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?