Vacation Prescription: Take 1 Vacation Each Month – No Expiration

How many vacations did you take last year? Instead of trying to take just one or two additional vacations this year, give yourself a prescription to take one vacation each month. Sound impossible? Read on for the directions on how to take 12 vacations a year. It’s how my wife and I optimize our work-life-vacation balance (what is work-life-vacation balance?) as travel is just as important as work and life for us.

Vacation Prescription - Take 1 Per Month

Step 1: Plan Your Major Trips First

If you or your partner is working in a full-time time job, there are built-in limitations to vacation time. You have a set number of paid vacation days each year that make up the bulk of your time off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics paid leave survey, 91% of full-time workers have access to paid vacations. The average number of vacation days given as part of employment benefits ranges from 10 days for 1 year of service up to 20 days for 20 years of service. Not great, but we’ll take them!

So we can safely assume that you and/or your spouse or partner is granted 2, 3, or 4 weeks of paid vacation this year and next. Allocating the majority of your vacation days is my recommended first step. I grab a calendar (or click to my online Google Calendar or on an iPhone if you prefer) and try to plan a 2 or 3 one-week vacations. By taking one-week vacations at a time, you can spread out your use of time off from work and life across the year.

Try to save a few individual vacation days for emergencies, to create long weekend trips, and for time-off flexibility. So for example if you have exactly 15 vacation days to schedule, plan for 2 one-week vacations in different months of the year. Feel free to add a day or two to extend the vacation to 10 or 11 days if you wish. Save the other 5 or fewer leftover days for steps 2 and 3.

Here is how your vacation calendar might look at this point. Note: the number is parenthesis is the number of vacation days you’ll have to deduct from your annual total.

January

February

March

1 Week Vacation (5)

April

May

June

July

August

1 Week Vacation (7)

September

October

November

December

Step 2: Schedule Holiday Day and Weekend Vacations

Now that you have your major vacations planned for the year, turn to company holidays next. Consult your official list of the holidays you receive at your place of employment. Typically you’ll receive the most common U.S. federal holidays off as paid holidays. The actual list varies of course by state, industry, and whether you work in the private or public sector.

Let’s assume that you have the 10 most common holidays to play with. This means New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Many of you will also receive a few of the rest including Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Good Friday and/or Easter Monday, and the day after Thanksgiving.

Pick out the ones that fall on a Monday or Friday or occur during the year when you wish to take a vacation. Your goal is to fill in the blanks on the calendar by planning a few mini-vacations during mandated company holidays.

So here is how our sample 12-month vacation calendar looks after I plan for a vacation during 5 different holiday periods. We are up to having a vacation planned for 7 out of 12 months already just by using paid vacation days and office holidays. How does your calendar look at the stage?

January

February

Presidents Day Vacation (0)

March

1 Week Vacation (5)

April

May

Memorial Day Long Weekend (0)

June

July

August

1 Week Vacation (7)

September

Labor Day Vacation Weekend (0)

October

November

Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend (1)

December

Christmas Vacation Days (1)

Step 3: Schedule Weekend Vacations to Fill in the Gaps

The final step is to plan for weekend trips during those months when you have no vacations planned. If you work a different schedule than business days (Monday to Friday), your “weekend” is when you have two days off in a row that can be turned into a vacation weekend. Obviously you can’t fly to Cancun, drive the entire California coast, or take a trip to Paris in just 2 days. So how can a weekend be turned into a vacation you ask?

Remember that a vacation is simply time off from both work and life where you do something that brings enjoyment. It doesn’t have to involve travel beyond your home town if you choose. A weekend road trip to a local or state park or taking the train into the city for a day of culture is just as rewarding as a “traditional” vacation. You can even take a vacation for free (or almost free) by following my previous set of tips on stay-cations and do-it-yourself vacation itineraries.

January

End-January Snow Weekend

February

Presidents Day Vacation (0)

March

1 Week Vacation (5)

April

Easter Weekend Away

May

Memorial Day Long Weekend (0)

June

School’s Out Weekend Family Fun

July

July Beach Getaway Weekend

August

1 Week Vacation (7)

September

Labor Day Vacation Weekend

October

Pre-Halloween Harvest Weekend

November

Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend (1)

December

Christmas Vacation Days (0)

And that’s it! We’ve just scheduled one vacation for every month of the year from January to December. I told you that it would be as simple as 1-2-3.

Vacation Prescription Next Steps

Don’t delay in scheduling vacations for each month left this year. Following these steps to allocate your remaining vacation days, holidays, and weekends right now. It is critical that you put your vacation on your personal or family calendar and plan at least a basic itinerary. That extra step will motivate you to take it when you are feeling busy with work or life as often happens throughout the year.

In December when the year is coming to an end, plan for the months of the new year using the same 1-vacation-per-month process. Your work-life-vacation balance deserves to be optimized for every month of the year. That is why I recommend that no matter how few vacation days and holidays you accrue at your job, commit to taking 12 vacations this year and every year.

For more inspiration on how to take a vacation every month and more tips on what you can do in a week, over a holiday, and over the weekend, consult another one of my popular posts on VacationCounts.

How To Take More Time Off To Travel, Let Me Count the Ways…

More Ways to Take More Time Off to Travel

What other tips can you share about maximizing your days off from work and planning as many vacations as possible? Add to the comments below if you found this post inspirational and whether my prescription for a vacation-a-month cured your work-life balance woes.

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