The U.S. Travel Association reports that millions of workers are leaving over 230 million vacation days unused each year, resulting in over $65 billion in lost benefits. That’s a lot of paid time off (PTO) going to waste!
There are several reasons why people might not use their vacation days: A lack of time to plan, a fear of missing out on work opportunities, or feeling like they can't afford it can all contribute to vacation days going unused.
But taking time off is essential for staying energized, productive, and motivated in the workplace. It also offers a great opportunity to explore new places, focus on your mental health, and spend time with friends and family.
So, how can you make the most of your vacation days? Here are a few tips:
1) Know your PTO plan
Some workers simply don't know how much vacation time they get each year or when their allotted vacation days expire. Add to that a "use it or lose it" approach taken by some employers and it's no wonder vacation days are going to waste.
So take the time to familiarize yourself with your company's vacation policy. Talk to your HR representative or manager if you have any questions about the details of how much vacation time you get, when it can be taken, and how much notice you need to give.
2) Spend time planning ahead
Having enough time to plan a getaway can be a great way to get the most out of your vacation. You can use travel apps for everything from researching destinations to finding the best deals on hotels and flights. You can also check out curated travel destinations like remote expeditions and eco-tourism adventures to take the legwork out of it.
Whatever you do, be sure to check with your coworkers to ensure no one else is planning a vacation on the same dates. Then, ask your employer if you need to fill out any specific forms or paperwork before you can take the time off.
3) Consider frequent short trips
Research shows that taking short trips frequently (think: weekend getaways) can help reduce stress, improve productivity, and prevent job burnout. It can also alleviate some of the stress that comes with planning a big vacation, which often causes people to opt out of taking vacation days altogether.
By taking short trips, you can break up the monotony of everyday life, see new places, and even make meaningful connections with people you meet along the way. It's also a good way to keep your inbox from overflowing while you're away!
4) Use holidays to your advantage
A clever way to use vacation time is to tack it on to public holidays. For instance, if a holiday falls on a Monday or Friday, you can use the days before and after to extend your vacation. This is an especially great tip if you don't have a lot of vacation days to spare.
Holiday weekends are also an excellent way to explore a new destination without having to take too much time away from your job. Consider booking a non-stop flight to save time getting there or take a road trip and discover nearby attractions.
5) Create experiences, not just memories
Traveling offers a wonderful opportunity to gain knowledge and open your mind. Instead of ticking off all the must-sees on a checklist, take the time to immerse yourself in a new culture and environment.
Visit local restaurants, take a cooking class from a local chef, or travel to a dream destination that takes you off the beaten path. These experiences will stay with you long after the vacation is over.
Making the most of your vacation days can be easier than you think. With a little bit of planning and research (and the right travel gear), you'll be able to enjoy a well-deserved break that will help you stay productive and motivated at work. Don't forget to take lots of photos, create lasting memories, and come back feeling recharged!