Lisbon city view from Castelo de Sao Jorge - how to find time to travel

9 Ways to Find Time to Travel While Working a Full-time Job

“How do you find time to travel so much?” Usually, this question is asked in either a shocked or jealous tone when people hear about my plans to jet off somewhere yet again (back when we could still travel before the pandemic).

I have heard many people say “I can never find the time to travel.” There are 52 weekends in a year, which means 104 days, and that’s not including holidays. 104 out of 365 days is roughly 28% so we have almost 1/3 of the year free. When you think about it like this, we actually have time but we just need to prioritize it amongst everything else going on in our lives.

I have a full-time job and not as a travel blogger. Yet I have still managed to visit 51 countries, 6 continents, 37 US states, and almost all major cities in the US and the world. So how did I find time to travel even with a full-time job? Well, keep on reading!

How to Find Time to Travel

As places are starting to reopen and people are thinking about maybe traveling again (me included!), here are a few ways to help you find time to travel whenever you feel ready. Maybe one or more will resonate with you.

1. Plan ahead

One of my friends once said that I’m really good at optimizing my time and always seem to have plans. And that’s because I plan. Mark your calendars. Know when all of your company holidays are. Figure out where you can take a day off here or there to turn each of those paid days off into a long weekend or short break. Figure out roughly when you would want to take those longer 1 or 2 week-long vacations.

By planning ahead, you can also start budgeting and saving money for all the trips you want to do. Don’t know where to go?

2. Do research

google maps pins - how to find time to travel
Snapshot of my Google Maps where I’ve starred places I’d like to visit

If you haven’t done so already, create a vision board or a bucket list of the places you want to go. I like to prioritize destinations based on how badly I want to visit them and categorize them based on the purpose of trip (e.g. city break, beach relaxation, outdoorsy adventure, foodie, road trip). This way, I always have a list of ideas for trips and when I read or hear about someplace new, I can add them to the list. I also like to use Google Maps and star places that I would like to visit. It makes it easy to see what’s nearby when I’m actually on site at the location.

Do a little more research to understand how long you would want to go for, when is the best time to visit, and what you would want to do. No need to go into full travel agent mode – just enough to help you plan and get excited about a trip or destination. This will help you become more invested and more likely to make it happen too.

3. Maximize every holiday and long weekend

Now that you have your dates and list of places ready, it’s time to matching them up. Don’t let those holidays creep up on you! Go somewhere over Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day weekends instead of just Labor Day weekend and one week in the summer and one week during the holidays. Memorial Day weekend this year is the first long weekend in a very long time where I had no travel plans and that’s because of quarantine! Otherwise, you betcha I would have found a place to go.

google flights explore destinations - how to find time to travel
“Explore destinations” in Google Flights to see flight prices around the world

With a rough idea of timing, you can also start tracking flights and keep an eye out for flight deals. Google Flights is my go-to site for looking up and tracking flights. Under “Explore destinations,” you don’t even need to put in a destination but just enter dates or rough timing. Then boom! The map magically shows you flight prices for everywhere. So you can browse around the globe to see which places are within your budget for that time period.

Vancouver at sunset
Thanksgiving 2019 in Vancouver, Canada

Personally, I like to zag when everyone else zigs. During peak domestic travel period in the US like Thanksgiving or 4th of July, I actually like to leave the country. Out of the last 5 Thanksgivings, I have been out of the country for half of them and have visited Vancouver, Australia, and Cuba.

I found that some international flights were just as expensive if not cheaper than a flight within the US during these times. So why not take advantage of them? You can also travel with your family and start creating new holiday traditions too.

4. Set a goal

Like any financial, career, or health goal, make a travel goal. When I was living abroad, I made a personal goal to visit someplace new at least twice a month. I didn’t even have to leave the country. I could go to a different city. Now that I’m back in the US, I explore more locally and my goal is to visit someplace new at least once every other month. Decide on something that fits your budget.

Travel is near and dear to my heart. It allows you to open yourself up to new experiences and learn something. So I have made it a goal to prioritize travel and make it happen. You can too if you put your mind to it.

5. Travel local

Not every trip needs to be to a new country or require a flight. You can always start locally and travel domestically, especially post-COVID. 

A road trip by car or taking the train can be your alternative means of transport. Visit nearby cities, national parks, landmarks, etc. Are there places that are just a little too far for a day trip and you haven’t quite made it there yet? That can be your next destination for a weekend getaway then.

