Newsflash: I love vacation.
Unlike the majority of Americans, I have no problem using ALL of my vacation days and squeezing every last drop out of the days I’m allotted each year.
I am a firm believer in working hard and playing hard, and I don’t think any good comes of going, going, going until you burn yourself out. If given the choice, choose not to live a stressed out life, and take advantage of your vacations when you can. They offer you the time to step away from your day-to-day, relax, recharge and potentially explore somewhere new if you use your vacation time to travel.
Over the years I’ve come to learn how much I value my vacation days, the importance of finding a job that does not frown upon taking vacation and how to maximize the days I have.
In my first job after college, I had 10 vacation days, five personal days and a few sick days. In the U.S., this could be seen as average or maybe even good by some people, but compared to the rest of the world, it was definitely lacking. I remember talking to colleagues in the UK who always seemed like they were on vacation or some sort of leave (don’t even get me started on maternity and paternity leave policies in the U.S.).
I wasn’t the savvy traveler then that I am now, so I took maybe two vacations a year, and that was it. Still great by American standards and I was definitely grateful for it, but over the years I’ve come to learn how much I value my vacation days, the importance of finding a job that does not frown upon taking vacation and how to maximize the days I have.
I'm also in a place where I can take vacation without feeling guilt!
Since that first job, I’ve changed companies and industries more than once and am now in a job where I have more vacation days, more sick days and more opportunities to work remotely or in other offices, all of which I’m extremely grateful for. I'm also in a place where I can take vacation without feeling guilt!
That said, I know that’s not the situation for everyone, and even with my increased vacation days, I’m always looking for ways to maximize what I have. Here are the ways I do that, some common, some maybe not so common:
1. Map out all of your priority trips first - Whenever I’m vacation planning for the year ahead, I always start with my priority trips. What are the events I have to attend or the times when I need to be in a certain place? After that, where do I most want to go and what’s realistic to get to this year? Once I answer those questions, it helps me be strategic about my days instead of wasting them.
2. Combine with weekends and paid holidays - This is a very common tip and with good reason. Depending on how you use weekends and paid holidays, you can make a trip stretch without using a ton of vacation days. Like the first tip, this requires some advanced planning since airfare can be more expensive around the holidays, so the earlier the better.
3. Combine with working remotely - If I had to name one tip that I think has really helped me maximize my vacation days, it’s this one. Working remotely is a great option that employers should embrace. This was not a possibility in my past jobs, so I understand it’s not always feasible, but if it is, I say try it, embrace it and love it. Just remember working remotely still means you gotta work!
4. Only take off the time you need for your trip - You know those people who are leaving to go somewhere at night but they take the entire day off from work? I’m not one of those people. I will work until the last minute because my vacation days are saved for when I’m actually on vacation, like on the plane (I've actually worked at the airport up until I got on the flight). None of that taking an unnecessary day off business for me. If you’re serious about maximizing those vacation days, don’t waste them. Simple as that.
5. Start early - This applies to both the start of the overall vacation and how to approach those precious days once you’re on vacation. I’ve never been a believer in getting a late start, but I’m also just a morning person and not wired that way. I want to take the first flight I can to my destination and start each day early (not painfully early, reasonably early) so I can maximize each actual day.
Now, who’s counting down to their next vacation so they can maximize those days? And where are you heading next?