2017 is full of official public holidays that you can easily turn into vacations and travel opportunities. This is my annual VacationCounts post listing all the holiday dates for the new year.
Have you made a New Year’s resolution to never take your company holidays for granted? My advice is to treat holidays just like paid vacation days. The only difference is that they are fixed on the calendar so you have to plan ahead to make the most of your holiday time off. So mark your calendars now to take more vacations in 2017.
The specific set of official holidays that you get at your place of employment will definitely vary. You may work in the private sector or for the Federal government or a state agency or even a non-profit. Some holidays are mandated by the U.S. federal government while others will depend on your state of residence. That’s why you should take the time to review the list of the most common U.S. public holidays below to compare them with your HR benefits handbook.
With New Year’s eve smack in the middle of the weekend this year, New Year’s day ended up on a Sunday. As we deserve a holiday to kick off 2017, the observed date is pushed to the Monday.
With your 3-day weekend to start the new year you can plan a quick break to celebrate 2017 in style. That could mean traveling to a big city countdown such as in New York’s Times Square (a bit too crowded for my taste) or Disney World in Orlando, or pick a smaller city to feel more like part of the crowd. Another idea is to stay in a quiet mountain lodge or beachfront cottage where you and your loved ones can toast the new year in peace.
Since the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day varies by state and employer, check your list of company holidays to see if this is a non-work day for you. The Federal holiday is observed on a Monday making for a 3-day weekend if you have this holiday off. The true way to honor the civil rights movement leader is to read about him, watch a video on the subject, or take a trip to a historic site. Just opened is the National Museum of African American History & Culture at the Smithsonian in DC.
Since January is a cold month for most of us, consider taking a train or bus to a nearby city to explore indoor attractions such as a family friendly museum or entertainment center. For outdoor enthusiasts, I imagine a ski trip may be on your mind to take advantage of a winter vacation weekend.
Whether you call it President’s Day or Washington’s Birthday, this is our official American Presidents commemoration holiday. I do enjoy having a holiday on a Monday as happens with so many national holidays this year. If you have the day off consider using it to travel to a place where you can dig deeper into the American history story. Going to Washington D.C. is the obvious choice, but you may wish to head further south to avoid the often cold and snowy weather in February.
Another great vacation idea is to pick a favorite president and visit his museum or place of birth. For example there’s the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston (highly recommended) as well as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Since this is one of the least busy months for travel in the US, you can take a budget-friendly trip if you live reasonably close to a former president’s home town.
After what may be a long winter stretch, Memorial Day is a welcome day marking the start of the summer holiday season in the US. Hopefully you’ve taken a vacation day or two in the prior months such as during the typical Easter holiday or school break. If not this is your chance to plan ahead for a glorious Spring vacation. It is far too easy to forget the meaning and importance of this day to honor our military heroes who died while serving our country, so do take a moment of silence to reflect on their service in the name of freedom.
You only need to use 4 paid vacation days to turn a long weekend into a 9 day trip. In order to beat the crowds on this super busy weekend for travel, take a vacation day on the Friday or even Thursday before to drive or fly out early. The weather is good in most place during the month of May (does April showers brings May flowers ring a bell?) so you have endless opportunities to visit a bucket list destination. As with all Federal holidays, U.S. government agencies, banks, and the post office will be closed on the Monday, but otherwise it’s business as usual for your Memorial Day vacation.
You all know that our Independence Day is always on the 4th of July. This year the holiday falls on a Tuesday so if you want to have a long summer weekend, you’ll have to take Monday the 3rd as a vacation day or perhaps a floating holiday if you have those at work. I imagine many of you are planning to host a backyard BBQ or attend one at a family or friend’s house. Watching fireworks in the city, on the beach, at an amusement park, or on TV at home is a time-honored tradition for me growing up.
If you don’t turn this holiday into a long weekend or week of vacation, look up cooking and decorating tips on YouTube and other cuisine and entertaining sites such as the Food Network. Use these easy and colorful ideas on how to turn your party into a red, white, and blue celebration so you toast the 4th in patriotic style.
Labor Day is a day for all the working people. At least that is the idea behind it and its equivalent “May Day” holiday celebrated in most European countries. I hope that you are not getting tired of all the 3-day weekends this year because here is one more! For many families with kids going back to school, this is the last opportunity for a summer vacation.
You may be feeling sad or anxious about getting back to the office and dealing with the busy Fall season at your job. For me the purpose of Labor Day is to embrace the importance of work-life balance for happiness. We all have to work to pay for our living expenses, support ourselves and our families, and save for a future filled with travel now and after retirement. Toast to your hard work on this Labor Day and while you’re at it, support one of the causes that is pushing for greater time off policy for all Americans.
