Do you travel with limited vacation time?

September 12, 2013

Planning, Travel Tips

We live in the U.S. so most companies start you out with 2-3 weeks of vacation. My husband has worked at his company long enough now that he is “lucky” to have 4 weeks vacation per year and we use ALL of it every year. I think whether you have 2 or 4 weeks, what happens when you are planning a vacation with limited vacation time? How do you divide up your vacation time to make sure you get the proper breaks?

These are the questions we have asked ourselves lately. Last month while in Michigan, when we stuck my three-year-old daughter with videos for the 7 hour drive each way, we had valuable, uninterupted conversation. My husband pointed out that it was the first time this year that he had taken a full week off. Ouch! Really? Talk about poor planning on my part.

Travel with Kids

During the Spring we had visited Baltimore, Maryland and some surrounding areas, Kelleys Island on Lake Erie, and a bit of Sandusky, Ohio area. We did a little staycationing over the summer and then went to Michigan in August, and now are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas. The only week-long trip was Michigan in late August. Four weeks of PTO (personal time off) and only 1 full-week of vacation!

We talked about how our plan of always wanting “1 trip or local fun per month” had somewhat backfired on our ability to have a real break. We spent a long time talking about the rest of our plans for this year and more importantly, how to better plan his vacation time for next year. Here is what we came up with:

1. Plan to take one full week of vacation no matter how many weeks you have.

No matter how many weeks of vacation you have, we remember from earlier days that it’s important to take an entire week off. This way you do not make the mistake we did by waiting 8 months until you have a full week off. At minimum, you will feel more refreshed to get back to work.

2. Take that one week-long vacation earlier in the year.

In hindsight, I think “Spring Break” in March when our daughter is out of school would be a good time to get away. Particularly for us living in the northern part of the States, when you have had a long winter with no days off (many people do not get President’s Day or MLK Day off) and are anxious for warmer weather, take advantage of your kids breaks.

3. Plan at least one week around a holiday weekend.

By leveraging additional days your company gives you off, you are only taking 3-4 days off and still benefitting from a full week off.

4. Plan a second full week off before the end of the summer

This is especially important if you have 3 weeks or more of vacation. Whether you stay home or go somewhere, what we found is everyone vacations over the summer. For us, it was hard to see all our friends and neighbors go places and we still had 1-2 months to go before we could enjoy time off.

Relaxing on vacation

5. Plan fun, weekend breaks near home.

Keep these to 1 day adventures and 2-3 longer weekends within 2-3 hours away. What I realized is we had several long weekends planned as far as an 8-hour drive away, which leaves you tired and not well rested upon returning home. You spend more time in the car getting to, from and around than you do actually enjoying the destination.

6. Enjoy the trip, quality over quantity!

We took a 30 minute drive to a beautiful Preserve that we had never been to, went hiking, had a picnic lunch and was home by mid-afternoon for our kid’s late afternoon nap. It was a wonderful day. We enjoyed something new and the quality family time in that one morning than we had in some of our bigger trips.

I think no matter how much vacation time you earn, if you are like us and love to explore new places, any vacation time is never enough. In the end it is about how well you plan with your limited vacation time over how many trips you take. I certainly learned my lesson! Easy travel equals quality over quantity for my family.

10 Responses to “Do you travel with limited vacation time?”

  1. Adam Sommer Says:

    I totally agree on the lack of vacation time in the US – its terrible!

    I am lucky to have 6 weeks myself, and my wife 5.

    Some tips we use…

    1. We always vacation the week of Thanksgiving. Since we both have holidays Thurs/Fri, it only takes 3 vacation/PTO days for a 10 day vacation.

    2. We take advantage of January/February holidays & low prices (and no crowds) by using MLK & President’s day weeks (4 PTO days for a 10 day vacation).

    3. We “work” during Christmas holidays. Its the easiest time of year to be in the office – no one is actually working much…plus since we “gave up” our Christmas time, we always get first pick of whatever time we want the rest of the year.


    • Kiera Says:

      You are lucky that you get the January/February holidays as we don’t and many of our friends and family don’t either! So unfair! I am always jealous online when I see the folks that DO get those days off! I’ll be watching your adventures Adam! Where are you headed for Thanksgiving?


  2. Karen Dawkins Says:

    What a valuable post! Many US companies offer only ONE week of vacation to new employees. We are shooting ourselves in the foot with this mentality. Your suggestion to leverage vacation days to mesh with holidays is truly critical to those who have little vacation time. To make the most of those holiday vacations, travel to places that are “less popular” for that particular holiday. Spring break sends hordes to Disney. Not relaxing! AND expensive! Instead, head to a nearby state park with year-round action. Enjoy the wide open space at the lodge, hiking, local restaurants, and most importantly, time with the family to RELAX!


    • Kiera Says:

      Karen, you are right about those 1 week vacations – my older brother only has one week and that includes sick time! It is tough but he too follows these tips and he’s able to get 2 full weeks with leveraging scheduled holidays, plus a day or two off if he does not get sick! I like your ideas for a less-crowded and hectic vacation, thanks!!!


      • Karen Dawkins Says:

        Of course! I think you’re spot on with everything you shared. Rob and I realized that 3 days isn’t enough to refresh — though it is enough to reconnect. We need 2 days to unwind, at least 2 days to feel fully relaxed, and another 2 days to refresh! We’re old and slow, perhaps. :)


  3. Sharon Says:

    We do a lot of day trips in our family. We look on the map for things we can get to within 2 1/2 hours of driving and leave super early in the morning. We have been able to make some great memories and see our ‘backyard’. We don’t have a budget for extended hotel stays so the day trips are great for us right now. We see new things and make new memories as a family. We do want to take a longer trip next summer but for now, we love our day trips. Great reminders to plan ahead.


    • Kiera Says:

      Sharon, can you talk to my husband about getting an early start? Lol. I always aim for early but the reality is that my husband gets up so early for work during the week that he catches up on sleep during the weekend. I’ve even started to ‘fib’ to him and tell him I want to leave by 7:30, when really we may not have to leave until 8 or so. Shhh….


  4. Becky Lyons Borgia Says:

    These are wonderful tips. Thanks for sharing!


  5. Debi@ The Spring Mount 6 Pack Says:

    We love traveling and a lot times I have to travel without hubby because of his work schedule. But these are great tips for making a family vacation.



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