Don’t let excuses hold back your travel dreams. Though many Kaleidoscopic Wandering readers are familiar with the travel industry, many others are not. As part of the Why People Don’t Travel series, I’m taking a hard look at five different things that keep people from traveling. In this series, I hope to provide solutions and additional resources for people who would like to travel more.
Today’s travel concern: “I don’t have time.”
Trust me, I hear you on this one. After several years in Corporate America, I know that the vacation days do not flow freely. Even if you are given time off of work, rarely does the work actually stop, so returning to the desk can be so stressful that you avoid leaving it at all. And, given the current economy, many people feel their careers are at risk if they decide to take time off from work.
Not taking or having the time to travel can have a detrimental domino effect on our health, relationships and even work. The longer we put off our vacation, the more stressed out, unfocused, unmotivated and inefficient we become. You think it’s stressful to return to work? Try not leaving the office at all!
Somewhere in the back of your mind you know you’ve got to find the time to hit the beach, take a hike, explore the sites, visit family or otherwise escape the routine of your day-to-day life. There are lots of reasons why you might not be able to find the time, namely:
- You have a job.
- You have responsibilities at home.
- You have responsibilities to people who need you.
So how do you work through these roadblocks and ensure you give yourself the time you need for a vacation? Start with the following:
Make a commitment to make the time to travel. Once you tell yourself that taking advantage of your vacation time is possible and important to you, you’ve already hit a major milestone. With adequate planning and the right attitude, any time can be a good time to travel.
Once you’ve done that, do the following:
1. Prepare and delegate in advance.
Once you’ve decided when you’ll be traveling, take it upon yourself to notify colleagues. Share information on how coworkers can assist you while you are out of the office, and don’t be afraid to let them help you. If you are able, work ahead on some of your projects. If you plan to check in, let people know when that will be, and then, while you’re traveling, make sure you unplug and enjoy the rest of your time worry-free.
Those who are self-employed or run small businesses may feel especially overwhelmed with the idea of taking time to travel because leaving work can feel like cutting a lifeline. Notify clients about when you’ll be traveling, and work with them to finish pending projects prior to leaving or establish a reasonable deadline that will allow you to complete the work once you return home. Consider hiring a freelance assistant to manage small tasks such as email and phone calls.
If you can’t take time off from caring for someone, again, it’s important to delegate those tasks. You can prepare and freeze meals in advance, and hire a home nurse to care for elderly parents. Do not schedule appointments for anyone you are responsible for during your travel time.
Remember … the sooner you begin planning, the more you can put your mind at ease once you actually leave for your vacation.
2. Make the most of your vacation time.
The average person is juggling 14 vacation days a year, so for the sake of argument, that’s what you, too, are working with. How can you make the most of those 336 hours?
- Mix business with pleasure. If you have to travel somewhere for work anyway, piggyback a vacation onto that excursion. The actual act of traveling can take up a lot of time, but if you have to travel somewhere on the company’s time and dollar anyway, you might as well take advantage of the fact you’re somewhere other than home.
- Decide early in the year how you want to spend your vacation time. If you consider all of the things you’d like to do with your vacation time sooner rather than later, you will know whether your travel goals are achievable (plus it gives you more time to prepare and delegate). Perhaps you’d like a week-long trip and then several long weekends. Or maybe there’s a longer jaunt you’d like to take that will require all 14 days in one expenditure. Don’t forget to figure in time you may need to set aside for family gatherings or holidays.
- Travel north and south. Though you gain hours by flying from east to west, you lose those hours going the other direction. Take advantage of single day travel by moving north to south or vice versa.
- Save your days if you have a long trip in mind. It seems like fewer and fewer businesses are allowing employees to roll over their vacation days, but if you are able and willing, you may want to consider doing this if you’d like to take more than two weeks off at a time. I don’t want to be a downer here, but do keep in mind that, if you are laid off, you will lose all of that vacation time and likely won’t be able to take a payout either.
- Take advantage of holidays. It may be more expensive to travel over the holidays, but this is when you’ll have mandated days off of work, so you might as well tack a couple extra days on to an already longer weekend in order to maximize your time.
- Travel over weekends. If you leave right after work on Friday and get home the following Sunday, you only spend five days of vacation time, but you get to be on vacation for nine days.
- Ask for more time. You may be able to extend your vacation with unpaid time off. It never hurts to ask if it’s an option.
3. Book your trip.
Rewind back to the discussion about the commitment to travel. Now you actually have to take steps to do it. Pick a date. Book a plane ticket. Make reservations for a rental car and hotel. It’s time to ensure that your vacation becomes a reality.
There are two more important things to say about the need to carve out time when we travel:
First, don’t try to do it all. You definitely can’t see everything in China or Australia in a week, and it’s also going to be hard to sufficiently explore California or Costa Rica with minimal time. No one said you had to do it all, so don’t try to force it. Instead, focus on the one or two things you most want to see or do, and then plan the rest of your trip around those. Stressing yourself out in an attempt to squeeze too much into your schedule defeats the purpose of taking time off.
Second, don’t discount local exploration. Staycations have a bad reputation but they don’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, with some wide-eyed curiosity and a bit of research, you can tour your own city like a traveler. By staying in local accommodations, eating at locally owned restaurants and participating in neighborhood activities, you not only save travel time but you also support your local economy. It’s still a vacation if you get away from a routine, so let your imagination run wild in figuring out how to make the most of the time you have to explore something new.
How do you make the most out of your vacation time? Share your thoughts in the comments below.