6 ways to make the most of your annual leave

I didn’t always work in travel but, even now I do – time out from work is incredibly precious. Whilst 28 days paid annual leave entitlement may sound like plenty, by the time you’ve deducted high days and bank holidays, you’re left with little over 4 weeks – not a lot if you’re keen to travel whilst holding down a full time job.

Words: Roxane Gergaud

But there are ways in which you can stretch it – making sure you get the most out of your time out. Dubbed by my friends as the ‘holiday queen’ here are a few suggestions on how to make the most of your precious days off.

Sunset over Montmartre in Paris

Sunset over Montmartre in Paris

1. Become a long-weekender

Taking several shorter breaks is a great way to maximise on annual leave and it’s amazing how much you can see, do and eat in a long weekend. We’re spoilt for choice on short haul destinations across Europe – from great cities for an urban break – like Paris, Lisbon or Madrid to more beachy escapes like Nice, Malaga or Faro. With just a couple of days tagged onto your regular weekend you can enjoy a proper little break away.

It’s worth being tactical with your travel – by booking flights and accommodation separately, you can really maximise on your time away by choosing flight times that mean arriving early and landing home late. Fine, you might be a little bleary eyed at your desk the next morning but the extra few hours poolside or those sunset cocktails before you leave for the airport will be well worth it.

New year’s eve on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

New year’s eve on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2. Make the most of high days and bank holidays

With most companies including these days as part of your basic annual leave entitlement, it’s important to make the most of them. Use bank holidays to take a long weekend away or roll it into a week’s break for just four extra days annual leave. Many offices are closed over the Christmas period and this can be a great time to take a big trip, making use of those extra few days of annual leave to go long-haul and beat the winter blues and post festive melancholy.

It’s worth noting that flights tend to be expensive at these times, so make sure to book well in advance. Early booking should mean lower prices and will give you something to look forward to. Everyone likes a holiday to look forward to.

Water buffalo in Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

Water buffalo in Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

3. Go on the move

Once in full-time employment it can feel depressingly like your travelling days are behind you but not so! Whilst your luggage modus operandi may have gone from backpack to wheelie, you can still travel around a bit on slightly longer trips. Over a couple of weeks, you can easily stay in three or four places without feeling like you’re rushed and nothing makes you feel a million miles away from the office more.

Take an example – with just 10 days in Sri Lanka, you can enjoy incredible tea plantations, mountain hikes, many a temple, historic towns, safaris through national parks packed full of elephants before you collapse on the beach for a few days of r&r. You’ll return to your desk feeling revitalised – with great tales to recount round the water cooler as well as a tan.

Custard tarts and tiles in Porto

Custard tarts and tiles in Porto

4. Do your research

Of course, there’s a balance to be struck between identifying key things you’re keen to do or see whilst away and not over-planning; but with limited time in a place it’s well worth seeking inspiration before heading off – not least to get you excited! Whilst the mainstream travel resources will offer the top 10 things to do in any given location (e.g. Tripadvisor), it can be richer still to scratch a little beneath the surface and try and find the sights less-frequented by tourists – from the local’s favourite coffee shop or a secret little beach to interesting installations and events that might be taking place whilst we’re there.

Blogs are a great resource for this, as is Pinterest and at Doris & Dicky we always share our findings upon our return. We had an amazing weekend in Porto last year and struck the perfect blend of planned and unplanned meandering – I was only disappointed that the incredible Leça swimming pools by Alvaro Siza weren’t yet open for the season – though it just gave me an excuse to go back…

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5. Choose your travel buddy wisely

With your annual leave so precious and the options of what to do so limitless – it’s important to make sure that you choose your travel companion wisely. If it’s a beach flop you’re after, don’t pick the friend who will want to be out visiting museums. When travelling with someone else (particularly with a boyfriend/girlfriend) there are always compromises to be made but it’s worth discussing in advance what you both want from the holiday as this will avoid tensions on plan making whilst away and hopefully result in happy hols all round. If compromise is not your thing, don’t be afraid to travel alone – this can be unbelievably refreshing and rewarding and allows you to do exactly as you please.

Artist Residence Brighton – rooms from £89/night

Artist Residence Brighton – rooms from £89/night

6. Staycations are smart

Sometimes energy levels, budget and timings might not allow for a foreign jaunt away but don’t underestimate the power of a staycation. When the sun is shining, nothing beats the English coastline and we’re spoilt for choice on fun seaside towns like Brighton or Whitstable, which are both around an hour outside of London. In the winter, it’s more cosy weekends of country walks, pub lunches and long, hot baths and, again, there are plenty of options from the Cotswolds to the Yorkshire Dales.

So get that time off booked and get that out of office on.

Roxane is the co-founder of Doris & Dicky – a new hotel booking site that offers a curated selection of the worlds best boutique hotels for around £100/night. See more of their great properties here.

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