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STA Travel Blog

Your 5 Step Plan For Taking A Sabbatical

“Exactly what is a sabbatical and how can I get myself one of those?” I hear you ask – and if you weren’t asking before – you probably are now…

Put simply, a sabbatical is an agreed, and unless you’re very lucky, usually unpaid, amount of time away from work.

If you manage to secure a sabbatical, it means that you are still technically employed by the company you work for, but are just enjoying a ‘career break’, giving you the opportunity to enjoy those experiences you’ve been dreaming about at your desk for the past few months or years.

I’m not going to lie, they aren’t necessarily easy to secure. Not all companies offer them, but some do, and if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to take advantage of unpaid (or paid) leave, you should grab it with both hands.

Here is a 5 step plan to making that happen.

How to Secure Your Sabbatical From Work

Do Some Research

Think about what you want to get out of these next few months and prepare to put that across when you ask for your time off.

Whether you want to spend your time partying in South East Asia, or helping sea turtles in Costa Rica, you’re going to be asked what you’re planning on doing with those months you’re away so be prepared.

Hatch A Plan

Just because the company you work for offers sabbaticals to staff, it doesn’t mean they will agree to it easily. It often depends on the role you hold there and can even come down to how accommodating your manager is willing to be.

If the company you work for doesn’t have a policy on sabbaticals then it’s down to you to convince them it’s a good idea.

Here’s some things to think about:

Why is it good for me personally?
Why do you feel you want/need to do this? Is travelling something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet? Show some passion for the experience you are taking a break to have.

Why is it good for me professionally?
How will this benefit you once you’re back to work? Will it make you more focused in the long term now this experience is ‘out of your system’. Also remind them of what a valuable employee you are, shout about your skills and show them why they’d be silly to let you go in the long term for the sake of denying you the sabbatical you deserve.

Why is it good for the business?
Well the biggie is that they’ll save money by not having to pay you. Also, if you spend your time learning a language or gaining a qualification such as TEFL they could benefit from this learning without having to pay for it. And then there’s the fact that they’ll be getting someone back who feel refreshed, remotivated and excited to be in work (that last bit may or may not be true but it sounds good on an application!)

Give Plenty of Notice

You have much more chance of securing your sabbatical if you can give a decent amount of notice.

A panicked boss may end up being a unaccommodating boss, so try to give as much notice as possible between the time you approach the subject with them and the time you want to go.

It would also be a good idea to offer suggestions on how your role could be covered during the time you’re away.

Ideas could include; hiring a paid/or unpaid intern, dividing up your work between the rest of your department, or offering a secondment to someone in another department. The easier you make it on them the better for your chances!

Get it in Writing

If you’re celebrating the success of your application just remember to get it in writing – sign something that states how long you have been given off, when you are expected to be back in your old job.

It’s unlikely anything bad is going to happen while you’re away but you need those assurances that your job is going to be waiting for you when you return – its part of the deal.

Get Planning!

So that’s that, you’ve hopefully been granted the time you want so all that’s left to do is start planning!

Use your time wisely and make the most of every minute, there are some incredible adventures out there.

Whether you want a full on round the world adventure or are looking to spend time volunteering with children in deepest Africa make sure you check out the huge number of inspiring opportunities just waiting to be explored.

So if you’re thinking on taking off on your own trip of a lifetime, don’t do it without exploring our inspiration for an amazing adventure
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Showing 71 Comments

  1. I find that many people talk about sabbaticals, but few companies offer them, or seem to see benefit in them. I think if more people took time off, then they would realize how a sabbatical could benefit someone professionally. The skills that they learn while out can be crucial to breaking a plateau in a career. Thanks for sharing!

    1832 days ago
    • Lisa Crowther

      Thank you Andy, and I completely agree. Having taken a sabbatical myself i’m a big fan and completely believe in the benefits career wise as well as personally. I think more and more companies are starting to embrace to the benefits, both to themselves and to their staff, and if they aren’t quite there yet hopefully people can convince them using the tips in this post!

