof and I, the essence of travel lies in the meaningful experiences we get by traveling to another place. In our book, those kinds of experiences can happen anywhere, even close to home. If you think only long cross-country trips in exotic destinations count as “real travel”, you’ll be missing out on a whole lotta opportunities close to home.

Now we’ve established you basically have loads of time to travel and you don’t necessarily have to travel half-way across the globe in order to get that travel fix, you can stop making excuses and instead start making plans!

So read on to find out how we find time to travel and how you can do it too.


1. We plan our vacation days in advance

First things first. Whether you only have a handful of vacation days or you’re swimming around in them -Scrooge McDuck style-, the best way to make your travels happen is by planning them. Even in Belgium, where we are blessed with many vacation days, I know a lot people who mostly save up their vacation time, reach the end of the year and don’t really know what to do with them. They just basically use their days to just sit around at home or worse, don’t use them at all!

By planning we were able to spend a long weekend in the Provence during lavender season!

By planning our vacation days in advance we were able to spend a long weekend in the Provence during lavender season!

Not only does proactive planning help you use a maximum of your vacation days, it will also make it so much easier getting your vacation requests approved by your boss.

Kristof and I created a template to keep track and maximize our vacation days, which we use as a base to plan our trips throughout the year. You can download our template right here and start planning. The best part? It will give you a trip to look forward to!

2. We travel over holidays

This one is pretty obvious but an amazing trick none the less. We often plan our travels over holidays like Easter, Labor Day and Veterans Day, just to name a few. By planning over them, we need to use less vacation days.

e only needed to take 4 days off for our trip to Cambodia!

Example: last year we planned our vacation to Cambodia over Labor Day and only needed to use 4 days-off! Labor Day was a weekday meaning we only needed to take the other 4 days of the week to get a total of 9 tropical days in paradise (2 weekends and the week in between).

Besides, experiencing a holiday in another country might just add that extra special ingredient to your vacation!


3. We’re tourists in our own city

Let me ask you this: how often do you visit landmarks, museums or explore new areas in your hometown or city? I know many people living in Brussels who have never seen Manneken Pis, Lisboans who have never visited Castel San Jorge, New Yorkers who haven’t visited the Statue of Liberty and Edinburghers who have never hiked up Arthur’s Seat.

Discovering our hometown Tienen

Our city holds the remnants of a burned down Gothic church!.

So close to home there is always some place you have never been to and it’s always more fun to experience your city through the eyes of a tourist. It makes you discover and appreciate loads of little things you may have never noticed or taken for granted before.

Apple and pear blossom season in Hanspengouw, Belgium close to our home

About 10km from our home endless fields of pear and apple orchards bloom in spring and colour the landscape in the most beautiful white and pink hues.

No matter where you live, no matter how small your hometown is, there’s probably something you’ve never visited before. Whether it’s a museum, a park, a historical landmark, or any other point of interest, your hometown or city probably has some secrets to unfold. Find a few of those places are and try to visit some of them during the weekends.


4. We travel locally

We’re firm believers in visiting places within a day from home. People aren’t tourists in their own country often enough and it is such a shame. We have made the same mistake in the past and overlooked places nearby sometimes. It took us more than 15 years to revisit the Ardennes and discover Doel, Belgium’s only ghost town. Both are only a 1h-1,5h drive from Brussels. Shame on us!

Day tripping to the Ardennes
On a day trip to Doel, Belgium's only ghost town
A daytrip or weekend isn’t a lot of time, but it’s still enough to explore a city or natural environment close to you. From Brussels a weekend away can include a trip to Namur or Dinant in the Ardennes, the Belgian coast, a trip to the bluebells of Haller Forest, Maastricht, Utrecht, Rotterdam, Cologne, Lille, Calais and Luxemburg City — and those are just the ones within a 2,5h hours of driving!


5. We take long weekends

If you’re only able to afford to take a three or four day weekend, your best option is to stick to a location which doesn’t take you too long to get to. No sense in wasting away a day in transit. We try to take one long weekend trip per year, allowing us to go to Lisbon and on a short getaway to the French Rivièra!

Piggyriding a trip for work to Istanbul
Taking a long weekend for a short gettaway to the French Riviera
When we need to travel for work, we also try to tag on the weekend. Last year I managed to piggyback ride a trip to Istanbul, having two after work evenings and an entire weekend for exploring!

Incorporating more weekend trips is a great quick win! Even a couple of days somewhere is better than no days at all.


6. We prioritize what we want to see

When you do manage to get some consecutive days or weeks of vacation, don’t try to conquer all of Europe or Asia in two weeks. You might not be able to ride the entire Trans-Syberian Railway but you can definitely visit Moscow and Saint-Petersburg or do a weeklong trip to Scotland.

The Isle of Skye was an absolute must on our Scotland road trip itinerary so we planned our entire trip around it

The key, however, is to decide which destinations and activities are most important to you and plan your travels around them. You need to prioritize! Scotland, for example, had loads of things that appealed to us but we absolutely wanted to do the Ilse of Skye. That was our activity to plan around.


7. We use overnight flights

When we’re trying to maximize our vacation time, we often opt for an overnight flight. I know, overnight flights aren’t fun, but they do avoid you from taking an extra vacation day just for getting to your destination.

We’ve often returned on the very last flight on Sunday, before heading to work on Monday. It’s worth it if it maximizes our time at the destination. We can survive on just 5-6 hours of sleep. Well, Kristof can ?. I mostly schedule a work at home day to get my bearings. Check if your company allows you to work from home, it is brilliant!


8. We use all our vacation days

The most simple tip of all but apparently not the easiest one. According to research, 54% of Americans didn’t use all their vacation time in 2016. That’s more than half. This is so sad! Work culture might be different in America, Europe, Asia or elsewhere but if you’re serious about maximizing your travel time and prioritizing travel, this actually should be a no-brainer.


Finding time to travel

So there you have it. Our 8 ways to find time to travel while working full time.

You may not have the time to do an around the world trip, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all. There are several ways to see the world while working 9 to 5. So telling yourself “I don’t have time”, is basically just an excuse. I just gave you 8 simple ways to make it happen ?.

Our 10 day trip to Cambodia was amazing and we only needed to take 4 days off!

You’ll find that you do have time. You’re probably not prioritizing travel right now, using your time efficiently or not thinking of how to travel with just a short amount of time on your hands. Remember, traveling is about exploration and having meaningful experiences, which can happen anywhere for any length of time.

Best way to start? Exploring your own backyard ?! YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.

Which of these tips will you use to travel more? Do you have other tips for finding time to travel?


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8 ways to find time for your next adventure
Comments

What a great post! I think people often lack the ability of actually analyzing the time available they have through the year. We are entrepreneurs and really need to plan well to be able to hit the road. The ”be a tourist in your own town” tip is a great one as well. Finding new eyes for your own hoods does you good in many ways. Mikaela from dinkgo.com

Along Came An Elephant

Hi Mikaela! Ha, well said! We’re now on a mission to explore more of our own city but also the rest of our country. Too often we think we should go far in order to experience something new or extraordenary while there are so many interesting think nearby… we should only just give it a chance.

Marlo & Kristof xxx

[…] For our first taste of high tea, we really couldn’t have picked a better spot than Cuisinette Domestic in Antwerp. An afternoon of high tea left us completely refreshed and was a timely reminder that we don’t have to go far to travel and embrace new experiences. […]

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