If you’re reading this right now, chances are you love to travel. It is one of your priorities and part of your daily daydream regiment. However, it’s also pretty likely that you have only 2 weeks of vacation, especially if you’re just starting out in your career.
A mere 10 days.
According to Expedia.com’s 2009 Vacation Deprivation Survey, the average American gets 13 days of vacation time a year.
This puts us in last place amongst our international counterparts. Barely ahead of us is Japan with 15 days, our friendly northern neighbor, Canada, is at 19 days, England’s doing well with 26 days, and France is the clear leader, with a whopping average of 38 days of annual vacation leave a year.
So, our challenge as active (yet hardworking) travelers is… how can we fulfill all of our travel aspirations with such a small amount of time, especially when we so often hear the phrase “do it while you’re young” in terms of having an adventure?
I’ve grappled with this very question for years now, and through much trial and error (and wasted vacation days) I’ve figured out a few surefire ways to help you wring every minute out of your annual allotment:
- Bring out the pen and paper and PLAN
If you want to make sure that each day really counts, you’re going to have to think ahead and plan your days out carefully.
The best way to do this is to begin each year by writing out a list of all of your available days in the back of your day-planner. This will be your master list so you can always know where you stand, and provide you some inspiration of what you’re looking forward to when you’re in a bit of a vacation dry spell!
- Want to plan for a BIG TRIP?
Whether you’ve dreamed of heading to Europe, South America or perhaps even a little farther away, with 10 days of vacation you should be able to take at least one bigger trip a year and a few shorter trips as well.
Try to identify those big trips as early in the year as possible so you can block them off on your list. And if your plans happen to change later in the year and you take less time than planned, than those days become like a bonus. A vacation bonus… the best kind!
- Three Cheers for the Holiday Weekend!
If you’re tight on vacay-days, holiday weekends are indisputably the best time to plan for a trip. While you probably will have to pay a little more to travel during these peak times, there’s no better way to maximize your time when you’re running low on vacation inventory.
Let’s say you wanted to take a longer trip to London over Memorial Day weekend. By traveling over a holiday and taking advantage of the book-ended weekends, you would only need to take 4 days off to end up with a 9 day vacation! Not bad, eh?
On the flip side, if you’ve already used up most of your days, then 3-day holiday weekends are the perfect solution to your restless and travel-deprived soul.
However, to make a short trip work effectively, you need to… cut down the travel time!
You don’t have to travel far to have an adventure, and when you are short on time the last thing you should do is to spend your precious time on the road/ in an airport/ lost and in need of directions/ etc…
If you are trying to maximize a 3 or 4 day weekend, skip the time-consuming flights.
Instead, pull out a map and find someplace that appeals to you within a 3-4 hour driving or train range. Chances are there’s an amazing trip option nearby… a lake, a festival, a national park, a beach, a city… whatever your interest may be.
- Happy New Year!
If you want to plan a trip that requires some serious time off, consider traveling over the New Year holiday.
You might miss the Times Square ball drop, but by structuring your trip this way you can use a few days from one year, a few days from the next year and the holiday days off and weekends to get a really lengthy trip with minimal impact on your annual leave.
- How to negotiate more time
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t make your allotted number of days work with your lofty travel aspirations, you may be able to broach the subject with your manager to try to negotiate more time.
This works best if you’ve been at your company for longer than a year, but if you have a good relationship with your boss then it is definitely worth discussing your options with him or her.
The most common option to suggest is Comp Time.
For this you would work extra hours that would translate into paid time off to be used in lieu of vacation days. Whether you work through lunch, an extra hour late, or perhaps even a day on the weekend, this could help you accumulate a few extra days to add into the mix.
Also, it may be a bit of a long shot, but you could see if they would be willing to let you use some of your sick time for vacation. (NOT a good option if you regularly get sick…)
Finally, some companies allow you to defer some of your days to the next year.
While personally I think it would be really difficult to restrain and roll some of your precious vacation time over, it could be worth it if you want to plan a truly time intensive adventure.
- The Bottom Line
Starting out in a career is tough, and it’s made even tougher for those with a traveler’s soul. It can be especially difficult to transition into the working world when you feel like you have to compromise your vacation time.
The good news is that the longer you work at a given company and focus on advancing your career with them, the more vacation time you are eventually rewarded with. Before you know it, you’ll have a few more days so you’ll be able to work hard and then travel hard!
Have you found it difficult to work with your allowed vacation time? Do you have any good tips to add?