Professional Development Work-Life Balance

How to Work Full-Time and Fit in Vacations

Written by Miranda Pennington

Joanna Niles, a lifestyle and travel blogger, wrote about traveling while working full time over at the HuffingtonPost this week. I thought her tips were great—practical and strategic—and my husband and I used many of the same approaches when we plan travel a few times a year.

Look at the calendar

Since I teach workshops and college-level courses, my schedule is bound by the academic calendar. This means I can travel a lot in early and late summer, I have a lot of time in January, and I always have a few 3- and 4-day weekends during the fall and spring.

Chances are if you work for a corporate or government employer, you have a variety of paid and national holidays to make the most of, too. Not every trip is a week-long extravaganza—we’ve done weekend jaunts to San Francisco, Philadelphia, Portland, Maine, and have a trip to New Orleans coming up at the end of the month. It’s surprising how refreshing and enjoyable a brief visit can be. You can also be more efficient with your vacation days by adding on one before or after a long weekend.


Normally, you’d be working during the day and perhaps socializing at night. Maybe you can work out an arrangement where you can take that format on vacation with you, too. Another option is to work after the family goes to bed or before they’re up in the morning.

This tip has the potential to backfire since you can also be pursued by work long after you’re ready to unplug, but if you’re disciplined about allowing and restricting access (yours, and your coworkers!), a vacation where you spend an hour or two emailing and coordinating in the morning and then go about your day can be great for making your getaway productive.

This summer I had to take a pile of grading to the beach, and the first two days of our trip were divided between lounging on the sand and marking up papers on the balcony. Sure, I wanted to be spending more of my time on the boardwalk, but the alternative was postponing our much-anticipated vacation just for a deadline, so it turned out to be a worthwhile compromise.

Plan Ahead

When my husband and I first got together, he hated the way I liked to plan six months or a year out, but now he appreciates that if you don’t get a head start on planning trips, you can miss out on awesome seasonal opportunities or experiences that sell out as soon as they become available to the public.

Don’t forget to set aside some vacation time around the holidays! My first year of working full-time, I didn’t anticipate that my company wouldn’t just automatically close on important “eves.” If my boss hadn’t been generous about commuting my sick time, I would have had a sad solitary holiday weekend alone in my apartment instead of back in my hometown.

Be Flexible

That said, sometimes you have to just get that price alert in your inbox, click through, reserve your flight and grab a weekend bag. If budget is the most important factor in your ability to travel, get yourself on the mailing list of sites like The Flight Deal and Airfare Watch Dog and stay tuned as rates rise and fall during the various tourist seasons.

Where you go is more important than when you go anyway, and remember how nice a quick weekend can be—fly out Friday after work, enjoy Saturday and part of Sunday, and maybe go in a little late on Monday.

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.