USA Holiday Calendar Dates for 2016 Vacation Planning

Mark your calendars with every company holiday in 2016! Our annual list post tells you how to leverage the most common holidays offered to U.S. employees so we can all take more vacations. Of course your actual holidays off from work will vary.  That is why the start of the year is the best time to review your official holiday list to get your calendar (read: 7 Free Ways to Track Your Vacation Days) marked and ready.

2016 Holiday Vacation Calendar USA Planner

As you know on I often talk about ways to treat holidays (they are a day off and you do get paid) like additional paid vacation days.  So start planning your one day, 3-day weekend, and extended holiday-vacations as soon as possible.  Booking flights and hotels during holiday periods is typically more expensive and competitive. Plus you may need to get advance approval for individual vacation days that coincide with peak holiday periods.

My goal is to take at least one vacation (big or small) every month. Can you do the same? Fixed date holidays are an easy way to make it possible to be on vacation every month of the year.  Fill in the gaps with your annual allocation of paid vacation days, roll-over days, floating holidays, and other paid time off (PTO) to make it a reality.

Holiday-iconJanuary 1, 2016 – New Year’s Day

Since it is on a Friday  you already have a 3-day weekend to start off 2016 on vacation. You’ll likely be heading back to work with the masses on Monday, January 4th unless you’ll rolled over a day or two to extend your holidays further. So where in the world did you celebrate the ringing in of the New Year? Your work is already piling up from the December holidays, so what’s another few days away from your desk?  Check out Fodor’s Travel guide to the 20 Best Places to Celebrate New Year’s Eve for inspiration this year and to plan for 2017.

Holiday-iconJanuary 18, 2016 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

This federal holiday is always on a Monday, with observance varying from state to state in America.  This may be your first opportunity to have a 3-day vacation weekend if you have the day off and didn’t take advance of the New Year.  While on holiday consider watching the acclaimed movie Selma which portrays the epic civil rights march of 1965. A trip to the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site in Georgia is another worthy vacation idea.

Holiday-iconFebruary 15, 2016 – 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 see for yourself where George Washington crossed the Delaware, travel to Philadelphia and cross over from Bucks County PA into the state of New Jersey. There is also a holiday to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s historic legacy, though few get a holiday for his birthday on February 12th. Consider planning a vacation to 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 30, 2016 – Memorial Day

With more than a 2 month gap in most holiday calendars since February, Memorial Day is very much welcomed as the start of the summer holiday season in the USA. Hopefully you also took off a few vacation days in March for St. Patrick’s Day or during the Easter weekend or embarked on a big April vacation.  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 or even Thursday?  Either way, do get outside to spend time with family and friends while taking the time to reflect on the meaning of this important national holiday.

Holiday-iconJuly 4th, 2016 – Independence Day

Of course everybody knows American Independence Day is on the 4th so I don’t need to remind you.  This year the official holiday is on a Monday giving you another 3-day weekend for a vacation filled with patriotic celebration.  The first week of July is a great time to extend your holiday to a full week of vacation especially if you have school-age children. Will you make a beeline to the nearest beach, watch fireworks in the city, attend a family gathering in the park, or head off on a spectacular summer vacation to celebrate? Hosting a BBQ in your own backyard? Try these July 4th recipe and entertaining tips by Epicurious to paint your party red, white, and blue.

Holiday-iconSeptember 5, 2016 – Labor Day

In Europe most countries celebrate “May Day” and in the USA our equivalent is Labor Day. Having it as a 3-day weekend in September is a nice counterbalance to our Memorial Day holiday in May.  Depending on how you look at it, it is a happy or sad reminder that school is back in session, work will be picking up, and the weather will be getting colder.  Take your family on one last summer vacation by adding a few vacation days either before or after depending upon your work and school season schedule. Search for last-minute bargains for Labor Day within North America for ideas.

Holiday-iconOctober 10, 2016 – 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 probably 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 spooky vacation for Halloween instead this year.  October 31st is on a Monday in 2016, but if you take Halloween seriously you might need to take Tuesday, November 1st as a vacation day as well to recover from the fun ๐Ÿ˜‰

Holiday-iconNovember 11, 2016 – 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.”  It has been about 100 years since “The Great War” and for that reason you may want to visit France and Belgium (Flanders Field) where all too numerous war memorials and cemeteries honor the lives lost.  The official holiday falls on a Friday this year. By now you are probably tired of me saying that it is yet another 3-day vacation weekend opportunity in 2016. How will you leverage the holiday day off from work to honor war veterans from both home and abroad?

Holiday-iconNovember 24, 2016 – Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving, probably because it brings back the strongest food memories while getting together with family without the commercialism that accompanies the Christmas season  We all know this day is a Thursday and even if you don’t get Friday off as a paid company holiday as well, many of us will take it anyway to recover from all that eating (and bargain shopping on Black Friday if you must).  For those of you who are not into tradition, my top travel idea is to spend Thanksgiving on vacation in Europe to enjoy bargain prices,  fewer crowds, and decent weather.

Holiday-iconDecember 26, 2016 – Christmas Day (observed)

Do you have just Christmas Day or also Christmas eve off as an official holiday at your work?  You may find it odd to celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day over the weekend for 2016. Most companies seem to be offering the 26th as the Christmas Day holiday closing, but what if you get Christmas Eve as a paid holiday as well? Are you granted Friday the 24th as well to turn this into a 4-day weekend of holiday cheer?

Many people I know take off all the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This year it will require 4 vacation days that you may have saved up to use at the end of 2016. With a week or more of vacation time in late December, you’ll have more time off from work to open presents, spend time with family, and hopefully take one final trip.  Where will you celebrate Christmas 2016 and New Year’s 2017?  Consider flying to Europe to experience the traditional Christmas Markets in Germany and return to the USA for the best and most unusual places to countdown the New Year.

Important: Consult with your HR portal, organization intranet, or human resources representative to get the full and accurate list of your paid company holidays for 2016.

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 count), 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 common standard is 2 weeks (10 days) plus 8-10 company holidays with an increase to 3 or 4 weeks of vacation days after being employed for several years.

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 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

6 Reminders How To Track Your Holidays

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 your official 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 trips, 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 period.  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 life responsibilities.
  6. Use our Vacation Days Tracker Google spreadsheet template (updated for 2016 US holiday dates). It is free to make a private copy for your own use since it is published on the Google Docs template library. Read more about how it can help you track your day off totals, holiday list, chart your vacation goals, and document each vacation stat in a spreadsheet format.

Happy New Year from VacationCounts! Make a New Year’s resolution to maximize your vacation days and all of your official holidays too.  Add your comments below to tell readers how you plan to leverage each company holiday to take more vacation time off this year. Don’t forget to sign up for the VacationCounts newsletter to receive more articles such as this to teach you to take more time off from work and from life.