The screams of “It’s Back to School Time” on the TV, radio, and in the local newspaper are an annual tradition whether you like it or not. When September and Labor Day arrive, it signals the end of the summer for most of us. The kids are going back to school (if you have them) and work tends to get busier after the summer holiday is over L
The period between Labor Day and Christmas tends to be hectic and stressful, so it is the perfect time of year to plan and take a vacation; or 2 or 3 vacations if you plan ahead with our advice! Here is your guide of how and where to take your October, November, and December vacations.
Quick! How many vacation days do you have left to take for the rest of the year?
If you don’t instantly know the answer, stop right now to figure it out. Login to your HR benefits portal or review your latest paycheck stub. Verify the number is accurate and then calculate how many additional days you’ll accumulate for the rest of the year. That total number of days (or partial days or hours of paid time off) is what you will need to allocate for the number of vacations you want to take.
Whether you use the VacationCounts Vacation Days Tracker spreadsheet (Google Docs template – free), a Word Doc, Google, Outlook, or iCloud Calendar, or just post notes to your day planner or wall calendar, make sure you accurately track vacation utilization. I shouldn’t need to remind you of the reasons why not to rollover your vacation days into the new year, even if your company allows you to do so.
Your next step is to go month-by-month to consider all the vacation possibilities. Take into account your work and family responsibilities, business trips, and travel wishes when you commit to taking your ideal number of vacations in the final months of the year. Make sure to mark off official company holidays (consult our latest list of U.S. Public Holidays) along with any days that you are forced to take on fixed dates.
What other limitations or rules must you follow in order to get your vacation requests granted before the year is up? Once again, review your employee handbook and talk to your manager to get the answers to all your vacation accrual, scheduling, and rollover concerns.
Finally if your spouse or partner works too, you’ll need two columns or color-coded calendar entries to track both at once. It will be more challenging to coordinate two work and vacation schedules, so come up with a system to ensure that your vacations periods will line up. You’ll probably need to plan far in advance to allocate and get vacation day approvals at each of your respective employers; unless you are OK with taking separate vacations occasionally. Also consider our advice on how to handle when one spouse or partner get more vacation time than the other.
I didn’t say this was easy, but it is well worth the advance planning to avoid losing vacation days, take as many vacations as you wish, and enjoy quality time off with your family and for travel plus enrichment. Let’s get started!
October is often a quiet month for vacations. Even if you are not fortunate to get Columbus Day off as a company holiday, don’t let this stop you from planning a trip. The weather is usually pleasant in October and across the USA and Canada you can view the spectacular fall foliage. With gas prices lower, a driving trip to witness the trees changing color can fit into most vacation budgets. The month of October is also a good time of year for a European vacation since you can avoid the summer crowds and higher costs when visiting during the shoulder season.
For those who are a big fan of Halloween, consider taking a vacation to coincide with the 31st. You can take a long weekend to visit a variety of Halloween sites and attractions in your region or embark on a longer trip to experience a Halloween-friendly destination. A few ideas include Disney and the related theme parks in Orlando and California, Las Vegas for the grown-ups, traditional Autumn/Halloween activities in the rural communities in the Northeastern states such as Pennsylvania and New England, or plan to take the kids trick-or-treating when visiting family who live far away.
> Do you have any ideas to add to this list of vacation destinations in October?
Probably my favorite American national holiday of the year is Thanksgiving, so that is an obvious time for a vacation beyond the turkey dinner at home tradition. Many employees take the entire week off to not just visit family, but also to take a vacation before the Christmas season hits. Traveling during the Thanksgiving period can be rough, so try to be flexible by driving or flying on the day before or after the mad rush. Prices will be cheaper that way too.
For those of you who prefer to experience an alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving family get-togethers, November is still a reasonable month to travel overseas. Much of Europe and Asia still have fair weather and fewer crowds. For a greater adventure, head to the Southern Hemisphere to enjoy a spring climate in places such as South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand for example. It is also a popular time to head on a cruise to the Caribbean Islands (it’s typically just past hurricane season) or experience the tropical splendor of Central America.
Don’t forget that Veteran’s Day is also in November. That’s one more day that can be turned into a long weekend trip to explore nearby historical attractions or nature before the cold of winter hits us.
> Where else do you recommend Americans should visit during the month of November?
December has two halves – the first half when you are trying to get all your work done before the holiday arrives and the second half where most of the world seems to be on vacation. When you have a significant chunk of vacation days left to take in December, try to plan a week or long weekend during the first half. Early December (a week or so after Thanksgiving depending upon the calendar) is typically a quiet time to travel. Some businesses encourage or even require employees to take the last week of the year off. For those of you who have the days and the flexibility, plan a trip for the first half of December.
What can you do before the Christmas holiday? You can travel to a big city to do your shopping in a bustling, festive atmosphere. You can fly to Germany to enjoy one of the dozens of German Christmas markets that take place (highly recommended: Cologne, Nuremberg). As the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder you may think that it isn’t the optimal time for a vacation. However by browsing to Expedia or talking with your travel agent, you’ll find great deals and bargains for family, solo, and adventure travel.
Of course the 2nd half of December is when everyone thinks about traveling. Unfortunately so many people need to work and put in overtime hours during the busy holiday shopping season. Many companies rely on this time of year to make a large portion of their profits, so those of you in this situation will have limited chances to take a vacation. This means it is even more important to plan ahead to take time off in October and November (see above) or ask to roll-over your remaining days into the quieter new year. Be 100% sure about the rollover rules at your company and see if you can get written approval for rolling over the rest of your vacation days before the craziness of work becomes overwhelming.
For the rest of you, going on vacation during Christmas and through to New Year’s Eve is either a wonderful time or a time to avoid traveling. If you strongly prefer to stay at home during the final week or two of December, be sure that all of your vacation days have either been taken or allocated. Like employees who must work during the holiday season, follow your vacation rollover policies closely to avoid losing even one vacation day.
For people who can’t contain their travel and holiday spirit, combine your remaining vacation days with your Christmas and New Year holidays at the office. This can lead to a 1, 2, or even 3 week-long trip to almost anywhere on your bucket list. Travel prices are almost certainly higher during the Christmas break, so book way in advance or choose an atypical destination to save a bit.
> So where do you want to visit during the month of December and what advice do you have about traveling with minimum stress and maximum leisure?
Remember that vacation days are worth money – i.e. they are salary paid days that you have earned by working at your job. You wouldn’t forget to cash your Christmas bonus check (which you hopefully will get this year), so never forget to cash your vacation days and paid time off (PTO) “check.” Use your final set of accrued vacation days around any of the holidays in October, November, and of course December to enjoy an extended holiday with your family and friends either at home or away.
Don’t ignore this timely reminder to decide upon your vacation day allocation for the final months of the year before it’s too late. Make a plan to check off each vacation day that you have due to you as it is scheduled and taken. Even if you feel vacation deprived and only have a week or two of vacation days this entire year, leverage your company’s official holiday closures to increase your vacation-taking totals.
So get planning! Make every vacation day count by planning for these final months of the year. Make it less likely that you’ll lose unused vacation days even by mistake, since not all employers even allow vacation roll over (survey results).
By succeeding in taking all your vacation time, you can start the New Year with a clean vacation slate. So the only question to ask now is where are you going to visit next year? 😉
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