A lake and mountains in Switzerland
Planning, Posted by Amy

5 Practical Ways to Travel More Often

One of the biggest barriers to travel can be finding the time. There are a lot of considerations: work, school, kids, pets, housework, and social responsibilities can leave you feeling drained as it is. How can you possibly quit all of these things for a week and leave the country?

If something is important to you, you’ll make the time for it, and that includes travel. Going somewhere new and different can be inspiring and life changing, and is definitely worth a little bit of effort.

There are a number of ways to find the time to fit travel into your life. I travel quite a bit and frequently get questions like “How do you do this?” and “How can I do this?”

Here are all the tricks I use to travel more often.

1. Plan Way in Advance

This is perhaps the most obvious method of finding the time to travel. Planning a trip 9 months to a year in advance is a good way to give yourself enough time to prepare. By anchoring something in your Calendar, you know you have to plan around it, and you do. This also gives you plenty of time to figure out all the details around the trip.

The furthest out you can generally buy plane tickets is 9 to 10 months, so keep that in mind.

2. Just Do It (aka “Trick Yourself”)

I often find Nike’s advice very helpful when it comes to travel, and also think of this strategy as “tricking yourself.” If you want to take a trip but feel like you can’t find the time, just find a flight and book it. By booking your flight, you’ve locked yourself in, and you’ll be forced to work out the details. Your future self will thank you for your spontaneity and foresight!

Last year I happened across and amazing (amazingly low!) airfare to Bucharest, Romania 6 months away over Thanksgiving week. Knowing nothing at all about Romania but not wanting to pass up the opportunity, I just booked it. As it turns out, Romania is an amazing country and although it wasn’t a great time for me to travel (when is though, right?) I had already committed myself, made it work and had an amazing time. As it turns out, Romania is the home to Transylvania and “Dracula’s castle”.

Bran Castle in Transylvania (aka Dracula's Castle)

3. Travel on a Holiday Week

A holiday week is a great time to travel if you don’t have a lot of time to take off of work. For example, on the week of Thanksgiving, most people who have a traditional job could take 3 days off from work and have 9 consecutive days to travel – a weekend, the 5-day week, and the following weekend. For the workaholics among us, a benefit to traveling over holiday weeks is that many people are taking time off, less is going on, and you aren’t likely to get behind like you would on a regular week.

It may seem overwhelming to just skip Thanksgiving, but once you are out exploring a place on the other side of the world, missing Thanksgiving is just a passing thought while you remember how lucky you are to be doing something so new and adventurous.

Three of my favorite trips took place over Thanksgiving week. For one of them, I went to South Korea with a group of friends. We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner together when we got back, and didn’t feel like we missed out at all.

Thanksgiving 2012 in South Korea with friends (Thanks to Dave Knight & Aruna Balakrishnan for the photo.)

The week between Christmas and New Years is another favorite of mine because almost nothing is happening at work (unless you are in Sales and need to close out the year, then you’re probably out of luck!) and people might not even notice your absence. The downside to traveling this week is that it is a peak time and flights, hotels, and rental cars can be very expensive. If you do want to do this, plan ahead before the rates skyrocket.

4. Add on To an Existing Trip

If you’re lucky enough to travel internationally for work, or are already abroad for some other reason, consider adding on a side trip in a nearby country. After all, you’re already there! This is very easy to do in Europe especially.

I spend a week in Barcelona every year for a work conference that ends Thursday evening. On Friday morning, I fly to another country in Europe and stay for two days before flying home on Sunday. It can seem daunting to go somewhere for 2 days, but some of my most memorable travel experiences have been during short trips.

There are some cities that are very small and lend themselves to a quick trip. Zurich, for example, can be experienced in a day, which leaves a 2nd day to see the Swiss countryside. On my 2nd day, I took a trip up to Jungfrau, the highest point in Europe, and saw some breathtaking views.

Jungfrau, the highest peak in Europe, during a day trip to the Swiss Alps

5. Take a Short Trip

If you really can’t take much time off of work, or can’t get away for very long, consider taking a short trip. The philosophy is the same as above – that you can make the most of an opportunity, even if it is a very short one.

This is not a budget-friendly option, since you will (probably) pay the same amount in airfair as a longer trip, but if you are not worried about budget, and especially if you have some miles or points to spend to make the flight free, it’s a great option.

A few years ago I was completely out of PTO days for a while, but had an insatiable desire to go to Alaska. One of my weekends was completely open, so I said “what the hell?” and booked a flight to Anchorage. I had only one full day to spend in Anchorage and the surrounding area because of the flight times, but that one day was so exciting and so memorable I can’t even imaging not having done it.

Hanging out with a young moose at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

All of these methods require some sort of sacrifice – money, holidays, and perhaps even a little bit of sanity. But in the end, the memories and experiences are worth a lot more than what you give up.

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