Can You Travel (Most) Weekends with a Full-Time Job? 4 Tips from a Nine-to-Five Corporate Lawyer
I get it. You’ve got your dream job, your long-term career goals and whilst most millennials seem to be “quitting my job to travel the world,” it’s not exactly realistic unless you’ve got 300,000 Instagram followers. Time and money are the two obstacles most people consider the reason they don’t travel as much as they would like. But you don’t have to be a professional Instagram blogger to see the world.
When I relocated to London from Australia, I set some pretty big travel goals. I made a bucket list of every city I wanted to visit (and why). In six months, I’ve been able to tick off a fair few big-ticket items.
Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy. As a lawyer, the hours are extremely long and demanding. On some days I won’t leave the office until 10 or 11pm at night. Weekend work is often expected. At first, I found this overwhelming, stressful, and exhausting, and needed a way to escape and take my mind off the stressors of the office.
As London started getting colder and darker, I found myself constantly on Skyscanner, using the ‘search everywhere’ function to find an escape from the overwhelming and stressful routine that comes with living in London.
My first weekend trip as a ‘Londoner’ was Gothenburg, Sweden. A city that I (ignorantly) had not heard much about. I paid £60 for return tickets, leaving London on Friday night after work and flying back Sunday night. This first trip made me realise how much you can see, do, eat, and drink in 48 hours. (and how easy it is to do so). It may not be enough to see an entire country, but it’s certainly enough to get a perfect taste of new culture, surroundings and history. On the flight home, I made a vow to myself that I’d go on a weekend trip at least once a month.
Here’s how I’ve learnt to travel from Friday nights to Sunday nights and turn up on Monday morning for a 50-hour work week.
1. Plan your travel weekends, but be flexible on destinations
With most cities in Europe less than a three-hour flight from London, there’s absolutely no excuse not to take a weekend trip here and there. There are so many travel tools out there to allow you to search “everywhere” and choose the cheapest destination for any given weekend. The cheaper the flight, the more money to spend at your destination, or for the following weekend!
Get your calendar out and mark the weekends that are best suitable. Be sensible and try to make sure these don’t coincide with any significant events, holidays, or festivals in the area to ensure you can get the cheapest flights possible. (I’ve inadvertently booked a flight to Budapest on THE proposed date that the UK is to leave the EU – hence the cheap flights. Wish me luck.)
Be flexible about where you choose to go. You may have your heart set on Paris but your available weekend is exorbitantly expensive. No doubt the airfares will go down and you’ll get the chance. Be patient and choose the right fit instead of overextending yourself.
2. Make travel a priority in your budget
It’s no secret that travel can be expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be. If you want to travel most weekends, it’s absolutely essential to account for travel within your monthly budget. Every week I set aside a pot of money purely for travel. In doing so, it’s important to be reasonable, and balance it with other priorities.
I sacrifice a lot to make sure I can afford the type of travel that suits me. For example, I try to cook at home wherever possible, take my lunch to work, and always walk or use public transport. These small things make a huge difference on your budget and the amount left over at the end of the month for travel. Chances are the amount you need to set aside is less than the amount you spend on Costa coffee and Deliveroo each week!
3. Plan your weekend around a few key attractions
With just 48 hours in a city, it’s absolutely impossible to see everything there is to offer. The week before I travel, I spend my free time notoriously Googling everything there is to see and do in the city. My advice: pick a couple of main attractions or things to do that are a high priority for YOU and plan your day around that.
I like to make sure there is time for brunch, coffee and an evening meal and wine. Allowing time for food and drinks will make it feel like you’re on a holiday, and not just racing from one attraction to the next. This ultimately depends what your goals and priorities are. Hats off to those that can spend two days squeezing in absolutely everything and racking up 50,000 steps. I need my coffee and wine breaks!
4. Know your limits
Squeezing a weekend of travel overseas can be exhausting. I still can’t believe (after six months of living in London) how exhausted I constantly am and how fast-paced the lifestyle can be. Arriving home at midnight after spending most of Sunday evening in airports and immigration queues can take its toll, so there’s no doubt that you may not be as bright and enthusiastic as you should be for work on Monday morning.
If you can’t cope with that, consider an earlier Sunday afternoon flight so that you have time to relax and reset for the week ahead. For me, work is an important aspect of my life and I don’t want travel to compromise that. It’s so important to find the right balance because, whilst it doesn’t cost a fortune to travel, without a job you’ll likely lack the money to travel.
It can be done! Book the flight, say yes to the adventure you’ve always wanted, and see the world one weekend at a time.