Did you know that more than 50% of the U.S. workforce leaves some portion of their PTO or vacation time unused? Some companies have employed a “use it or lose it” policy on vacation days, meaning anyone that didn’t use up their time, would lose the benefits of PTO.
A vacation is important to not only the employee but also the employer. After working nonstop for an extended period, our brain tends to burn out. You are mentally and physically fatigued and the efficiency is just not there. Take a vacation to release the excess tension and come back more productive, oftentimes creative.
How to Plan Your Vacation
The first step to planning a vacation is to dedicate time from your schedule to the cause. Don’t keep it off for later; no one will question your dedication to the job, trust us. Plan your vacation properly to get the most out of your hard-earned PTO.
You might argue that planning and organizing something would suck the fun out of a vacation, but you don’t want to mess up your work and anger your employer on the journey.
Learn how to plan your vacation the right way.
1. Get a 1-page day off calendar
In all honesty, any regular calendar would do. The benefit of a one-page calendar is that you can see your entire year in one place, making it easier to map out important occasions, peak business days, holidays, and more.
2. Cross all the holidays your employer marks as “paid time off”
Make sure to validate your vacation list with your employee to ensure that you are going in the right direction.
3. Check the times when it will be harder to get time off work
In all jobs, there is a certain time of the year where you won’t be able to get a day off no matter who you are (mostly). This happens mostly in cyclical jobs. For instance, before Christmas, New Year, and other long holidays, companies usually have to rush to get things done.
This is also the time when most people apply for leaves so chances are, you won’t be granted a PTO during this time. Plus, it’s easier to get your colleague to cover for you when there’s too much on either party’s plates.
In simple words, the job transition won’t be as much, and neither will it be as hectic.
We suggest you cross these days off from the calendar. Sometimes, a conflict may arise where you have to be away, like for a family event. If you know which days these are in advance, you will be better equipped to plan ahead.
4. Determine how many paid time off days you have left
A vacation tracker would be one of the biggest assets for a company’s HR. Not only does it automate the entire process, but it also connects all employees on a common platform.
An employee leave tracker app such as the Day Off app lets an employee know many PTO days they still have to avail. Your HR will also be able to keep tabs on everything from the HR dashboard, simplifying the process further.
Keep in mind that HR will also get to know how much balance remains in each account. If your firm implements a “use it or lose it” policy, make sure you don’t have vacation days unscheduled.
5. Allocate days of PTO for the year
The fun part starts now! If you don’t know any better, you allocate your PTO days without much consideration. Let’s assume that you get 15 days or 3 weeks of paid time off. When do you like vacationing?
Do you want to take at least two days off per quarter? What other commitments do you have for the remaining time? Who will be your travel partner 9if any) and do they have any time constraints that could affect your vacation?
Consideration 1: Sort your priorities. When do you truly need time off? Think of all the demands that have been made in your spare time. Are there are commitments that will require you to take time off and leave the town?
Do you celebrate any religious holidays or personal events for which you would possibly want a vacation?
If yes, mark them on the calendar. Your vacation pool should only reflect the days you are available to allocate. Deduct absolute commitments from the list. An easy way to get this done is by using a PTO tracking software.
Consideration 2: Which are your ideal vacation dates? A lot of people like taking a long vacation at the end of the year. Some like reserving all their vacation days for the end of the year. And then there are the folks who begrudgingly avail of the paid time off towards the year-end because they don’t want to lose the benefits it entails.
Here’s a thought. Since so many people are out of the scene towards the end of the year, shouldn’t that make for a better work environment? There’s not as much chaos or stress meaning you will get work done easier.
A popular season for vacation is during early summer and later spring. The weather is great and that’s a natural feel-good factor contributing to a generally good vacation. You might be a fan of the chilly days so consider your preferences when setting the dates. Consider the days when you will enjoy your vacation the most.
Consideration 3: Let’s talk travel buddy. Who do you plan on vacationing with and what sort of constraints do they have? Coordinating with someone on a vacation schedule as adults is challenging, to say the least. But you have to be respectful of the other person’s time constraints, that’s a given.
If your travel buddy also uses an employee time off tracker, the job gets much easier. You can compare your schedule against theirs, see how many PTO days they still have to delegate and make the decision based on that.
The Day Off app lets you make a leave request to your supervisor directly from the app – super convenient. In essence, pick a time after mutual agreement.
