How to Make the Most of your PTO

Tobi Off the Shoulder Dress (c/o) | Steve Madden Wedge Sandals | Kendra Scott Sophee Earrings | OPI Be There in an Expresso Nail Polish

I just got this dress in the mail and no I didn't take these pictures on vacation...they are just in the Dallas Design District; however, an off the shoulder dress like this, just makes me feel like I should be on the beach or something. Vacation vibes all around, so I thought it'd go great with this topic.

Last November, I began the travel portion of my blog. I had always enjoyed traveling, but had never put pen to paper. Err, I mean fingers to keys? (I did do Hawaii posts June 2015, but hadn't started my travel section yet!) Unless you count the journals my sister and I did on all of our family vacations! My parents gave us disposable cameras for every trip and we wrote down what we did, every night. After the trip, we printed out the pictures and we had a scrapbook already done!

Anyway, since last November, I have done countless travel guides, hotel write ups, and travel tip posts for San Diego, Seattle, Fredericksburg, Cayman Brac, San Francisco, San Antonio, College Station, Waco, Napa, Austin, and my beloved Dallas. Not to mention that my sister graduated this spring and I was in a wedding, attended a bachelorette party, and have had my own wedding festivites. I have loved every second of my travel posts, so I'm definitely continuing! Next on my list? Saint Lucia, for our Honeymoon!

As most of you know, I have a full-time job working for the Dallas Cowboys, in addition to my other full-time job that's crammed into a part-time job time-frame, called my social life aka blogging. That means that I still have a set amount of vacation days. I have two weeks or 10 days, however you choose to look at it.  

With the exception of San Diego, all of those places I listed above were taken this calendar year! And I've only taken 2 personal vacation days!! I'm using the rest of my 8 days on the wedding and honeymoon :) I thought these were normal things that people consider when traveling, but my fiance reminded me that my brain isn't normal. (haha). This topic was actually sparked, because this summer I was in New York for business, with my boss. In my absence, a co-worker asked my direct team member where I was. When she said New York, the co-worker's response was "what? how many vacation days does that girl have? She is always gone!" My team member said "Actually she is in NY for work, but she only has 10, like most of us in this building". LOL, right? And no, I'm not always gone! See the dates of when I was gone, below. And note some of those, didn't have any PTO taken at all!

February:

5th-8th Seattle, WA

 

March:

11th-13th Fredericksburg, TX

 

April:

1st-3rd Houston, TX

 

May:

13th-15th College Station, TX

20th-22nd Waco, TX

 

June:

10th-13th Cayman Brac

 

July:

7th-10th San Francisco, CA

 

August:

12th-14th Austin, TX

26th-28th San Antonio, TX

 

People often want to travel, but they don't think the have the time or the means. So, how do I do it? (time wise...money is a different topic!) Here are some pointers to making the most out of your paid time off and traveling to your little heart's content!

1) PLAN! People laugh at me, but I am such a planner! Take a look at your days off, figure out where you want to go, and what is reasonable for you, your budget, and your available travel time. Right now we only have 1 trip planned, because several weddings that are next year don't have dates yet and we want to be in town for them. The trip we do have planned, was literally done a year in advance. We are traveling to Oregon for wine season (hello Pinot Noir, my fave!!) and the prime time to go is in August. If you don't book now, the prices will skyrocket and you may or may not get to go! If you want a sneak peak, we are staying at At The Joy. If you want to make the most of your paid time off and vacation days, you have got to think about it in advance. Plain and simple. Side-note, you can have great spontaneous trips, but it's 9/10 easier if you plan in advance.

2) Travel at night. One of mine and Nick's favorite thing to do is leave at night! This allows you to go to work like normal and leave, without taking time off. Plus, you get to wake up in your destination, which I always prefer, instead of a long day of traveling, then arriving to do stuff. Somehow sleeping in a bed, makes everything better! You get to wake-up rested and refreshed. This also goes for return flights and car-rides. If you can stand to be a little tired at work the next day, take a later flight, to get more of your day at your vacation spot. You'll get more time for your money, plus they are usually a little cheaper.

3) Consider company-wide days off and holidays. Now, I don't really like traveling on holidays like memorial day or labor day, because they tend to jack up prices on these dates; however, if you can work them into your vacation, you're gold! Try flying home the day or two after the nation-wide holiday. The flights are usually cheaper and you still got the free day, without taking PTO!

4) Use half days to your advantage. I don't know if you get half-days, but I get them once a Friday each month, from March-August. That's essentially 3 total days combined! Try leaving early Thursday afternoon, to catch an late-afternoon flight and use the other "half" of that half day on Friday, for a total of one PTO day. If you don't even want to use a beloved vacation day for that weekend, then just catch a late afternoon Friday flight. Make the most out of your hours!

5) Research off seasons and cheapest flight times.  Figure out when it is best to travel places and when you can get the most bang for your buck! Now, this won't work for everything. Sometimes cheaper flight means destinations are out of season; however, a lot of them don't! Just know where you are going and what works best. Our honeymoon is actually at the end of hurricane season and the start of resort season. For this reason, our resorts and lodging are on the cheaper side. There are also amazing websites that can get you that info quick. An easy way to look at flights is by just typing it into google -they can show you flight prices across different months and whatnot!

6) Flex your hours. My workplace has flex hours...meaning that I can come in at 7:30 and leave at 4:30 or work 8:15 to 5:15 or even work 9 to 6. You catch my drift... This helps immensely with trips - and not just flying trips either. I love this option for road trips! If I really need the extra time, I will even work 7:30 to 3:30 without a lunch break, just to leave earlier, to get to my destination. 

7) Work longer days. In order to "make-up" a day off, I have asked (well in advance, mind you), to work an extra hour each day, to take a half day or whatever. It honestly sucks working even just that hour longer, but is worth it once you are on vacation!  I obviously get this approved before I do it, but it is a great last resort, especially if you can't afford to take a non-paid vacation day.

8) Live for weekend getaways. Depending on where you are traveling, sometimes a long weekend, is all you need. Take that half day Friday and travel back Monday. This is perfect for traveling domestically. You can't really use this for international trips or for places far away from airports, but there are a lot of places this does work for, so seek out those!

Okay so, there are obviously some outliers. If you don't get your work done, your boss probably isn't going to approve you doing some of these suggestions. Be on top of your game and always get your work in ahead of time. Take ownership of your job and it will get noticed...and awarded with trust. If you are always "sick" or are late to work every day, these probably won't work for you. Also, if you work in a very strict environment, you may not be able to work extra hours or skip your lunch break; however, you should still be able to get some great use out of your days! I hope you are able to use some of these tips! Traveling is the best.

Do you have any other tips that you practice? And no, don't tell me to "take a sick day"! I never even really took sick days at school, much less skipped for vacation.  Give me your real ideas, so I can use them too! 

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