How to Travel Without Taking Vacation Time


Traveling abroad is exciting, there's no doubt about it. Wanderlusters (people bitten by the travel bug) and even travel hobbyists (people who enjoy traveling once or twice a year) spend a lot of time dreaming about their next adventure. Reading books, browsing through glossy travel magazines, thinking about exotic destinations... I know I'm guilty of it all.

And why not dream? As Mr. Nerd loves to say, novelty is the spice of life. People travel because they want to find something new and unique. They want to face uncertainty, discover new places, try new cuisine, or live outside the comfort zone of their home.

As exciting as travel can be, there are only so many weeks in a year to use abroad. Some wanderlusters travel full-time; some travel hobbyists are able to travel for their jobs or for school. But most people in both categories can only jet off when life (family, jobs, responsibility, school, finances, and so on) allows it.

Before you resign yourself to a life of work, with only a few weeks off a year to follow your dreams, consider the ways you can continue to travel ... all by traveling at home!

I mean, who says local travel can't be exciting and novel?

Take a Day Trip

Day trips. Don't knock 'em before you try 'em! They're excellent ways to explore places closer to home while still feeling a sense of adventure.

In my opinion, most people overlook the travel destinations close to home because a place only two hours away still feels like, well, home! But travel doesn't always have to be about getting on a plane and flying for 3-18 hours. There are some incredible places you can explore in your own backyard, I promise.

For example, the Nerds live in the Twin Cities (Minnesota, USA), but we're about two hours away from Duluth—home of great hiking paths, nature parks, lighthouses, and Lake Superior. It's still in Minnesota and thus close to home, but we go up there 1-2x a year for a day because it's easy to reach and exciting to visit.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of a day trip:

  • Pull up a map of your location and look at all the cities and parks within a 2 hour drive. Choose one you haven't been to before!
  • Leave early in the morning (around 7 a.m.). This way, you can grab breakfast on the road and eat lunch/dinner in a new place, and you'll have 7-8 hours to explore before you head on home.
  • Do a little research online about the place you want to visit on your day trip. Is there anything unique or iconic about it that you might want to check out?
  • Plan away! While spontaneity is nice, planning for a day trip is A-OK. After all, if you only have 8 hours to enjoy, you'll want to hit the ground running (and hey, that's part of the fun of a day trip).
  • Ditch your cell phone, laptop, Netflix, text battles, what have you. Take a camera or a notebook instead and make lots of memories!

Hint: Unless you want to take time off from work or school, we recommend you take a day trip on a weekend or holiday.

Get Away for the Weekend

If you're craving something a little longer than a day trip (and if you are, I completely understand the feeling and wish a day was longer than 24 hours), there's always the option of an "extended day trip."

In other words, get thyself away for a weekend!

Some of my favorite trips are weekend getaways. The possibilities are (almost, within reason) endless. Want to drive somewhere 2 hours away? Want to fly somewhere 2 hours away? Either way, it's perfect. Just leave on a Friday afternoon and come home on a Sunday evening!

Different from a day trip, the weekend getaway allows you to calm your pace of travel and really relax. If you want to, you can explore the area with restless feet, but you can also crash in a small cafe for a handful of hours without batting an eyelid. That extra day and a half really sweetens the "extended day trip" pot.

Most of the travel we (the Nerds) do is some variation of the weekend getaway trip. We've gone an hour away and camped in Afton State Park overlooking the river, we've driven ourselves up to Thunder Bay, Canada, and we've spent a weekend with family in the beautiful and serene Brookings, South Dakota.

These are all local trips that relaxed us and made us feel like we were traveling ... without actually taking time off from work!

Hint: To make a weekend getaway even better, take them over holiday weekends. Three days for a trip is always better than two!

Head into the Cities

Travel is often about getting away from one destination and arriving at another destination. So it's easy to overlook nearby cities when thinking about travel, specifically ones you see all the time.

