How to travel with a full-time job and limited time – the ultimate guide

Do you think you can’t travel with a full-time job? Think again! This is how I managed to travel to 11 countries in one year with full-time job and on a budget. Want it too? Check how!

How to travel with a full-time job

Have you ever wondered how to find time for travelling if you have 9-5 job, maybe exams and classes to attend, partner or family and other responsibilities? Not everyone’s jobs allows them to travel full time, like digital nomads. Well, it can be hard, but hey, if you really want it and work towards it, then it becomes much easier, right?

I have full-time job with 23 days of holidays a year, and only last year I managed to travel to 11 countries on 3 continents, spending sufficient amount of time in most of them (the longest trip was to Madagascar for 2,5 weeks). How did I manage to visit Russia, Poland, UAE, Philippines, Malaysia, India, Madagascar, Italy, Spain, Iceland, and also explore remote parts of Scotland and England while living in the UK with full-time job in one year? Where is the secret and how to incorporate more travel into your 9-5, and do all of that with traveling on a budget?

There are few things, that you can do, which will help you to travel with a full-time job.

Me in front of taj mahal
Visiting Taj Mahal

#1 Learn to plan

The secret is simple: good planning skills. If your time is limited, you want to make the most of it and good preparations are crucial. Of course, spontaneous trips are cool and I still change my plans last minute during my travels. However, thanks to proper plannings just in case, I was never caught off guard and used 100% of my time.

I usually do a lot of research about the country that I visit. I check what to do, where to stay, how to travel from one place to another, what’s worth to visit with all the “must see” places as well as any hidden gems – especially if it’s a short break. When I arrive to the location, I also tend to speak to locals to ask for first-hand advice and adjust my plans accordingly. On the other hand, I go with a flow and decide on the way where to finish the day on the longer travels – like during my hitch-hiking road trips around Europe.

Thanks to the proper planning I managed to see and experience in one week in Philippines more than some of my friends saw in two or three. True, I wasn’t sleeping much and catching up on lost hours while moving from one place to another in a bus/ferry/plane, but it was so much worth it. I would never trade those hours of conversations with newly met locals, staring at the stars on the beach or waking up for a sunrise for a longer stay in bed – I can sleep when I’m back home. 

on the beach Philippines
With super friendly Filipino girls on the beach!
Philippines kids
Sweet Filipino kids posing to the picture.

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#2 Manage to sacrifice

When you want to travel with a full-time job, you usually have limited time and need to choose. You can’t do everything. You won’t be able to visit every place, so you need to focus on what’s the most important for you. If you like chilling on the beach, then spend your holidays there, but you won’t be able to see other places in the country. If you prefer to sight-see in the cities, choose the reasonable number of them accordingly to your available time.

Don’t over plan, but be well prepared – it is useful to have an abundance of information than not enough, in case you suddenly decide to change your plans, which gives you more flexibility.

Choose what you prefer – for some it will be to relax and forget about the world, for others to reconnect with nature or to visit all the places around. I am usually very active person, who is quickly getting bored when just lying on the beach. When I travel, I get so excited about everything around and that gives me a great boost of energy – allowing to explore the area for long hours.

USA canyon Gooseneck national park
A world of possibilities!

#3 Use your free time wisely

Take advantage of holiday breaks and weekends.

Let’s say you have, like me, 23 day off available for a year in your job. It gives roughly 3 weeks of holidays per year. However, if you connect it with weekends or bank holidays, it’s much more. With longer breaks, like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, if you take some holidays in between, you can end up with two weeks off with an expense of 3-5 days.

Look for opportunities! Travelling during those times can be more expensive, but if you book flights in advance or choose to travel on the holidays itself, it will make the costs cheaper.

Moscow
Red square in Moscow during NYE break.

I managed to travel to Poland for Christmas and Russia for NYE thanks to combining my days off with public holidays. I spent around £100 on tickets and much less on stay there, visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Another time, I went on a work trip in Oslo in Norway, which was finishing on Friday. There was a national holiday on following Monday, so I asked my manager if I could stay for the weekend. He agreed and I traveled from Oslo to Lofoten islands, located close to the arctic circle. I hitch-hiked and camped around, exploring some of the most beautiful places, that I’ve ever been to.

#4 Plan your departures and arrivals well

If you work 9-5, try to arrange your trips to start straight after work and return in the evening before the next working day. It would be even better, if you can agree with your manager to start your shift a bit earlier on the day of your travel, and therefore finish earlier – for example work from 8:00 to 4:00 instead of 9:00 to 5:00. It’s just one hour difference, but it might give you time to catch the earlier flight, or avoid traffic on the road. Have everything ready the day before, so you can just grab your bags and start the trip of your dreams.

