How to Pencil in Travel Plans, Even With a Seriously Busy Work Schedule

Oh, remember the glorious college days when we were blessed with fine luxuries like spring break and summer vacation? Every day I miss getting to take a whole vacation dedicated to vegging, sunbathing and partying with my closest friends without a care in the world (except for some upcoming finals).

Now those days are gone, and while adulthood offers its own perks – like an actual paycheck and a peaked interest in home decor – it can be extremely difficult to find time to fit in those much-needed travel days. But don’t be discouraged! With a little dedication and calculation, you too can work in those bucket list destinations, even with a full-time schedule.

Plan ahead to manage your paid time off.

The best way to ensure you're traveling is to plan to travel. Kick that procrastination to the curb and grab your fave adventuring companion, a dream destination list, and your yearly calendar because it’s time to vacay. Planning ahead is vital when it comes to ticking off your desired travel arrangements.

First, it’s important to remember that PTO is part of the negotiation when starting a new job. If you know a big trip is in the near future, don’t be timid! The offer stage is the best and easiest time to persuade your employer to hand over those envied vacation days.

After securing your time off, start your planning phase by comparing the days you want off to the days you’ll actually have off. This will help you prioritize certain trips and guarantee you’re using your vacation time wisely.

“The first thing my husband and I do at the beginning of every year is get together and map out our travel plans,” says Destiny Morgan, an Assistant Account Executive at Launch Media. “We typically start by comparing our allotted time off and then choose what travel plans we can work into that time. It takes the stress off and gives us something to look forward to!”

Even better, mapping out your schedule allows you to score those prime flights and affordable accommodations, making certain your money can be spent on important things, like piña coladas and sunscreen.

Related: 7 Signs You Need a Vacation from Work

Pair long weekends with your vacation days.

The rather obvious answer to your travel dilemma is to use your vacation days, but even obvious answers can be ~maximized~ with a little creativity. Pairing your long weekends with paid-time-off offers you an extended trip with minimal penalties.

For the true travel hungry, you can jet off the Friday night after work and travel for over a week using less than five vacation days. This is ideal for those long trips you’re eager to take but don’t know if they’re worth sacrificing all those PTO days for.

While long weekends provide decent time to tour a city, combining them with vacation days truly allows you to experience a location without the stress of having to cram your holiday into three days.

Explore a nearby city on an open weekend.

Of course, crystal blue waters and ancient European towns are some of the few things that first come to mind when you hear “vacation,” but traveling doesn’t always mean far and wide. The U.S. is filled with towering mountains, quaint small towns and beautiful beaches that can be reached from most states.

One of the easiest ways to work in a little fun in the sun is to pick a nearby city and set off on an open weekend. The best part about a local staycation is that it doesn’t require much planning (making it the perfect alternative for the wander-luster on the go).

Do a little research and make a list of nearby places that strike your fancy. When a free weekend presents itself, pile in the car with your favorite snacks, your SO or besties and take off. When the Monday workweek rolls around, you’ll return more refreshed and cultured than you were before!

Work those work trips.

Who says life has to be all work and no play? Companies tend to have a few, secret solutions for workaholics bit by the travel bug. A business trip is bound to present itself here or there, offering you a prime opportunity to explore a location you might not typically travel to in your own free time.

Many businesses are willing to prolong work trips by a few days for employees who work hard and ask politely. The exciting part is most flights are already covered both ways due to the original nature of your travel, so while you will probably have to cover extra nights in the hotel, more than half the bill is picked up by your company.

Another way to mix work and fun is to request to work remotely. If you’re hoping to squeeze in some vacation time but your schedule is looking less than ideal, take time to sit down with your boss and discuss the option of managing your work out of the office. Presenting a premeditated timeline detailing how you plan to juggle your responsibilities while traveling will get you one step closer to a Y-E-S!

Of course, these aren’t favors you should ask of them regularly, but if an enticing opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to put in a request with the big boss. Always make sure to tackle your job affairs first then sit back, relax and enjoy your well-deserved, extended stay.

Prioritize yourself.

Honestly, sometimes you just have to take the leap and plan the trip. Studies show that 52% of employees don’t use all of their vacation days, and 41% feel shamed for using PTO at all . That’s a lot of wasted days that could be spent relaxing and regrouping.

We definitely live in a society that stresses go, go, go – but it’s important to prioritize your health and wellness. No one can be at 100% when they’re stressed and overworked.

Darby Killen, a receptionist at a busy law firm in Atlanta, says, “There are times where I have to bite the bullet and let myself take a break. At the end of the day, taking care of your mental health is important, and I definitely see a difference when I allow myself to take time and relax.”

It’s important to be strategic with the time you choose to take off. Killen continues, “Of course, I don’t choose to take a break in peak season or when the whole office is requesting time off for summer vacation. If I’m planning to take extra days, I make sure to schedule it when my workload is slowing down. As far as not getting paid for extra days, I just accept it. Life is short and you have to give yourself time to take it all in.” It’s also important to note that PTO is a negotiation, so if you feel like your vacation days are less than ideal, bring it up to your boss

So go! The fact is, in 10 years you won’t regret the Benjamins you missed out on but the cities and experiences you would have missed out on if you didn’t give yourself the opportunity to travel.