Think about the city you live closest to. Maybe it's the capitol, maybe it's a hub of sparkling glass towers and pounding night life, or maybe it's a quiet, sleepy neighborhood full of bookstores, antique shops, and bistros. Whatever it is, unless you live in the country, it's probably no more than 10-40 minutes away.

Even if you've been in the city a hundred times before, I bet there are nooks and crannies you haven't discovered. So if you're looking for an adventure full of novelty and intrigue, check out your local city!

Or, even better, take an overnight trip into your city! Book a hotel for a night, then hit the streets. Wondering what things you could do? Try some things from this list!

  • Check out a restaurant you've never been to before.
  • Wander through parks and sit next to fountains.
  • Play a game to see how many Little Free Libraries you can spot (they're super cute and all over the world).
  • Catch a local show, play, movie, or concert.
  • Visit an art museum or flower garden (if applicable).
  • Sample a wine or beer tasting at the local brewery/winery.
  • And so on...

There are so, so many cool things you can discover in your hometown or nearby city, I guarantee it. Mr. Nerd and I have lived near the Twin Cities for years (Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota), and while we've visited many times on dates and for work, we've still gone out several times and found new things. We attended a jazz show, ate appetizers* at the fanciest restaurant in town, checked out some small art galleries in random, unlabeled buildings, found an attic nook in a bookish coffee shop, stayed overnight in a gorgeous, old-world hotel from 1910, tried the best lobster rolls we've ever tasted, attended a "science social" at the science museum (adults only!), and much more.

*Just appetizers, unfortunately. We didn't get to the steak because I fainted. A long non-travel story for another day!

Don your Hiking Shoes

Hiking is a great way to explore new places and imbibe in that travel feeling. Instead of seeing cities and restaurants, concerts and crazy monuments, you can get out into the woods and spend a day (or a weekend) in an entirely new place.

As you head deeper down the trail, the rush of cars and crowds of people cease to exist. It becomes you, the earth, and the sky above your head. If you listen close enough, you can hear music in the wind. Hear the call of a bird overhead or the snap of brush as a fox darts through the leaves. A rock on the edge of a hill becomes the perfect resting place for a drink of water and a beautiful view. A perfect stick reveals itself at just the right moment, becoming the walking stick you needed to hike up the steep path ahead.

Hint: If hiking is your jam, see if your state or country has a park/hiking pass. This way, you can park your car at any park for a year, which helps save money if you're on a budget.

There are so many incredible places to hike, especially locally! It doesn't take much to find a perfect park for a morning stroll by the river—or a weekend camping/hiking trip around a nearby lake. Just grab a backpack, some water and snacks, and a pair of good hiking shoes, and you'll be set to make new discoveries in the great outdoors.

Read More: Hey You — Get Outdoors and Go Hiking

Explore your Neighborhood

Have you ever walked down the street and actually gotten to know your neighborhood? It can be surprising to discover what's just around the corner! We just moved to a new neighborhood this past Spring, and already we've found some incredible places just by walking, going for an afternoon run, or hopping in the car for ~5 minutes.

What can you do? Here are a few ideas!

  • Take a morning/afternoon walk and explore the nooks and crannies in your area. If you live close to a lake or public garden, there might be some great views to find!
  • Check your neighborhood for any cafes, coffee shops, antique shops, or art galleries. Often times, the best places are the small hole-in-the-wall shops that no one really knows about (we found our favorite local coffee shop this way, inside an art studio/warehouse just down the road)!
  • If there are bike paths nearby, pack a picnic basket (with good book included) and hit the road until you find a sunny park to stop at. Maybe there's a gazebo at the top of a sledding hill nearby; maybe there's a strip of park in a forest where you can stop and relax (we've found both of these just minutes from our house).
  • Browse the bulletin board at your local neighborhood shops for fun events/locations that might be happening nearby, like a neighborhood parade or beer and wine social!

You never know what you'll find just by walking a mile away from home, especially if you live in the suburbs. There are tons of gems just waiting to be discovered.

There are tons of ways you can travel without taking vacation days or even paying for an expensive flight or train ticket! Did we miss anything? What are some of the ways you travel at home? Let us know in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!

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