The most common question I get asked is HOW I manage to visit so many places while working a full-time job. In the past three years since being based in Europe, I’ve ticked off 39 countries only using my allotted annual leave, and did it all on a budget, naturally. Including public holidays, of which there are 8/year in Britain, I had 28 days leave in 2017. With those days, I was able to visit 11 countries as well as take weekend trips within the UK. Here’s how I did it:
I’m mega cheap so with the exception of my longer trips, I only ever spend either £250 all in (food & drink, accom, airport transfers, excursions, trinkets etc) for Western Europe and equivalent places or £150 for Eastern Europe. You can easily spend that on a weekend in London, so why not spend the same and get a new passport stamp?? For trips 7+ days, depending on the location, I budget around £500ish max; sometimes I even come back with money!
For flights, I always make sure to have flights booked at least 3 months in advance to ensure the cheapest prices. I’ve never paid more than £50 return for flights in Europe – it’s against my religion. I’ve subscribed to my favourite airlines mailing lists to find out when the next seasons’ flight paths are launching to scoop up the deals. Airlines like EasyJet and WizzAir always have crazy deals on new routes and destinations, mostly in Europe. For example, a few years ago I booked to visit Ohrid, Macedonia in July for £35 return for 5 days; the same flight now easily costs £90+ for the same time of year. I always use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights and usually end up booking to go to whatever new country I haven’t been to yet.
Being from the massive continent of North America, I know that it’s not always possible to be able to jetset to a new country for a weekend cheaply, but low budget airlines are starting to pop up which make it a bit more affordable. Plus, if there’s anything I’ve discovered while living abroad, it’s how much Canada has to offer. I can’t wait until I go home one day and get to start ticking off all the things I’ve only discovered since being away from home.
Last Christmas I spent a week in Morocco and Gibraltar and only used the Jan 1st Bank Holiday.
I was also given a surprise trip away to Belgium for my birthday last year and took the EuroStar over to Brussels for the weekend. I took a half day to catch the train over and came back late on the Sunday night (we even missed the first train back but still climbed onto a later one without charge! Thank you EuroStar!!)
January Annual Leave Used: ½ day + 1 Bank Holiday
I had a paid work trip to Amsterdam for 4 days, so no time off required.
February Annual Leave Used: 0 days
Over Easter, I went to Egypt – the destination I’ve been waiting to visit my whole life! We flew Friday and came back Sunday. As it was Easter, I used 5 days leave and 1 Bank Holiday.
April Annual Leave Used: 5 days + 1 Bank Holiday
Over the first May Bank Holiday, I flew to Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I left on the Saturday and was meant to come back on the Tuesday but due to a series of unfortunate events including a missed flight and an ATM disaster, I ended up back in London via Croatia and Germany a day later, forcing me to take an extra day off (and miss work – oops). The joys of travel!
I surprised my family with a trip back home to Nova Scotia for ten days over the second May Bank Holiday. I left on a Saturday and came back on a Wednesday afternoon and took 7 days leave.
May Annual Leave Used: 9 (accidentally) + 1 Bank Holiday
Booked flights for a girls hiking weekend in beautiful Bulgaria and took one day off work to catch an extremely early Friday morning flight – the things we do for cheap flights. One day off.
Another work trip back to the Netherlands for two days. No leave used.
June Annual Leave Used: 1 day
Girls weekend away to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. Took the train Friday after work and came back Sunday afternoon. No days off used.
July Annual Leave Used: 0 days
September Annual Leave Used: 0 days
After no international trips for 3 months, I finally was taking off to Europe. A Thursday night flight for a weekend in Serbia, one day off work.
November Annual Leave Used: 1 day
I usually take a big trip over Christmas to make the most of the Bank Holidays. This time I went to Kenya and Tanzania from December 20 – Jan 2, 8 days off work. As I was over my holiday allotment due to my Bosnia mishap, I took one day without pay.
December Annual Leave Used: 8 days + 2 Bank Holidays
Total Used: 29 ½ days, 11 countries visited.
I hope this showed you how easy it can be to make the most of your annual leave. Short trips allow you just enough time to get out of the routine, relax and open your eyes to new places and faces. How many trips have you been able to squeeze out of your annual leave? Post in the comments below!