Staycations can also count but don’t just sit at home watching Netflix. Play tourist in your own city. Get out and do something new because that’s what travel is all about. Opening ourselves up to new experiences. Your wallet will also thank you for keeping expenses low.

6. Be ok with not doing everything

I think this may be the hardest for most people to wrap their minds around. People often say “Oh I don’t want to go to xyz country because I don’t have enough time off. I want to have enough time to do everything.” But then they never make it there because they never find the time. Something else comes up or they visit another destination instead. Or worse, they end up not going anywhere.

Change your mentality and mindset about a destination. Don’t feel the pressure to do everything. Don’t put a destination off because you want to do everything and visit every single place in one trip. Can you break the trip up into multiple trips especially if it’s more easily accessible? Give yourself a reason to go back.

Every country has lots to do. There’s never going to be enough time to do everything. Imagine trying to “see” all of the US in one week… I know a lot of people try. Often they end up trying to do too much, don’t spend enough time in each place, and spend too much time in transit from one city to the next.

So slow down and break it up. For example, I went to Australia for almost 3 weeks in 2018 and didn’t even make it to Sydney or the Great Barrier Reef. Instead, I opted to really explore the area around Melbourne and venture to the less-visited island of Tasmania. I knew it wouldn’t be my last trip to Australia and I’ll go back again in the future.

7. Travel solo

Are you waiting around for a partner, family member, or friends to find time to travel and take that trip with you? Well, stop wasting time and go on your own!  It can be very daunting to travel by yourself for the very first time. But many places are actually very solo travel friendly. Start with a weekend trip or someplace close if you feel it can be too overwhelming.

Solo travel is an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Treat it as an adventure. Imagine you get to call all the shots! Spend hours watching the sunrise if you want to. It’s your own time to do what you want when you want. Spend as much time as you want to explore a single place. No more compromises needed.

8.  Extend trips where you can

Exploring Amsterdam before a work conference
Explored Amsterdam on my own the day before a work conference started

Do you need to travel for work? Try tacking on a day or two at the end or the beginning of your business trips. I used to purposefully schedule my business meetings for later in the week so that I could extend my trip into the weekend. It’s also a great way to decompress and destress from work travel. It’s a little difficult now with social distancing and non-essential travel not recommended. But keep this in mind for the future. “Bleisure” (business + leisure) travel will be back.

On the other hand, are there milestone events like weddings, bachelor/bachelorette parties, baby showers, etc. that you have been invited to and need to travel to? Maybe this is another opportunity for you to add a day or two to the trip so you can explore the destination.

And if there are too many events, determine which ones you have to go (maybe you are in the bridal party or it’s for close family), which ones you would like to go if you can, and which ones you can say no to. Remember it’s ok to say no so you can prioritize your own personal travel goals if you have limited time off.

9. Work remotely or work/study abroad

If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to work or study abroad, try to take advantage of it even if it’s only a short-term assignment. I lived and worked abroad in Hong Kong for a year, London for 3 years, and Singapore for 3 months. I also studied in China for 3 months. There’s nothing like being an expat to take yourself out of your comfort zone. You learn so much about yourself and the day-to-day lives of locals by becoming one of them.

Maybe take a gap year, career break, or an “Eat, Pray, Love” trip if you can. I took a year off to travel, pursue some personal passions, and re-energize myself before re-entering the work force. As part of this, I spent 6 weeks studying Spanish in Costa Rica and 2 months living in Bali. “Eat, Pray, Slay” was one of the best decisions of my life!

Otherwise, maybe there is an opportunity to work remotely. Due to the pandemic, more and more companies are offering their employees the flexibility to work from home for the next few months, rest of the year, or even indefinitely. Instead of working from home, why not work from the beach or the pool or the mountains? Choose someplace you’ve always wanted to go. You can literally work from anywhere with an internet connection. Of course, only if the destination allows visitors.

Time to Get Started!

2020 is not canceled. There’s still 6 months left in the year. Time to start planning for the summer if you haven’t yet started already. And if not this year, it’s not too early to start planning for 2021! Travel truly opens your mind so find some ways to incorporate it more into your life. Be intentional about it and you’ll find there are lots of ways to find time to travel if you just put your mind to it.

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