Accumulate Vacation Time Wisely

Going on vacation requires a job to take a vacation from, unless you happen to be Paris Hilton. Many people complain that they don’t have enough time to take from work when the summer rolls around, yet seem to have enough hours to cure their Wednesday night hangover.

Getting the right amount of vacation depends on many factors that are under your control. With organization, discipline, and some initiative you can easily rack up the hours for your much deserved trip abroad.

  • Take time off when you want it, not when you need it. Many companies pool their work and sick time together, so don’t make the mistake of leaving a few hours early here and there when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. That time adds up easily and providing you are not suffering from the full-blown flu go in and stay at work. Some strong coffee and less talk will help you get some more work done anyway. It is always better to take time off for you and not your germs, hangovers, or grumpy mornings.
  • Plan where you’d like to go and figure out how much time is reasonable to spend there. It’s all fun and games to say, I’d like to go to Argentina, but if you need to lay down a reasonable time frame as to when you’d like to go there. If your goal is “in four months” then plan accordingly. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to underestimate the amount of time it will take to accumulate a certain amount of leave.
  • Schedule workweek appointments close to your office or look for places that offer services after regular business hours. Car maintenance, doctors checkups, and errands can usually be taken care of close to where you work. For your car transmission replacement you might want to go across town to Moe’s but for an oil change any old place will do. Go somewhere close and minimize the time you burn. Stay close to the office and combine things-to-do.
  • Swap and share with your co-workers. If one is running to the store that you need something from, ask them to pick it up on their way. You can always repay the favor next time you have to go out.
  • Look for jobs that offer flex time. Some professions are more flexible than others, but those jobs are out there you just need to look for them. Flex time lets you get in early and leave early so you can squeeze in time for oil changes, and most places let you make up hours without burning vacation time. So you missed a few hours for your cousin’s Bar Mitzvah stay a bit later on Thursday and save your leave.
  • Ask your boss for flex time. If your company doesn’t have flex time, maybe it’s because nobody’s asked! Many professions don’t need to hold traditional hours and coming in an hour or two earlier each day to leave at 3 or 4 might be plausible in a variety of fields.
  • Read your companies leave policy and know it. That way you don’t screw up your vacation with your Latin lover because you added incorrectly.
  • Take time off during non-peak times of the year. You will certainly get more sympathy if you happen to need a couple extra hours off if you are not taking a trip when half of the office is already gone.
  • Work for companies that offer require an amount of travel you are comfortable with. Business trips can be planned right before a weekend and with some careful organization can be made into a mini tourist vacation. I’ve traveled to nearby cities, explored entire regions, and seen places I’d never plan to go otherwise because I jumped at the chance. Don’t turn down going to the places nobody wants to go otherwise you won’t get priority for that conference in Hawaii.
  • If you have to be away from your office, try to do work at the same time. A good example is waiting an hour for your oil change. So some reports need to get done? Take a laptop with you, even your personal one if you can and save that hour for Tahiti.
  • Use your time off! The New York Times reports that the average American worker has 16.6 paid vacation hours but 36% did not plan to use it.
  • If you plan to switch jobs plan a vacation in between with the hours from your soon-to-be ex job. Once you leave most places that personal leave time goes up in smoke and you don’t get reimbursed with money for it. Might as well use it, even if it’s a day or two. Back it up against a weekend and take your girlfriend out to the beach.
  • Above all, remember that your job funds your travels. Getting sick of your job, not happy with the amount of time you get off, and a number of other things can make you lose sight of the fact that your job isn’t getting in the way of your vacation, it is the force behind it. If you are burnt out take time off, and change your surroundings if you’re not happy with time. It’s under your control.

There are some pieces of advice that have worked for me and others I know. A good place to network about jobs that offer what you are looking for in a “vacation-funder” is LinkedIn. There you can consult with your peers to find out benefits, personal leave time, and flex time options.

How many hours of personal leave time do you get and is it combined with your sick time? I’m curious what everyone else does to maximize the amount of time they can spend away from work, or does it matter to you?

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