Growing up in New York City, a city full of immigrants, I never questioned the importance of Christopher Columbus in discovering the Americas. Fast forward to today and the holiday is a bit controversial since this historical achievement brought with it a lot of tragic outcomes. I enjoy reading about history so I recommend that you pick up a book about not just Columbus but all the Spanish and Portuguese and English and Dutch explorers (and the Vikings too) who reached and mapped the New World. It’s fascinating reading.
As for travel opportunities, the holiday is observed on a Monday if you are lucky enough to get this day off at your place of employment. It’s mostly an official holiday for Federal and only some state workers in the US. I believe some companies or agencies offer it as a floating day. Personally I prefer the fun that comes Halloween time on October 31st which is a Tuesday this year. For those of your who plan to host a Halloween party or need a whole day to design scary costumes and make scary treats for yourself and your children, try using a floating or personal day to have at least one holiday this month.
This year Veterans Day officially falls on a Friday which in my opinion is better than having a holiday on a Monday. Attractions and restaurants are more likely to be closed on Monday than on Friday as well as close early on Sundays. So for me a Friday-Saturday-Sunday weekend of travel is the optimal way to take a quick vacation. Of course this important holiday is designed to honor all war veterans from both home and abroad since the origin of Veterans Day was to mark the end of World War I.
This holiday isn’t usually a popular time to travel as Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Therefore you can use it as an opportunity to embark on a 3 or 4 day weekend road trip. I always turn to Google Maps to discover tourist attractions, parks, and historical places to visit by car. You can plot driving directions with multiple stops, create your own driving vacation map (see the Maps tab in “Your places’), and seek out local coffee shops, restaurants, and hotels to stop at along the way.
What could I say about Thanksgiving that hasn’t already been said? You know it’s always on a Thursday with the Friday after often given as an additional holiday at work, probably so you can go shopping on Black Friday. My mind turns to food memories the moment I think about how to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Most Americans stick with the plan to spend the day with family to eat our favorite seasonal foods such as turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
However there is an alternative plan that I highly recommend if you have the travel bug and don’t feel up to visiting family this year. Take a Thanksgiving trip to Europe where the dollar is strong (really strong), crowds are few, and the weather is fair in most countries. Just search on Kayak or Google Flights for bargain airfares to top European destination such as London, Paris, Dublin, and Amsterdam, though Southern/Mediterranean European cities such as Barcelona, Rome, Athens, or Lisbon will be a bit warmer.
It’s never too early to think about the Christmas holiday and plan that ultimate vacation. Besides the summer months, the week of Christmas and New Year’s Eve represents the biggest block of time off from work and school. With Christmas Day on a Monday you may get a Tuesday make-up day for Christmas Eve which is on a Sunday. Many companies offer two days off on their official holiday list while I’ve heard of a few places that have a forced shut down during the Christmas week.
Do the vacation math to determine how many vacation days you will need to save for the end of the year if you want to take the entire Christmas week as vacation time. Whether you visit family or travel in the United States or abroad (or watch several of these best Christmas movies of all time), try to time it so that you run out of vacation days when New Year 2018 strikes.
There are numerous ways to keep track of your holidays and the number of vacation days you have remaining. I use the Vacation Days Tracker spreadsheet which is a Google Sheets document that I created for VacationCounts readers (plus it’s free). You can make a private copy of this powerful file template and check off your holidays. With the automated dashboard calculations and time off graphing, you can visualize your progress to ensure that you take all of your paid time off in 2017.
For more simple and low-cost ways to keep track of your travels and vacation dates, read my earlier post titled: 7 Free Ways to Track Your Vacation Days.
As you know on VacationCounts.com I constantly push the notion of treating holidays (they are a day off and you do get paid) like additional paid vacation days. So if you have 10 days of vacation and 8 company holidays in 2017, you actually have 18 paid “vacation” days. For those of you who have 3 weeks (15 days) vacation plus 8 holidays and 2 personal days, your vacation day total is more like 25 days this year.
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, personal days, days off in lieu, business trips (bleisure travel), and other paid time off (PTO) to make it a reality.
Read my List Holidays in the USA 2016 post which contains more advice on how to maximize your company holidays, compare holiday statistics with other countries, and find tips on how to do the best job planning your vacation calendar for 2017. Hint: Configure online calendar reminder emails.
A toast to 2017 with the goal to take more time off from work and life for family, travel, and enrichment. Happy traveling!
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