Over 31,000 miles flown in 2013 - Wander The Map

Tips to Maximize Your Limited Vacation Days from Work

Maximizing your vacation can be tough, especially as an American when your time off is very limited compared to the rest of the world. Micah is a full-time freelance photographer and videographer, so he can set his own hours, but it’s not as easy for me to work in travel with my 13 days of vacation per year. Even so, we managed to fly over 31,000 miles in 2013, and we took additional road trips on top of that.

Over 31,000 miles flown in 2013 - Wander The Map

Throughout the year, we spent a total of 11 days in Minnesota (three trips back home), 11 days in Iceland and Norway, 3.5 days in Ohio, 9 days in the UK and Ireland, 2.5 days in Houston, and at least a total of 30 days away on weekend road trips, making our grand total of travel for the year 67 days. Not that that’s a huge amount of vacation compared to those who travel full-time, but it is certainly much more than the 13 vacation days that I have to work with.

Sure, limited vacation doesn’t allow for month-long trips roaming the countryside of France and it makes even a two week trip to Thailand a challenge if you want to do more than one vacation per year. But, that being said, it doesn’t mean you have to scratch those dreamed of trips off the books entirely; you just need a little creativity and flexibility in fulfilling your travel dreams.

Skógafoss Iceland South Coast Road Trip

Stopping at Skógafoss on our Road Trip in Iceland

As I said before, I have 13 days of vacation per year plus weekends and some national holidays, which adds up to a total of 125 days off per year. When you think about it that way, it changes quite a bit–that’s a decent amount of free time!

Here are some tips to maximize your limited vacation days so you can start planning to utilize that precious time off from a 9-5 corporate job:

1. Use Both Weekends

First of all, if you take a weeklong trip, book it to include both weekends on each side of your week off. This will automatically give you 4 days you don’t have to use vacation time on. Try to avoid booking a Wednesday-Wednesday getaway because you will lose out on 2 extra days.

Vacation Length: 9 days, Saturday-Sunday
Vacation Used: 4 days

2. Holiday Time Off

Make sure to take advantage of your holiday time off–for the US, these days would include holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, 4th of July, Christmas Day, etc. For example, if the day off is a Monday, you have a few options:

Vacation Length: 3 days, Saturday-Monday
Vacation Used: 0 days

Vacation Length: 4 days, Friday-Monday
Vacation Used: 1 day

Vacation Length: 9 days, Saturday-Sunday with holiday on 1st Monday
Vacation Used: 4 days

Vacation Length: 10 days, Saturday-Sunday with holiday on 2nd Monday
Vacation Used: 5 days

Apply this same strategy to combine your holidays and vacation days and your time off will grow quite quickly.

3. Weekend Trips

Don’t underestimate the power of a short weekend trip. Getting away for even a few days can reduce stress and make you ready to face the week rejuvenated. Take a road trip to a town a couple of hours away from home or fly somewhere on a flight that only takes a couple of hours. This way, you arrive at your destination Friday evening, have all day Saturday to explore and if you leave Sunday evening, you have almost a full day on Sunday as well. You could also head out first thing Saturday morning and stay until Sunday evening–in my book, any travel is better than no travel.

4. Day Trips

Take a day trip to a city nearby. Just getting away for a day can be the break you need. Wake up early and you will have a full day ahead of you.

5. Tour Your Own City

If nothing else, be a tourist in your own city for a day. You might be surprised what entertainment you will find close to home if you look through a tourist’s eyes. Do a search for special events in your area, research your city on blogs or in guidebooks, or look at websites where you can peruse tour offerings in your city. You never know what you will find, and it might spark an idea for something you never thought of doing before.

6. Early/Late Flights

Book your outbound flight first thing in the morning and your return flight late in the evening. This maximizes your time on the ground so you can squeeze one more ounce of vacation in.

7. Turn Business Travel into Vacation

If you have to go on a business trip, plan a couple of extra days in for vacation as well at either the beginning or end of your trip.

Bonus: If you leave late the night prior to your first day of vacation and come home late on your last day, it can add another half day on each end. Vacation starts Saturday morning? Why not leave late Friday night instead–it will give you a full day on Saturday instead of making Saturday a travel day.

Hopefully you can find a few extra ways to squeeze a little more vacation into your year!

Do you have limited vacation too?

What tricks do you use to maximize your vacation?


