Get Your Holiday Time Off Approved for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s

Got your end-of-year holiday time off approved yet? With the end of 2020 in sight (for some the trigger is while you are on a much needed summer vacation break; for others it could be when people start talking about Halloween), it’s time to sort out when to take your remaining vacation days. This is the time to map out ways to leverage your official holidays for vacations during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s break. Plus you don’t want to lose unused vacation days before the year is up!

So get out your calendar and start tracking your paid time off usage (try the VacationCounts web app to help). Company holidays are just as valuable as vacation days, but in many jobs everyone can’t be out of the office at the same time. So get your holiday time off approved before it’s too late.

Bonus Tip: The Black Friday shopping sale is a great opportunity to save big money on your next vacation. Search for travel deals happening on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to book a trip during for 2021.

How to Take Your End of 2020 Vacation Days

You will need to consider the total number of vacation hours remaining according to your most recent paycheck stub, the roll-over policy at your employer, and the list of holidays recognized at work. The last two months of the year include a handful of company holidays and with it the opportunity to turn one or two “free” holidays into a full week or two of vacation. I’ve compiled a list of all the possible holidays left for the year which may appear on your official List of Holidays, along with advice on how to leverage the holidays to maximize your time off from work.

You may have read the blog post about Traveling to Europe for Thanksgiving as opposed to staying in the USA for traditional holiday family celebrations.  Regardless of whether you take time off for family, travel, or enrichment during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, now is when you must put your plans in motion. Are all your vacations days and PTO accounted for?

IMPORTANT: Due to the global pandemic, foreign travel opportunities are sadly quite limited. For most it is not advisable to fly to Europe given the entry restrictions or quarantine for Americans. Be careful, read the latest COVID-19 safety guidelines for your country and where you hope to visit, and consider postponing end of year vacations to better times.

Checklist: Turn 2020 Holidays into Vacation Opportunities

Take Off Holiday Calendar Checkmarks

To make the most of your company closures as the end of the year approaches, follow this step-by-step guide to take more holiday time off. Since taking off a week of vacation during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holiday periods is very popular, you’ll want to act before it’s too late.

  1. Check your most recent paycheck stub or login to the HR employee benefits portal to view and calculate the exact number of vacation days you have left to use in 2020.
  2. Double check your HR employee handbook to determine how many days (if any) you can rollover into 2021 in case you decide to extend your New Year’s holiday into January.
  3. Consult your list of official company holidays to see if you have one or two days each for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s or if you are in a role that requires that you work the holidays and can take that time off in lieu.
  4. Review the time off request system whether it is on a work portal, shared company calendar, or paper forms to verify limitations on when you can take vacation days at the end of the year.  For example your company may have a whoever asks first or seniority policy regarding vacation day requests so that everyone does not take off from work at the same time.
  5. Read the rest of this travel hack article to decide how many vacation days you wish to use to pad your Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s holiday weeks to get a long weekend or full week off from work.
  6. Put in your vacation requests as soon as possible to get them approved and on the calendar.
  7. Once approved start planning for whatever it is that will help you live life to the fullest during the festive holiday season. For those who want to travel to visit family or take a break, it’s never too early to look for deals on booking flights and hotels early.
Paycheck Stub Sample with Vacation Hours

Consult this government website for the U.S. federal list of holidays for 2020 or a more comprehensive list of Holidays and Observances in the United States at the Time and Date site.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Official Holidays for 2020

Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Day comes on the 26th of November this year. Employees in America can be glad that most companies offer a full day off as most businesses and government offices are closed. Of course those in retail (online and brick and mortar) are preparing for the after Thanksgiving holiday sales and it may be a stressful time leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday both at work and at home.

My advice on traveling by trains, planes, and automobiles that day (movie pun intended) varies based on where you live and the likelihood of stormy weather or traffic delays. Search online for advice for your home town and final destination and mode of transport. Regardless of whether you are traveling for family or vacation, hopefully it represents the beginning of an unforgettable period of time off from work.

