One of the most common questions I get asked these days is “Where’s your next trip?” Those around me know that I’m always planning my next escape and I love that they want to hear about it (or at least they do a great job of pretending). Travel is without a doubt my favourite topic of discussion.
The question that typically follows is almost always some variation of “How do you do it?” I understand the curiosity. I work a totally normal 9-5, Monday to Friday, office job and live in the 2nd most unaffordable housing market in the world. I’m not a high powered business executive with access to a corporate jet and I’m certainly not a backpack toting nomad on a round-the-world adventure. Some days I’m not even sure how I do it. I usually stumble my way through some sort of reply but I know that I can do better.
Here are my Top 7 Tips for Traveling the World when you have a full-time job:
1. Utilize Long Weekends
As a Canadian, I am fortunate to be given 12 statutory holidays in my place of employment. I rarely let a long weekend pass me by without getting out of town. Sometimes I even go one step further by taking an extra day, and turning a 4-day weekend into a fantastic trip. If you’re always waiting for big chunks of time to take a vacation then they are going to be few and far between. You’d be surprised by how much you can see and experience in just a few days. In 2014 my favourite long weekend getaways were to Boston, Las Vegas, and Tofino.
2. Add-on to a Business Trip
Travel is not a big part of my job, but when something comes up, you know I’m making the most of it. This past September I had to travel to Prince George for work and made sure to head up a day early to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather with my friend Melanie who was living there at the time. I was able to get a local tour of the town and even spend the afternoon hiking in the Ancient Forest instead of simply going straight from the airport to the hotel and back. I was pleasantly surprised by my first trip to Northern BC and the best part – the flight and accommodations were totally free. Many people have to travel for work and adding on a couple of days is a great way to save money since the flights are already a business expense.
3. Go Away for the Holidays
Christmas is one of my favourite times of year and I absolutely love spending it with my family. But I also know that we can see each other whenever we want since we live so close together. So when I get a big chunk of time off work over the holidays I choose to get away. It may not be the cheapest time of year to travel but it is about making the most of the time you have and choosing wisely. I spent this past New Years in Spain where I was able to take advantage of the low season crowds and prices. The flight may have been expensive but everything was fairly cheap once I got there. In fact, it’s a goal of mine to celebrate the first day of the year in a new city every year!
4. Stay with Friends & Family
A major money saving tip is to visit people you know. In the past 12 months, I was able to get free accommodations in Boston, Kelowna, Portland, Prince George, San Diego, Victoria, and Winnipeg just by staying with friends and family. And in the past, I’ve visited friends in such far flung destinations as Bogota, Colombia; Marseille, France; and Frutigen, Switzerland. Many of my friends also have a serious case of the travel bug, and I am always happy to join them on their adventures. At present I have open invites to Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, and South Africa just to name a few. Sometimes I even make new friends abroad who end up hosting me and traveling with me in the future.
5. Explore your own Backyard
Okay so I don’t literally mean your backyard because if you’re me that would be a back alley. But, I do mean explore destinations near your home. I am outrageously fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest which is a real-life playground in the summer months. This summer I was busy every weekend either camping, or hiking, or festival hopping. I travelled to the Central Interior, Coastal Mountains, Okanagan Valley, Sunshine Coast, and Vancouver Island. These are all popular vacation spots that I was able to visit on the weekends, making my summer feel like one nonstop party!
6. Think outside the Hotel
Accommodations are often one of the most expensive parts of travel, especially in North America. I have stayed in my fair share of luxury and budget hotels over the years but it just isn’t feasible anymore for the amount of traveling I do. I’ve saved a lot of money in the past by staying in hostels or guest houses while backpacking around Europe and South America. This was such a fun way to travel and a great option for young people but the older I get the more my travel-style has shifted. Now I prefer a calmer, more private place to crash after a long day of sightseeing. Enter THE VACATION RENTAL! I’m sure some of you have tried this before but for those of you who haven’t… you are missing out. I almost exclusively stay in house or apartment rentals when I travel now. Not only are they cheaper than hotels but you can stay in some great neighbourhoods and really get a feel for the local experience. I stayed in a 3 bedroom apartment in Barcelona with my friend Megan and we each paid only $25 per night. Great location. Free WiFi. Full Kitchen. All the amenities of home. We booked through Airbnb and if you are curious you can get $31 off your first stay if you use this link. I have also stayed in great places in Rome and Lake Whatcom booking through VRBO. I’ve already booked a couple more rentals for upcoming trips and I can’t wait!
7. Don’t Buy Stuff
Okay so I’m kind of kidding on this one but also kind of not. The motto that I try to live by is Collect Memories, Not Things. I prioritize spending my money on experiences (read: travel) rather than material possessions. I still have to buy “stuff” from time to time but you won’t often hear me talking about my latest shopping splurge. I’m human and I do want things but most of the time I want travel more. I don’t own a home. I don’t have debt. I don’t have children. I live below my means so that I have leftover money to spend on travel. Nothing makes me happier than travel so I’m quite content to put my money there for now. I realize that my priorities might change someday but for now this is what makes me happy.
I wish that I had some magic formula to increase the amount of travel in your life but when it really comes down to it… you just have to want it. You have to want it more than all the other stuff. If you’re waiting for more time or more money then you might be waiting a lot longer than you’d like. My someday is today because we aren’t guaranteed a lengthy retirement or even tomorrow. I have never regretted one dime that I spent on travel and I’m not going to start now. What are you waiting for?