  • Angela
    Posted at 12:20h, 14 January Reply

    Wow. You guys did a lot for the amount of vacation days you get. I agree that going to Thailand eats up vacation days. However, I vowed I would go more being on the West Coast, but both my trips were to Europe this past year!
    Angela recently posted…From Cubicle to Travel – Using Vacation Days WiselyMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:30h, 20 January Reply

      Yeah I can see how being on the west coast it would make to go to Asia more–hope you are able to this year! Would love to hear about your time there!

  • Lance
    Posted at 15:32h, 14 January Reply

    Yes, it’s possible to travel lots with little vacation time! The more people who preach this message maybe the more Americans will get out and see the world around them.
    Lance recently posted…Five Ways to Experience Fort Worth’s Sundance SquareMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:31h, 20 January Reply

      I agree! Glad to hear others spreading the message as well 🙂 It’s amazing how much you can really do if you plan if right!

  • elaine schoch
    Posted at 22:24h, 14 January Reply

    Wow – 67 days is a lot. Good for you guys! These are good tips, especially the double weekend tip, so many people skip this one.
    elaine schoch recently posted…Things to do in Saigon: Four Must See French Colonial Buildings of SaigonMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:32h, 20 January Reply

      Thanks, Elaine! Hopefully we can work it all out again this year! I always hear people not taking advantage of the double weekends too–it really does add to the days.

  • Corinne
    Posted at 03:27h, 15 January Reply

    Great advice. As one of those travelers that have to work, I definitely try to maximize my days as you’ve stated. Just recently I booked a cheap air flight to Croatia. It’s Friday to Friday…which did not make me overly happy, because to me that’s a waste of two great travel days….soooo I’m adding a little weekend to France…bummer! Great post!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:36h, 20 January Reply

      Thanks, Corinne! Yeah sometimes the cheap flight can make enough of a difference to shorten the trip. Glad you always try to maximize your days as well! Have a great time in Croatia and France–sounds like fun!!

  • Britney McSweeney
    Posted at 13:10h, 16 January Reply

    This is an awesome post! I totally agree with your advice about maximizing the weekends and planning vacations smarter. Sometimes it is hard to force yourself to get out of the habit of wasting weekends- TV, sleeping in, just relaxing can be tempting, but even one weekend day trip reminds me that I HAVE To travel, it is what really makes me ready to take on the next week. After a month of staying in town with a 11 day trip in 2 weeks (!!!), this post was timed perfectly for me. I need to get back on track to explore!
    Britney McSweeney recently posted…5 Months in Denali NP, AlaskaMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:38h, 20 January Reply

      Thanks so much! Glad it’s motivating! I always feel so much better about the week when I get out and do something over the weekend as well. Exciting it’s about time for your vacation–hope you have a great time!

  • Daidri
    Posted at 10:20h, 21 January Reply

    What a great way to maximize your vacation time. I’m so glad to see you talk about weekend getaways and exploring the city you live in. Great suggestions!
    Daidri recently posted…For The Best Views of San Francisco – Head To AlcatrazMy Profile

  • Rebel
    Posted at 19:13h, 17 April Reply

    My husband has less annual leave (Oz term) than I do – but thankfully his workplace allows him to take leave with out pay.
    At Christmas time his workplace closes down for two to three weeks – which is time we usually use to visit family – luckily our families live in beautiful holiday locations – as it is so expensive to go anywhere that time of year.
    But I think because they force him to take leave at Christmas they allow him to take leave with out pay at other times.
    I love your ideas of exploring locally more – we are only an hour from Sydney and there is so much to see and do down there we must start heading down on weekends. We also live near the wineries of the Hunter Valley which we never explore either… we always take where we live for granted.
    I work with a girl who has only lived in Australia for a couple of years and recently got her residency. She said her husband has become lazy as they’ve stopped exploring the region… and I concurred – “Yeap, you are becoming locals!”.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 13:17h, 20 April Reply

      That’s nice to have a long break at Christmas and that he can take time off without pay! It all helps! Glad you are thinking about exploring your own area more–Sydney and the wineries sound amazing! Isn’t it funny how we seem to ignore the places closest to us? It’s so easy to fall into routines and forget about what’s around us–I find I have to remind myself to explore at home–but it’s always so rewarding when I do and amazing how much there is we forget about. Happy and safe travels–thanks for stopping by!

  • Pat and Carla
    Posted at 08:55h, 04 February Reply

    We embrace the day trip/weekend getaways. We’ve discovered and enjoyed so many things within a couple hours of home, most people underutilize what is so close to them.
    Pat and Carla recently posted…A Quick Trip to ChicagoMy Profile

  • Terrigal Accommodation
    Posted at 23:07h, 11 January Reply

    This is awesome, great Idea.

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