I receive a lot of questions about how I manage work & travel. The simple explanation is that it takes a lot of planning, openness with my managers, and I’m fortunate to work in a flexible environment. Jobs may vary in flexibility, but there are a number of ways that you too can prioritize travel without sacrificing your career.
This may seem like a given, but when you’re working give it your all. Have a slow time? Offer to help someone else with their workload, or take that time to work on firm sponsored training courses. Cover for people when they are on vacation & show that you are willing to be flexible. If you plan on traveling you will need a strong relationship with your co workers who you can rely on to cover for you when you’re out of office. This will help prevent you from getting pulled into conference calls while on vacation.
Be Honest & Open About Your Travel Goals
I’m fortunate enough to have a manager that is supportive of my blog and travel goals. PTO discussions are easy because I’ve always been upfront about my desire to travel from the start. I give my managers advance notice (4 to 8 weeks) of my planned vacations even if I’m not 100% sure I’m booking the trip. A few days before I leave to travel, I send my manager a status update of everything I have been working on, what is outstanding, and when I expect to finish my outstanding work when I get back.
Understand Your Constraints
Every company and job is different, but you likely have an idea of when you can absolutely not go on a trip. Map out where you have flexibility. Are there certain times of the year you can’t take PTO? Can you work from home? Can you start work early and leave early? Do you have flex vacation days? Does your work have a vacation time approval process? Write down and honestly answer these constraints.
I know that on Fridays I can usually leave after 3 PM if I get to work early. The first week of the month is usually busy, and most of my team likes to take their vacation time around Christmas and New Years. So when planning trips I avoid these “no go times” and even keep a note on my phone calendar of travel “blackout dates.”
Project Manage you PTO
This may not come as a surprise to my friends, but I keep a spreadsheet “project plan” for my PTO. A little excessive yes, but it’s a complete life saver. At the beginning of each year I list out aspirational trips I’d like to take, estimate how much time the trip will take, and forecast out how much each trip will cost.
I then compare the trips I want to take with the 18 days of PTO and 6 holidays I get from work to determine my possible trip options. Whenever I book a trip I update my plan with the details so that any point in time I know when and what trips I can take.
Be Willing to Make Sacrifices
Travel does not come cheap. To save money for trips I’ve cut back on Starbucks, bring my lunch to work at least twice a week, and cook dinner at home most nights. After all I’d much rather splurge on a nice meal in Madrid then order takeout after work!
Managing a career and traveling the world is not always easy, but with a little planning you too can find the perfect balance for your lifestyle.