40% of Americans didn’t use all of their vacation Paid Time Off (PTO) last year. That means that, for every ten people who read this blog, 4 of you didn’t use all your days. Maybe you were worried about coming back from vacation to a pile of work. Maybe you were afraid that if you used all your time off they might decide you are replaceable. Maybe you worried that nobody else could do your job. Maybe you were saving some of that time in case your kids got sick and you needed to stay home. For whatever reason, almost half of us left time unused.
A percentage of you also didn’t even realize how much vacation time you had left at the end of the year until it was too late to schedule a vacation, and maybe you lost that time. For those of you who did use all your vacation last year, you might have run into problems with requesting time off. Maybe you waited too long to ask for time off around holidays and other employees beat you to it.
We are a nation of work martyrs, tied to our jobs and proudly proclaiming how busy we are – way too busy to take time off for vacation. But studies show that taking regular breaks from your job and your everyday life is highly beneficial. It can help reduce stress, strengthen your personal relationships, and make you more productive at work. Most people like to take vacations and have positive memories of their last trip. So why wouldn’t you want to use all your time, even if just for a staycation?
Don’t let 2015 be a repeat of last year. Take some time this week to schedule out at least some of your time off and then go talk to your boss and put in your time off requests now for all of 2015.
Good times to take vacation:
- Try taking off days around three day holiday weekends. By scheduling a day off on either side of a 3 day weekend, you’re getting 4 days off but only costing yourself one vacation day.
- Planning to take a week off? It’s always better to schedule M-F of the same week. With weekends on either side of your week off, you could have a 9 day vacation for only 5 PTO days (or 4 if you incorporate a 3 day weekend into that schedule). If you schedule 5 days off with a weekend in the middle (such as Wed-Tues), you’re only getting 7 days of vacation for the same amount of PTO (5 days).
- Schedule your November and December time off and put in your time off requests now. It may seem like it’s too far out, but these are the months when everyone wants time off to spend with family and friends. Put in your request today and you may be the first one on the calendar. If you work for a company that stays open through the holidays and you wait too long to put in your request, you may be the one working all alone in the office over the holidays while everyone else enjoys their paid time off. (Is your boss not taking end of the year holiday requests yet? Find out when those requests will be accepted and put a reminder on your calendar to send in your request as soon as the period is open.)
- Take a look at your family schedule for the year. Are there certain events or activities this year that will require you to take time off? Schedule those days first.
- Want to go to a certain destination this year? Do a little research to figure out the high season. Then schedule your vacation for just before or just after the high season. This shoulder season will still get you all the benefits of the season, but at a lower price point and with fewer tourists to get in your way.
- The sooner you schedule and plan vacations at peak times (spring break, 4th of July, Memorial and Labor Day weekends, and end of year holidays), the more choices and lower prices you will have. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan trips during peak travel holidays.
Take some time this week and map out your schedule for the year. Go talk to your supervisors and bosses about using your vacation. Next week, we’ll start sharing some of the tools we use to really make travel easier and more affordable, starting with our favorite tips for booking airfare.