How to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

photo2Though it would be nice to work for one of those companies with unlimited vacation policies, or even for ourselves, let’s face it – the majority of us probably work full time and get only one or two weeks of paid vacation. That means less than four percent of all time worked in a year is set aside to take a break and travel somewhere amazing.

Even if you’re not a seasoned traveler, it doesn’t take much to realize that’s not enough. In the four years since I’ve graduated college, I’ve more or less had the standard two-week vacation time. Whether you know me personally, or can just tell from following my blog and social media pages, I definitely travel way more than two weeks per year (and I want the same for you). Here are six tried and true ways to make the most of whatever vacation time is gifted to you by your employer.

1. Use Them, Don’t Lose Them

It’s definitely difficult to peel your eyes off the computer screen, ignore emails when you’re not in the office or take a hiatus from work, but with technology at the level it is today, you don’t even need to be in the office anymore to get your work done. Not that I recommend working during a vacation, but if that’s the only way to get out of your office, even if all you do is go out to dinner to explore the city, it’s a step in the right direction. Ending the year with unused vacation time is not only a disappointment to your soul, but it can also be a detriment to your organization. A happy and energetic employee is much more valuable than an overworked, burnt out one. Some career junkies purposefully save vacation days for the sole reason that many companies will pay out on them if/when you leave. I personally feel this philosophy is counterproductive. Taking vacations is not only good for your efficiency, but I truly believe it makes you a much more marketable candidate. In a world where global lines are blurred and technology continues to minimize the distance between countries, being well traveled is actually a quality employers look for. Are you adaptable? Can you relate to or work with people from multiple cultures? If you travel, these questions can easily be answered. (My words of advice – don’t quit your full time job without having another to transition into anyway, unless it’s a dire circumstance. If you live by this, you won’t need to worry about those two weeks of vacation and you’ll definitely be happy you took the time to travel before starting a new job and having to prove yourself all over again.)

2. Extend Three-Day Weekends

If you’re not already doing this, shame on you. Think about it. If you get a Monday or Friday off due to a federal holiday, adding a day to the beginning and end can turn it into a five-day vacation with only two days of vacation time used. That could be the difference between a short road trip and a trip across the country.

3. Don’t Waste Them on Places That Are Close By

Take advantage of close yet intriguing destinations on your weekends. Unless there’s so much to do there that you really need multiple days, go to these places on regular weekends. If you can leave on a Friday after work and drive a few hours to get there, don’t waste your vacation days on it. Though you may feel like you’re taking a vacation, you can probably go somewhere much more exciting with that extra time. Plus, think of how many more places you can visit in a year if you maximize the average weekend!

4. Take Red Eyes/Overnight Flights When Possible

Though this one might be a bit miserable for your sleep cycle, taking overnight or red eye flights can help you truly maximize the vacation time you’re using. These late night flights ensure each day taken from the vacation bank is one you’ll reap the full benefits of.  Since traveling at reasonable times kills the day, you might as well have a slower yet full day in the destination than an entire precious day filled with the buzz of airport terminals and airplane engines 30,000 feet in the air.

5. Fly Direct, Even When It Costs More

For some destinations, late-night or overnight flights aren’t possible. If you have to fly during the day, you want to ensure the travel time is as minimal as possible This is the same concept as number four in that it allows you to use as much of your full vacation time on the actual vacation. Not to mention, booking a direct flight lessens the possibility of logistical travel issues. When you experience a delay with a multi-stop flight path, you’re much more likely to miss your next flight. The extra money spent on nonstop routes is well worth your sanity and valuable time. Many times now anyway, the direct flights are actually cheaper. (Unless you’ve figured out a way to cleverly hack the system.)

6. Ask For More

Life is negotiable. Though things won’t always work in your favor, it’s certainly worth a try. Negotiating your salary level is pretty standard before taking a new job, but a lot of job candidates leave additional vacation time on the table. What’s an extra few days or week to the company if it means securing your role? If you’re already in your position and it’s too late to contract more time off, why not just ask your superior for a few additional days? If you have the opportunity to go somewhere amazing, or even just want to extend a long weekend trip, you’ll never know unless you ask. If your boss has a heart, they’ll probably say yes every once in a while. Your career may entail occasional or even frequent business trips as well. While working, you may not have that much time to explore the destination, so how about asking if you can extend your trip a few days to do so? Maybe you can even tack on a short flight to another city while you’re there. (The featured photo of this post was taken on a work trip to San Fransisco. After the conference ended, I had the opportunity to extend my trip through the weekend and really explore the beautiful city.) As with anything in life, the answer will always be no if you don’t ask!

Throughout my life, I practice what I preach, so I can tell you for certain that these six ways to make the most out of your vacation days really work. Depending on your job, all six may not be currently feasible, but I guarantee implementing at least one of these will drastically change your ability to travel while working a full-time job. Have you been able to visit an amazing destination by using any of these principles? Let me know in the comments below!


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