Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

May 27, 2018

While a lot of stressed-out Canadians are sorely in need of some time out of the office, many of us leave vacation days unused, sometimes doing so year after year. (We're not alone; a 2016 study found that just 46% of Americans use up all their vacation days.) Overachievers take note: according to Project: Time Off, employees who use all their holiday time are more productive and perform at a higher level. So do your boss a favour and start requesting time off. Here are the tips and tricks we’re using to make sure none of our annual vacation days go to waste.

Understand your holiday 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 holiday/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 holiday time)? How much unused time rolls over into the next year?

Start scheduling the year’s holidays now

If you haven't already, open your calendar and start planning time off for the rest of the year. Block off a ski trip in late February, long weekends at the beach in summer, half-day Fridays every few months and a weeklong break during Christmastime. Coordinate with your spouse, family or other travel companions early on to ensure everyone's availability; if you have kids, put their school holidays in your calendar to ease the planning process. Making an active effort to use your time will keep you on track and excited for upcoming holidays.

Use the 60/40 holiday 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 Victoria Day, Canada Day or Labour Day to extend a long weekend, but this year, Christmas and Boxing Day fall on a Tuesday and Wednesday, making it possible to turn one day off into a five-day holiday.

Choose destinations you can reach quickly and directly

Remote holiday locales add hours of travel time with long layovers and the chance of missed connections. Nonstop routes, like Vancouver to San Francisco and Toronto to Chicago, can take travellers from bedroom to hotel room before lunchtime. Globetrotters are not confined within North America; direct flights from Montreal to Reykjavik clock in under six hours, transforming a bucket list destination into a long-weekend getaway.

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 travellers 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 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.

Turn a business trip into a holiday

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.

Halloween holiday wake-up call

Will fitting in your remaining days off be a trick -- or a treat? Take some time around Oct. 31 to review outstanding 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. We've collected our top local offers here.

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