What to do if your Spouse or Partner has More Vacation Days than You?

You get more vacation days that I do!Traveling with a spouse or significant other is one of the many joys when you are both able to take time off from work.   With the limited vacation time most dual-working couples get, coordinating time off schedules is challenging but essential.

However what if for example your partner gets three weeks off from work each year while you receive only two weeks of paid vacation?  Would you feel cheated if your spouse used their extra vacation days to book a solo trip or a getaway with their friends or family?  Being stuck working while your spouse is off on a relaxing or adventurous vacation can be a tough situation to deal with.

It does not matter whether you recently changed jobs, work in an industry that offers meager benefits, or simply haven’t worked long enough to get more than the minimum amount of paid time off.  The issue of fairness and wishing to spend more free time with your partner is important to your relationship.  To help remedy this common situation, consider the following ways to address Vacation Inequity and bring about Vacation Fairness between you and your spouse or significant other.

1. Use paid company holidays as additional vacation days

When your spouse or partner has an additional week or two of vacation above and beyond what you earn at work, consider leveraging paid holidays to virtually make up the difference.  On average employees in America receive between 8 and 11 paid holidays per year, the higher number more typical of U.S. and state government employees.  Stop thinking about them as holidays by using them as you would any paid day off from work.  The only difference is that holidays are fixed, unless you can float them to a day of your choosing.

Making up for fewer vacation days by labeling holidays as vacation days can help you feel like you have earned just as much as your spouse.  This option is best for those that don’t mind traveling during busy holiday periods and over long weekends.

Vacation Plan: Allocate five or more official company holidays as vacation days by simply calling them “Fixed Vacation Days” instead of paid holidays.  A floating holiday or personal day can also be added to your time off totals if it is separately offered by your employer.  Mark these “vacation” days on your paper or online calendar so you can schedule extended time off around these days off from work.

By extending your holiday weekends and using company holidays to fill a week of vacation, you’ll feel like you have more paid vacation days than you actually have.  The goal is to take an extra vacation week or two off during the year using holidays thereby making it seem more equitable between you and your partner.

2. Have your partner take their extra vacation days in single day increments throughout the year

As you schedule vacation time and utilize paid holidays for vacation purposes, your partner will still be left with extra vacation days that are above and beyond what you are earning each year.  Since you both want to take time off from work fairly and travel together as much as possible, I recommend that your partner use “leftover” vacation days in one day increments.

Ask them to consult their HR handbook and talk with their manager to make sure single day usage is allowed and how much notice is required.  By having them take an occasional day off throughout the calendar year, will not feel as cheated by the otherwise lack of Vacation Equity.

What to do? Ask your partner to take a day or two off each month throughout the year to be used for both relaxation and to help out you (the one that is vacation challenged) and your family.  Suggest they commute with you to your workplace to grab coffee together before you start your day or meet them for lunch near your office.  Ask your partner to run a few errands and handle household chores while you are working to relieve some of your burden of having to work more hours.  And if your partner is supportive, they’ll not be mean and keep reminding you that they have more vacation days at their job.  Otherwise they might end up traveling alone next time 😉

3. Request additional unpaid vacation days off from work

For those of you committed to taking as much time off as possible each year for family, travel, and enrichment (the VacationCounts way), find out if your employer is willing to offer unpaid time off.  Every employer and workplace is very different and your exact job responsibilities might make this easy or near impossible.

Are you a valued employee that rarely takes a sick day, puts in longer hours, and gets work done consistently?  If so you have a good chance of convincing your boss to grant unpaid vacation days.  Without a financial impact to your employer’s bottom line, the only issue is proving that your work and that of your department will not be affected.

What to do? Consider your job performance, daily responsibilities, work habits, and relationship with your employer and use that as input for your “Unpaid Time Off Request” proposal.  Document your request including the number of days, what time of year you plan to take them, and how your work responsibilities will be dealt with while out of the office.  When you are ready, meet with your manager or HR representative to present a clear-cut case of what and why you are making this request.

Consider whether mentioning your partner’s greater vacation benefit will help your case.  Regardless in the end your employer wants to be certain that due to your strong past performance, there will be zero financial impact to the business. If your employer is flexible and wants to reward top performers such as yourself, it may be a snap to approve unpaid vacation leave.

Couple happy with vacation equity

4. Find a job with better vacation policy

The ultimate way to equalize paid time off (PTO) between a dual-working couple is for the one with the worse vacation policy (and no improvement in sight) to get a new job.  Negotiating to receive better vacation benefits is very possible after you have secured a job offer and are in a position to ask for additional salary OR better benefits.

When paid time off is your top priority, forgo the additional salary and negotiate for greater time off.  Make it clear to your employer that adequate time off to spend with your family and pursue your outside interests (whatever that might be) is essential to your happiness in work and in life.  Stress the importance of your relationship when you talk about the number of vacation days your spouse or partner earns annually .  Your goal is to get your new employer to match this vacation benefit from day one or as of the start of the next calendar year or accrual period.

What to do? Start searching for a new career opportunity today by scanning the online job postings which include the terms vacation, PTO, holidays, and time off policy.  When you discover jobs for which you may want to apply, search for their “Working at CompanyX” web page put up by their HR department.  For example here is the “Life at Google – Careers” page that tells why Google is a “Great Place to Work.”  In addition, work-life advocacy groups and business magazines such as Fortune annually release their Best Companies (Great Workplaces) list.

Don’t forget about talking to your professional network on LinkedIn or at local meetups and industry networking events to gather real numbers about vacation benefits from your industry peers.  While it is not appropriate to ask an acquaintance their salary, it is not inappropriate to ask how many vacation days they receive each year.  Also inquire about roll-over policy and the number of years of service before they move up to the next level of vacation accrual.

Bonus Tip: When you are ready to accept a new job offer with greater vacation time, negotiate for a later start date.  This will enable you to travel for a week or two in between jobs to make the transition easier while enjoying equitable time off with your partner.


As you can tell my wife and I want to travel as much as possible throughout the year without worrying about one of us running out of vacation days.  Negotiating PTO, leveraging holidays, and finding jobs that offer work-life-vacation balance helps makes this possible now and throughout our working careers.

Dual working couples often have different vacation and time-off policies at work, but you don’t have to live with that if you follow our advice at VacationCounts.  Remember these tips next time you seek a new career opportunity so that you can achieve your goal of maintaining Vacation Equity between you and your partner.

Comment below if your husband, wife, or partner vacation fairness is a current issue for you and how you plan to go about coordinating and equalizing your vacation days.