Long before we started blogging, while working a full-time job (or studying full time – depending on the year), we travelled almost as often as we currently do!
It started like it does for most people – you book your first trip somewhere, have an amazing time and as soon as you get back home, start thinking of booking your very next trip.
This carried on and on and in fact, there was a point where we even travelled as much as 4 – 5 times a month while working full-time.
We even did a trip back then with Georgia and Chris to Amsterdam (so. much. fun!) which led us becoming firm favourite travel buddies (our travel group has grown a lot more since then – there are about 10 to 14 of us who are always down for adventures together – whether that’s in Peru, the South of France or Tokyo).
Now, I’ve spoken about how we used to travel so much on the blog a while ago however, this was back in the early days of the blog – the Hand Luggage Only community has grown a lot since then so I figured I’d share again how we managed to travel as much as we did back while working full-time; albeit this time with a lot more context (i.e. rambling) so you can see how doable this truly is.
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING… (🎶A VERY GOOD PLACE TO START 🎶)
For starters, I think the assumption most people make is that for us to have travelled as much as we did, that perhaps we had ridiculously high paying jobs, our parents paying for our travel or some trust fund we could dip into but it was never any of that.
In fact, my very first part-time job back when I was studying paid me like £5 an hour and it was this job that paid for my trip to Dublin with my Uni friends (from Ireland and Finland).
Right so that was then, eventually we did what Uni students are supposed to do (graduate Uni with your first degree) and after a bit of searching, I found myself a graduate job. The salary for that job was £25,000 a year which was actually quite decent for Edinburgh (rent was around £640 for a 2 bedroom place back then).
Thing is though, the way that job worked, as graduates, we were supposed to rotate across several departments over the course of 2 years. Sounds great in theory but the only problem was that due to this rotation (and the fact that our graduate salaries came from a separate payroll) most departments would just treat you as extra labour that they didn’t really need to use.
Some people were lucky and got placed in departments that could use the help or just departments that were invested in training you. I was not so lucky. (My first department was dull but great – the second one was absolutely atrocious).
I had this idea that I would be challenged at work and learn so much that once I finished my graduate scheme, I would dazzle everyone with how much I’d learnt.
It’s the kind of enthusiasm that’s usually reserved for your very first job after Uni where you’re so happy to be part of the proper adult working-world and haven’t been jaded by real-life work experience. Almost everyone has it once they start working and almost everyone loses it after a few years of holding down a proper job. 😆
Long story short – I got bored very quickly and started looking for another job where I would learn a lot more from. I soon found “that new job” in the Consultancy arm of a Big 4 firm (it was something like 50 applicants per place for my specific department then) and it was everything I thought it would be.
Flip-side to that though was that the starting salary was £20,500 (in Edinburgh so you could still live comfortably off that) but I didn’t even care, I just knew I would learn so much more there and to be fair I did.
SIDEBAR OVER – BACK TO THE TRAVEL…
Now, back to the travel side of things, with that first job, I actually didn’t do that much travelling. In fact, I think most of the time I worked that job, I was based in the UK – which now that I think of it, makes me wonder what I did with all my 5 weeks of holiday time.🤔
With the second job, however, that’s when we started travelling properly!
HOW WE TRAVELLED – OUR PROCESS
The biggest thing that helped us travel so much was always keeping an open mind about a destination.
Essentially, what we would do was search for the cheapest flights going anywhere (usually some city in Europe) and we would just book a flight there. Hotels and other logistics would be sorted out later.
Booking really cheap trips like this meant that we would be able to afford to travel a lot more. Like seriously, some of the flight prices were like £8 return. Price-wise, back then £25 would almost be “too expensive”! (We’d always hold out for a better deal).
With this method though, it just meant that you had to be vigilant and pretty much just check every day (or every other day for a few minutes each day – so very easily done). These days, you can set up price alerts so it’s not nearly as manual or time-consuming as it used to be back then.
