Surprise, I’m working in Nicaragua! No, my job didn’t send me down here on a special assignment. And yes, I’m actually working here – I’m not on vacation. I’m balancing work and traveling while working remotely from this Central American nation known for its biodiversity, colonial heritage, and towering volcanos.
My travel motto here at Travel Rinse Repeat is to make the most of every travel opportunity, and a big portion of that is finding out how to maximize vacation time. As an American in a country where 10-15 days of paid time off is the norm, I’m incredibly lucky to work for a company that gives a generous amount of vacation time. But despite the time off, I’m always looking for ways to extend travel opportunities. And working remotely is one of the strategies I’ve used to travel farther for longer, all without emptying my bank of vacation days.
So how can you extend beyond your traditional allotted vacation time in order to travel more and experience more? Here are six strategies you can use to spend more time away from home – without quitting your job.
As a disclaimer, I understand not everyone has the luxury of working for a company that is flexible when it comes to vacation time, so these tips might not be applicable or realistic for everyone reading. However, I will say that if traveling is a major priority for you and you’re working for a company that isn’t going to help you do that, it might be time to look for a new job.
Remote Work Agreements
A majority of what I do for work can be done through emails and phone calls which makes working remote extremely easy. If you’re doing most of your work from a computer or telephone anyways, you can work from anywhere with an internet connection or a cell signal. However, the challenge isn’t actually working remotely; it’s convincing your supervisors to let you work remotely.
For me, this meant building trust over time. I worked hard to prove that I could be accountable and deliver with little oversight. Whenever I had the opportunity to work independently, I made sure I was extra-productive. Once I proved to my supervisors that I could perform all my duties remotely, I was able to ease into negotiating a remote work agreement. By proving that you’re just as (if not more) productive out of the office, you can build a compelling case for a week of remote working.
Changing or starting a new career presents an excellent opportunity to increase your vacation time. Once you have an offer in hand from a company, don’t be afraid to negotiate for more time off than they initially offer. Once they’ve confirmed that they want you to fill the position, you can leverage that to request more vacation time. If they’re not offering what you consider sufficient vacation time, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Many companies expect to receive counter offers from new hires.
But you don’t have to start a new job to negotiate for more vacation time. If you’re happy at your current job, ask for additional vacation time in lieu of or in addition to a salary increase during your next performance review (assuming you performed well, of course).
Offer an Incentive
Vacations are a great way to recharge, reduce stress levels, and provide a higher level energy and productivity when you return – none of which should be lost on you (or your boss) when you’re trying to get a few more vacation days. Use these facts to your advantage when pitching your boss, and give them some incentive to allow you to take the extra days off.
You can promise boosted productivity (and deliver upon return) or agree to take on a special project with your newfound energy. By making it a win-win for both you and your supervisor, they’ll be more willing to consider giving you the additional time off.
Take Unpaid Time Off
Everyone likes to get paid while on vacation – is there a better way to earn money? But for many people, the assumption is that once all their paid-vacation time is used up, they cannot take any more days off. However, most companies offer some form of unpaid leave, allowing employees to extend their vacation days by sacrificing a small portion of their paycheck.
My guess is that many people would scoff at the idea of taking unpaid time off. But if travel is a priority for you, it will require sacrifices. Read up on your company policies or speak with an HR representative to find out the specifics of taking unpaid time off where you work.
Earn Good Will Vacation Days
Special projects that require long hours of overtime usually aren’t a good way to improve your work life balance. But you can turn this negative into a positive by banking ‘good will’ days through putting in these extra hours. I’ve been on engagements where I’ve worked some seriously long hours, including weekends, to meet a demanding timeline. While these stretches were stressful and certainly not my ideal lifestyle, they didn’t go unrecognized by my supervisors. Once we met our deadlines, we were given few bonus days of vacation on top of our traditional paid-time-off as a way to make up for the time that we gave our company.
Don’t be shy about asking for additional vacation days whenever you’re burning the midnight oil on a consistent basis. If you’re a salaried employee (and not earning overtime) then it shouldn’t be out of the question to float the idea of a day or two of bonus vacation as a reward for your hard work.
If you work a standard 40 hour week, check with your supervisor to see if it’s possible to work four 10 hour days instead of five 8 hour days. This strategy is ideal for a three day weekend trip. By completing all your hours at work Monday-Thursday, you can make the most of a weekend trip by adding an extra day on Friday – all without taking an extra day of vacation time.