Reading through travel magazines or even blogs, it seems that everyone else is always traveling to some exotic, far-flung locale. Such a lifestyle though is not possible for the vast majority of us. Like most people, I have a limited number of vacation days each year that, while I guard them jealously, I also use to their maximum benefit. If you love to travel but have limited vacation time, here are some tips at making the most of them.
Weekends are for travel
Whenever we plan a trip, we first consult a calendar, not just for picking the best time of year, but for timing the trip. Since your vacation days are limited, you need to use as few of them as possible on every trip you take. That means taking full advantage of weekends. Let’s say you want to take a nine-day vacation. In order to make the most out of your time, and possibly even extend the trip, it makes much more sense to leave on a Friday than on a Monday. If you leave on a Friday, then you get two full weekends and only have to take six days off from work. However, if you leave on a Monday you only get one weekend and you would have to take seven days off. More important to your mental health, if you leave on a Friday you can use the second weekend to relax and do laundry, otherwise you would have to return to work immediately after the trip. While the savings in this scenario is only a day, that’s a valuable commodity when you only get ten business days a year of vacation.
In the United States, the Federal government recognizes ten official holidays. In other countries, this number is usually must higher. Your employer may observe some or all of these holidays, but I guarantee that most people get at least a few of these days off. While you will want to genuinely enjoy some of these holidays in your own way, many others are great ways of getting free days to travel. Thanksgiving is an excellent example of getting a free vacation. It of course depends on your job, but many employers give the day after Thanksgiving to their employees in addition to the Thursday holiday itself. That means you have a free four day weekend at your disposal. This is the perfect time to take advantage of a long weekend deal or use it in conjunction with a longer trip. These holidays are an excellent opportunity for extending or creating your getaway.
Every employer is different in how they treat vacation, sick and personal days off. Regardless though, it is better to avoid wasting these days when you could be saving them for vacation. A good example of how most people waste their time off happens around Christmas and New Year’s Day. Because of their proximity, many people take a lot of time off during the holiday interlude. Unless you have a house full of relatives, or maybe because of it, this is a great time to go to work and save your vacation days for a real vacation and not lounging in your PJs on the couch. I love working during this time because it’s quiet and I can work without any interruptions. Also avoid using vacation days for silly things like doctor’s visits or personal errands. Either schedule these appointments around your work schedule or use non-vacation leave time. Never use vacation days unless you’re actually on vacation.
Don’t use vacation leave all at once
This is decidedly a personal matter, but my personal preference is not to blow all of my time off at once. I love the adventure of travel, that much is known, but vacation is also very important to me as a way to relax and turn off my professional side. If I were only able to do this once a year I think you would see my mug shot on the nightly news with neighbors commenting on how nice I seemed. Rather, we tend to organize one large trip a year that will use 5 vacation days at most, and then take several other breaks throughout the year using weekend, holidays and my remaining time off. This is a personal preference, but I find it makes a huge difference in my life and I always have something to which I can look forward.
As someone who loves to travel quite possibly more than anything else, it is incomprehensible to me that people may not use their vacation time, but many do not. According to a 2009 Expedia study, 34% of employed U.S. adults report they don’t use their vacation days. I honestly cannot wrap my head around the data. Even if you don’t have the resources to go very far, I guarantee you that within a day’s drive there is something of interest around you that you haven’t explored. I’m constantly surprised at the quirky little tourist sites that are a five hour drive or less from home. More importantly, taking time off, using your vacation time, is vital to your physical and emotional well-being. We all need a break, we all need to mentally and physically get away from daily life. Take advantage of this perk and use your vacation days!
What are your tips for maximizing your time off from work?