Katherine Belarmino and her husband Romeo are part-time travelers who travel as much as possible with limited vacation time. Through careful planning they’re able to efficiently see the world while holding down full time jobs. Their travel style, which includes shorter, action-packed trips, allows them to make the most of the limited time they have. By specifically allocating their vacation time for travel, they’re able to maximize a traditional employment vacation schedule and still follow their passion for travel.
What has inspired you to continue traveling the way you do?
My husband and I are part-time travelers with full-time, non-travel related jobs. For me, having a trip planned and to look forward to is how I get through the workday.
Where have you gone and where are you hoping to go?
We’ve been to Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Gibraltar, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Vatican City, and many states in the United States. My list of places I would like to go is endless. Some of my current wish list countries are India, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Turkey, and many more.
Do you have any tips on how to efficiently budget your vacation time to make the most out of your trips?
I try to plan our trips over weekends and sometimes holidays in order to spend as many days on vacation as possible using as few days off as possible. For instance, in December we are going to New Orleans, leaving Christmas day and returning New Year’s Day. It will be an eight-day trip but we only have to take three days off of work.
How far in advance do you plan your trips and how detailed is your planning (or how spontaneous is your trip)?
To me, the most important thing about getting the most out of a vacation is planning. I do a lot of research, usually for months before we travel, and create very detailed itineraries. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for spontaneity. If we learn about something we have to see or experience, we’ll rearrange our schedule or skip something not as important. But having a plan means you will always have something to do if something better doesn’t come up. I have actually eavesdropped on conversations while we have been traveling of people who are relaying a fabulous experience that they just happened to stumble upon while wandering around without a plan. The thing is, we experienced that same experience plus five other fabulous things on the same day because I had researched and learned about these experiences.
How do you decide where to go?
Our travel plans are almost always dictated by airfare. Since we pretty much want to go everywhere, I keep my eyes open for airfare deals. When I find an airfare deal that is too good to refuse, that’s where we go.
How do you travel around?
Our transportation all depends on our destination. If we are in cities I prefer to use public transportation. I absolutely love metro systems, something we don’t have in San Diego. In fact, public transportation in San Diego leaves a lot to be desired, so I always love visiting a city with fabulous public transportation. I love train travel for getting between cities. But if we are going to explore a country thoroughly, it’s always fun to do so in a rental car. For instance we recently took a Denmark road trip, which allowed us to see a lot of Denmark’s beautiful countryside and visit some sites we would have missed otherwise.
What have you learned about yourself through your trips?
For being such a nervous person, I have learned that I’m pretty adventurous. Life has always stressed me out and made me nervous, even as a little kid. When I first started traveling it made me extremely nervous. I would be terrified while in line at the airport that we would miss our flight or get delayed. Then I’d worry about maneuvering through a new city in a new country. I still get nervous, but travel has made me much braver, and the benefits and joys of travel far outweigh the worries. I’ve also found I’m more likely to do adventurous things while traveling then while at home. As an example, I’ve never had a huge desire to go rock climbing as it sounded difficult (I have no upper body strength) and kind of scary, but that’s one of the popular activities in Thailand, so I went rock climbing in Thailand and had the greatest time.
What’s the most surprising place you’ve been so far and why?
Lots of destinations have been surprising, but perhaps the most surprising place we’ve been was Belize because I fell in love with it much more than I anticipated. Belize is such a fascinating country with so many mind blowing Mayan ruins. It’s such a poor country and can be quite a shock at first, but the people seem to be quite content with their lives as is. They just seem to need less than we think we do. I was also surprised by the food. I have never had fresher food as I had in Belize because it is too expensive to import anything, so all the food is fresh and local.
How did you determine your budget for your trip?
Our trips seem to cost about the same. Airfare might be cheap but hotels are a little more or vice versa. I don’t really create a budget for our trips, but I know what I’m comfortable spending. What is most important is that I can pay for the entire trip right away. I pay for everything using credit cards to earn miles, but I never carry a balance on those credit cards. If we can’t afford to pay for the trip, we aren’t going to go.
What’s the craziest story you have from your travels so far?
My crazy stories are more short stories. We usually have good luck on our trips, mostly because of all the planning that goes into them ahead of time. One of the weirdest experiences we had happened recently when we were coming back from Baja. In order to skip standing in line for three hours to cross back into the United States, we paid $5 to take a shuttle in a special lane that would drop us off at the door to passport control without standing in line. It still ended up taking three hours, but at least we were sitting. What was crazy about the experience was that the line was at a standstill for almost two hours and our driver actually left the van and was nowhere to be seen for those two hours. A couple people left the van to try their luck walking across. Then someone entered our van and told us for $5 we could move to another van farther up in line, which half of the passengers did. We were just sitting there looking at each other, wondering if this was a scam and what we should do. The line moved up a little and someone from another car had to get in our van and move it up in line since our driver was MIA. Then some people from a van farther back were brought forward to our van. Finally our driver came back when the line started to move again. We made it across the border and back home, but that was one of the oddest experiences ever. Only in Tijuana.
Do you have any advice for other travelers?
Do some research! I understand wanting to live like a local, but you can do that and also visit the awesome places that are unique to the destination. You never know when or if you’ll make it back, so act like you’ll never be there again. As part-time travelers, we don’t have the luxury to travel slowly and make discoveries along the way. Our time is limited and we need to make the most of that limited time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people waiting in lines that will last for hours or being turned away when tickets are sold out while we sailed on by with tickets purchased ahead of time.