If, like me, you live for holidays, using your annual leave wisely is key when it comes to making the most of your yearly trips. Here are my tips for maximising your holiday allowance so you can dedicate more time to travel.
- Get in there early
Whether you’re in an office of five or 500, it can sometimes be a scramble to get the annual leave slots you’re coveting safely in the diary before anyone else. Every company is different but I always try to book at least one or two of my holidays around six months in advance. Not only will this ensure you get in there quickly so the dates you need are locked down, but it also leaves you with more time to save and plan for your travels – win, win!
- Plan, plan plan
One of my favourite things to do is plan, and my annual leave days are no exception. I hate having to use precious days to stay at home and let the plumber in, or do boring life admin, so where possible, I try to keep my annual leave dates back just for travel. Sometimes this can’t be helped, but it makes me feel better knowing I’m maximising my leave as much as I can. I like to add all my provisional dates to a calendar way in advance so I know where the gaps are and try to spread my annual leave as evenly as possible throughout the year so I always have something to look forward to.
- Use bank holidays wisely
Every so often the universe gives us a gift in the form of bank holidays close together. For example, in April 2019 if you take off 9 days of annual leave between Easter and the first May bank holiday, you’re rewarded with a whopping 18 days off in a row. This bit of trickery happens next Christmas too – you can take 7 days off over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, in return for 16 days holiday. Magic!
- Weekends are your friend
I’m a big fan of using a cheeky half day on a Friday to lengthen a weekend away. Not only does it give you extra time on a Friday night to explore your surroundings but it means you get the travelling out of the way early so your weekend can start in style a little earlier. I’m doing this later this year for a trip to Cologne, so I’ll be able to get my bearings before having the whole weekend to properly explore and get stuck into some festive gluhwein.
- Day yes to day trips
It’s not often I say this, but us UK dwellers are lucky that we live in such a small country, as it’s super easy for us to hop from place to place for the day. You’ll be surprised by how many inexpensive day trips are available from major cities in the UK – whether it’s a jaunt from York to Leeds, London to Brighton or Glasgow to Edinburgh – just changing your surroundings for a few short hours can feel like a much-needed break.
- Be a tourist in your own city
So this is cheating a bit, but sometimes you don’t need to use any annual leave to seek out a new experience. Living in London means I’m spoilt for choice with city-wide treasure hunts, hidden pubs and quirky museums but every city or town has its own unique offerings which can sometimes pass us locals by. Try being a tourist for the day in your hometown for a unique experience on your doorstep, even if it’s just trying a new brunch place or going for a run in a different park to your usual spot. You might just develop a whole new appreciation for where you live.
- Hotfoot to a local airport
Earlier this year, I flew to Lisbon from City airport and it really opened my eyes to a new way of flying. It was a much quicker process than going via Heathrow or Gatwick and it was so much easier to get there from the office, meaning we didn’t have to take extra time off to allow for travel. Check your local airport’s schedule, as it might surprise you just how many places they fly to.
- Check your company policy
Some companies offer schemes whereby you can buy holiday days whereas others might compensate you for working overtime with time off in lieu, and some even increase annual leave allowance with every year of service. Check your company policy to see whether you might be able to get extra days off using one of these methods and if they don’t, there’s no harm in asking your boss whether this is something they might consider in the future.
- Make the most of deals and sales
It’s all well and good trying to use up all of your annual leave on holiday days but flying is expensive and it’s not always possible to have the cash needed to tick off every place on your bucket list in the same year. I always try to book during sale time – whether using Booking.com genius points or seeking out a BA flight during its bi-annual sale, bagging a bargain can help make your travel dreams a reality and leave you with more dosh to spend on more adventures!
- Go outside peak season
To save some cash, I always avoid summer holidays and instead try going away off-peak (usually April and October). Not only will you usually get better deals on flights, hotels and activities, you’ll avoid the hordes of families jetting away for some summer sun. After a long haul flight with a particularly noisy child screaming for 11 hours straight (there and back, people, there and back..) I’ve realised it’s probably a good idea to book out of season, for my own sanity if nothing else.