5 New Year’s Resolutions for People Who Want to Take More Time Off

Your New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail if you don’t put your work-life balance goals first. Take a look at this list of the top New Year’s resolutions and ask yourself what they have in common.

> 37% - Stay fit and healthy
> 32% - Lose weight
> 19% - Spend more time with family and friends
> 18% - Get organized
> 14% - Learn something new/new hobby
> 14% - Travel more (that's me for sure!)
> 12% - Read more
 Source: Nielsen survey - This Year's Top New Year's Resolution? ...!! (January 8, 2015)

Answer: They all take time, but as you have found out in the past it is difficult to free up more time off from work and from life.

Vacation New Years Resolution Calendar

How are you going to get in shape, enjoy quality time with family, start a new hobby, or travel to more destinations? You need more free hours in the day and to make full use of your existing days off, right? Optimizing your work-life-vacation balance is the foundation for achieving the most popular New Year’s resolutions.

Plan to make, take, and enjoy more vacation time off from work and life this year. As with all New Year’s resolutions, you have to set realistic goals that are achievable. How many vacations do you want to take this year? Do you want more flexibility at work? Do you wish to save for future travels? Be inspired to free up the time you need to achieve your resolutions.

1. Take Full Advantage of your HR Benefits

Whether you have been working at the same place for years or recently started a new job, how well do you understand your official time off policy? There is probably a lot of fine print in the HR manual. Grab the latest copy from HR or your company portal so that you can review the vacation policy in detail.

The HR handbook will typically explain how many days you receive and how they are allowed to be taken throughout the year. While reading it, make a note of time-off areas that are unclear or not mentioned. Does the handbook talk about bonus days off or what happens when you work overtime or on weekends? Does it mention whether taking a half-day of vacation is acceptable? What part of the policy is left to the discretion of your direct manager as opposed to requiring approval of the HR department?

Based on what you discover, this is your opportunity to utilize your vacation days more creatively, buy additional days off, or maybe earn bonus days off. Also look for ways to work a compressed work week (like every other Friday off) or shift your working hours to have more free time in the mornings or evenings. Whatever goals you have to free up time to pursue your resolutions, your existing HR policy may be more accommodating than you think.

2. Track Your Vacation Days and Holidays Better

The paid vacation days you earn by working are yours (you’ve earned them!) and they are an important part of your compensation. Don’t take them for granted as time is money when it comes to paid vacation days.

The same goes for paid holidays when your office is closed for business while you get paid for staying home. Use them just like your vacation days. The only difference is that they are fixed on the calendar, unless of course you are given a few floating holidays too.

The key to maximizing your vacation days and holidays is to diligently track their accrual and usage. Tracking vacation days and holidays is easy when you set up a repeatable system and make a habit of it.

Here are the most common ways to keep track of your time off calendar. Your goal is to never lose a vacation day by not using it. You also want to leverage your official holidays to bulk up your total number of “vacation” days that you can enjoy throughout the year.

Holiday Calendar Track Time Off

3. Appreciate Every Vacation No Matter How Small

Every vacation is a success when you utilize personal time to do something you want to do. It doesn’t matter whether you traveled far, explored your home town, or hung out with family or friends. Remember that a vacation happens when you spend time away from work and away from your daily responsibilities. You can do anything you like with your “free” time – that is the true definition of vacation time.

Mini vacations as little as a few hours to a full day can be just as rewarding, fulfilling, and enjoyable as a major vacation where you pack your bags and take off. The key to this resolution is to appreciate and take full advantage of every block of free time.

Consider keeping a vacation diary like by starting your own blog. Take notes about what you do with your time off from work and life. You may choose to keep the blog public, just for family, or maintain a private vacation blog. Writing down your time-off experiences reinforces the importance of making the most of every bit of vacation time. Years from now when you reflect back on past vacations, you’ll appreciate the new and memorable experiences you’ve had.

4. Take One Vacation Every Month of the Year

Taking 12 vacations in one year sounds like an impossible challenge, but with our advice it is no big deal. I’m not suggesting you take 12 week-long vacations as no one who has a full-time job has that much vacation time. This vacation challenge is about making the most of your free time now and not waiting until retirement.

To take 12 vacations this year, use every vacation day, every holiday, and some of your weekend days to fill out a year’s worth of vacation experiences.

First review your company holiday calendar and mark off a majority of those days for vacation usage. For example you can take a three-day weekend on Memorial Day, fly to Europe for a non-traditional Thanksgiving holiday, or use a floating holiday to embrace some “me” time.

To reach 12 vacations for the year, fill in the gaps during months that lack holidays or aren’t typical periods when people are on vacation. That is the best time to take a weekend trip or rise early to go on a Saturday or Sunday outing. Whether you travel far or stay near home, the key is to convert some of your weekend days to vacation days. As long as you don’t fall into the normal weekend trap by doing housework, running errands, or lounging around the house, you will have a true vacation experience.

Looking for ideas? How about camping at a state Park, a spa weekend, a driving trip to a scenic viewpoint, a family outing to a museum, or a quick trip to a top 10 attraction in your home town?

Tip: Consult TripAdvisor and your local tourism board website for a list of popular things to do and scheduled events.

5. Save More Vacation Money for Retirement

This final resolution is about saving for your future. When you retire you’ll be permanently on vacation which sounds awesome. However what good is it if you can’t afford to act like you are on vacation? Make sure that you save enough to meet your vacation goals now and keep on traveling after you finally quit working.

Vacation Savings Retirement Graph

These financial tips will get you started, but be absolutely clear that I am not a financial advisor and any advice offered is at your own risk. So do contact an expert if you have questions and need help sorting out your own home and retirement finances.

  • Take advantage of the full 401K match by your employer by contributing the maximum match percentage. This is tax-free income to you now that can grow with compounding returns over many years.
  • To diversify, lower risk, and lower the cost of investing, choose balanced index mutual funds that offer extremely low account maintenance fees. You may be limited in your company’s 401K investment choices, but you usually have full control over your IRA or personal investment account.
  • Open an online bank account and set up auto-transfers monthly to your “vacation savings account.” These accounts typically have no fees and offer higher interest rates since they do not have physical bank branches to maintain.  Fund your bucket list vacations for the next 5-10 years.
  • Use a credit card that offers cash back or hotel or frequent flier miles as an investment in your future traveling around the world. Try to apply for one that has no annual fee and always pay off the full balance each month to avoid sky-high (no pun intended) interest rates.
  • Cut back on recurring household expenses to save even more towards your retirement full of vacation possibilities. See our article on how to save more money from your household for taking more vacations for tons of super simple ideas.

What’s Your Time-Off Resolution?

Time Off 5 New Year's Resolutions

So what resolutions did you make this year to encourage yourself to take more vacation time off? How are you planning to go on more vacations this year and to find new ways to leverage your limited paid time off over 12 months?

Are you planning lots of mini-vacations this year? How about starting a travel blog or vacation journal? Finally, are you pursuing ways to put away money now to fulfill future vacations-of-a-lifetime?

Add your comment below to tell the VacationCounts community which resolution you like best or to provide you own take-more-vacations resolution that you made.