This blog post was updated on April 14, 2020.

Everybody wants to travel more. And yet most people don’t. There’s a lot of reasons why, but one of the most commonly cited is “not enough time.” Essentially, would-be travelers have a hard time figuring out how to fit seeing more of the world into their everyday lives. It’s especially daunting if you work a full-time, 9-5 job. Taking off on an impromptu trip to another country maybe be easy for someone who’s retired, still a student, or self-employed as a travel blogger, but not for the rest of us who have to be back in the office by Monday morning. Thankfully there are ways for regular folks to carve out more time for travel through maximizing their vacation days.

Here are just a half-dozen ideas on how to do that:

Actually Take Your Vacation Days

Yeah, this sounds ridiculously obvious, but the truth is that most Americans don’t use all of the vacation days they’ve earned and are entitled to. According to Project Time Off, an initiative by the U.S. Travel Association to highlight the growing trend of Americans not fully taking their vacation days, 55% of Americans left 658 million days worth of vacation time unused in 2015. And since most employers don’t offer automatic and unlimited rollover of vacation time, a lot of those days were lost for good. Don’t do the same. Understand how much vacation time you’re entitled to and use it

Make Your PTO Requests ASAP

If you’ve ever navigated the intricacies of putting in for paid time off in the modern workplace, then you know the golden rule: do it as soon as possible. Most employers operate on a “first come, first serve” basis for approval of days off for overlapping dates requested by those in the same department. No employer wants a project to grind to a halt because essential team members are on vacation at the same time. So as soon as you know when you’ll take a trip, even if it’s weeks or months in advance, put in the request. You should also use the long lead up time to prep for your time off — adjusting deadlines and meeting schedules, putting together instructions for what tasks (if any) should be done while you’re away, etc — to make your absence less of hassle, and possibly help induce your boss to be less hesitant for approving future vacation requests.

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Spread Your Vacation Time Strategically Throughout the Year

When you think of your vacation time, how do you see it? Two major blocks of days off, one in the summer and one during the holidays? There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you really want to travel more, you’ll have to break up those blocks into smaller vacation stints. You can set up those mini-vacations around national holidays, like Memorial Day, that employers usually give off to workers without coming out of their vacation days. It can easily turn a 3-day weekend into a 5-day trip. You can also cut down on travel time by using red-eye flights. So you’d go straight to the airport from work, enjoy your trip, and then land on the morning of your first day back and head immediately into the office.

Use Your Time Off in the Off Season

Wherever you want to visit in the world, there’s a peak season — a time of year that’s best travel there. Generally it’s when the weather is nicest or there’s a big event. It’s also when most people (tourists) visit. And if there’s a peak season, there’s an off season — when the weather isn’t the best and there aren’t a lot of touristy things to do. Sure, you may get stuck in a tropical locale during a rainy season, but it’ll be a unique experience far from any crowds. It can also be the cheapest time to visit with lower airfare and hotel rates. So if you want to save money on your travel, which you can spend on your other travel adventures, be sure to take your time off in the off season.

Pair a Vacation Day or Two with a Business Trip

It used to be that traveling for work and traveling for pleasure were two separate experiences. Business travelers would often hurry through their trips, going to meeting after meeting, and only getting a sense of the destination they were visiting before heading back home. But in recent years, it’s become increasingly popular for travelers on work trips add a day or two (by either arriving early or staying later) to have some fun exploring and being a tourist. A lot depends on what your employer allows. They may require you to pay for your hotel on your days off and maybe even one of the flights, but you’ll get trip for way less than if you’d paid to go for the same amount of time on your own.

Use One Trip to Visit Multiple Destinations

If you really want to maximize your vacation time for traveling, then your trips need to include more than one destination. If you’re willing to do the research, you can build a solidly detailed route with stops at multiple places within a region, like say touring through Japan. But if you’re more a fan of visiting a single major destination packed with lots of sights to explore, say Paris for example, you can take that trip and then book a 24-hour layover in destination on the way back, like Reykjavik.

Are you a savvy maximizer of vacation days and think we missed a trick or two? Leave it in the comments sections below!

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About The Author

Dave Odegard is an ex-army brat turned internet word person, whose work has been published on Maxim Online, USAToday, Buzzfeed, and more. He is currently the Senior Content Writer at Fareportal (CheapOair's parent company) and spends his free time exploring the wilds of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Sweden.