However, remember that arriving from holidays too late might be a bit risky and depends on your job and preferences. Some people need a bit of time to prepare for going back to the office. You need to make sure that you can cope with skipping sleep and account for any flight delays. For me it usually works fine, as I am used to travels and can easily sleep in planes/cars/buses and recharge my batteries quickly.

himlayas plane
Looking over Himalayas on the way back from the mountains in India.

#5 Utilize work trips

If there is a chance for your company to send you on a business trip, try to use that opportunity and make the most of it. Visit the city after the workday activities finish, go out of town during the weekends and arrange your holidays around.

The cost of the airfare is usually the same for your employer, even if you come back a few days later. He shouldn’t have any problems with you staying longer, provided that you pay for your accommodation in the meantime, and agree on that in advance.  It’s a great opportunity for you to visit some more places, as usually it’s the flight cost that accounts for the biggest chunk of the holiday expenses. Also, the time spent on getting to the location can eat a big part of your time off. In that case, both of those aspects are taken care of, so what are you waiting for?

Thanks to some business trips last year I managed to visit more of Middle East and then got a cheaper flights to Philippines (through Malaysia and India), also saving time for flying from Europe.

Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque in Abu Dhabi

By taking a week of holidays after my work trip to Houston, I managed to visit a big part of the USA west coast with all the amazing national parks and big cities.

I wouldn’t be able to do it so smoothly and quickly if I was planning those trips from my home in the UK. The flying time would be too long and the price probably wouldn’t make it worth it just for a week trip.

Grand canyon view
Overlooking the Grand Canyon on the USA Roadtrip.

#6 Negotiate

Sometimes weekend is just not enough and you need those couple days more. Try to talk to your employer and ask for some extended unpaid leave. The industry that I’ve been working in, recently has been going through the downturn, so our managers were encouraging us to take some unpaid days. This helped me to gain more days off during the year, which then I could use for traveling. Yes, you lose a bit of money, but for me the experiences and the ability to do what I love (travel ofc) is the most important.

Some companies also have programs that allow the employees to buy additional holidays. For my workplace it’s up to 5 days a year.

Another places allow people to work longer during the week and build up hours, that they can then take off on Fridays. Many of my friends make use of those extended weekends (I wish we had it at our office!)

I also know some people asking for sabbatical leave for travel, education or other personal project. It might work if you have a good relationship with your manager and you can prove that a break will help you grow and develop as a person for the future benefits of the company.

It won’t be ideal for everyone, but if you really want to travel, there are different ways that you can choose from.

You don’t get if you don’t ask!

Madagascar
In Madagascar with cute lemur!

#7 Use layovers and detours

If you want to visit more places on the way – get longer layovers, so you can come out of the airport and see more. This quite often also saves you money on the airfare. Additionally, for some of the airlines and destinations – for example Qatar airlines and layover in Doha – if your transit time is between 8 and 24 hours with no other connection possible, they will arrange accommodation, entry visas, airport transfers and meals for you (T&Cs apply), so you can visit the city in the meantime. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

Quatar view
View to Doha, Qatar

On my return trip from Philippines, I decided to have a few layovers, which made my trip almost half cheaper. I flew back to Abu Dhabi (as I had my return flight to Europe from there booked by my employer, since I was in UAE for a business trip) through Kuala Lumpur and India.

I’ve never been to Malaysia before, so I arranged two days stay there, visited wonderful places in the city (Batu caves, food markets, famous Petronas towers) and enjoyed my time a lot.

Hindi temple in Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur.

My next layover was in Cochin in Kerala, India. I have been to the country before, but not in the south, so I was quite excited to try real South Indian food (masala dosa, yum) and see how life looks there. 

masala dosa in India
Masala dosa and idli in south India.

My layover was only 9 hours, but I still managed to leave the airport, get the bus to the old town of Cochin, visit Fort Cochin, meet Polish/German guy who stayed in area for months and showed me around, try local delicacies, meet some locals and enjoy my time A LOT, instead of just waiting at the airport. And then I made it on time for my return flight.

Only the customs officers were surprised to see that I am already leaving the country the same day of my arrival, and they were trying to convince me to stay longer. I wish I could, but I was still very happy and proud of myself that I was able to see as much as I managed and could call it a very productive and full-filling day.

kerala
Blending in 😉

Another aspect of layovers is when you don’t have much time, and you are not fussed about visiting anything on the way. In that case, it’s better to pay a bit more, in order to not to waste time on changes of planes, buses, trains etc. It may be pricey, but it provides you with enough time in the place that you want to see. It all depends on what you want, after all.