Consideration 4: Employee vacation benefits – but make it better with some cool length hacking tips. Fortunately, there are a bunch of ways you can achieve maximum benefits from your PTO days. These tips will help you plan longer trips despite consuming fewer vacation days.
Tip 1: Apply for an entire week of vacation so you can get the best of both worlds – the beginning and trailing weekends. For instance, taking five days off starting Monday and lasting up to Friday allows you to get four weekends off along with it.
This technique which we will refer to as “Sandwiching” lets you have a Saturday and Sunday before your designated vacation days as well as the Saturday and Sunday after your time is over. SO, in total, you get nine days off while asking for only five.
Tip 2: Look out for holidays close to weekends so you can extend the length of your vacation days without having to apply for too many days. Too confusing?
Let’s say you want to go on a week-long vacation and you applied tip 1 as stated before. Within that week-long trip, what if there was a national holiday in the middle, like July 5th? Thanks to this unique loophole, you will have nine days of vacation time off by only using 4 PTO days.
Tip 3: Travel on the job! It’s easier than it sounds. If you’re clever, you can vacation anywhere by stretching your work trip. You will need to have a word with your employer beforehand to ensure there are no policies opposing this, though.
If you’re lucky, you could get an opportunity to spend an additional day after a work event or training. In this case, you’re hitting two birds with one stone: you can skip the time you would need to travel back to your home, and you could save yourself and the company a few bucks.
For example, let’s say you got to attend a conference in one of the places you always wanted to visit, Miami. Your conference finishes on Thursday but you want to hang back a few more days, possibly explore the beautiful location. Your employer could allow you to fly back on Sunday, for instance, when plane fairs are cheaper for the company.
You get to take Friday and Saturday all to yourself in your dream vacation spot by only paying for your room fare, food, and entertainment. Take this time to enjoy what life (and Miami) has to offer to a solo traveler.
Consideration 5: Considering you know where you want to go, it’s time to ask yourself when the best time to go there is. It’s not necessary that you vacation during a time the destination offers the most, but who wouldn’t like that?
Let’s say that you would love to get a good tan on a beach in Mexico. Consider early summer when the heat isn’t too scorching but a subtle warmth to bronze the skin. Forests are best to visit during the monsoon if you’re a true enthusiast of greenery. Early fall or late summer are strong competitors too.
Pro Tip: Planning a vacation well ahead of time lets you avoid the peak seasons. Unless you’re a fan of crowds, there’s not much scope for enjoyment during these times.
Also, peak travel weeks/months are much more expensive. However, this isn’t by accident. You can play your trips sensibly by knowing when you wish to go instead of just jumping headfirst into it.
6. Form a draft of a plan based on the above consideration
We’re inching closer to the end of the planning phase. Now, you’re going to want to finally set the dates after dealing with the considerations.
As you fix the dates, tick (or circle) them on your calendar. At the same time, strike out the available days from your vacation pool that was explained in step 4.
Get a PTO tracker like Day Off. This is actually a free time off tracker designed to help you manage all your leaves with the least fuss. Another quick tip” Set aside time for when you’re guaranteed to be occupied with something but you’re not exactly sure which dates those fall on. Cross these off as you’ve delegated them but simply haven’t set a date for them.
7. Apply for time off work and start the final countdown to a great time!
After a lot of careful planning and allocating, your time to reap the benefits has arrived. Bear in mind that you’ve already considered times that reduce your effect from being away. You’re now free to plan the trip! It’s always best to transition important assignments with rigid deadlines to a coworker before leaving.
That way, you can unplug without any worry as the work is being done in your absence. It also makes it easier for you to pick up from where you left off.
Consider getting some work done before leaving so you’re not pummeled by the weight of assignments and projects after returning.
Within the enjoyment don’t completely forget about your job! An unforeseen circumstance could force your HR to cancel your leave at any moment. Sending approval, requests, and notifications is a total breeze on the free vacation tracker, Day Off. Give it a whirl!
You’re pretty much good to go!
Vacation doesn’t have to be stressful or feel like a liability when you’ve taken the proper steps beforehand. The tips and tricks we mentioned will allow you to enjoy your time away from work while maintaining productivity from your side.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a leave every now and then. Your brain and body need time to recover from the exertion it’s put through 24/7.