The true reason why this worked for us was because we were flexible about the destination. I wanted to see so much that I was opening to exploring cities I’d never even heard of prior.
Funny thing is, now that I think about it, most of the places we visited are places lots of people want to visit now – Budapest (believe it or not, there was a time this city wasn’t an overly popular destination to visit), Gothenburg (this is the one we found £8 return flights to – pretty certain you’d struggle to find that these days), Nimes, Bergen… etc.
These destinations were not as popular back then (and the airports were sometimes an hour away – which is not unusual when you’re used to London airports; Edinburgh back then was just around 30 minutes away) so the prices were a lot lower.
We still did this recently and ended up in Carcassonne in Southern France (which is absolutely GORGEOUS!).
The next step would be looking for hotel deals but there’s no huge secret with this one – it just involved looking for the best deals we could find. Or if you’re lucky, friends who live in the place you’re visiting (Sidebar – I think this is partly why I rented a 2-bed place so people would always have a place to stay when they visited me).
HOW DID THINGS CHANGE SINCE THEN?
Since those Edinburgh days, I changed jobs and when I moved to London to work in Investment banking (that’s a whole other story entirely), it definitely became a lot easier.
Salaries increased dramatically, suddenly we had like 8 or 9 airports to choose from, competition increased between airports so prices went even lower – all of which meant that travel choices seriously opened up for us! (Even the Eurostar train service to Europe became more of an option after moving to London).
That mantra of being very flexible stayed the same though and it’s with this that we booked trips away as frequently as possible.
The other side of things is to do with the holiday allowance. When you’re working full-time, you get a limited amount of holidays but what we used to do is use our weekends to increase that. Some trips would mean leaving on Friday night after work and getting back home on Sunday night. 2 days, 2 nights – the perfect amount of time to explore quite a lot of European cities.
Other options, especially for longer trips, would mean using the weekend on both sides of a week leaving you with 9 days of holiday time instead of just 7 (or 5) days.
If you’re really looking to stretch it like we did, you’d leave on Friday night (sometimes meaning you’d arrive on Friday night at your destination – perfect for trips heading to the west – like going to the US or Mexico where the time zones are behind ours in London) and then arrive back really early on Monday morning 10 days after (we’d arrive around 6 or 7am leaving you with enough time to get to work).
It’s intense on the first day back but totally worth it for the extra holiday time.
LONG (VERY LONG) STORY SHORT
Be flexible – be open to exploring places you’d never thought about.
Be vigilant – good deals come to those who look for them. Fine every so often you’ll stumble across some great deals totally unplanned but most deals come to those who are looking for them.
Act fast – don’t spend days thinking about the deals you’ve found. They’ll be long gone by then. Try to think in advance of the kind of places and deals you like (or dislike) so when the deals arrive, you kinda know if it’s one you’re interested in! There’s no point spending ages agonising about visiting Antarctica if you know you’re avidly against cold holidays ( …of course, if you really want a cold holiday and a deal to Iceland or Lofoten came into your emails – book, book, book! 😄)
Squeeze as much value as possible – turn long stopovers into mini-trips, try to see if you can combine other destinations with cheaper ones (cheap flights to Florida might be the perfect opportunity to pop over to the Caribbean for a few days)… generally just take a moment to see if there’s a way to get even more from your travel without compromising on the destinations you’re visiting. (For example, despite what I said in my Miami/Caribbean example, don’t try to tag on another trip if you barely have enough time to explore your primary destination).
I’m gonna stop now. I’ve never really been an advocate for that whole “quit your job to travel the world” thing – I think it’s unsustainable long-term and this is why even when we travel for long stints of time, we always set some time to spend at home. Hotels can be absolutely amazing but there’s nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed! 😁
Hopefully, my rambling has provided you with some context (and some background) into how we got started travelling, how we managed to squeeze in as many trips as possible while working full-time and given you some ideas on how to travel as much as you possibly can while juggling your other commitments! 🙂