Despite the implications of the title, “What We Did With Our 25 Vacation Days”, this is not a bragging post. We know that we’re lucky to work for a company which grants that many days off, especially in America. Rather, we just want to show how far you can stretch your days off and visit different places, and save some money in order to inspire you to do the same. Want to know how?
This is what we did with our 25 vacation days:
A summary of the places we visited, including Foreign Countries, U.S. States, and U.S. Cities:
- Foreign Countries – Jamaica, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic
- U.S. States – Florida, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois
- U.S. Cities – Orlando, NYC, Memphis, Dallas, Miami, Cape Coral, Gainesville, West Palm Beach, Asheville, Richmond, Key West*, Daytona, Chicago*, Fort Lauderdale*
*to be visited later this year
Frontier Air, Allegiant Airlines, Spirit. These are the ones we look at for departing flights out of either Jacksonville, Orlando, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, or Tampa. We flew to Memphis for $80 RT, Asheville for $90 RT, Dallas for $120 RT, Richmond for $100 RT, Philadelphia for $96 RT and will fly to Chicago for about $120 RT. These airlines don’t serve meals, and don’t have cool things like in-flight TV (JetBlue), and their seats are a bit more cramped than the legacy carriers, but if you’re only sitting there for two to three hours, does it really matter? I get that you probably don’t want to fly to Australia with these airlines, but for short and medium-haul domestic routes, this is a big cost-saver compared to using United/American/JetBlue/Southwest.
The one downside with using discount airlines is, you guessed it, bag fees. They charge between $30-50 for carry-on luggage as well as checked bags, just for one way, so those fees can add on pretty quickly. However, we pack light, so we don’t usually bring any carry-on bags or checked bags. We each bring a personal item, usually a backpack, and that is enough for 3-5 days of clothes, a laptop, essential bathroom stuff, and an empty water bottle. On longer trips (ie 4-5 days) or during winter, we need a bag to share between the both of us. So we opt to buy the checked luggage – as it is cheaper than the carry-on. What’s an extra 15 minutes waiting for your bag if you can save an extra $20?
AirBnb is seemingly knocking hotels out left and right these days, but we still like using hotels, especially ones that have what we call the FST, Free Stuff Trifecta: Free Parking, Free Wi-Fi, Free Breakfast. Amazingly, in the U.S., the more expensive a hotel is, the less free stuff you get. A lot of fancy, 5-star resorts charge you resort fees and $15-20 for breakfast, which, come on, who can afford to spend $20 on breakfast? Even if I was a billionaire, I am not spending $20 on breakfast. A muffin and some tea, and I’m good to go. Ruby is a bit more choosy when it comes to breakfast though. She loves her morning eggs & sausages so we end up trying to put that in the wish list.
Of course, we do collect hotel points and try to spend them wisely. Case in point: we spent 3 nights in Asheville, N.C., which is a beautiful little town, but hotels there start from $200+ in peak season. We were able to book 2 nights at a brand new Hyatt Place hotel in downtown for only 5K per night. The cash value for that room was about $300 per night, so that was quite a coup for us. In addition, that hotel got upgraded to a better category a month (now worth 15k points) or so after we booked it, so timing worked in our favor. Booking early never hurts, especially with a free cancellation policy.
One of the things we like to do is schedule our trips so that we only waste a half-day at work for one trip.
Example 1: Flew out Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. to Asheville, spent the weekend there and flew back early Monday morning (like, 6AM) in time for work. Only a 1/2 day spent, and we got a 2 and a half day trip.
Example 2: Flew out Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. to Richmond, spent the weekend, flew back early Monday morning. Another 2 and a half day trip with only 1/2 day spent.
Even if you only have 10 vacation days, you could do this once a month and still have a few days left over for holidays. Thing is, if you do this method your schedule is a bit rigid, and you definitely won’t get to do everything you want to do and will probably need to go back to your destination again. Plan accordingly!
In Summary: Be Creative
Especially for those people who have only 10-12 vacation days a year, be creative. Do some 3-day weekend trips and visit different places. Maybe take a train instead of a plane (but think of your time constraints too). Think of weekends as additional vacation days. Utilize holidays. Don’t take a day off to just “do stuff around the house”, try to do that on a slow Sunday on a weekend when you’re not doing anything. Instead of a day trip, leave work on Friday night, spend Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night in a nearby town, and then get up early on the following Monday to drive back home in time for work. Tiring, yes, but travel makes you feel alive far more than sitting around at home. Such is a lesson I’ve learned!
*out of office photo above is a stock photo from Jasmine Star