      1831 days ago
  2. Katie

    This is a really sensible plan, and one I would jump at if given the chance, but let’s be realistic about this.
    If I went to my employers and said quite realistically that I wanted to do this, they would be more inclined to suggest further training on the job to enhance my career prospects.

    Equally, most employers would laugh in people’s face if a sabbatical was mentioned. I wouldn’t recommend it in this current climate, because if you’re in a job you’re lucky to have one at all.

    What I would suggest is more flexibility on working arrangements e.g. being able to take a language immersion course for a month etc, or volunteering for 3 weeks.
    These all provide similar skills but are not the same points that are being asked for from a year long sabbatical.

    STA travel would be awesome if you could provide some shorter trips for us full time works. (I am under 26!)
    I love travelling and fitting in trips and holidays into my holiday allocation is a nightmare, but I still want to explore Asia/Europe. 2 weeks is really the maximum I can take off at a time :(

    1826 days ago
    • Hi Katie, thanks for your comment. I understand it’s on a case-by-case basis, but I know from personal experience that many employers are open to rewarding loyalty, with the opportunity to take a sabbatical.

      My previous employer (in publishing sector) allowed a 3-month sabbatical after two years, and STA Travel allow the same.

      I think it’s a healthy approach for employers, however, I can understand that there are many out there that are “old-school” about their approach to staff taking sabbaticals.

      Also, we do offer loads of shorter trips, for under two weeks. Check out the tours pages of this website, or pick up a brochure in-store. You’ll be surprised how many options you have — we’re not all about the longhaul, multi-month trips.

      Have a great day, and thanks again for taking the time to leave your views and open up the conversation.

      Ant Stone, Editor

      1825 days ago
    • Emma

      I am also in full time employment and under 26 – my work allowed me to take all my holidays together and I volunteered in Thailand for 4 weeks. It was an amazing experience, have you considered taking your holidays all together?

      It will take you about 2 days to travel to Asia, and 2 days back again, plus you need a day or two to re-acclimatise, in my opinion to do all that in 2 weeks you aren’t getting the most out of the opportunity.

      1438 days ago
  3. Nice article! It can be done. I’m lucky, but also have planned my life and career as much around free time as company time, and have somehow snuck away five times, from 35 days to 365 days, alone or with my family of four, to Grandma’s farm and RTW (best stop: New Zealand!). It takes planning, yes, but also shameless stubbornness and faith. Nothing matters more. Happy sails!

    1825 days ago
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  4. Matt B

    I have recently come back from a 4 month sabbatical in the USA and Canada and had a great time. It really helped me to refresh and recharge the old batteries after 5 years of working and studying at the same time. To the point above about not being the “right climate” to take a sabbatical. I found myself in consultation for redundancy with my employers along with my other colleagues in my department. I offered to take some time off unpaid and the employer saw it as an opportunity to not pay my wages and cut down on costs for a bit. No one was made redundant, I got to go travelling and my employer got to save some cash in tough times.
    If you don’t ask the question you will never know? Best thing I’ve ever done (not for the bank balance though!!)

    1795 days ago
  5. Sean

    I think it depends on the type of organisation you work for. I recently returned to work after a 7 month sabbatical, and I feel refreshed and more motivated. I work for a travel company which probably helped, but if you have a plan of action and can justify why you want to take some leave (apart from the obvious) then I would expect an employer to at least consider it. If you’re not enjoying the job, then don’t let the risk or unknown stop you from going and not returning!

    1606 days ago
  6. Stephen

    I’m taking a sabbatical during December/January for 5 weeks, to go travelling around Southeast Asia! I requested a time where we’re at our quietest (January) at the hotel. Gave them my application in writing, spoke to line manager and eventually the manager about it. I would say I’ve had it arranged 4 months in advance. I would say from this article – ‘Plenty of notice’, was definitely the bets policy in my own situation. Well worth going for if your company offers it, you have nothing to lose!

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