I’ve always wanted to travel as much as possible. I’m sure you’ve picked up on that by now! I think it’s because I was raised in Communist Poland. Traveling abroad was never an option. (You can read more about that here). Back then, traveling seemed as though it was for the lucky millionaires. But it really isn’t anymore!
Since I’m now living in Western Europe, I cherish the freedom and ability to travel. I jump at the opportunity every single time. I teach my children that these ideals are priorities that aren’t necessarily normal. To us, they’re very important so I try to make sure my kids understand our point-of-view.
Understanding my roots and seeing my boys grow gives me the feeling that we are all inherently wanderlusters. The only difference between their youth and mine is that, luckily, the sociopolitical climate is better. We do have the freedom to travel as much as possible. Because I wanted this ideal to be an important part of our family life, I developed the four main pillars of what matters when we travel:
For most of us, money is probably the most important consideration when traveling. Creating extra time off, though, might be as challenging as creating extra money. Peer and I both work full-time jobs with 25 paid days off per year. (For those of you living in the States, I know that sounds like a dream!) Our kids, who are in public school, have 13 weeks of time off each year—that’s 65 days! I think sometimes it would be so much better if we were both self-employed. It would certainly give us more flexibility to travel as much as possible.
The Netherlands is quite progressive when it comes to employee benefits and work/life balance. There are many possibilities, some that people don’t even take advantage of! Here are some of the options:
Part-Time contract work that equals 40 hours per week
This is a pretty standard work arrangement, especially if you’re working for the government. You’ll be contracted for 36 hours but you work 40 hour weeks. This way, you save the extra hours as holiday time and take the hours/days when you go on vacation.
In The Netherlands, in addition to maternity leave, employees have the right to take Parental Leave until your child is 8 years old. Essentially, the leave is calculated at 26 times the number of hours you work per week, per kid. So, if you have two or more kids, you end up double or triple this amount. Your Parental Leave schedule is usually negotiated up front. Some companies even have an additional age threshold; for instance, my company agrees you can take Parental Leave up to when your child is 13 years of age. While some corporations might even pay your salary up to 70%, Parental Leave is usually unpaid. Most parents use this benefit to take a few hours off each week. Personally, I didn’t need the time off during the week so I negotiated with my company that I will use these hours during the school breaks.
Generation Leave / Sabbatical
Many companies offer this benefit in their Collective Employers Contract. Every five years, employees are entitled to take 3 months leave. If you take Generation Leave, your employer will pay 40% of your salary during this period. You can negotiate whether you take this leave all at one time or split it up into two or three parts. What this means is that I essentially get an additional two and a half weeks off a year (spreading Generation Leave over the five years) that are still paid at 40%.
Almost every company offers its employees the opportunity to take unpaid leave. If your PTO days are reaching the bottom, you are able to ask your boss to take unpaid time off.
For those of my readers who are living in the USA, I know some of this seems foreign. It’s because it is! Luckily, I have a few American friends who have helped me put together some recommendations so you too can get the most out of your vacation days.
Maximize the National Holidays:
While it may be sometimes more expensive to travel domestically, most of the US holidays (save for Christmas and New Year) aren’t actual holidays elsewhere. So while prices might be inflated in the US, they’re actually pretty reasonable elsewhere. You also will take fewer of your coveted PTO days if, say, traveling over Christmas and New Year. Most US-based companies give two days for Christmas and one-two days for New Year. That’s four holiday days you can turn into a week or more away.
Negotiate extra days upfront
The standard for most American corporations is two weeks paid leave. If and when you’re (1) starting a new job or (2) receiving a promotion, now is your time to talk extra holidays. The truth is, extra days don’t actually cost the company anything. And there are other people in the company who are definitely allotted extra days. So: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. And chances are, the company will definitely give them to you because it’s cheaper to keep you than to lose you!
Let’s face it: Everybody could use more time off! Even in Europe, where time off is more plentiful than our USA friends’, the opportunity to travel with family always has us wanting more. If you put traveling high on the priority list and know how to negotiate—you’ll be able to make it happen!