How to Maximize Your Vacation Days to See More of the World

If you are like most of America, you get the standard 2 weeks paid vacation a year. If you are lucky or have tenure at a company, you may get three. If you want to go on more than 1 trip abroad a year, this amount of time can seem minuscule. But not to fret! Here are some tips for making those 2-3 weeks really count and how to get the most out of your work-life situation.

Ask your boss for more vacation time

This may seem difficult or obvious, and it’s kind of both. But time is the most free thing a company can give you. Studies show that people get their work done anyway, regardless of if they are sitting at their desk for 3 more days per year or not. Now, don’t tell your employer that of course (that would invite more work, wouldn’t it?) When you have the whole “sorry, budget cuts this year, we aren’t able to offer you a raise” conversation, say, that’s ok, I understand, I would certainly take 3 additional leave days instead, at no additional cost the company!

Of course, phrase it appropriately for your situation. This doesn’t apply to everyone and won’t always work, but the worse they could say is no, right? In that case, you will still have the same amount of vacation days you current have, so you lose nothing by asking. Another strategy is to have a specific trip in mind to throw out there when asking for additional vacation days. This could be "my family has always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon and we have the opportunity to do so this year," or "My spouse and I are planning a trip to Paris for our 5 year anniversary, is there any way I could get 2 additional vacation days to cover this?" Sometimes a very specific, short term ask is an easier yes than a forever increase in your vacation day allowance.

Granada, Spain

Traveling over holidays or days your office is closed

If you are one of those lucky individuals in the work force that has extra days off around Christmas, or if your company closes for Presidents Day and all those bank holidays, take full advantage of those. Ask for the full list of days the office will be closed, or if you know them already, you can look up the federal holidays schedule for each year online. Put those dates in your calendar and pay attention to them when you are looking at flights and travel dates.

One of my favorite times to travel internationally is over Thanksgiving. If your office is closed for Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after, you essentially have a Saturday to Sunday - 9 days open by just taking 3 vacation days in the middle. Another great time is after Christmas. Depending on how the holidays fall during the week and when your office closes for New Years Day, you can get a few extra days out of this time of year. This of course comes with a sacrifice. Some families do it up big for Thanksgiving and you don't want to miss out, and that's definitely something to consider. I've had some serious turkey FOMO on past trips. You also want to book travel pretty far in advance for dates near holidays, as the prices tend to go up as demand goes up closer to the departure dates.

Offering to work a few hours remotely on the road

This usually isn’t my jam. If I’m traveling, I want to be disconnected from work and relaxed. But, if it helps you take that dream vacation or extended trip, this could work for you. Some companies are happy to wave a few days of leave (sometimes more!) in exchange for you checking in or working a few hours each day, especially if you are hourly or will be gone for a long time. This will take some pitching on your part, but again, the worst they could say is no. I know a lot of people who do this and it works for them. They wake up early each day of vacation and work for 1-2 hours on their laptop or phone before continuing on in their adventure. Just be sure to set some limits, you don't want to spend your whole trip working.

Make up a portion of your hours

If you are hourly, see if you can make up a portion of your hours the same week as your vacation. Say you are leaving to go to Munich next Thursday and will be gone for one week, meaning you will need to take 6 of your 10 precious annual vacation days. If you came in on the Sunday before your trip to work 8 hours, that would decrease your leave by a whole day. If you worked 3 hours more on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before you left, that would eliminate another vacation day you would otherwise be taking. Say you came in the Saturday of the week you returned. That's another leave day eliminated. Now you are down from taking 6 days to only taking 3. Not everyone has this ability, but it's always worth asking. You may be surprised to find how much your employer is willing to work with you on leave time.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Make the most of your travel location with day trips and side trips

Always look at a map of where your destination is and see if there are any destinations near by that would be good as a side trip or day trip, especially in Europe where the trains are excellent and the countries are close together. Say you bought those sweet $360 tickets to Munich I posted a few weeks ago. Google "day trips from Munich" to see what is near by, and then google "trains from Munich to Salzburg" to see how long of a ride it would be to each destination. After you invest your time to fly 16 hours to get to Europe, you might as well maximize your time there. There are often times some unique small villages or even some major cities just an hour or two by train from your destination. Just keep in mind, you don't want to stretch yourself too thin and feel haggard. I'm definitely guilty of trying to see too much on one trip. You can always decide last minute or on the last day of your trip to throw in a day trip by train, the trains are almost never full and you can go to the train station and purchase a ticket that day.

Consider Open Jaw Itineraries

Open Jaw flights are when you fly into one city and fly out of another. This saves you time of having to travel back to your original airport that you flew into. Here's an example: You want to spend 8 days in Italy and tickets