If you’re reading this blog, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point in your life you’ve allowed yourself to daydream about a life of perpetual travel with your family? No work, no mortgage, just trip after trip, returning home only to check-in with the real world and plan the next adventure. Alas, for the majority of us, it’ll remain just that; a daydream (reminder to self – must buy a lottery ticket this week). Even if you have managed an extended trip for six months or a year, there has probably come a point where you’ve put down some roots, found a proper job and started earning money again to pay for ‘grown-up’ things like mortgages and pensions. Throw the kids into the mix and suddenly the likelihood of upping sticks, tearing up roots and disappearing for never-ending travels becomes even more complicated. One day we’ll become digital nomadic homeschoolers right? 😉
The trick is to realign your expectations and work with what you’ve got. It’s common for workers in the UK to have twenty-five days of annual leave so with a little bit of juggling and compromising, it’s possible to turn those days into something substantial. And if you’re travelling before the kids start full-time education, you have the flexibility to travel during the school term when most travel and accommodation is cheaper.
So here are TraveLynn Family’s tips on maximising your annual leave. Pretty much all of our suggestions are straightforward but hopefully there is something here you haven’t thought of, even if you work in education, have school-aged kids and are limited to travel during the expensive school holidays.
Make use of Bank Holidays
Those bank holiday days are free holiday days! Use them. In 2019 there are 9 working days between the Easter bank holiday Monday and the first May bank holiday in the UK. If you take off those 9 working days, you will get 18 days of uninterrupted holiday. That’s almost three weeks!
Depart and return from your travels at the earliest and latest opportunity
Have the bags packed and everyone ready to go so that when you finish work, you can be on your way. This requires forward planning and organisation earlier in the week, but it’s worth it. It’ll open up lots of possibilities for sneaking extra time at the beginning of the trip; you can catch a (cheaper) late evening flight. Or perhaps catch that early morning flight you’ve always ignored by leaving for the airport the night before and staying in an airport hotel (sometimes it’s not much more expensive to stay and park at the hotel versus long-stay parking at the airport). If you’re taking a driving holiday it just means you’re on your way sooner.
For the return journey, consider arriving home the morning you’re due back at work. When we’re driving back from holidays in Europe, we often catch the early ferry from Calais which arrives in Dover at 7.40am. We can then drop Dad off at his office for 8:30am (this won’t help everyone – we’re lucky to live and work so close to Dover). Just don’t have any important meetings booked for the day you return to the office, in case of travel delays (unless you have a sympathetic boss).
Book a few long weekend breaks
It’s amazing how much you can fit into a long weekend by only taking off one or two working days either side; it can be just as restorative and exciting as a two week long holiday. Although you may want to limit travel time to a 2 hour flight or 3 hour drive, so as to maximise exploring time.
Take annual leave days from the following year
It means you have fewer days the following year but if you find yourself booking a holiday somewhere amazing and thinking, ‘I wish I had just a little more time there’, then many companies are open to borrowing a few days from the following year. Also consider taking unpaid leave if the company allows it and you can afford it.
Book your annual leave as early as possible
This increases your chance of having annual leave dates approved by the boss. Many companies only allow you to take 2 weeks off at a time but if you give them enough notice (perhaps a year), they may be open to you taking three or four weeks in one go. Whilst this means you are using most of your annual leave for one trip, the reward is that you can explore a destination in more depth, go even further off the beaten track, or travel to the other side of the world and have time to properly get over the jet lag.
Book your travel as early as possible
Early booking usually means you have first pick on the best deals for airfares and accommodation, and also provides better choice on travel dates. If you are following some of the tips above, it’s likely that you are going to be very specific on the dates and times that you can travel and won’t have as much flexibility.
Utilise your shared paternity leave (SPL)
SPL was recently introduced in the UK to allow parents the right to share up to 50 weeks of leave after the birth or adoption of a child. It means that a couple can split the time how they wish, taking it together or separately. For SPL to start, the mother must end her maternity leave (more information can be found here). Some parents are even overlapping Mum’s accrued annual leave with Dad’s SPL. What better way to bond as a young family than travelling the world (or at least some of it) together?!