How to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

October 22, 2016

As someone who travels a lot, or at least as much as I possibly can, I get questions all the time from people about how I manage to get so much time off work to travel as much as I do. The truth is, like most people in Canada, I get three weeks of vacation a year, so to bust the myth many people may think—I don’t have a job with unlimited vacation days. My secret is that I’ve just learned how to take full advantage of the vacation days I DO have. Here are some tips on how you can do the same, and see as much of the world as I do every year.

Use them and plan ahead

So many people I know hoard their vacation days with no real plan on what they are hoarding them for. I definitely am guilty of hoarding mine, but I always have a reason for why I’m doing it. For instance, this year I knew I wanted to do a trip back to Asia in December, so I purposely planned everything else I wanted to do from January to November around that.

When you are limited to the vacation days you have, it’s critical to have some sort of strategy behind those days so they don’t end up going to waste. You don’t want to blow all your days at the beginning of the year, and then not have any left to use for the other 11 months, unless of course, one trip is enough for you in a year.

Here is the catch—if you hoard your vacation days without a plan, often you’ll have days that end up going to waste. Suddenly it’ll be December and you now have to use three weeks before you lose those days and they restart the following year. Time will creep up on you quick, and without planning, you may end up with all these days hoarded, with no money to actually go somewhere and use them. As great as stay-cations are, they won’t satisfy your wanderlust as much as traveling abroad.

Ask for unpaid days

You’re probably thinking that there’s no possible way you could take some days off unpaid, but believe me when I say—most people actually can. First off, many people don’t even consider this as being an option for them, but this can ultimately be a great way to get more days then your allocated two or three weeks, allowing you to go on longer or more vacations.

Now I know this suggestion probably leads to another excuse or concern—that there is no way you could afford to be unpaid for a few days. This concern is completely understandable. I am still paying student loans, I live in an expensive city, and don’t have a lot of extra money to spare, but I still have managed to make a few unpaid days work here and there. Now I don’t mean taking weeks unpaid (I mean, if you can do this, great), I mean if you want to go on a 3 week tour, and what’s stopping you is that you only have enough vacation days to do 2.5 weeks, you ask for the rest unpaid so you’re able to do the trip you want to do.

Utilizing your long weekends, or just weekends in general can rejuvenate you throughout the year.

The way I make this work is serious budgeting leading up to those unpaid days off to make sure all my ends are met, and I’m not left with overdue bills waiting for me when I return home from my trip. I look at places I can cut costs, and I consider the things I won’t be paying for since I’ll be on vacation. For example, I don’t pay for transit in Toronto, my hydro bill goes down, and I won’t be buying groceries when I’m on vacation. Little things add up fast!


Take advantage of weekends (and holidays)

Many of us get long/holiday weekends throughout the year. Literally if I sit here right now and count how many we get in a year in Ontario, Canada, we almost get ten! Now you’re probably wondering where on earth you can go for a weekend, but I think when you start to actually do some research you’ll discover a lot of cool places and things to discover around your city or town that not only are budget friendly, but also don’t require you to use vacation days.

Utilizing your long weekends, or just weekends in general can rejuvenate you throughout the year. You won’t feel like you’re slaving away for the entire year to afford to only go on one trip. Sometimes it’s not only all about the big and long trips and vacations; sometimes a weekend away can be just what you need to hold you over until that longer trip is within arm’s reach.

How to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days


So where should you go? Do some research to see what places exist around you that are only a short flight or drive away. For example, Boston, Chicago, New York and other neighboring states are quick flights that are only a maximum of a couple hours away from Toronto. Yes, it may not be ideal for you to only visit somewhere for three days, but spending three days exploring a new destination or country is better than spending no days. It’s amazing what you can actually squeeze into limited amount of days when you want, and remember, you can always come back another time!

How to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

Another thing to keep in mind outside of weekends is holidays. If you know your office closes for a week at Christmas, overlap vacation into that week so you can go for longer. It’s all about being strategic. If you have days you would normally just sit at home and do nothing, take those days and turn them into a vacation.

So start looking at your vacation days differently. Instead of looking at them as being limiting or constraining, learn how to utilize them in a way that you make the most of them. Obviously it would be everyone’s dream to quit their job and travel for as long as they want, or have unlimited vacation days, but that’s not the reality for most people. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not possible for you to see the world. This year I will have gone on six trips/getaways by the end of the year, some weekend trips, and some longer, with only a few days unpaid. If I can make it happen, so can you!


How to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

About Lauren Marinigh

I’m a Canadian born girl who dreams about travel constantly. I work in Toronto and have developed my career as a marketing, social media professional, and writer. My writing has always steered toward professional/marketing related topics but my real passion is travel. I’ve had a travel blog since 2009 which I mainly only used when I was traveling, my focus has now steered more towards exhilarating my blog, and sharing my travel advice, wisdom and experiences even when I’m stuck in my 9-5 job.

3 thoughts on “How to Make the Most of Your Vacation Days

  1. August 10, 2015

    Great tips! So glad seeing another gal doing it too 🙂

  2. Love the tips! These are things I tell people too when they ask how I get to travel so much. Although my old job wouldn’t let you take unpaid leave unless you went on medical leave….and they would never close for a week over Christmas, only the day of the holiday. So I had to leave that place!

    • July 23, 2015

      I know the feeling – not all places are as open to it! I work in marketing and I know an agency wouldn’t be very open to giving as much time off as a non-profit like I work in now!

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