How to Travel with Limited Time Off

How do you travel with limited paid time off? 

By taking advantage of weekends and holidays off and strategically planning when to use your time off you will be able to travel with limited paid time off. 

* This site contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission from purchases at no extra cost to you.

“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

Teddy Roosevelt

Taking time off from work and the stress of our everyday lives is incredibly important. Not only does it improve our mental health, it can also benefit our relationships, our personal development, and our physical health depending on the type of trip. 

Read More: How to Plan a Vacation from Start to Finish

With this in mind I’ve created “PTO budgets” for every circumstance. And if you’re like me, your workplaces have the same buckets for paid time off and sick time. So be sure to save a few days for sick time just in case. 

My mom and I on a 3 night trip to Savannah, Georgia!

Make the Most Out of Your Limited PTO

No Paid Time Off, Not Even Holidays

  • Your only real option is to take advantage of your days off.
  • If you have no paid time off but you can take unpaid time off, then you have a lot more flexibility! Assess your budget and determine how many days a month you can take off and not get paid. 
  • According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research 1 in 4 Americans receive no paid time off or paid holidays. 
  • Plan weekend getaways that are within 3 hours away. If you have weekends off, plan to leave Friday after work and arrive home Sunday afternoon. 
  • Stick to road trips or direct flight options.

No Paid Time Off, But You Get Holiday Weekends

  • You have more options with paid holidays, congrats!
  • According to research conducted by Zippia, the average US employee gets 7.6 paid holidays. 
  • In this case I would continue to stick with weekend road trips or direct flights.
  • Assuming you want to stay close to home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, let’s say you have 5 paid holidays out of the 7.6 paid holidays to work with. We’ll use the same assumption for the examples below. 
    1. That’s 5 long weekends you can use for travel!
    2. Plus, as many weekend trips as you want.

5 Days of Paid Time Off PLUS 5 Holiday Weekends

  • 4 days of PTO + 1 paid holiday → 1 week long trip
  • 1 day PTO + 1 paid holiday → 4 night trip (leave Thursday after work)
  • The remaining 3 paid holidays → 3 long weekends

10 Days of Paid Time Off PLUS 5 Holiday Weekends

  • 4 days of PTO + 1 paid holiday → 1 week long trip
  • 4 days of PTO + 1 paid holiday → 1 week long trip
  • 1 day PTO + 1 paid holiday → 4 night trip (leave Thursday after work)
  • 1 day PTO + 1 paid holiday → 4 night trip (leave Thursday after work)
  • The remaining 1 paid holiday → 1 long weekend
On a 4 night trip to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine

15 Days of Paid Time Off PLUS 5 Holiday Weekends

  • 9 days of PTO + 1 paid holiday → 2 week long trip
  • 5 days of PTO → 1 week long trip
  • 1 day PTO + 1 paid holiday → 4 night trip (leave Thursday after work)
  • The remaining 3 paid holidays → 3 long weekends

20 Days of Paid Time Off PLUS 5 Holiday Weekends

  • 10 days of PTO → 2 week long trip
  • 5 days of PTO → 1 week long trip
  • 5 days of PTO → 1 week long trip
  • The remaining 5 paid holidays → 5 long weekends

25 Days of Paid Time Off PLUS 5 Holiday Weekends

  • 10 days of PTO → 2 week long trip
  • 10 days of PTO → 2 week long trip
  • 4 days of PTO + 1 paid holiday → 1 week long trip
  • 1 day PTO + 1 paid holiday → 4 night trip (leave Thursday after work)
  • The remaining 3 paid holidays → 3 long weekends

Now, you can have all the time off in the world but you’ll most likely still need to be mindful of how much money you spend.

Read More: How to Travel Even More with a Full Time Job

How to Save Money While Traveling

Traveling Locally

Traveling locally is not only better for the environment, it’s better for your wallet. If you’re able to travel within 2-4 hours of your home base, you’ll save time and money. We often don’t think of traveling locally as exciting trips because we’re so familiar with our backyards, but there are still hidden gems to discover. And because you’re a local you can ask friends and family for suggestions that you may not be able to find on the internet or social media.

A weekend trip to Scarborough Beach, Maine – just a few hours from our hometown. Still tons of fun!

Road-Tripping

Going on a road trip can offer a less crowded, more relaxing form of travel. However, be sure to stick to off-the-beaten path destinations to avoid traffic and crowded cities. Even if you’re going to a popular destination, you can still make it a relaxing trip by leaving plenty of time between activities and traveling outside of rush hour.

Don’t forget to plan for breaks. We like to break every 2 hours or 150 miles when we’re in the RV.

Read More: How to RV in the US for less than $2500

Making Your Own Meals

Making your own meals while traveling is not the most glamorous way to enjoy a vacation, but it can be incredibly cheaper than eating out every night. For this reason, we prefer to RV or use Airbnb when possible. That way you get a full kitchen and fridge. Use this as an opportunity to check out local farmer’s markets and grocery stores.

And on that note, bring your own snacks so you reduce the need for gas stop purchases which can add up fast. We love having simple options on hand like granola bars, apples, cheese and crackers, and popcorn, plus lots of water!

Seek Free Activities

The first thing I do when researching a trip is looking up free activities in the area. Luckily we love the outdoors and wildlife and those are typically free activities already. But you could expand your search to free local events, free museums, free walking tours, free tastings, etc.

We love free activities while traveling like hiking, biking, kayaking, catching sunrises, and more! This was a free hike in Great Smoky Mountains!

Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget About Day Trips

Although it may not feel as exciting as an overnight weekend trip, it’s way cheaper and easier to plan. Plus you get to sleep in your own bed after a day of adventuring. 

Final Thoughts

Your time off is precious and you should feel empowered to use every last bit of it. I hope this guide gave you a fresh perspective of how to travel with limited paid time off. Now go enjoy your vacations!

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Teddy Roosevelt

No matter the amount of PTO you get at work, you can prioritize travel.