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How long does it take to plan a sabbatical?

One question we are often asked is “how much in advance should I start planning financially for my sabbatical?


Quitting your job, living on no (or reduced) income for a year or two, moving away, getting ready to travel the world… it sure does take some planning!


But the financial planning phase of a sabbatical is often underestimated and undervalued. 


Based on our own sabbatical experiences, and the sabbaticals we’ve helped our clients plan, there are a few things that we’ve seen to be true!

explore the unknown

What can you expect by taking the time to get a solid financial plan in place before your sabbatical?


  • It’s easier to leave when you know you’ve taken care of everything that needs your attention at home
  • Having planned ahead of time, you’re more likely to be able to “switch off” and truly enjoy that life-changing experience you’ve been dreaming of
  • Unexpected events that happen (because they almost always do!) while abroad can be more easily managed if you’ve run through the what-if scenarios in advance
  • Giving yourself a longer-than-you-think-you-need timeline for re-entry can give you a smoother return back home with some time to land and adjust without having to rush to your next job interview

Are you convinced that there’s value in taking the time to plan the financial side of your sabbatical yet?

Great, now how long before departure are we talking about?


planning your sabbatical

How long does it take to plan your dream sabbatical?



There isn’t one answer to this question. It really depends on your individual and unique situation.


Your sabbatical, and therefore your planning, will depend on:


  • Your current situation
    1. Your current financial situation
    2. Financial options and opportunities available to you
    3. When you want to quit your job (and what that means in terms of pay and benefits)
    4. Your current personal situation (this might make you want to leave sooner or later)


  • Your desired lifestyle and needs during the planning phase
    1. Are you willing to make a lot of sacrifices to leave sooner, or would you rather take longer to plan and save but keep your current lifestyle as is?
    2. Are there any career milestones you want to work towards before you leave? Any hobbies or personal goals you want to have time to do before you pack up?
    3. Do you have any obligations before you leave?
    4. How will you manage your actual tangible belongings while you’re away?


  • Your needs and desires during your sabbatical
    1. How do you picture your sabbatical? Which countries do you want to visit, what kind of accommodations you want to stay in, how long you want to go, etc.?
    2. Are there any requirements for the locations where you plan to go, or for the activities you want to do (visas, certifications, approvals, etc.)?
    3. Are you open to any tax planning or other financial strategies while you’re away? How can you get things in place so they can be done while abroad?


  • Your situation when you come back
    1. Will you have a job waiting for you or will you need time to look for a new job when you return? 
    2. What other longer-term goals do you want to plan for? How can you set yourself up before your sabbatical so you’re able to accomplish these as well?
during your sabbatical

It’s not a straight line


Something we’ve noticed with our clients, and experienced firsthand with our own sabbaticals, is that sabbatical planning is not a clear, straight line that takes you from here to there. There are lots of twists and turns, ups and downs, along the way.



Expect some moments where you feel like you’re killing it – you’re really moving things forward…and others where life just seems to keep getting in the way. We see lots of starts and stops during the planning process. But that is part of the planning process!


Some examples where we’ve seen the planning process stall were:

  • When a couple decided to purchase a new home and rent out their existing house, they had more immediate plans and decisions to make so they could get tenants settled and make their own move happen
  • When another couple had to coordinate their schedules so their free time overlapped enough to actually plan their sabbatical – weeknight basketball, work trips, after-work happy hours, and weekend get-togethers with friends (mostly good things!) kept getting in the way
  • When one person’s company requested that he delay his departure date (he had already told him he was leaving!), and consider the sabbatical a leave of absence vs. officially quitting his job, he had to reconsider his actual plans

It can end up taking longer than expected to get all the pieces together.


Don’t give up on your dream when you (inevitably) hit a stopping point. That’s when it’s time to reconnect to why you want to take your sabbatical in the first place. 


Don’t remember your why? Ask yourself these 5 questions. 


It’s about committing (and recommitting!) to who you want to be at the end of your sabbatical. Allowing the starts and stops during the planning process to help you refine what you want your experience to be will truly make it a journey of a lifetime.


All the while, your financial situation shifts and changes as time goes on. Keeping an eye on your financial habits, trends in your accounts, and potential financial opportunities along the way can set you up to be more financially solid before your departure. So while it can be quite a journey to plan (and go on) your sabbatical, it can also be a chance to intentionally have the financial side fall into place.

When is the best time to start planning your sabbatical?


Maybe you’ve been asking yourself what it would be like to step off the carousel for a while, but you’ve never really acted on it. Or maybe you’ve set a far-off date, or a milestone to hit before you go, so there’s no rush in planning, right?


Well actually, no matter when you are planning on taking the sabbatical, the best time to start planning it is NOW!


We invite you to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, “Your life’s calling”. As the author of Eat Pray Love, she put sabbaticals on many people’s minds. In this podcast, she talks about the importance of starting to save money as soon as possible. Even if it’s just $1 a day, starting now can really turn your dream into reality! 



So what can you do NOW to start planning your sabbatical?

We’ve got a few fun and easy things that you can do:

1. Create a Pinterest board!

Start collecting ideas and tips for your own sabbatical. This is a fun process to help you understand what you want to do or where you want to go.  


A Pinterest board is also a great go-to for those days when you’re feeling like you have hit one of the stopping points we talked about above. Scrolling through the visual reminders of what you’re working so hard for can give you that extra motivation you may need to keep up with the grind.


While you’re on Pinterest, make sure to follow us to get all our sabbatical planning tips!


2. Be clear on what you want from your sabbatical. 

Writing your goals down can bring your intention to life. Reflect on these 5 questions.


Then start experimenting with making decisions today through the lens of your written goals. Have you been thinking about getting a dog? Do you want to practice a language? Are you curious about earning points to travel with? How might each of these support (or hinder) your sabbatical goal?


3. Determined to go on a sabbatical in the next 5 years? Then let’s get going! 

We’ve compiled top tips to get you started! Click here to learn more!

plan your sabbatical now
  1. Want to fast-track your planning? 

Consider talking to a financial planner! With experience in both sabbaticals and financial planning, we’re here to support you in making your sabbatical dream a reality. Ready to get started?

>> Click here

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