One year ago, I started a full-time job in an adtech company in London. When I enquired about my holidays allowance, I was told it was only 23 days. My first thought was… How can I keep travelling at the same rate (as when I was a student) with such a small holidays allowance. In reality, it can be stretched a little bit more with UK National Holidays which were 8 days in 2017. So that’s 31 days off work on a period of 12 months. What I managed to do with that is pretty amazing. I’m not gonna lie, exhausting too but I managed to travel almost at a rate of 2 trips per month. And guess what, I started studying part-time from September 2017 adding extra workload on my schudule. Here’s how I spent my 31 days off and how I managed to keep up in 2017!
Breakdown of my work holidays allowance
So let’s break this month by month. For every month, I will say how many days I spent from my holiday allowance and trips I carried out during that time.
January 2017: 0 day off, 23 days left
- Paris, France – 0 day off
I visited Paris for a week-end starting on Friday evening to Sunday evening. It was a great city-break, enough time to enjoy the city.
February 2017: 1.5 days off, 21.5 days left
- Bordeaux, France – 0.5 day off
2 weeks after Paris, I was already back to France. This time to Bordeaux. I booked my flight for quite cheap and only took 0.5 day off, it was Friday afternoon as my flight departed at 2pm. Back on Sunday night.
- Timisoara, Romania – 1 day off
Again, 2 weeks later, I went to Timisoara, in Romania. I had my flight departing on Friday evening so I went right after work. I took Monday off as I wanted to extend my trip a little bit to get to know the city and region better since it was my first time in Romania.
March 2017: 0 days off, 21.5 days left.
- Luxembourg, Luxembourg – 0 day off
I visited Luxembourg for £20 return. My flight departed on Friday evening and back on Sunday afternoon. It was another successful city break as I enjoyed it with 0 days off work.
- Brussels, Belgium – 0 day off
For my birthday week-end, I joined my dad in Brussels for a quick city break. This time, I took a train on Saturday morning and back on Monday morning to get to the office way ahead of my start time all the way from Brussels, so efficient the Eurostar!
April 2017: 4 days off, 17.5 left
- Casablanca, Morocco – 2 days off
I enjoyed the 2 UK Bank Holidays for Easter to combine them with 2 days I took off for a trip to visit family. It extended my stay much more.
- Vilnius, Lithuania – 2 days off
Since it was my first time in Lithuania, I wanted to take some days off to enjoy. I visited for a long week-end by taking Friday and Monday off.
May 2017: 0 day off, 17.5 left
- Como, Italy and Lugano, Switzerland – 0 day off
Without taking any days off, I managed to combine two countries at once: Italy and Switzerland. I left London Friday evening and I was due to comeback on Monday morning before work. But I started feeling some pressure and exhaustion from my short week-end breaks and I started losing the fun. So I reduced my trip even further by taking a last minute flight on Sunday evening from Milan to avoid being late to the office on Monday morning.
June 2017: 1 day off, 16.5 left
- Berlin, Germany – 1 day off
I stayed 6 days in Berlin. I was there for 3 days for a business trip with work but with only taking one day off, I was able to double my stay as it crossed over with the week-end.
July 2017: 1 day off, 15.5 left
- Casablanca, Morocco – 1 day off
I took a week-end away at home by taking one day off. It’s practical but again, I start to get exhausted. So I reduced my city-breaks by now.
August 2017: 5 days off, 10 left
- Nairobi, Kenya via Morocco – 5 days off
By taking Monday to Friday off, I get 2 week-ends too which extends the holiday to 9 days. It was enough to spend few days in Morocco and Kenya.
I also took a half day off in August to apply for Israel visa for a September trip that never happened. The visa appointments sadly take up few half days and some arrangements with work to do. But I manage most of the time even with a Moroccan passport.
September 2017: 5.5 days off, 4.5 days left
- Poland and Czech Republic – 5.5 days off
October 2017: 0.5 day off, 4 days left
- Dublin, Ireland – 0 day off
I took a 0.5 day off to get Ireland visa but no days off for a city-break in Dublin from Saturday morning to Monday morning back straight to work.
November 2017: 2.5 days off, 1.5 days left
- Tallinn, Estonia – 2 days off
I visited Tallinn on a long week-end from Friday to Monday. It was fun to discover the city and the Estonian culture.
- WTM, London – 0.5 days off
I took a half day off work to visit one of the biggest travel fair in the world: WTM. As a student, I used to go for the full days but this time, I had to compress my visit to half day.
December 2017: 0.5 days off, 1 day left
- Paris, France – 0 day off
I visited Paris for few days ahead of the start of the Christmas season, it was really pretty with the decorations. I went from London by train, it was quick and easy as I left work on Friday evening and I came back Sunday.
- Casablanca, Morocco – 0.5 day off
I combined UK Bank Holidays for Christmas which were 2 this year with taking a half day off work to make it to the airport for my flight to Casablanca. I spent some time back home with family.
17 trips in total with 22 days off from my work holidays allowance. So 1 day left from my holidays which I will carry for next year!
Organisation is the secret
Getting organised is key in what I achieved this year in terms of travelling while working and studying a postgraduate degree part-time. My work is 9 to 5, so I don’t have anything to do for work outside these hours but for university, I have homework and preparation. For this, I set up trips around deadlines. For example, I am due to submit an essay about Hezbollah on 12 January 2018. This is also the date of my departure for Iceland. It helps me focus more on my studies as I have something to look forward to once I am done with this essay.
Getting organised needs some time but once I found a routine, I was able to do everything together. It synchronised.I also use public holidays which adds up my holidays allowance to stretch my trips abroad. It worked few times quite well!
It’s great… but exhausting to work, study and travel too!
I won’t lie to you… This is all very exhausting. I didn’t feel the exhaustion at the start of the year but I felt it around May which was an opportunity to slow down a little bit my rate of travels and also change the way I organise myself for example, instead of flying from Stansted Airport which is 2 hours away from London, I started flying from London Heathrow which is easier to access and is bigger and better in terms of customer service. It’s more expensive to fly from there but I started finding good deals.
What’s also very exhausting is putting pressure on myself to finish my university work earlier so I could travel. Some days, I spent over 12 hours working: 9 to 5 at work, then until 10 pm at the library. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but I would have spent those hours at the library during weekends… but I am away most of them..
Another negative point… I neglect London! When I am constantly travelling, I spent months without a weekend just exploring London. Those weekends I am in town, I am usually busy running some errands (moving houses – this year, I moved 2 times… studying again, or simply sleeping).
What I wish for 2018
As we are saying goodbye to 2017 and welcoming a new year, I have some resolutions. For 2018, I want to improve my organisational skills in order to keep travelling at the same rate but with less exhaustion. I also want to increase my travels outside of Europe (this year, the only country I visited outside Europe is Kenya). I want to change the way I use my holiday allowance by taking longer periods of days off. I look forward to the new year!
Do you have any tips on how to get organised to squeeze in few trips a year?