The thing about being a travel addict with a full-time office job is that I have long stretches of time between my trips where I’m not living my travel dream. For a while, it was years in between. Now Kevin and I have gotten to the point where we’re averaging 1-2 trips a year, which feels great! But that still leaves a LOT of non-traveling time in my life where I’m kind of depressingly reading blogs from others who travel full-time, and feeling like nothing more than an office drone.
But over time I’ve come up with some everyday hacks I can do to actually use the time in between travel to make my life easier when it’s finally time to head to the airport again. Some of these I’ve been practicing for a while, and others are new ideas I am just starting to try. But they are all pretty easy ways to use my non-travel days to help out future me on her next voyage.
1 | Assist coworkers without being asked
There are several dozen people in my department who do the same work as me. It’s work that needs doing every day, whether the employee is there or not. So when someone is out, we take turns watching each other’s jobs. I try to volunteer for others on a regular basis so that I can cultivate a reputation for it. Then when I’m gone for 1-2 weeks and someone has to keep an eye on my work, there’s always someone willing to return my earlier favor.
2 | Stockpile PTO hours and work some holidays
In 2017 I had 176 hours of personal time off to use as I please (sick days and vacation days come out of the same pool). This equates to 22 days or just over 4 work weeks (of 5 days each). Kevin works at the same company and gets slightly less, having started the year after me. This is quite generous for the US (our company gives us pretty sweet benefits), and not everyone gets this many, so the PTO problem can be pretty difficult to get around for some. But if you don’t get very much, this tip is even more important. Here’s how we save as many PTO hours as possible for travel: We only take sick days when we really have to; we make up time from doctor/dentist appointments; I volunteer to work certain holidays (which earns me time and a half, plus 8 extra PTO hours); we don’t normally take off any extra days around Christmas; we never take off days “just because;” and we take partial days instead of whole days whenever possible. So in the end, we have a very comfortable amount of PTO and usually have extra to roll over at the end of the year.
3 | Practice sleeping
This one is going to sound weird, I’m warning you right now. If you have trouble sleeping on planes, you can practice sleeping upright or in noisy conditions (depending on what factors are problematic for you). I often fall asleep on the couch sitting up, or with lights on, or with the TV going. I think I am just predispositioned to being able to sleep in weird conditions; but I never avoid this when it comes up in regular life situations, because I want plenty of practice and experience so that it feels normal on a flight. Kevin has a lot of trouble sleeping on flights, and he has not taken this advice yet, but he should!
4 | Familiarize your pets
When you have pets, you know they need to go somewhere safe anytime you travel. We only take long trips at most twice a year, so that may not be enough for our dogs to feel comfortable with the boarders. To help with that, we take our dogs to be boarded anytime we go out of town on the weekends, if we have work done on our house, or if we host a big party, etc. We take them there any chance we get because they love the daycare aspect and also so that they always feel excited and comfortable when we leave. It can be hard to be away from them for longer than a week, but knowing they are happy where we’ve left them helps me feel a lot better. I don’t feel guilty about leaving them for too long or worried about them at all anymore when we travel, which definitely makes the trip easier mentally. We always know we’re coming home to happy, well cared-for pups.
5 | The search for better snacks
I don’t know about you, but I tend to eat the same kinds of food all the time, and not a lot of my go-to snacks or meals are really travel-friendly. I’ve taken granola bars, crackers, and cookies of many varieties on past trips, and they’re almost always disappointing. These ultra-dry foods just never seem appealing when I’m traveling; I almost always leave them sit in my bag and go buy some overpriced sandwich or slice of airport pizza instead. Not very frugal. So this is a new hack I’m trying to implement; I want to try a new snack or recipe (or two) each month until my next trip and see how they taste/last after sitting on my office desk all day. I want to see if I can’t figure out some better portable snack options that can keep me out of the airport food court.
6 | Prep your shoes and feet
This one I wouldn’t do just any time. But a couple weeks before traveling is not a bad idea. Last year was the first time I traveled to a location with the opposite season from home. We went to Australia and New Zealand in January, and my feet were NOT ready for summer footwear at that point in time. I brought my favorite sandals that I wear basically every day with no problem in the summer, but my feet had gone wimpy without my noticing. Normally in the spring, I have time to get my feet comfortable with sandals at a slower pace, but we landed in Sydney in 90+ degree weather and began sightseeing immediately. In hindsight I should have starting wearing them around the house in the weeks before we left. Same for the brand new hiking boots I had bought. Those were also problematic because they were new, and because I wasn’t used to having shoes that went all the way up around my ankles. Lesson learned.
7 | Keep adding to that Pinterest travel board
I started a travel board as soon as I signed up for Pinterest several years ago. I love going on Pinterest during work breaks to just zone out for a little bit and decompress. Adding interesting locations to my board even when I’m not actively planning a vacation is a great way to have a list of locations ready to check first when it’s time to choose our next destination. It’s great for collecting the smaller-scale locations, like waterfalls, hotels, lookout points, castles, etc. that might be hard to find again when researching a country later.
8 | Switch your phone to military time
Some locations regularly use military time for publicizing open hours and time schedules. For planning your museum visits, reservations, or train travel, etc, it can be great to already understand what time that means and not have to think about it too hard. I switched my phone a few months before we went to London to start learning the new numbers, and I have just left it. It can make it a little easier for changing time zones as well. No more mixing up AM and PM.
9 | Keep saving
Keep adding to that travel savings account! You won’t be going anywhere soon without a little capital! Set direct deposit and forget it. Then be excited when you check the growth later.