1. Chances are, if you are an American living on this Earth, you probably don’t use all of your vacation days.
After all, a recent survey from Harris Interactive found that Americans only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time each year. And, sadly enough, that’s actually understandable, because finding both the time and the money can seem like a daunting task.
2. But you gotta do it. You just got to — because taking time off is crucial for your overall wellbeing.
To help you make that happen, I asked a bunch of regular, gainfully-employed people in their twenties and thirties what they always do to make sure time off is always on the table. Here are 19 of their best habits — now it’s up to you to steal them as you can for yourself.
4. 2. They set up a travel savings account and have part of their paycheck — even if it’s really small — directly deposited into that account each month.
“It’s a good strategy to make sure you actually save money.”
5. 3. They choose a partner who values travel as much as they do.
“My girlfriend loves to travel, and that’s one of the reasons we got together in the first place. It’s a lot easier to make travel a habit when it’s the default way for both of you.”
6. 4. They do a lot of little things to save money at home, so they have more money to spend on travel.
“I choose to ride my bike or take the subway instead of cabs, I bring my lunch to work instead of ordering out, and I don’t often buy new clothes — I’d rather put that money toward travel. And I often ask myself that: Do I want/need a new dress, or would I rather use this money to buy a plane ticket?”
7. 5. They try to go on one to two weekend trips per season.
“They don’t have to be massive, country-hopping trips to be worthwhile. Any change in scenery is healthy. So I’ll take a long weekend here and there, or tack an extra day to a three-day holiday weekend, and take a train from NYC to DC or to the Catskills, or to stay with friends.”
8. 6. And they always take advantage of holiday weekends.
“You can get a lot out of a three or four hour flight. I live in New York, and I was able to do Vail, New Orleans, Austin, and Chicago on holiday weekends.”
9. 7. If they go on work trips, they try to extend their trip on both ends.
“Getting tickets comped by your company really makes things awesome. When you can extend a trip your work is paying for so you come earlier and/or leave later, you have a little extra cash to splurge on other things.”
10. 8. At the beginning of each year, they go through their schedules and reserve weeks in advance — even if they don’t know where they’re going yet.
“Save the planning for later. Sometimes, all you need to do is request the time off from work — which will basically force you to actually plan something.”
11. 9. If there’s an obvious trip in their face, they take it. They make it work.
“This year, I’m traveling to Copenhagen at the end of this month. My friend is going to a conference and offering to pay for our boarding for a week, so all I have to pay for is my ticket.”
12. 10. They daydream. A lot.
“My girlfriend and I talk about potential trips a lot, and that helps shape our plans. I know we’re going to do a retreat at Eselin Hot Springs in California next fall, and we’ve got a big trip to Nepal that will probably happen in the next 18 months. We talk about these trips and more all the time — it helps keep travel on the radar.”
13. 11. They visit their friends as often as possible.
“I always take action when a friend lives somewhere cool, and is available to hang. Just go visit! My overall goal is to hang like a local.”
14. 12. And they’re always sure to ask their friends about their recent trips.
“Whenever one of my friends goes anywhere, I always ask them how it was, and what they did. If they’re raving about the place and have great recommendations, I often follow their lead and copy their trip.”
15. 13. If they can, they stay local for the holidays, which frees up a lot of vacation days.
“My family is local, so I’m lucky that I can do this. Yeah, it sucks when you’re the only one in the office during that dead week between Christmas and New Year’s, but it means you have more days available throughout the year, when tickets are less expensive — and schedules are more flexible.”
16. 14. They keep their suitcase in plain sight.
“Putting away the suitcase makes me feel like I have nowhere to go, so I keep it out. It keeps me motivated to plan another adventure before I get too antsy.”
17. 15. They make the most of travel opportunities closer to home.
“I don’t think you have to go across the world to discover new things or relax in a beautiful place. I find that I can be just as recharged and inspired by a weekend in a new city in the Northeast or at a quiet lake house as anywhere else.”
“I also try to treat New York City, where I live, as the incredible destination that it is, checking out new museums, exploring new neighborhoods, and trying new foods.”
18. 16. When their friends say, ‘We should go skiing,’ or, ‘We should go camping,’ they pick a weekend right then and there.
“It’s easy to talk about future plans and not actually put things on the book — so you have to adopt an attitude of, ‘Do it now.’ Don’t worry about finding the perfect week to go to Paris. Go when you can, even if it might not be perfect weather.”
19. 17. They fly out directly after work, and then return as close as possible to the time when they have to be in the office.
“As for rest and recovery? I block out one (or two) weekend days the week before and after my trips to do absolutely nothing. Those downtime days at home help gear up before and recover after. And it means you have more vacation days to actually travel.”
20. 18. They stare at maps, and read about places they have no plan to actually travel to in the immediate future.
“It keeps my sense of adventure alive and brewing while I figure out ways to get to wherever it is I want to go.”
—Alexandra E. Petri
21. 19. They think one trip ahead.
“I just went on a free trip to Belize using all credit card points, but before we even left, I was already planning our next trip, to Europe, also using points. Booking with points requires lots of advance planning, so it’s really important to think ahead.”
22. Now, your mission: Try to make the tips most relevant to you a habit of your own, and you’ll be well on your way to traveling more this year.
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