Oh, America, the land of the free-to-work-as-much-as-humanly-possible and home of the can’t-remember-the-last-time-I-used-all-my-vacation days. If you’re stateside and really lucky, you’re working a job about 50 weeks a year and have but two short weeks of vacation time granted to you each year. With such limited time to get out and explore the world, it’s not surprising that only about half of all Americans even both to use all of their paid vacation days each year. Our culture endlessly glorifies being overworked, overbooked, and overtired.
If you’re feeling fed up and burnt out with the daily grind, but you’re just not sure how you can possibly squeeze a trip into your already overpacked schedule, take these tips for maximizing your vacation days to-go.
- Use both weekends. Most regular 9-to-5 jobs are on a Monday-Friday schedule, so you’ve already got weekends off. That’s a whopping 104 days away from the office each year, and chances are you’re not maximizing those days off. For one thing, you can start by challenging the assertion that it’s only a “vacation” if you travel far from home and take a week or more off work. Weekend getaways can be an incredible way to recharge your batteries and re-energize your spirit by getting out of your element and away from your standard routine. But if you’re not hankering for a real holiday, step one is remembering to use both weekends that flank the five days you’re taking off. A shocking number of people only plan for a Sunday-Saturday stay, leaving two full days on the table. If you’re taking five days away from the office, you’ve got a grand total of nine consecutive days off, and don’t you forget it!
- Plan vacations around holidays. Depending on which holidays your employer observes and how those days fall in a calendar year, you could find tons of extra paid time off by planning your trips around holidays. Most American companies observe holidays on Mondays or Fridays, which already gives you a three day weekend to work with and only four days to take out of your vacation time to get a full week away. But sometimes you can maximize your time even more than that with some smart scheduling. This year, for example, December 22 and 25 are paid holidays, since Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday. I took just eight vacation days -- the 18th-29th of December -- but I’ll be off work for 17 days, since I’m already getting paid for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. By scheduling my time off around the holidays, I’m able to take half a month to reset and enjoy time with my family, but I’m not even using up all my accumulated time!
- Add vacation days to business trips. If you’re fortunate enough to be sent to interesting places for work, it’s definitely worth your while to see if you can take a few extra vacation days before or after the trip to visit the location you’re sent to, or even to explore someplace nearby. It could also be possible to plan the trip for the beginning or end of the week so you can spend a weekend checking out the sights. It’s true that this means you may not get to go exactly where you’ve always dreamed of vacationing, but with a little bit of research you may find something unexpectedly exciting and interesting to visit wherever you’re sent. With a little planning and communication with your supervisor, you may even be able to do something you really want. Ali, from Travel Made Simple, shares one such experience, saying “I had to go to Connecticut with my boss for meetings on Thursday and Friday morning. Since I have a friend in New York City, I compared the price of the flight home from NYC instead… my boss approved it since it was actually cheaper, and I bought a train ticket from CT to NYC. I got to spend the weekend with my friend for very little extra expense and I didn’t use any vacation time!”
- Fly smarter. Red eye flights are your friend, especially when you are planning to travel long distances. Think about it: if you plan to get on a plane over the weekend or on the first day you take off from work, you’ve already lost one full day of time away from the office just getting to where you’re going! Instead, book a red eye flight for after your last day of work before your vacation starts. That way, you’ll arrive on your first full day off, and chances are you’ll be so hopped up on adrenaline you won’t even notice you didn’t sleep much! It’s also important to take note of busy airport days, holidays, and the potential for jet lag as you’re planning your travel strategy. Remember that the best way to combat jet lag is to get as much sunlight as possible to help reset your circadian rhythms. If you can tough out a little tiredness on your first day of travel or your first day back to the office, you can really maximize your days off -- and possibly your budget -- by making smart flight moves.
- Look for deals. There are virtually endless online opportunities to save on travel, whether it’s saving on flights, accommodations, or experiences. One easy strategy is to sign up for travel email blasts, which are usually chock-full of steals and deals and ideas you might not have considered. One even more creative way to save a buck and gain access to exclusive experiences is to register for a membership card. Select is one such example of a premium membership service, linking a black card to an already established checking account and granting users access to a wide variety of VIP membership opportunities, plus unbelievable benefits like deals on hotels, concierge services, and more. With recent launches in San Diego and Orange County, Select members have access to the buzziest hotels, restaurants, and travel experiences across the U.S.
Implement these travel tips to start maximizing your vacation days and start seeing more of the world with the time you’ve got away from the office!