Day After Thanksgiving – Friday, November 27, 2020

While the Friday after may be a paid holiday at your place of business, it is definitely not as widespread as it should be in my opinion.  While many employers offer the day after Thanksgiving off, those working in retail and shopping and related services will find themselves as busy at work as ever.

Even if you do not have the day after Thanksgiving as an official company holiday, Americans should consider allocating one of their PTO days to turn the official “day of thanks” holiday into a four-day weekend.  The kick-off to the Christmas and holiday shopping is both a fun and stressful time for many, so why not head out of town or plan a themed family staycation?

For those of you who are fortunate to get this day off, consider the perspective of people who are forced to work.  Give them a bit of slack, be patient and (at least in your mind) thank them for making your day off enjoyable while they have to work hard on Black Friday.

Christmas Eve – Thursday, December 24, 2020

This year Christmas Eve arrives on a Thursday with Christmas Day of course happening on Friday.  Like the day after Thanksgiving, too many employers do not offer this as a paid holiday.  Since productivity goes way down on the day before the actual Christmas holiday, a paid day off would be smart HR policy. Consider asking for this day off if you have vacation days to spare. It’s a great way to start the holiday weekend early and have more flexibility if you need to travel during this busy period.

Christmas Holiday - December 24 and 25, 2010 - Calendar Entry

Christmas Day – Friday, December 25, 2020

It is safe to assume that almost all full-time employees receive Christmas Day off with minimal exceptions for public health and safety.  As with all jobs there are those of you who have to work on a holiday due to the nature of your role in society and we are all be grateful for your service.  At least a minimum staffing level must be sustained in jobs such as police, fire, hospital staff, essential services and those in transportation (like the people running the airport).

For employees who receive both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off you will only need 3 remaining vacation days to extend your vacation to an entire week. Ask for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd of December as paid (or floating or personal or time off in lieu) days off while you can. As for travel during Christmas week you have a bit of flexibility since you could depart of the Saturday or Sunday prior for an extended family visit or a much-deserved winter sun getaway vacation in America.

New Year’s Eve – Thursday, December 31, 2020

It’s terrific when that the last day of the year is on a Thursday. You are almost guaranteed a three-day weekend or better yet, take the extra vacation day for a four-day kick off to the New Year. As with Christmas Eve, many employers do not offer this as a paid holiday and just give New Year’s Day off. That is a shame since once again not much gets down on the last day of the year, especially after lunch when you and your co-workers are ready to usher in 2021.

Whether or not you plan to stay near home or travel on vacation for New Year’s weekend, request the Monday off in addition so that you can enjoy an extra long weekend before getting back into work mode.

New Year’s Day – Friday, January 1, 2021

The final holiday in this list happens next year but it marks the end of a week and month of festive holidays. Most businesses are closed on January 1st and so most employers offer this as your last or first company holiday depending on how you look it at the calendar. Since New Year’s Day falls on a Friday, think about extending it to the full week with your remaining paid time off (PTO).

Otherwise remember to review your company rollover policy and whether you can roll-over leftover days and the maximum number from 2020 to 2021.  Also it is possible that you may not be able to take PTO in 2021 until you accruing some which may be an issue with part-time or newly hired employees. By asking your HR representative the right questions and with a bit of flexibility, you can maximize your time off at the end and at the beginning of the new year.

Leverage Company Holidays to Take 1, 2, or 3 Vacations this November and December

Take Off Thanksgiving Christmas New Years Holidays

How many vacation days will it take to turn your Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s paid company holidays into a full week or two weeks of dedicated vacation time?  Do you have enough vacation days including floating holidays, personal days, and PTO left to take the last two weeks of 2020 off entirely? It doesn’t matter as long as you use all of your vacation benefits without losing days you earned by working all year.

I’ve been told that some people prefer to work over the holidays if they prefer not to travel or have family obligations.  The workplace will surely be quiet and there won’t be many meetings. It can be a productive period to get things done. Consider this travel hack if you are planning a major vacation early next year and need to both conserve days and get a jump start on your work load. Maybe your employer will let you work on an official company holiday and earn a bonus day off instead.


Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to VacationCounts readers!

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