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.
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.
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.