How to Make the Most Out of the Typical Corporate 10 Vacation Days

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

I don’t think it is a secret that I would rather be traveling the world, but for now I am still in the corporate work world. I work the typical 9 to 5 in a cubicle and I often find myself staring at a wall dreaming of all the places I want to travel to. The issue is that I am confined to only getting a certain number of paid vacation days. A problem that majority of us face, but there are ways to take multiple grand vacations in the course of the year.

This year, 2016, I have already spent almost a week in Iceland, 10 days in Croatia, visited Toronto, South Carolina, London, Puerto Rico, and have two more big trips planned. I am planning on spending a week in Amsterdam, and I am taking a 5 day trip to Paris & Seville. In one work year I am given 10 PTO days (paid time off), 3 personal days, and 1 floating holiday. This means that in one year I am allowed to take 14 paid “vacation” days off.  So the big question is how did I do this many trips in one year?

Plan ahead

I knew in January all the vacation time that I had for the 2016 year. I found my company’s handbook that listed our company Holiday Schedule (all the days the office is closed like Thanksgiving) and set out to plan my travel for the year.  This doesn’t mean I planned every trip or knew where I was going or exactly when, but I knew I needed to allocate time to certain vacations. By February I had two vacations already accounted for. The first was my 5 day trip to Iceland I took at the end of January and I had booked my trip in June to Croatia (for The Yacht Week) which was planning to be a 10 day trip total. I had a running spreadsheet showing all time used and what was left, I would plan out different trips that were possibilities to see which ones made the most sense.

Roll Time Over if you can (get creative)

I started this out by saying I am only allowed 14 days off total, which is true, but 2016 I was able to convince my company to allow me to roll over 5 vacations days from the 2015 year. My company’s policy is to not allow rollover for any unused vacation time (most companies I find won’t roll it over, “use it or lose it” motto).  I do feel some companies are willing to make an acceptation if you make a case for it. For me I did not take any vacation time in the 2015 year. This was because my boss found out in February 2015 she was pregnant, and due in July. The first half of the 2015 year was turned into prep time for me to ensure I was able to handle her role while she was going to be out on maternity leave. In August she left on leave, and in November after she was back the focus was getting her back up to speed. The year went by so fast I didn’t even realize it was over, and that my vacation time was just sitting there about to disappear as 2016 approached.  I decided to make a plea; I argued while I knew it was against policy, I had put the company first the entire year to ensure we hit our goals and met deadlines even with being short on the staff. They saw my effort and late nights throughout the year and approved rolling over 5 days of vacation.

Take Advantage of the Holidays

Holidays are just free days off work, so use them to your advantage. I am taking a 6 day vacation (my Paris/Seville trip) and only had to request 2 days off from work. How? I’m taking it during the Thanksgiving holiday. A lot of American companies give their employees Thursday & Friday off, so I only had to request Tuesday & Wednesday off. Most people do like to spend the holidays with family, but if you can handle missing the family it is a great opportunity to make the most of your vacation time.  Also take advantage of 3 day weekends, either for short weekend getaways or take a day or two off before the weekend for the opportunity for a full week vacation. Try to plan your vacations around a holiday to give you that extra day in paradise.

Travel for Work

If there are opportunities to travel for work, take them! Seek them out and ask how that trip could benefit the company; find conferences, seminars, workshops, clients, etc that would allow you the opportunity to travel. I embedded myself in a specific project so that I would be an asset to take to our conference in Europe, and now I am going to spend a week in Amsterdam (mostly paid for too). The conference ends Thursday so I took Friday off and fly home Sunday, giving me time to explore the city.

Work Remote

Ask your company about working remotely for a few days. Depending on the travel this allows you to get to your destination sooner and still enjoy it without having to take time off. A great use of this is during the week between Christmas and New Years. Most people are off on vacation, so normally it isn’t a necessity for anyone to be in the office. Again if you don’t mind being away from family during the holidays this is a great time to take a vacation! For example the 2016 year, if you left for Europe late Friday night on the 23 you would spend Christmas and ring in the New Year abroad, possibly staying up to 9 days with only having to work remote for 4 days, and hopefully you won’t mind working if you are sipping coffee at a local café.

There are a million small and simple tricks to getting the most bang for your buck in all areas of life. Making the most of your vacation is just about planning ahead, accounting for everything, resisting the urge to call off work for that baseball game, and using the weekends/holidays to your advantage. Between all the methods listed here I will have visited Europe 5 times this year with only one trip being work related, and have taken a few long weekends here and there visiting places like Canada, Puerto Rico, and some local cities in the states. This was all done with just 19 days PTO, and if it was a regular year with only my allowed 14 days I would have only missed out on my trip to Iceland. So it is possible, you just have to get creative!

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