Travel Tips & Tricks to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

Jan 28, 2018

While many stressed out Americans are sorely in need of some time out of the office, only about half of us use all our vacation days each year. Overachievers take note: Employees who use all their vacation time are more productive and perform at a higher level. So do your boss a big one and start requesting time off. In honor of the annual Project: Time Off's National Plan for Vacation Day, we’ve mapped out the tips and tricks we’re using to make sure none of our 2018 vacation days go to waste.

Understand your vacation benefits

This may seem like common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to pull out your employee manual or make an appointment with HR to answer crucial questions like: How many vacation/personal/floater/sick days do you actually have? Are you allowed to take half days? Can you reconfigure work days occasionally (four 10-hour days, to take off one day without dipping into vacation time)? How much unused time rolls over into the next year?


Start scheduling the year’s vacation now

Once the holiday decorations are packed away, open your calendar and start planning time off for the next 12 months. Block off a ski trip in February, long weekends at the beach in summer, half-day Fridays every few months and a weeklong break over the holidays. Making an active effort to use your time will keep you on track and excited for upcoming vacations.

Use the 60/40 vacation rule

Front-load the calendar with free time to prevent accrued days piling up at the end of the year. By July, there should be no more than 40% of your allotted time left to take off.

Tack vacation time onto holiday weekends

It may be obvious to add Friday or Tuesday time out onto President’s Day, Memorial Day and Columbus Day to extend a long weekend, but this year, the 4th of July falls on a Wednesday, making it possible to turn two vacation days into a five-day holiday.

Choose destinations you can reach quickly and directly

Remote vacation locales add hours of travel time with long layovers and the chance of missed connections. Nonstop routes, like Chicago to New Orleans, can take travelers from bedroom to hotel room before lunchtime. Globetrotters are not confined within our borders; direct flights from the East Coast to Europe can easily clock in around five hours, transforming otherworldly hotspots like Iceland and the Azores into long-weekend destinations.


When possible, take early, direct flights or overnight flights

Early birds are catching flights, not just worms, by rising before the sun. Less likely to be delayed than later itineraries, morning flights guarantee that travelers can squeeze in more sightseeing without wasting daylight on the plane. For a longer haul, book a red eye and wake up to a full day in your destination.

Take a vacation day on your birthday

Mark your work calendar for “me” time on your birthday, as well as your spouse’s and other close family members. Even if you aren’t a party person, sleeping in and eating cake for breakfast is a simple pleasure everyone deserves at least once a year.

Add vacation days to business trips

Bookend business trips with additional days before or after meetings to see the city you’re visiting or somewhere nearby. Since airfare is covered as a business expense, you’re only shelling out for additional days in the hotel.

Thanksgiving wake-up call

Before the chaotic holiday season begins, review remaining days and schedule every last one within the final two months of the year. Do not risk running out of available days to take off during the holidays.

Can’t afford to get away? Explore your own town

If you live in a big city, play tourist and visit the landmarks and museums drawing droves visitors to town. Without paying hundreds in airfare, your budget is open to experience a nearby luxury hotel or dinner at a top-rated restaurant.

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