USA Holiday Calendar for 2015 Vacation Planning

Mark your calendars with all your official company holidays for 2015!  This list represents the most common holidays offered to U.S. employees, but of course your actual holidays will vary.  Consult your official list and check off the ones that you can use to schedule vacations this year.

As you know on we encourage using holidays like paid vacation days.  So start planning your one day, 3-day weekend, and extended holiday-vacations as soon as possible.  My goal is to take at least one vacation (big or small) per month – can you do the same? Fixed date holidays are an easy way to be on vacation throughout the year.  Even more so when you can stretch them into long weekends with the addition of paid vacation days.

Holiday-iconJanuary 1, 2015 – New Year’s Day

Since it is on a Thursday you can add just one vacation day afterwards to extend your New Year celebration across the weekend.  Your work is already piling up from the December holidays, so what’s another few days ๐Ÿ˜‰ ?  Check out Travel + Leisure’s list of America’s best cities for celebrating the New Year.

Holiday-iconJanuary 19, 2015 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

This federal holiday is always on a Monday, with observance varying from state to state.  This may be your first opportunity to have a 3-day vacation weekend.  While on holiday consider watching the acclaimed movie Selma which portrays the epic civil rights march of 1965.

Holiday-iconFebruary 16, 2015 – Presidents’ Day

Legally referred to as Washington’s Birthday, this government sanctioned holiday morphed into a day to celebrate all your favorite presidents of the United States of America.  To commemorate George Washington crossing the Delaware take a vacation to the state of New Jersey or visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to learn about Abraham Lincoln’s legacy.  Consider a vacation in Washington, D.C. to appreciate the entire breadth of American history without the crowds and oppressive heat of summer.  How about 100 free (and almost free) things to in our nation’s capital.

Holiday-iconMay 25, 2015 – Memorial Day

Hopefully you had a holiday during the Easter period or took some vacation days to fill in the holiday gap since February.  Memorial Day is traditionally the start the summer holiday season.  Are you going to depart on vacation on the Saturday leading up to it or try to beat the crowds by hitting the road on Friday?  Either way, do get outside to spend time with family and friends while taking the time to reflect on the meaning of this national holiday.

Holiday-iconJuly 3th, 2015 – Independence Day

Of course everybody knows American Independence Day is on the 4th.  This year the official holiday moves to the Friday before, giving you another 3-day weekend vacation.  The first week of July is a great time to extend your holiday to a full week of vacation, especially if you have kids that are already off from school.  Will you head to the beach, watch fireworks, BBQ in the park, or head off on a spectacular summer vacation to celebrate?  Here is one July 4th recipe and entertaining  guide by Epicurious to paint your party red, white, and blue.

Holiday-iconSeptember 7, 2015 – Labor Day

Don’t you love three-day weekends?  In Europe they have “May Day” and in the USA it’s called Labor Day.  Either way it is a timely Monday holiday to appreciate a day off from work.  It is also a reminder that school is back in session and the weather will be getting colder.  Unless you are fortunate to be living in Hawaii (September Weather) where the weather is always wonderful.  Take your family on one last summer vacation since this is YOUR day.

Holiday-iconOctober 12, 2015 – Columbus Day

Columbus Day seems to be a forgotten and even controversial holiday.  While I understand the reasoning, it is a bit sad because we all grew up learning about the European explorers and how America was discovered in 1492 (maybe earlier by the Vikings, but who’s counting? ๐Ÿ˜‰  Unless you are a U.S. federal or state government employee, you may have to work on this day.  Where will you take your family on a voyage of discovery?

If you don’t have a day off, consider taking a vacation for Halloween instead this year.  October 31st is on a Saturday in 2015, but if you take Halloween seriously you will need the Friday before to create a costume for you or your kids (or maybe a Halloween costume for your Pet as RealSimple suggests in good fun).

Holiday-iconNovember 11, 2015 – Veterans Day

Did you know that Veterans Day originated to mark the end of WWI, called at the time “the war to end all wars.”  Last year was also 100 years since the start of “The Great War” and you may choose to visit France and Belgium (Flanders Field) where so many war memorials and cemeteries exist.  For some it feels strange to have a holiday fall on a Wednesday.  However the notion of a 4-day workweek with a day off in the middle would be a welcome break over five working days in a row.  Be aware that most government offices remain closed in honor of war veterans from all wars.

Holiday-iconNovember 26, 2015 – Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving, probably because it brings back delicious food memories, football, and getting together with family without all the shopping that accompanies the Christmas period.  We all know this day is a Thursday and even if you don’t get Friday off as a paid company holiday, many of us will take it anyway to recover from all that eating!  To your travel bucket list add seeing the magical Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC in person.  As an alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving, consider taking a vacation to Europe due to bargain prices,  fewer crowds, and decent weather.

