Using Holiday Breaks to Pad your Travel
We are already into November. Can you believe it? Before we know it some significant holidays will be here! There are many holidays that go on during the next three months, and I’m not discounting those, but I’m specifically talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Why? Because in the majority of jobs, those holidays usually provide some days off work!
Given, what days you get off does vary by what country you live in, your career, and the specific holiday days your job gives. But think about it… In the USA, in just over a month’s time span, many jobs get several free days off work! Some jobs even give their employees up to a week off surrounding those holidays! For us, it seems like that is the perfect opportunity to explore.
How we make it work
When Kyle and I were first starting into our careers, five years ago, we had the desire to travel, but not much time in which to do it. With only two weeks of vacation days, where a week was set aside to go home at Christmas (we’ve always lived several states away from family), and a couple days to use for things going on at home (doctor and dental checkups, church volunteer work, etc.), that didn’t leave us with much time to travel. So, we had to find a way to be strategic with our time. We quickly realized how precious those days off work are, and soon developed a strategy about how we could maximize what time we did have.
One year, Kyle and I decided that we would so much rather be doing something adventurous, than sitting at home wishing we were enjoying Thanksgiving with family. We were already going to be traveling back for Christmas in December, for some quality time with our families then. So, we felt like Thanksgiving would be a good opportunity to celebrate a little differently. After searching for inexpensive flights, we lucked out with a great deal to Switzerland and returning flight from Spain. Both top locations on our Explore List.
Murren, Switzerland and Barcelona, Spain – Thanksgiving 2014
Let’s Talk Logistics
How did we fit in a European trip with limited vacation days? Let’s talk logistics. As a teacher, I got the Wednesday-Friday off, during the week of Thanksgiving, while business man Kyle got Thursday and Friday off. We left after work the Friday before Thanksgiving, and returned the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Because we utilized the weekends surrounding Thanksgiving, we were able to get away with 10 days of travel but only taking off two and three days of work, respectively.
Work within your own situation
This is something that is completely possible for anyone to do. You may not have the exact scenario as we did, but here are some ways you can work within your own situation:
- Start with looking over your job holidays. A great place to start is finding the ones that connect with a weekend. You can use that long weekend to explore somewhere nearby or within a short flight. It offers a great taste of that destination.
- Next, look for when you will have multiple days off work. Some companies bundle Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and/or New Years Eve and New Years Day. Though you won’t be able to celebrate those holidays like you usually do, it does eliminate the number of vacation days you have to use. It also opens up the opportunity to learn how others celebrate those special days.
- Make use of your weekends. Like I mentioned in my example above, we used two weekends to pad our travel even further. If there is a holiday that happens on a Tuesday or a Thursday, consider using a vacation day for day closest to the weekend to also extend your exploring.
- If you have a job that you are able to do away from the office, ask about working from your destination. This could give you another day in the location, while not docking vacation days. You will have to plan on when to get the full day of work in, but it is totally possible. For example, you could get up at 4:00 am and be done with a full work day by noon, giving you time to do some normal vacationing.
Tips for Traveling on Holidays
Book Way in Advance
Once you know when you would like to travel, it’s time time to start looking for your transportation. It is best to plan as far in advance as possible. For example, we start looking for our tickets home for Christmas early in the year and tend to have them booked in June or July. This is long before the prices get jacked up and gives us plenty of time to look for deals. If you are interested in learning more about how to fly inexpensively, check out our favorite strategies here.
If you do make a last minute decision to travel for a holiday, keep tabs on companies like Cheap Flights, Travelocity, Expedia, etc. for their last minute deals on flights and hotels. It’s important to be aware that during American only holidays, like Thanksgiving, flights within the USA tend to be expensive, however international travel becomes more affordable.
Another thing to consider is traveling on the actual holiday. Because not many people are willing to do just that, you can save you hundreds on flight costs! And, may provide you with a less crowded and more comfortable flying experience. Kyle flew from Salt Lake City, Utah to Cincinnati, Ohio on the Fourth of July this year and said that the airport was deserted. His flights also cost significantly less than the surrounding days.
Hit the Road
If you aren’t able to find flights in a reasonable price range, consider going on a road trip instead. This is also a great option for families with several children, as the flight cost does add up. Road tripping allows for more flexibility in breaks, on a whim adventures, and when you need to arrive. And, it allows you to take in the different sights along the way, which is my favorite part of being on the road. You can find our favorite tips for road tripping with a toddler here.
Be The Early Bird
Be aware that many people have the same idea of using their holiday to travel. As such, airports, flights, and destinations can get crowded. With this, I believe that the saying, “the early bird gets the worm”, is very accurate. The earlier you book your flight, the less it will cost. An early morning flight may produce a less busy airport than an afternoon or evening flight. Giving yourself plenty of time to check in at the airport will help you not worry about missing your flight. And if a flight is delayed due to weather or some other problem, you have a better chance of getting out that same day because you have a full day of flights to choose from.
On that same note, sight seeing locations tend to be less busy first thing in the morning. Plan to visit the most popular locations as early as possible. Weekends also tend to be busier than weekdays, so if you are able to arrive before the weekend, that may help you see more things with less people.
One down side to traveling on a holiday is not being able to celebrate it like you are used to. However, we have found it rather rewarding to find out local traditions for that holiday. Eating BBQ in Ohio over Memorial Day weekend was a tasty look into how another state celebrates that day! We enjoyed going to European Christmas markets when we were in Switzerland, and we picked up a new Christmas tradition in Spain. And Halloween in Mexico introduced us to the colorful celebration of Dia de los Muertos (not a holiday off work, but an exciting look at a different celebration). Obviously not all countries celebrate the same holidays, but you are still able to experience traditional music played or food eaten during that time of year, which is also wonderful and delicious.
Make it Happen
What are you doing with that time off work? Are you using it to work on a project? Catch up on sleep? Spend time with your significant other and/or kids? While those are definitely productive and wonderful things to do with your time, the projects will still be there when you get back. You will probably never catch up on sleep (if you are a parent, you know this is definitely true). And traveling with your family is one of the best things you could do to get quality time together.
If you are someone who wants to explore the world, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunities that are already in your life. Rarely does traveling just fall in an ideal package on to your lap. If you want to travel, you need to be strategic to make it happen. It’s my hope that these suggestions can help you get out and explore!
In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more about our travels in Switzerland and Spain. Stay tuned for our itineraries, and how we packed everything we needed into two backpacks and a purse.