#8 Make a weekend trip away

Don’t forget that you can also travel in your own country or make short weekend trips abroad.

When I was living in Krakow, or even in my hometown Gorlice in Poland, it was very easy to travel across the borders to surrounding countries just for a few days. Trips to the Polish mountains were also very common and helped me to recharge before the weeks of studying.

Since now I’m living in Scotland, I’m trying to use every weekend to explore this country a bit more. Every time, I’m amazed by its stunning nature and variety of interesting places.

Isle of Mull
One of the long weekend trips to Isle of Mull on the west of Scotland.

#9 Look around

The beauty of being a traveler is an ability to discover unknown and eagerness to appreciate what’s around you, instead of being stuck in your daily routine.

Do you think that you saw everything in your own city? Think again! Check travel portals, local groups, new restaurants or shows. Leave the car behind and take new routes when walking around the city.

I’ve been living in Aberdeen for 3,5 years and recently, I’ve discovered some new pieces of street art hidden in the small streets, that make the city so much more colourful. Last month, I found out about one of the biggest bird watching reserves in the UK, located just few kilometers away, where we could see puffins (!). None of my friends knew about it, even though some of them were living here for many years.

Look around and find those hidden treasures!

#10 Make travel a priority

You can try to do all of the above, but without the clear goal, it will be much harder. Focus on what you want to achieve and make travel a priority.

This will not work for everyone, but if you really want to go on more trips, you need to work towards it. Do you want to travel to India and see Taj Mahal or enjoy pristine Philippine’s beaches? Save your days off and go there, instead of spending your holidays to cure hangover after drinking too much on a party.

Bohol Alona beach
Night on the beach in Philippines

Every person and every job is different, so you need to find out what works best for you. Make sure to keep good relationship with your employer, manage your days off wisely, explore different options and then go and discover the world, even with a full-time job!

What methods do you use to travel with a full-time job and limited time? Let me know in the comments!

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Tips on how to travel with a full-time job

 

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23 thoughts on “How to travel with a full-time job and limited time – the ultimate guide

  1. First I said I wish I could do that, but than realized I’m on a business trip and it’s weekend and I have tomorrow’s trip pretty well planed.
    It turns out I already am doing 9 out of 10 things mentioned above. So thanks to reminding me I’m doing just fine.

    1. Hi Anže, thanks for popping by!
      That’s great to hear!
      Some of those things might be obvious for some people, for others they might be new and for the rest it will be a reminder to keep doing what they’re doing or inspiration to make the most of the possibilities they have. If this post could help in any of those cases, I’d be super happy 🙂

      Enjoy your trip tomorrow! Going anywhere exciting? 🙂

  2. Great suggestions! I am in the exact situation right now where I want to travel and experience, but work a full time job. I experienced a night in New York by scheduling a lay over after my honeymoon, and it was a dream come true. Not long enough, but gave me just enough of a taste of New York to know I want to plan a longer trip next time. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Hannah!
      That’s what I like about it the most – you may not see everything in the place, where you’re stopping by, but it’s enough to give you a feel of it and decide if you want to come back for longer. I’m always so excited to experience something new.
      New York has definitely a lot to offer, so it’s a great place to visit!

    1. Good luck! And I hope that next time I could be envious to look at your photos from all amazing places that you are going to travel to 🙂

  3. Oh my, how fun is this! You must have visited loads of places!

    Thanks for these awesome tips, can’t wait to put them into practice.

    – Nadalie

  4. It is a good idea what you suggested about reading up on the place beforehand and then planning specific places to visit, when you are taking a short trip.

  5. this post is awesome, but I love the pictures even more! I wonder if there are a lot of employers that would allow for unpaid leave. I think my last job would have scoffed at the idea, but I would have been totally fine with it!

  6. This is very inspiring! I’ve always wanted to “prioritize” travel for as long as I can remember, but have only started on December last year. Haven’t gone as far as outside the country yet, but your article has given me so many ideas.

    And thank you for mentioning the Philippines so many times <3

    1. Hi Flame Denise, thank you for your comment.

      I’m so happy, that I could help! Let me know if you have any other questions and I hope you will be able to travel more – good luck 🙂
      And about Philippines – I just loved them when I went there last year, so it’s normal that I keep talking about them haha 🙂 Such a beautiful and positive country and people.

      Happy travels!
      Aga

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