Holiday-iconDecember 25, 2015 – Christmas Day

Do you have just Christmas Day or also Christmas eve off as an official holiday at your work?  The 25th is a Friday this year which is perfect because you can start your end of the year vacation right away. By taking vacation days the following week, you’ll have more time to open presents, spend time with family, and maybe even take a vacation before the year is up.  Where will you celebrate Christmas and New Year’s 2016?  To experience the European tradition, plan a vacation to the Christmas Markets in Germany where the festive spirit will warm your soul.

Note: Consult with your company portal, intranet, or human resources representative to get the full and accurate list of your holidays for 2015.


A Holiday Is A Vacation Day!

The only difference between a company holiday and a vacation day is that one is fixed on the calendar while the other can be taken when you like (within reason).  If you also are granted floating holidays, you might as well add those to your vacation pile.  They are both days where you get paid to stay home or head off on vacation. So for example if your company gives you 10 holidays a year in addition to your earned 3 weeks of paid time off (PTO), you actually have a total of 5 weeks (25 days) of vacation this year.

Holiday Board to Vacation Calendar

The VacationCounts way to a healthy work-life balance is to treat every holiday (paid official company or federal holidays) as a vacation day. Just because holidays are fixed on the calendar does not mean that you cannot turn them into equally valuable days off.

Yes we are often reminded how full-time employees in European countries such as Ireland, Sweden, and France have a minimum of 4, 5, or even 6 weeks of paid vacation time plus other generous family time-off benefits.  Read more about the countries with the most paid days off around the world (source: USAToday). Unless you are planning to move to Europe this year, learn how to maximize what you have at your current job or find a new job that offers greater vacation benefits.

Since company holidays count too (just like vacations), you have more paid time off (PTO) from work than you think.  Take a look at this chart which shows total legally mandated paid time off per country. While the USA shows a sorry zero at the far right, most full-time workers have at least some vacation.  The standard is 2 weeks (10 days) plus 8-10 company holidays with an increase to 3 or 4 weeks of vacation days after working a certain number of year.

No Vacation Nation (Chart - Source: CEPR)

Source: – No Vacation Nation Revisited (May 2013)

What can you do with a holiday/vacation? How about spending more precious time with family? Why not take a road trip around your region? Do you want to volunteer, learn something new, or explore your creative side? With a holiday taken as a vacation, you can benefit just as much from any paid day off from work.

Most Common Paid Holidays in the US

Without nationwide standards in the USA, holidays from work are determined by a combination of state law, industry practice, union contracts, and employer policy. This means that it is impossible to know when your place of employment is closed without asking for the list from HR.

The reality is that we all work for different companies or organizations in one U.S. state or territory so your official holidays at work will definitely vary from the U.S. federally recognized holiday list.

An organizational holiday survey by the Society of Human Resources showed that there are only 6 holidays which are almost universal.  These holidays are offered by over 95% of workplaces, but hopefully you have at least a few more on the calendar.

  1. New Year’s Day

  2. Memorial Day

  3. Independence Day

  4. Labor Day

  5. Thanksgiving Day

  6. Christmas Day

The report also finds that between a measly 16% and 36% of private sector employers are closed for the federal holidays Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, President’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day. Fortunately 20% of employers claim to offer Good Friday as a holiday (sometimes as a floating holiday), the most common religious company holiday after Christmas Day.  As for the all-important Thanksgiving Day, 72% in this poll offer the Friday after as a bonus holiday, a welcome sign for work-life-vacation balance.  That is if you avoid the mega shopping frenzy on “Black Friday” and instead take a vacation.

Holiday Calendar Poster

Track Your Holidays How-To

We all need a reminder to maximize our company holidays so they are not taken for granted.  Each holiday is an excuse, no an opportunity, to take a vacation.  Whether a day off, a long weekend holiday, or a full week of vacation, holidays are essential to your work-life-vacation balance.

To make sure you plan ahead when it comes to the holidays this year, take the time now to track them as you do your vacations.

  1. Add Holidays to Calendar: Add each of your official company holidays on your online, desk, or wall calendar. Google Calendar is my preference but there are many popular calendar apps for iPhone, Android, and desktop computers.
  2. 3-Day Holiday Vacations: For holidays that fall on a Monday, pick one or two for a 3-day weekend vacation.  Since many Americans are doing the same, you may need to plan way ahead to save on flights or accommodations.
  3. Holiday Week of Vacation: If you have enough vacation days after earmarking them for your annual trip(s), try to add three or four days to a holiday.  You’ll save one or two vacation days and benefit from an entire week of holiday/vacation.  Start planning on Expedia.
  4. Floating Holidays: For those of you who have floating days to track as well, “pencil” them onto your calendar.  Add a reminder to decide as it gets closer to the date.  You can take them as stand alone holidays or in combination with regular vacation days if your employer permits.
  5. Calendar Reminders: Configure email, text, or pop-up calendar reminders (Evernote has reminders now)  in advance of every holiday.  That way you can remember to plan for a day of vacation and not be tempted to waste this opportunity by staying home to take care of your everyday responsibilities.

Happy New Year from VacationCounts! Make a New Year’s resolution to maximize not just your vacation days but your company holidays too.  Add your comments below to tell readers how you plan to leverage your holidays to take more vacation time off this year.