Travelling and working a full time permanent job can be difficult to balance and often restrictive in where you can travel. This was original titled “How to travel with a full time job”. I decided on the change because everybody has different commitments, some jobs are more flexible than others and my circumstances are my own.
So my blog post is about how I travel with a full time job.
The main obstacle is time and how long I can be away from work on any single trip. I get 30 days annual leave plus 8 bank holidays (public holidays). The legal requirement in the UK is 20 days and I know this is lower in some other countries, so in this respect I have a good head-start.
I thought it practical to split the blog post into a few different sections, categorised by the length of the holiday (or break).
Short breaks (2-4 nights)
This is the easiest but most important one to get right, as time is short.
I consider short breaks to be up to 4 nights. This is usually enough time to see many cities or get a taste of bigger cities. Perhaps a short break in the Alps, or a relaxing get away to the Mediterranean coast. And so on.
Now I am sure this goes without saying, use weekends. If I can do this over a bank holiday weekend*, even better. The Easter weekend gives me four whole days at no cost, although depending on the destination it is likely to be more expensive (and crowded) during these periods.
*A “bank holiday weekend” is a weekend where the following Monday is a public holiday, called a bank holiday.
As a general rule I make sure I book early flights. By early, I mean 7am flights. I live approximately 20 miles from London Heathrow and a taxi ride away from Luton, Gatwick and even Stanstead. That said, I usually stay in an airport hotel the night before. Not only does this give me a few more hours in bed the following morning, but it’s also an extra evening in the bar. Win-win.
My short breaks are generally limited to Europe, meaning with a few exceptions I can usually be at my destination and checked into my hotel by midday. Not counting the travel day home, I have nearly 2 or 3 full days while only taking 1 or 2 days annual leave respectively. I say limited to Europe, having an entire continent at my fingertips isn’t something I would say is a hardship.
Week break (5 to 9 nights)
Why 9 nights?
Making the most of a bank holidays weekend, I can leave on a Saturday morning and return the following Monday (I will call this the Bank Holiday rule). If I can count correctly that is 9 nights, a 10 day holiday using only 5 days of my annual leave. Even without the bank holiday weekend, it is still possible to have a 9 day holiday using only 5 days annual leave. This is only 1/6th of my total annual leave, I feel I am getting real value here.
I still follow the routine of an airport hotel the night before my flight, but I am more flexible around my flight time. I still like early flights, but I don’t feel it is necessary to be getting out of bed at 3am. Depending on the destination, the first day can sometimes be written off as a travel day, arriving late afternoon in time for dinner and evening drinks.
For me the luxury of the week break is being able to explore more of Europe at my own pace. My last couple of week breaks have both been 8 nights to Budapest, Vienna and Munich and Bled, Piran and Pula respectively. I could get out an atlas and look across the seas, and many people do, but for me that is what the fortnight holiday is for.
Fortnight holiday (10 to 16 nights)
I’ve changed the terminology, the only reason being that a holiday sounds longer than a break.
Again, the Bank Holiday rule can extend the fortnight break to up to 16 nights, using just 10 days annual leave, I think you get the idea. There isn’t anything new to add that isn’t also relevant to the week break, except the destination. The fortnight holiday doesn’t allow complete freedom, but it does really open things up.
In my mind some destinations are ‘too far’ to travel for just one week, not anymore.
Long(er) trips (15 to 23 nights)
Travelling to a single destination, the world is now your oyster. The noticeable exception perhaps being Antarctica, although unfortunately I am not speaking from experience.
This is also where things start to get a little bit difficult for me with my work commitments, and my blog post deviates slightly from maximising the time away. I think longer trips very much depend on your employer and your job itself, it isn’t particular practical for me to be away for three weeks and starts to impact on other areas of our service.
I have learnt it is about negotiation, and it is not unreasonable to do this. It also helps if you are able to tie longer trips in with traditionally quieter time of the year in your particular industry, if there is one.
The longest period of time I have been away while in full time employment was 22 nights. I think I was quite lucky at the time, our service is very different now and realistically speaking I don’t think I would be able to take 15 days (3 weeks) annual leave in one go again. However I recently took a trip to Kenya and Tanzania for 17 nights, which meant taking 12 days annual leave. I originally booked 10 days (2 weeks) and later requested an extra day either side, this may have helped rather than asking for 12 days from the start.
For me, this would be a no-go. If I wanted to travel for a prolonged period of time, I would need to leave my current job. Who knows where life will take me…