How to Ask Your Boss for EXTRA Time Off to Travel (and maybe some budget, too)

Petra Barbu

Petra is a content marketer passionate about social enterprise, impact investing, and microfinance.

Have you ever sat at your desk at work, daydreaming about traveling to a remote nation and living a different life, even if for just a few weeks? While it might sound dreamy, data shows that millions are already doing it. In other words, it’s not as far-fetched as it might sound. In fact, plenty of companies have started paying their employees to travel and volunteer abroad. Read on to find out how you can make this dream a reality.

It's not too good to be true: learn how to ask for time off to travel.
It’s not too good to be true: learn how to ask for time off to travel.

1. Brainstorm How This Could Help You—and Your Employer

Start by writing out a list of why taking time off will be beneficial to both you and your company. This could be an excellent opportunity to gain international experience, learn a new language, or simply decompress and return with new energy. Anticipate your boss’s questions, and have clear answers for your motivation to travel and how you think you and the company will benefit. Make sure to think about this from your employer’s perspective, and be clear about how a particular experience will be a net positive for your company. For example, you might come back refreshed and more productive, or with a new skill under your belt. You’ll learn geographical insights that might interest your company. As on example, Starbucks sends employees on “Origin Trips” so employees can learn more about its supply chain. Beyond the direct business insights, studies also show, as we see below, that employees are more loyal and reduce turnover when they take time off!

Giving back will benefit your resume as well as the local community.
Giving back will benefit your resume as well as the local community.

2. Make Your Pitch More Compelling By Adding Personal, Professional, and Business Benefits to the Travel Experience

It’s unlikely that your company will agree to fund a three week trip to Cabo, lounging by the beach and drinking cocktails (as lovely as that may sound to some of you). You’re making a pretty big ask by requesting time off from your company for personal development, so give them an incentive to support you. Any professional development program you can find abroad will make your case stronger. Consider learning a new language, volunteering your skills with a local organization, joining an Impact Team, enrolling in a local university program, or conducting research in your industry in a new location. By doing something immersive and linked to professional development, you’ll sweeten the deal for your employer. Bring an organized plan about what you intend to do on your trip, for how long, with what organization, and where.

Finding allies in your organization who support your cause will help make this a reality.
Finding allies in your organization who support your cause will help make this a reality.

3. Ask in the Right Way

Before bringing it up in person with your boss, consult with someone you trust in the company, whether that be with HR, your mentor, or someone who has taken a similar trip before. You can even use some of these email templates to help you bring up the conversation in a thoughtful and considerate way. Be prepared for a series of emails, meetings, coffee chats, and discussions. It’s a long road, but it will be worth it to secure your travel!

4. Use Data to Close the Deal

Don’t expect to walk into your manager’s office and simply make the ask. Come prepared with statistics about why travel improves leadership, innovation, learning, engagement, and productivity. There is a wealth of data about how volunteering internationally simply makes better employees. The opposite is also true: not using time off is actually bad for employees, companies, and the economy. Pooled together, the evidence is convincing and difficult to ignore. It improves employee loyalty:

  • with 90% of companies seeing a drop in employee turnover
  • 87% of employees feeling more loyal towards their company if it supports a cause,
  • a 15% total decrease in turnover.

These opportunities also make employees more productive. According to Realized Worth,

For companies where employees were more engaged than not, their profitability jumped by 16 percent, general productivity was 18 percent higher than other companies, customer loyalty was 12 percent higher, and quality increased by 60 percent.”

Finally, it simply makes employees happier, which contributes to the long run success of an organization. 53% of professionals said making a difference at work is essential to on-the-job success.

Share what you've learned with your company to make long-lasting change.
Share what you’ve learned with your company to make long-lasting change.

5. Bring Your Experience Home to Elevate Your Entire Team

Your travel does not end when your plane lands home. When you return, make sure to set up coffee chats with all the people who helped secure this trip for you to thank them and share more about your experience. At one of the corporate programs we support with Microsoft, participants lead brown pages, present at all-hands meetings, and share their stories on the company intranet with all the things they have learned from their experience. Other ideas include offering to lead a presentation about your trip, sharing insights and advice that might be transferable to the workplace for other employees. Your company’s PR, recruiting, and marketing team might also be interested in learning more about your trip and advertising these benefits to future employees and clients. In general, you’ll need to seek out ways to instill value throughout your company as a result of your travel. The personal reflection and reintegration guide from MovingWorlds can help you.

Asking for time off to travel can seem like a long-shot ask, but with the right tools and resources, it might just be the best thing that’s happened for your career and your company. To recap: first, brainstorm how this might be beneficial for your employer, whether that means making you a more productive employee or adding a new skillset to the organization. Add something meaningful to your trip that will allow to grow as an individual and as an employee. Use templates to ask in a way that is polite and clear, and use data to bring your point home, pulling in convincing statistics to help your employer see your side. Finally, after you’ve secured your trip, make sure to tie in what you’ve learned into your organization, whether it’s a presentation or a coffee with your boss—you can thank us later.