Travel Budget Tips | Making Time For a Break

After finances, the biggest reason people tell me they don't take a holiday is because they don't have time. You may only receive a small amount of time off each year, or if you run your own business, it can be really difficult to make time for vacations.

In Australia, we have a fairly good paid holiday standard. Full time workers get 4 weeks off each year. I remember when I walked from Canada into the USA, I was mercilessly quizzed by border control. After establishing that no, I wasn't trying to illegally enter the U.S. to work, the topic moved onto why I was in the U.S. and how I was paying for it. It took me a good 30 minutes to convince the guy that yes, I was having 6 weeks paid vacation (I didn't have a holiday in over 2 years, so I had leave saved up). He was not surprised, he flat out thought I was lying. I know in the States, most people get one week paid vacation leave (am I right?) This makes travel really tough, so I'll try to consider everyone's circumstances in this advice.

Options for full-time workers

When I worked full time, I was very interested in getting as much vacation time as I could. If you work for a larger company, it may be worth speaking to colleagues who have been there for awhile, or making an appointment with Human Resources to have a chat about your options. For example, I found out as I was working a certain number of Sundays a year, I was entitled to 5 weeks leave instead of the standard four! They did not tell me this (they never would!) I heard it through the grapevine and made an enquiry. I also found out that since I was a supervisor on certain shifts, I could be paid at a higher rate for those shifts. Again, they didn't tell me, I had to do the research myself.

Find out ways that you might be able to get some extra time off. Some companies allow unpaid leave, others have schemes that allow you to take time off for travel if it will be beneficial to your job. You may need to attend a conference while you're away, or do some research, but you might just score some bonus holiday time too! Consider working overtime in exchange for time in lieu, or ask if you can work on public holidays in exchange for an extra day off at a more convenient time (i.e. for when you take a holiday!)

Another company I worked for offered a program where, for four years, they subtracted a small percentage of your income, and you could take the fifth year off work, paid. This was incredible, though a little too much of a long-term commitment for me! But if you love your company and your job, this kind of thing would be perfect. Imagine getting paid for a whole year to travel?! If you don't love your job, you can always make your own scheme, sacrificing a percentage of your pay each year that will eventually be enough to live off for a period of time.

Options for casual (no paid holiday) workers and business owners

First off, how annoying is it when you don't have paid holidays? I know when I worked casually (for years), I avoided holidays because I thought I needed to keep working to get more money for... living. I was once told by a uni teacher that everyone lives 10% above their means. No matter if they earn $5 an hour or $500, they will always overextend their finances by 10%. I'm not sure how scientifically accurate that is, but it is food for thought. I know when I was at uni, I indulged in the pot noodle diet (or the boiled rice with that Chinese hot chilli oil on it?!) and now that I have more extra disposable income, I might choose organic vegetables instead. We make choices that fill out our income, and if we are conscious of it, we can make different choices that will leave us with a little extra in each pay check.

When you know that you are not going to receive paid leave, factor that in to your lifestyle choices. Make it possible to take 2 weeks off work (for example) and not be in financial trouble. When I know I am going away, I start to pay my bills in advance, so that while I am away, and the first month after I get back, I know that everything is in credit and I won't be stressing out trying to get paid or find work in a hurry (now that I freelance full time).

 When you just can't get extra time off

Even if you can only spare a day or two off from your work, use them wisely. Look out for groupings of public holidays. Sometimes you can end up with a string of nearly 2 weeks off while only using 3-4 holiday days. Apply for the leave early though, because others will have the same idea!

If all else fails, take a weekend break. You'd be surprised at how refreshing one night away can be, or even just a day trip outside of your normal surroundings. A short break can be really worthwhile, so don't forget that this can be a perfect solution when you're short on vacation time.

Do you have any insider secrets on scoring extra leave? Or any suggestions on how to maximise the time you have? Let us know in the comments below.

You can read the previous posts on creating a savings plan here (intro) and here (action plan).