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Top Travel Tips for Taking a Sabbatical

May 2017

With sabbaticals on the rise and people ever more curious as to how they can take one, it’s a great time to share a guide on how to make it work. Most people only dream of taking a sabbatical, but with our top tips, we will explain how you can navigate your employers and turn your sabbatical dreams into reality.

What is a Sabbatical?

So to start off with, what is a sabbatical? A sabbatical is the term used for an extent of time that an employee suspends their usual work to travel, normally while still receiving their regular wages from their employer.

A sabbatical is usually taken in order for the employee to learn new skills and gain new experiences, in order to benefit them both personally and professionally.

Sabbaticals are different to career breaks, as an employee has the safety of returning to their job role.

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How to Get your Sabbatical Plans Approved

The More Research, the Better!

The first thing you need to do is find out if your employer offers a sabbatical programme. If they do, great news! In order to get your sabbatical ball rolling, you will need to find out key information, including:

  • The maximum duration your company offers employees looking to take a sabbatical.
  • Any processes you may need to go through.
  • Any forms you may be required to complete.
  • Any employees you may need to make aware of your sabbatical.
  • Which company benefits would stop/continue, whilst away on your sabbatical? Pensions, full salary etc.

If your company doesn’t currently offer a sabbatical programme, then you may need to pitch your plan slightly harder; however it is still definitely worthwhile enquiring about a sabbatical, as attitudes towards sabbaticals and career breaks are changing rapidly.

Prepare Your Employer

In order to have more of a chance of getting a positive outcome to your sabbatical application, be sure to give your employer plenty of notice! Informing your employer of your sabbatical plans last minute, could startle and panic them, leaving them with a bitter taste in their mouth towards your break idea.

Be sure to go about approaching the subject of a sabbatical in the right way. Organise a meeting with who your plans may concern (you may need to involve HR), in order to sell your idea to them. Ensure they are aware of the reasons why you would like to take a sabbatical, how it would benefit you both personally and professionally, and most importantly, how it would benefit them as a business.

During the meeting, your employer may ask:

  • Why do you want to take a sabbatical?
  • How will a sabbatical benefit us as a business?
  • Do you plan to be contactable while away if an issue arises?

Be sure to prepare answers for potential questions, to show how much thought and preparation you have put in to planning your sabbatical.

As well as benefitting the employee, sabbaticals can also benefit businesses in several different ways:

  • You could learn a new language which could connect your company and other companies around the world.
  • You could go on courses and learn more about how your industry works across different countries.
  • Find new ways of developing the business.
  • Portrays a business in a positive light, showing that they care about helping their employees to grow.
  • Some business will approve sabbaticals in the hope that their employees will return to work refreshed and bursting with new and exciting ideas and skills to help the company grow.

It is also important to make sure that your company are fully aware of when you plan to go, how long for, and plans of how your workload could be managed while you are away, so that there are no surprises.


What to do if you employer declines your sabbatical application?

It is worth noting that there is currently no law in place for a company to allow an employee to take a sabbatical. Not every business will be accepting to the idea of a sabbatical, which is understandable. But more and more companies are coming round to the idea, as they can see the benefits to both them and their employee.

If your company declines your application of a sabbatical, it is important to also see it from their point of view. They may think that a sabbatical could harm you professionally, as you would be away from the role, your colleagues, and the industry, for a significant amount of time. Your employer may also take into account your reasoning for taking a sabbatical, your previous performance, and whether it would be taken during a busy business period.

Explain that you have thought long and hard about the ways you will ensure that your break will cause minimal disruption to your team, and that you would always be contactable if needed.

What to do once authorised!

So you’ve got your sabbatical authorise, hooray! It’s now time to sign all necessary forms and return them to the correct bodies in plenty of time prior to the start date of your break. Be sure that the correct dates have been authorised, and that both parties are fully aware of which working benefits will stop, and which will continue.

Top Tip

Get your Approval in Writing!

Be sure to get your sabbatical authorisation in writing. Not only will it confirm your dates of leave and return, and what benefits will continue or be suspended, but you can also use it as evidence if your employer does not fully follow a section through correctly.

Plan and Prioritise

As there’s now so much to do, in such a short amount of time, it is important to plan where you will be going and what you’ll be doing, in order to make the most of your time. Lists are a great way of breaking down information into small and easy to process chunks. Our top list ideas include what to pack, what you want to do, and where you want to go. Prioritise your lists with your absolute essentials at the top, and your least essentials at the bottom.

The Career Break Site founder, Rachel Morgan-Trimmer, agrees: "Planning your sabbatical carefully is the most important part! There might seem like a lot of paperwork, and a lot of organising to do, to get everything in place before you leave. But the more effort you put into planning your sabbatical, the better time you will have while you are on it!"

Research before Choosing Your Destination

Take time to thoroughly think about what you want to do on your sabbatical. Maybe you want to volunteer with orangutans in Borneo, teach children English in China, or discover yourself in South America. Whatever your reasoning, it is important to read up on the best places around the world for what you want to do. Our country guides are jam-packed with information on hundreds of different destinations across the world, informing you on the standard of medical facilities in your chosen destination, what visas you may need, and what the nightlife is like!

Talk to Other Travellers

Join a forum! You may find that reading up on other travellers experiences may be beneficial. They may be able to provide you with top tips, travel hacks and experiences, that they found helped to better their trip.

Planning Map

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance plays a key part in any trip. Not only will it cover you for medical emergencies, but it can also cover you for trip cancellation, loss of belongings and even trip delays, before you’ve even set foot in your destination. As well as these, our policies also cover a whole selection of different sports and activities so that you can have a worry free trip, knowing you are fully covered for everything that you plan to do.

Top Tip

Don’t Hit the Ground Running!

Give yourself some time to settle back into life at home before returning to work. It is normal to feel unsettled when returning home after a long period away. So be sure to give yourself some down time in order to get back into your normal routine, before heading back to the office!

The Final Step!

You’re now ready to book all of the exotic destinations you plan to visit on your sabbatical (and arrange your leaving party!) Have fun and be safe, but most importantly, don’t forget your travel insurance!

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Direct Travel’s Top 3 Destinations for Taking a Sabbatical:

  1. Australia
  2. Thailand
  3. India

Have a worry free holiday, knowing that you are covered with Direct Travel! You can get your travel insurance from Direct Travel at either or ring our friendly UK based travel team on 0330 880 3600. We currently offer an online discount for policies purchased online! The price quoted includes up to a 15% discount on our Direct Travel Brand policies, compared to call centre prices.