How to work 9-5 and travel the rest of the time

A full-time job shouldn’t stop you from satisfying your wanderlust. The Local spoke to Travel After 5 blogger Alline Waldhem to find out her tips and tricks for travellers who only have 25 days of annual leave.

How to work 9-5 and travel the rest of the time
Photo: Alline in Lisbon, Portugal

Feel like your day job is thwarting your travel plans? Keep telling yourself you don’t have the time (or cash) to take a trip? Where there’s a will, there’s a way, says travel aficionado Alline Waldhelm.

“It’s really a mindset. I love to do it and, on average, I travel somewhere once a month. In the summer, I fly every single weekend.”

Alline, who is originally from Brazil, caught the travel bug when she first visited Germany 12 years ago. It’s a trip that changed her life; she resolved to live in Europe one day and sure enough returned several years later to study in Munich before settling in Vienna.

“I always really liked traveling to Europe. When I was living in Brazil, I managed to come four times before moving to Munich to study German,” she tells The Local.

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Photo: Alline in Budapest last year

Although she works full time as a financial analyst, Alline doesn’t let her job get in the way of her adventures. In Austria, she explains, overtime is discouraged so it gives her plenty of time and the flexibility to take a flight on a Friday evening and return on the Sunday night.

“It’s actually really manageable,” she says. “For me, it’s so important to have these breaks. Of course, you don’t disconnect from your life in two or three days but that’s not the point. There’s so much to explore; you might be physically tired but it’s a mental break and you go back to the office on Monday with a lighter mood.”

While she reserves the bulk of her annual leave for travelling back to Brazil, she still takes a couple of weeks over summer to plan a longer trip. This year, she’s heading to Costa Smeralda in Sardinia – “The beaches are unbelievable and I want to explore more parts of the La Maddalena archipelago” – before spending a week in the south of Portugal which she describes as “full of history and culture, welcoming people and delicious food.”

Photo: Alline in Sicily during summer 2018

Where to find travel inspiration

When looking for new places to travel, Alline often turns to her most trusted resource: her friends and ex-classmates who are scattered across Europe. Or, if there’s a specific city or country that she is keen to visit, she’ll follow news sites like The Local or Time Out to keep up with local events. She’s also an active member of Facebook groups like European Travellers #WhereToNext? that are dedicated to travel tips and inspiration.

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When Alline is feeling really adventurous she’ll use a feature like Skyscanner’s ‘Everywhere’ search to find the best deals on cheap flights. It’s how she stumbled on a great return flight to Larnaca, a pretty port city in southern Cyprus, last Christmas. Often, she starts with the destination, whether it’s a recommendation or her own find, and then pads out the trip once she’s booked.

She believes it’s still possible to ‘get off the beaten track’ even if you only have a couple of days to explore. In her experience, the best way to do this is to not plan too rigidly. Instead, pick a couple of things you really want to see or do and then play the rest of the trip by ear.

Photo: Alline in Lake Garda

“I try to be spontaneous. I really enjoy arriving in a city and just walking around and seeing what people are doing. I don’t plan every minute because usually you can meet someone and they suggest something to do. Leaving your time open means you may run into something more interesting or discover something different along the way.”

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The best advice she can offer full-time workers who are keen to travel more is to think logistically when booking flights and hotels. For short weekend trips, Alline mostly sticks to Europe and limits flight time to under a couple of hours so that the journey itself doesn’t eat too much into her precious exploring time.

The same goes once she’s touched down at her destination.

“Take London, for example, there are five airports and some of them it takes hours to get from the airport to the city centre. So I always find the airport that is closest. If it’s a small saving but it means I I lose an hour getting to the hotel, that’s something I won’t do.”

Alline adds that although you may be able to find a nicer hotel further out of the city “it’s not doable” when you only have a couple of days. Instead, she advises staying somewhere that may not be as plush but is more conveniently located. This way, you won’t “lose time, which is very precious on a short trip”.

Finally, she says: “Always be half ready to travel”. Alline always keeps a bag packed with the essentials like her passport, camera and tripod. This way, it only takes half an hour to pack so she can set off at short notice.

“If you have these things in your suitcase, you won’t forget anything. Everything is in the same place, half the work is already done.”

Alline’s top travel tips

  • Keep a bag packed with all your travel essentials

  • Check flight comparison sites to find new destinations 

  • Ask friends who live locally for insider tips

  • Look to Facebook groups and local news outlets for inspiration

  • If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, take a ‘bridging day’ to turn it into a four-day weekend

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Lufthansa.

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How punctual are trains in France compared to other countries?

We all know that France has a pretty impressive network of high-speed trains. But it's all very well being able to go at over 200km/h if your train is then stuck in the station - so how punctual are French trains?

How punctual are trains in France compared to other countries?

Figures from France’s Autorité de la Qualité de Service dans les Transports (AQST) paint a mixed picture of France’s rail services.

Its most recent Europe-wide study of train punctuality, published in 2021, looks at how many trains arrived within five minutes of their scheduled arrival times – and therefore includes both trains that were delayed and trains that were cancelled.

In the period covered by the study, France has seen regular rail strikes that have led to cancellations on the railways.

They survey found that 89.4 percent of all French trains arrived within five minutes of schedule in 2014. That figure had dropped to 87 percent by 2018 and rose again to 91 percent in 2019 – after peaking at 92 percent in 2020 (although the study’s authors caution that 2020 figures  figures should be taken with caution because of the pandemic). 

The punctuality rate in neighbouring Germany was 94.4 percent in 2014, 94.1 percent in 2018, 94.5 percent in 2019 and 96 percent in 2020. 

Overall, France is below average according to the study. In 2019, it was ranked eleventh out of 16 countries. Switzerland tops the podium with 97 percent of trains arriving on time in 2019, followed by the Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria. 

At the foot of the table, the countries where the risk of not arriving on time is greatest are Great Britain, Italy and Portugal.

Up to 2019, France’s TGVs and Intercités were well behind Spain and Netherlands, countries that run their high-speed services on dedicated lines rather than sharing them with less rapid services, for punctuality.

In 2019, however, Netherlands’ inter-city services ran within five minutes of schedules 96.2 percent of the time, compared to France’s 75.7 percent. Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Norway and Poland were all above France in the rankings.

Comparisons for long-distance rail services with Germany are harder to calculate because it does not distinguish between its high-speed services and other long-distance rail services. 

But, consolidating long-distance services shows that France offered more punctual services than Germany until 2019. By Covid-hit 2020, however, German long-distance services ran better than French ones.

As for regional services, the Netherlands topped the rankings there, too, with 97.6 percent of services on time to with five minutes. France (91.9 percent, including RER and Transilien services) was seventh, behind Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Germany and Ireland.

And, at a city level, Copenhagen, Madrid, Berlin, Stockholm, Helsinki, Warsaw, and Dublin’s urban services were more efficient – and more punctual – than Paris and Ile-de-France’s regional rail services.