How to Plan a Sabbatical
Planning a sabbatical isn’t a quick or easy task. We know, we’ve planned a lot of them over the years. But in that time, we’ve also learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work.
As with everything, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach but there are several important steps that will help alleviate some of the stress of planning a big trip.
Here are our top tips for planning a sabbatical.
1/ Start by thinking about why you want to take a sabbatical
Knowing where to start can often be the hardest part of the planning process. But understanding why you want to travel will help you to plan the best possible trip.
Do you simply want to take a break from everyday life and recharge? Do you want to focus on learning about different cultures, helping out in community projects or learning a specific skill? Do you want to take time to enjoy new wildlife encounters or visit a must-see historical site? Have you always wanted to witness a specific wildlife migration or cultural event? Or are you taking a wellness and restoration of mental health approach?
Whatever you want to achieve, knowing what’s important will help you to narrow it down to the right destinations.
2/ Come up with a list of experiences, ideas and destinations that excite you
This is the fun part. Go wild and come up with a long list of possible countries and places that tick those boxes. Let yourself daydream and pinpoint what excites you the most.
This stage is a great opportunity to binge some travel documentaries (Michael Palin, Simon Reeve, Bruce Parry, Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor are our favourites), pick up a copy of Wanderlust magazine or even make a Pinterest board.
Begin choosing your priorities and start crossing things out. Think about destinations that might work well together or countries that have the most to offer you.
3/ Come up with a budget
Not the most exciting element but important, nonetheless. This will help you to gauge how much time you can afford to take off, and may also help you rule out some more expensive destinations if necessary.
It’s not easy to know exactly how much your trip will cost at this point but having a grasp of your finances means you won’t get overexcited now, only to be disappointed later.
Things to consider include travel costs (international and when you get to your destination), food costs, accommodation costs and the approximate costs of the must-do activities. Some things may surprise you – good or bad – so it’s always better to be prepared.
Also consider that if you’re travelling for a specific event then it may mean prices are inflated in that destination – ie spending Carnival in Rio de Janeiro or Day of the Dead in Mexico. Do your research or speak to a travel specialist if you need help.
Some people find it easier to allocate an approximate daily budget too. Whatever you choose, don’t skip this step!
4/ Think about the best time to travel
Now you know where you want to go and how much money you have to spend, it’s time to decide when. Understanding your priorities will also help you here. If you are travelling for a specific event then that should come first. If the timing doesn’t matter to you, think about the weather in the destination first, followed by costs and also how busy it may be.
Travelling in peak season may mean the best weather but does it also mean costs are doubled and places of interest will be crowded. Think about whether you’re prepared to travel just outside of the peak season to mitigate some of these things if they matter to you.
You may also need to think about busy periods at work and whether you can take a sabbatical during your chosen months. It’s useful to be aware of possible barriers.
5/ Request time off work
This is the moment to get the ball rolling. You may have already broached the subject at work to know if taking a sabbatical is possible. It can take weeks or months in some companies to get a final answer so it’s best to plan early.
6/ Refine your plans and start booking
Once you have the go-ahead you can start making arrangements. If you don’t already have a travel specialist then now would be a perfect time to get in touch. Tapping into expert knowledge can be a huge time saver – longer trips are logistically challenging to organise and it can be hard to know what should make the final cut without a helping hand.
Keeping all your bookings in one place means your trip is financially protected should anything go wrong, too. Travel can be unpredictable at the best of times and rearranging a month or more’s worth of activities or accommodation can add unnecessary stress.
However you decide to book, it pays to have the most important elements confirmed first. Flights and accommodation and experiences such as trekking the Inca Trail or a cruise in Antarctica can book up more than a year in advance so once you know you’re going, start booking.
7/ Final stages
Now is the time to think about any life admin that you may need to take care of. If you’re travelling for a longer period, do you need to make arrangements for people to check in on your home? Do you have any pets that need taking care of? Do you need any special gear or medication or vaccinations for your trip? Do you have insurance, visas and a valid passport?
Make a list of everything that needs organising before you travel and split that list into manageable tasks. Getting ahead means you won’t be stress-packing 3 hours before your flight and calling friends to bribe them to water your plants.
8/ Start travelling
And that’s it. Go and live the dream!
Planning a sabbatical is a huge life experience but with careful organisation, it is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
If you’d rather have someone advise you through the process then we’re experts at planning sabbaticals. We’ve been organising complex multi-month-long trips for 20 years, accounting for a range of budgets and priorities. We’re no strangers to complex logistics and helping travellers maximise their time and budget – whether you have two weeks or two years.
Start planning my sabbatical.