Both my husband and I are teachers so we totally understand the unique opportunity and limitations teachers have before they can take advantage of traveling throughout the year. However, we have been able to actually leverage our careers as teachers to allow us to travel and here’s how.
Disclaimer: we do not have any kids, no student debt, and in the process of buying our first house so I know we are not necessarily in everyone’s shoes but you can pick and take from these tips to see what works for you and your family!
Take Advantage of Summer Professional Development
Probably my #1 advice to teachers is to use various professional development programs to travel over the summer. For example, last summer I got a National Endowment for the Humanities stipend to go to New York City for 3 weeks and my husband was able to tag along as a guest. Although the NEH stipend did not pay all the costs of being in New York City, it certainly helped to cover some of the costs. While I was in my class from 8am-3pm, my husband was out exploring the city and then we would meet up in the afternoon to do things together or with other people from my program. Without this program, especially the dorm accommodations, I would have never been able to afford to stay in Manhattan for 3-weeks on my salary!
On the flip side, my husband received a grant to go on a 2-week program on infectious disease in Gainesville last year. Although Gainesville isn’t that far from us, it was still a new city for both of us and I drove up to see him for the day.
Also, as AP teachers, we have traveled to Miami, Panama City Beach, and Texas for various Summer Institutes. For each of these institutes, our districts covered transportation costs, program fees, accommodations and per diem for food. Each of these programs either covered a majority of our costs OR paid us directly to go. Either, way it helps with the cost of travel and you get to see a new place. However, keep in mind why you are at the professional development; you can’t slack on your workshop to sight-see but you can plan it out well enough to double dip! There are lots of different local, national and international programs available during the summer depending on what you teach. I teach history & humanities and Will teachers biology & chemistry – so we are on both ends of the academic spectrum.
Read more: Teachers! Apply for Summer Programs
Use the Long Holiday Breaks to see Family
It is well-known that teachers get a lot of holiday time; I love that it is so convenient and we have definitely leveraged the holiday breaks to travel, especially to see family. In our district we get the week off for Thanksgiving, 2-weeks off for Christmas/New Year’s and a week for Spring Break around St. Patrick’s Day. We usually go on a trip 3 times a year at a minimum, while that may not always be the case because of various budget constraints you should be able to leverage at least one of those vacation periods to plan a trip.
The best way we like incorporate family and travel is to visit a new place AND spend quality time together. For example, this past Thanksgiving we went out to Southern California and spent a weekend in San Diego, then a few days with my aunt and actual Thanksgiving Day with my husband’s cousin’s family. We were able to use the whole week to experience new places along with spending time with family. Alternatively, you could decide to meet up at a new location as a group like my family did in Germany for Christmas 2016.
Because teachers typically get more days off around the holiday you can use that time to fly on a more price-friendly schedule. For Thanksgiving, it’s pretty inexpensive to fly out Saturday to Saturday because so many people are squeezing in a trip from Wednesday to Sunday. You might think holiday travel is expensive, but it can surprisingly be budget friendly if you shift your travel dates.
Read more: Travel Tips: Holiday Travel
Incorporate your Travels into your Lessons
This tip doesn’t necessarily save you any money or make travel more feasible because it’s more about curriculum. It’s great to share your travels with your students, especially things that are related to your content. It helps to build global awareness and I know my students are always more interested when they learn something that I’ve personally experienced.
My husband, who teachers science, always pays attention to things in science or natural history museums that he can bring back to his students. He’s taken pictures of diagrams that explain a concept he teaches or he jumps into photos with fossils or organism that he covers class. What a way to bright up a PowerPoint than having personal photos in them!?
Incorporating my travels into my curriculum is pretty easy (I mean…come on…I teach, history, art and humanities). I see the students perk up when they find out I have actually seen something with my own eyes, they tell me it makes these historical events come to life. You can easily incorporate tons of subjects into your travels…except maybe math? That might be a stretch 🙂 But go ahead a try it!
P.S. I even had two students give me an AirBnb gift card once because they knew I loved to travel! So perfect!!!
Read more: Bringing History to Life with Site-Visits
Pick up Odd Jobs
Both my husband and I take up various extra positions and opportunities throughout the year to help pay for travel. Will is a tennis coach, peer mentor, and works with science fair. I am also now a peer mentor and I always volunteer for opportunities with the district to make a little extra money curriculum planning. We’ve also both tutored afterschool for cash. Whatever money we get from those “side jobs” goes straight into our adventure fund. Because that money that is not guaranteed each year, it does not even enter into our regular estimated monthly budget. This way we always have a little extra going into our vacation fund that is not coming out of our regular salaries.
Now a word of caution: know when too much is too much. Don’t try to do everything at once just to make some money on the side because you’ll be stressed out and start to hate your life (Been there!). Know your tipping point and communicate with your partner. For example, when Will is in the middle of tennis season, I have to pick up more responsibilities around the house so if I was also in a “heavy” season for my side jobs it just would not work out. We would probably end up spending more money ordering take-out all the time just to cope with our schedules.
Carefully Budget for Paycheck-less Months
Summer can be a hard time for teachers because we don’t get paychecks all the way through, at least we don’t get paid during the month of July. If you are planning on traveling over the summer, you have to carefully budget the rest of the year so you don’t end up in a tight spot before the first paycheck of the year. My summer workshops usually happen in July, so that’s a way to travel cheaply during that a month; or you could always forgo summer travel and go during the fall, winter or spring breaks.
You understand your family’s budget and lifestyle and that has to be the #1 consideration before deciding to spend money on a big trip. However, it is possible, it just requires some extra budgetary concerns and planning. Hey, we’ve done it every year since we became teachers!